Archive for March, 2014

Bed Stuyvesant, the livest one, my borough is thorough

Posted in Makin' moves, NYC State of mind I be with tags , , , on March 20, 2014 by robdc

After a reflective few months on the road, it was time to return to the states. As luck would have it some of my oldest and best friends happen to have migrated to New York in the past few years, so I could think of no better gateway home than that.

Serge met up with me in Bed Stuy and we headed to the Brooklyn bridge. I had never crossed any of NYs bridges by foot and this seemed to be the most picturesque (and close) one, so why not.

The walk over is rather pleasant, even if the wind over the river was sub arctic. The views of the sunset over Manhattan to the west and the Williamsburg bridge to the east were awe inspiring. 

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Brandon and Natalia headed up from DC and of course we had to get our grub on at some serious places. GO GO Curry, as always, was a must but we added a new badass eatery to the list called Traif.

Although NY provided a fantastic backdrop, the highlight of this trip was the people. Life being the way it is, I normally only get to see Rich and Marcella on holidays back home but being able to go to dinner with everyone was a damn treat. After Dave headed out to meet us and we did our usual at ‘No Name’ among other places.

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Brando, Dave and I headed out the next day for the St. Paddies day parade in Manhattan which is the oldest, and LONGEST on earth. You read that right, the oldest. Meaning that this was being done here before it was in Ireland, not sure what that means but I found it interesting.

IMG_4126 On one of the days where all the locals had to work, Brando, Natalia and I headed out to Coney Island. It was still very cold here but none of us had ever been so we decided to head out. Due to the weather almost everything was closed on the boardwalk but we did manage to find a bar. We must have a gift or something. Also, the original Nathans!!

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A very forward French fellow who introduced himself as Arno, then Andrew started chatting us up about all sorts of nonsense. Including but not limited to:

  • His wife cheating on him with tall good looking men.
  • His hatred of tall good looking men.
  • Am I Brandon’s father?
  • He’s lived in Brooklyn for 6 years.
  • American beer is the best (he was drinking a Budweiser).
  • Would we look after his beer while he went to the bathroom?
  • Don’t piss in his beer while he’s in the bathroom.

We continued talking to Arno and awkwardly laughing at the batshit insane stuff that he yelled with a smile, then hastily got the hell out of there. It did feel good telling a Frenchman that I didn’t like Paris though, I feel like it usually falls on deaf ears and I wanted to see his reaction. His reaction, much to my surprise was: “fuck Paris, Parisians are dicks.” His words, not mine.

NY continues to be speckled with some of the most entertaining places and people per capita and I could come back every week for the rest of my life and never see, do and taste all that there is to be had here which makes it one of my favorite destinations on earth. Today I head back to Miami for a bit but I’ll come knocking again soon NY.

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Cojelo,

Robo

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My Father.

Posted in Waxing Idiotic on March 14, 2014 by robdc

One is not defined by a single aspect of their life. Sure there are insanely important moments, bombastic events, but no one makes a man (or woman). I owe who I am and the way I do things to many people and things throughout the years. A couple of near death experiences, some heart shaping (and shredding) relationships, hurricane Andrew, skydiving, all these things provided years of personality in a single moment but none of them had the impact of my parents.

5 months ago, I lost my father. Our relationship was complicated but I think I’m finally getting a grasp on why it was the way it was.

Much to the surprise of anyone who knows me now, I was a rather pleasant child. My parents would tell you that I wasn’t much of a crier and as I developed, one of the bigger problems they faced was me interacting with random people all the time. I would often wander off and quiz total strangers on ridiculous things just to see what they were about. I was personable, as a complete contrast to my adult self.

I was active in sports and so was my Dad. He never liked sitting on the sidelines idly, so whatever sport I was playing, you could bet he was the coach of the team. I took well to American football, although I was the smallest person on the team, I somehow wound up playing center. According to my father that was because of my energy and presence. He also coined the nick name “Mighty Mite” for me.  I’ll go with the fact that it was flag football and I couldn’t get leveled by any of the bigger kids but why split hairs at this point.

He was an athlete to the core. There are scores of medals and plaques sitting in boxes of his various achievements in sport. In his younger years he was a swimmer but as the years went on he found his passion in running.

I used to think that I was a result of my surroundings. Key Biscayne was a very strange place to grow up. There was an odd juxtaposition of social orders which led to a wide variety of mentalities interacting which wouldn’t normally do so. Mainly those who sought to have and those who had too much. The mixing of those two groups ended up creating what I consider some of the closest things to criminal masterminds that my generation will get to deal with and incarcerate, or elect senator. I now know that my surroundings were only so effective in shaping me and could only do so within the boundaries set by my parents. Those boundaries were set very clearly and let me expand without destroying myself, sure I tested the limits every now and then but I was quickly brought back down to earth every time.

When I was younger I’d mention a place on earth and he’d say “oh yea, I had an apartment there” or “I was on business there for a few months” and I would remark “you haven’t lived long enough to have done all that stuff Dad!” Now, I hear myself talk shit at bars and realize, not only, that he could have, but that he did.

I recently had the good fortune of meeting up with my cousin Adolfo, who was just 10 years younger than my father and grew up seeing him as an older brother in Chattahoochee when the family came over from Cuba. There was one very humorous moment when he started to say “your Granddad always said ‘a real man is measured from here up’” while pointing to right between the eyebrows and then up. “The motto of a clan of short men who have no recourse but to rely on their intellects” I thought. But all three de Cespedes men at the table, Adolfo, his son and I, pointed to our foreheads then up at the same time as to say, pretty definitely, that his is a thing we’ve all heard for our entire lives. Passed down by generations, the motto of not too tall men who have needed to use their brains to survive. 

Something happened in my adolescence where I didn’t look up to my father as an idol anymore, I saw him as a rival. I wanted to beat him in everything and that probably led to our issues over the years. I didn’t just want to be good at something, I wanted to be better, faster, stronger than him and to anyone who knew my father, that’s a pretty high bar for some things.

My cousin told me of a time when he lived with my Grandparents and my father would come to visit. He said my Dad was the fun one who always brought a good time but inevitably he’d get into an argument with my Granddad about his hair or the clothes he wore (my Dad was big in the anti war movement when he got back from Vietnam) and would storm off. This hit so close to home considering that the greatest battles I ever had with my Dad were over my tattoos and how I chose to look. The fact that this man could endure years of warfare with his father over this subject then continue the cycle with his own son for years says a lot to the stubbornness of this family.

I left in January, not really too sure of where I was going but knowing that I needed to move to clear my head. The way things happened I wasn’t granted the peace or solitude to mourn and take in all that was going on around me. This trip was mainly to deflate, to do away with the day to day and reflect, consider and absorb. I’ve done a great deal of thinking while on the road and have come to some conclusions.

My father was not an easy man. He was one of the greatest people I’ve had the good fortune of knowing. Thanks to him I am who I am. I owe my wanderlust to him as he always spoke of distant places and the life treasures that they held. I know now that he sacrificed our friendship to be a disciplinarian because anyone can be a  friend, but it takes real strength to tell someone you love when they’re fucking up.

I love you dad, rest in power.

Lisbon layover, a couple of days in Portugal for good measure.

Posted in Makin' moves, Ostia Tio! with tags , , , , on March 12, 2014 by robdc

IMG_6983_tonemappedWhen I was booking the flights for the tail end of my trip, I noticed that several of the more frugal flights from London to Madrid ran through places like Lisbon and had me sitting in the airport for too long to be comfortable but not long enough to see the capital. The obvious solution: Fly to Lisbon, hang out for a bit then head to Madrid. The flight from Lisbon to Madrid is a puddle jumper that’s just $40 if you time it right.

I booked the hotel I ended up staying at because all the reviews raved a bout the amazing view from their “Sky Bar” so I started by heading up there and checking it out. It did not disappoint.

photo (2)I mapped out a path that took me through some highlights but immediately noticed something odd. I’ve been relying on Google maps pretty heavily and have become pretty familiar with it’s usual distance/time calculations but these were all wrong. What should have been 10 minutes away was showing up as half an hours walk. Once I hit the road, it became pretty obvious… Lisbon has some very highly varying elevation, enough that you might find yourself walking at 45 degree angles much of the time. I just hit the road walking, as I’m known to do and found myself “pausing” at scenic spots more often than usual out of sheer exhaustion. Keep that in mind and pack some good hiking sneakers if you head here.

I headed towards Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. Like I said, the hills caught me by surprise, I knew I was headed towards a lookout point but the city I was walking through gave no evidence of such a spot to perch on. For every block that I walked uphill I’d walk two downhill, or so I thought. I finally round a corner and go up one last hill thinking “great this will be the vantage point of 3 whole stories…” I was wrong:

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Off to the left you can see Castelo de Sao Jorge:

IMG_6947_tonemappedThis was my goal for the day, get to that spot.

On the way I added a shot to my collection “whiskeys in pleasant situations”

IMG_6951_tonemapped  Then I regrouped and got back on the road for the castle. To my surprise I didn’t encounter many tourists other than at the vantage points. At the Miradouro there were just 2 people, other than myself, and here there was just a scattering of 6-10 other people, half of which were locals and quite pleasant. I marched on for another hour or so then found the service entrance to the mountain. There was a gaggle of tourists there asking the guard how to get to the actual entrance and he was taking his damn time conveying the information. I tried to listen from a distance but when the guard politely asked to see one of their maps then took, literally, 4 minutes folding it into a fashion he enjoyed the aesthetics of before even beginning his instructions, I headed out on my own. How tough could it be? It’s a mountain, go right until you find an entrance. Which is what I did. I walked through a very quiet neighborhood then I found this place:

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I was awestruck and had a walk around these ruins for a bit. Lisbon is huge on street art, but I’ll get back to that later.

Two more rights and I was bombarded with busses and fanny packs. ‘I heart Lisbon’ shirts and the tackiest of neon colors. I had found the tourists.

Why the hell didn’t that guard just point down the road and say “stay right until you run into a bunch of people that look like you”?

Whatever, either way, I got to the castle and it was stunning. Completely open to exploration and perched high on a hill above the river Tagus.  the toughest part about getting any of these shots was making it look like I was the only one there. The place was teeming with people, every single tower had at least 10 lurkers atop it.

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The next day I was on a mission to find some of the better art scattered around the city. Lisbon has embraced some of their more talented artists and has designated some parts of town as OK for spraying, the results are pretty impressive:

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IMG_6990_tonemappedI love when cities accept this as a form of art and let the artists get as creative as they like. The mix of some centuries old architecture and  Molotov paint really struck me. Many of the effects achieved are impressive.

I continued my trek across the city snapping when I happened upon something I like. The usual, fountains and such:

IMG_6976_tonemappedThen I found el Parque Eduardo VII. From the base you could tell it was massive but I couldn’t grasp it’s vastness until I hiked up the hill to it’s zenith. Once I got there I was not disappointed as it resulted in my two favorite shots from Lisbon. 

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Now I’m back in Madrid and my friend Meg sent me a link to this picture and a remark about how Madrid was calling her name:

SpaceInvadersMadrid Since I hadn’t seen this installation myself I did a little hunting and before too long managed to find it. The installation is not doing much during the day but I managed to snap this picture to send back to Meg:

photo (3) When I lowered my camera I was asked why I was taking the picture. When I answered, the dude told me that he was a student here at Media Prado and was on the team responsible for putting projects up on the screen. We talked a bit but he and his friends had to get to class so I’m meeting them later at a bar for a few and to pick their brains about these awesome programming projects they’re working on Thanks Meg!

Well, I think that’s plenty for today, I need a drink.

Cojelo!

Rob

Qui, Quo, Qua…

Posted in Makin' moves, My word is Bond like James with tags , , , on March 10, 2014 by robdc

When I left in January, I had very little idea of what was ahead. I had a one way ticket and absolutely no clue about when I would be coming back to the states. The one promise I made myself was that, no matter what, I would celebrate my 30th birthday on the road. Today I sit on a plane en rout to Lisbon, 3 decades into a life that I am very much enjoying living.

The city of choice for the celebration was London and I’m very thankful that two of my favorite people were able to come out from Florence to join me. The three of us (or Qui, Quo, Qua {Huey Dewey and Louie in Italian}) ran around London for a few days eating, drinking and laughing our way through all the highlights we could possibly fit in.

We had the good fortune of staying near the meat market so there were several delectable steak houses right near our flat. I partook in an insane wagyu filet on our second day out, from the grill on the market, that was second only to “El Botin” in my book. Diana had lived here in the past and had some affairs she needed to attend to, so Kerry and I hit the town. The funny thing is that Kerry had been here before but had never just gone for a long walk around in some of the spots that I thought were a must on my first visit to the land of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who.

I found a nice spot called Skylounge to start our walk with a couple of cocktails and a nice view.

IMG_6878_tonemappedNow here’s something that angers me for two reasons: Firstly because it means I was wrong and ignorant about something pretty huge and, secondly because movies and TV have led me astray…

I always thought that this:

IMG_6888_tonemappedwas London Bridge… Well, it’s not. It’s tower bridge, in London. London bridge is a quite functional looking thing with no real style or design quirks of note. In fact, if you google image search ‘london bridge’ only 4 of the first 15 images are actually of London bridge, the other 11… you guessed it, tower bridge.

We headed west along the river Thames and I snapped a few shots along the way.

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Night fell quickly but I managed to get some decent shots of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Even managed to get one or two of the girls.

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Then I proceeded to do something that has become a bit of a loose tradition for me; a freeze in foreign places. To date I have pictures doing this on our beach in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, in front of the Eifel tower, in Tokyo station and now in front of Big Ben. I’m going to make a folder containing all of these pictures and label it “look here whenever you start to take yourself too seriously” and plan on continuing the tradition in front of many other monuments all over the planet.

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The next day we were market bound. We started at Portobello road which held many gems for Kerry but where we ended up was more my speed. Camden Town is where all the grimier elements of London rock have chosen to congeal and eat street food and sell trinkets. It’s fun as hell. There is any and everything for sale in the stalls and stores and the style is all it’s own.

IMG_6933_tonemappedWe stopped at Proud’s terrace bar to plan our dinner for the night which ended up being a very hearty and delicious ramen selection at Sato. Then we headed to Grand Union to wait till midnight and take shots for my dirty thirty.

In all London did not disappoint and I had a fantastic time with some fantastic people. But it is with a great deal of sadness that I said goodbye to Kerry and Diana. These two redheads have been some of the best hosts and even better company so to them I say goodbye for now and, above all else, thank you.

IMG_6936For the next few days I’ll be running around Lisbon and I look forward to what Portugal has to offer, but for now I’m going to take a nap and think about what it feels like to be considered old school by a generation that was born with cell phones in hand and twitter being a thing that matters.

IMG_6896_tonemappedRCojelo,

Robo

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