Friday, January 27, 2006


So I just spent the past three days in Barcelona. Surprised? Not as surprised as she is...

This is my sister, she was not expecting me

Though London had been lovely, after about 10 days I needed something a bit different. In the UK, when they say discount airlines...they MEAN discount. I found a flight to Ireland for the equivalent of 2 dollars. The flight that I ended up with to Barcelona cost me 40 dollars. Mind you, I booked this flight about 36 hours before leaving.

I told absolutely no one that I was coming. Here was my thinking:

I know Tovah's address in Barcelona. I have an idea where her school is. I'll just show up outside of one of those addresses one morning and she'll be there!

This is clearly the result of my long years in special-ops traning in which every variable is accounted for and each plan is carried out in extraordinary detail...okay, actually my plan sucked. But hey, why not?

So I end up in Barcelona at about 11PM on Monday evening, and begin walking to my hostel. Without going into too much detail, lets just say that 1. Hostels that have locked gates and no call box are decidedly more difficult to find than say...they loud boisterous hostel right next door with the pool table, bar, and people clearly enjoying themselves 2. No matter what country you are in, there will always be chinese food delivery people who do not speak the language. This woman saw me trying to get into the hostel (which apparently she was trying to deliver food to) and spent the next hour following me around as I tried to figure out how to get in to the damn place. She spoke no english, and, more notably, no spanish. She also didn't have a cell phone. She also didn't know the area at all. I could be wrong, but she may have gotten off a plane from China with the full intention of sightseeing, but suddenly a bag of chinese food was thrust into her hand and she was charged with some mystic quest to get that food to the hostel. This is really the only scenario in which I could understand her unusual circumstances. 3. It is very difficult to check into a hostel at 1AM when no one speaks english, you're tired, dirty and have the sound of chinese babble ringing in your ears. Suffice it to say, my night could have gone better.

And then it did.

I decided to walk around a bit to clear my head and see the neighborhood. Then I hear..."hey! norm!" Yes thats right, even here, where noone knew that I was, and I, stupidly thought noone would, I ran into two guys from my fraternity, Will and Pat .

I look like a goober here

So we went drinking.

By the way, read the bottom line of this flyer. It's like the bar said "hey, we really want to target norman pentelovitch specifically, what could possibly guarantee that he would come drink here?"

Open the amazed. Bottom line.

I assure you, this was successful.

Will and Pat happened to be on the same program as my sister, so continuing the quest, they told me where I could "maybe" find her. The next morning, I started walking in that direction. As I did so, I heard two girls speaking with each other next to me:

girl 1: god I was SO drunk last night!
girl 2: I KNOW! It was awesome!

"Aha!" I thought, "Americans!"

Then, employing my not-at-all-shady ninja skills, I proceeded to follow these girls about 4 blocks. I knew that I was going the right way from the increasingly obvious presence of North Face jackets, Boston Red Sox hats, and sunglasses that could effectively solve the problem of the enormous hole in the ozone layer.

When they reached their destination, I, again, not at all in a shady manner, hid behind a corner. Then I saw Annie, Tovah's former roommate and friend who I knew she spent a lot of time with in Barcelona. So I said hi.

She was...ummmm...surprised

You're not spanish!!!

Annie texted Tovah, told her to meet outside after class. I wandered about for an hour, then came back to find her. Now, you may expect to be seeing a certain expression here. Most people, when surprised, at least have a bit of an idea that it is coming, so they respond with wide eyes, an open mouth and exclamations.

Have you ever seen someone really and truly shocked? Not just surprised, not just confused, but rendered completely utterly speech-and-emotionless because they can't actually fathom what is going on. If you haven' you go again.

She recovered nicely

Hey! Same color shirt!

Tovah then adjusted the rest of her week for me, which was very nice. I got to meet her roommates, (L to R) Lauren and Rachel.

Kickin' it, catalonian style

Many of her friends ,

He is just pausing for a moment, after which he will resume writing his novel.

and, best of all (with apologies to all others) Antonia and Lucia.

The people who you hope meet when you go to other countries

Antonia is exactly my grandmother, except that she speaks spanish, and...well...lives in Spain. She was one of the loveliest people I've ever met. And that praise has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that simply because I showed up unannounced, she made a VERY special dinner which included some of the best oranges I've ever had and champagne. Food is the currency of my soul, and by that measure, Antonia is riche than Bill Gates. Although, to be fair, Bill Gates makes a mean veggie chili...which I hate.

This is a picture of Antonia and her granddaughter, lucia. Though I do have some very strong opinions with regards to which may actually be the cutest babies on the planet, after my own family, Lucia is holding down the title of "other cutest baby on earth" and does not look to be relinquishing it any time soon.

By the way, if you think that there is anything....anything cuter than a baby trying to speak spanish with a lisp and spitting all over the are so wrong. I practically cried this was so cute...but instead I wiped off my face.

So, despite the fact that my feet were smelling just slightly better than the walking dead, I spent much of my time in Barcelona walking around. Per any number of people's suggestion, I went to Parc Guell, which is a park designed by Antonin Gaudi. I could go into the history, but this is much more useful, as is this. Suffice it to say, this guy basically designed half of the worthwhile things to see in Barcelona. Here are a bunch of pictures of the park

These are all from Parc Guell. Gaudi used lots of pieces to create things

Climbed up the side of a huge mountain/hill thing. Brazilian guy took this. Good shot huh?

I'm so terribly deep and introspective. I was also hungry

The best way that I can describe Gaudi architecture (without the obvious play on words that in a certain sense, it is fairly gaudy...hehehe) is it is exactly what you would get if you cross-bred a dwarf from any fairy tale with frank lloyd wright, and the artistic sensibilites of Salvador Dali. Then you MIGHT be getting an idea of what this stuff is like. The first structure of Gaudi's that I saw I thought was some sort of Disneyland promotion, but when you look a bit still makes absolutely no sense. It was sort of like trying to appreciate architecture on drugs, but without the drugs.

And of course, being one of the biggest party cities in the world...we went out:

These were all taken at a bar called "L'ovella negro", literally "the black sheep." To get to this bar, you had to go down an alley...sort of shady. Then you had to turn down another alley, shadiness factor increasing. Then you come to a kind of dungeon gate with two somewhat big guys standing outside. The sun has now been permanently eclipsed it's so shady. Then you go down a tunnel, and come out into a huge room, no windows, absolutely filled with people sitting at long wooden tables, benches etc. Pitcher of beer and a pitcher of sangria later, the place really felt warm and cozy. Or maybe I felt warm...and Adam felt cozy

This is the "big barrel", so named for its status as being larger than a normal barrel. Adam felt compelled by cosmic forces to get into that barrel. Though I consider him to surely be truly mad and beyond the aid of modern medicine, I took this picture and am will be providing it to the first witch doctor that I find in Namibia. Hold on buddy, help is coming.
The last place that Tovah and I went was Sagrada Familia which you truly have to see to get a sense of. It was without quetsion one of the most interesting buildings that I've ever been in. It's basically an enormous church, designed by Gaudi (of course), which has not only remained unfinished, but has remained mostly unfinished for nearly 100 years, despite constant work. Much of the exterior is done, and most of the work now is of the inside.

I'll edit some more stuff into this space later, but this has been a long post already and I have to go pack because I leave for Namibia in about 3 hours.

Oh, and this picture is for Chris Carsten. These were some Spanish guys who claimed that they "breathed metal" and since he was wearing a Motor head hat...who was I to doubt him.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Week 1: All the touristy junk that is expected of me.

Allright, allright, quiet down out there. I can hear some of you clamoring for the pictures that youve seen in the postcards. Since you´ve seen those pictures, I would imagine that you would feel complete, however it seems that people always want to see how other people saw something. As such, I took a day to photograph, from my perspective, some of the sights that all good tourists should see in London. First, we have St. Pauls Cathedral . Look how lovely it is! If you´re paying even remotely careful attention, you´ll notice that most of the front of the picture is actually an enormous drawing of the front of St. Pauls. It is a very good drawing however, and I felt it worthy of photographic record. Also, when I first walked up to this area (from across a bridge) I couldn´t actually tell that it was a sheet over scaffolding. Apparently, I am not smart. Now you may all be hoping for a picture of the interior of St. here is what I have . Yes, thats right, just as I stepped over the sacred threshold, camera poised, beady tourist eyes aglow, God decided that this was one Jew who wasn´t going to be doing any flash photography in his crib. So he struck me down with the full force of...overcharging. See, it was 7 pounds to get in, and being the unemployed budget traveler that I am, 7 pounds to see a Church that I didn´t even believe existed (EDIT NOTE: what norman actually meant here was that he doesn´t believe in the religion of the building, but does, in fact, believe that the physical presence of the church exists. We had quite an argument about this one, as he insisted that since he couldn´t go in, it wasn´t technically part of the (his) world, thus the non-existence. I drugged him with booze and cartoons and he is resting comfortably). So apparently, the way to make friends in a church that charges is to pay the fee and proceed quietly. The way to not make friends is to try and use a giant stone statue of a Saint as cover as you try to sneak around the guards. This brings us to about 10 in the list-of-places-in-London-that-Norman-has-been-kicked-out-of-for-various-reasons. Moving on. I caught up with one of my ex-roomies friends David who is extremely knowledgeable about London despite being from South Africa. With him, I saw this which I couldn´t quite identify, but someone did mention in passing that it had something to do with ice cream, Ben and Jerry´s´maybe? There was definitely something about a "ben". Oh, and the clock was off by 3 minutes. I went over to tell the guy who runs it but he had some big hump and a glass eye and a really weird name, quasi-moped? and he kept muttering about getting thrown out of Notre Dame. I guess he was in a frat or something. Go fightin´irish! Next, it was off to a place that holds all the tradition, mystique and intrigue of thousands of years of monarchic oppression... and also Batman . Buckingham palace! We think the queen was home because there were a big ol´pair of bloomers hanging out a window drying in the cool winter breeze. I know that you´re all wondering where the picture of the guards is, well let me tell you, there ain´t one. They have got to be the most boring group of people on earth. But want to talk about a good god! Of course, it wouldn´t be a trip to London without visiting the all-vegetarian-food-cooked-at-a-very-low-and-specific-temperature-to-retain-vital-nutrients-asian-restaurant. And of course, like all good all-vegetarian-food-cooked-at-a-very-low-and-specific-temperature-to-vital-retain-nutrients-asian-restaurant, there was a sign on the window informing everyone of this hebrew. Of course.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Well, three days in London and Id like to think that so far they have been productive, though, really, by what standard can I possibly measure productivity during this time of complete and utter uselessness to society...anywho...this sign made me laugh, so we´ll go ahead and start with it .

Im not sure how they define "messing about" but I feel that Im going to have to work hard to avoid being defined in that manner at some point.

I do need to stop for a moment and say thank you to two stupendous people, without whom I certainly would have felt a bit out of sorts my first few nights here . This is Isabels (friend with whom I am staying) flatmate and her boyfriend, and despite my most fervent assertions, they insisted that I come out to the bar with them.

Eileen and Matt

To be fair, I managed to stay somewhat more sober than matt did, but I think that the sleeping-for-13-hours thing the next day lost me some points. Regardless good times were had by all.

I have largely spent my time here simply walking from place to place. Ive always found this to be the best way to get to know a city, and I feel like Im making some progress in that regard. For instance, if you tell me a street, I am extremely proficient in asking 10 people for directions to it, then promptly ending up on the wrong side of town. I am so good at this now that whenever I get directions, the first turn that I think to take I do the exact opposite of what my memory recommends. Of course, since I havent really had any destinations firmly in mind at the outset anyway, I still end up on a different side of town. Part of the fun!

As for my second night out, I met up with a friend who I used to work with in the states. He is a funny man, his name is Ian, and he wants to play rugby with you. I asked him, he told me.

Rugby players cower in fear from Ian Powells patented "tongue o'death" Interpret how you will.

I would love to have some wild drinking story to recount here, but it was a fairly standard night out, albeit with louder people than usual (hard to do, I know) and more football than I could shake a stick at (cricket bat?).

When my night got interesting was on the "night bus" home. As I have now learned, the tube closes at midnight. I, as well as pretty much every Londoner who I commiserated with about this, could go on at great length about how ridiculous this is. However I will spare you the gory details and just let you imagine how annoying it would be to choose from the following options; 1. go out at 5PM, get sloshed in time for you to catch the 11:45 tube home 2. go out at whatever time you damn well please, then pay upwards of 40 DOLLARS to cab home (Im staying an area right outside of most of the pubs/clubs etc and it STILL would have cost that) or 3. the option that I chose, take the night bus. So I took the night bus. So did this guy .

Completely Sober. Not at all in need of medical attention. Really.

If you open the picture, and look veeeeeeeery closely, you may notice that he is bleeding from the nose. He was also getting sick all over himself. He was also singing inbetween his infrequent, and failing bouts with conciousness.

The night bus is this bizarre entity, part mass transit, part lunatic asylum. To actually figure out which bus to takes requires the wisdom of socrates, the innate sense of direction of magellan, and, apparently, an indecipherable cockney accent.

"U´se gon´take-a dat ni´bus to x´´furd cirk´s see? (english translation: you need to take the night bus to oxford circus....see?).

At the time, I didnt see, so I spent roughly 45 minutes walking along the biggest, longest, most curving street Ive ever been on, essentially begging for help. Eventually, a guy named Joe helped me out, mostly, because as he fell over on me, I held him up. He decided that that warranted some directional advice. Wherever you are...thanks joe.

I have some other thoughts that I am putting together, but I can sense that some of you have skipped most of this and are looking for more pictures. Well you illiterate bastards, I suppose if it will keep you happy...First, and most importantly, this is a picture of Isabel .

"I'm just happy to be here"

Some of you may be familiar with the near-universal "stop-dont-take-a-picture-of-me-because-i-look-terrible"-face that I believe all women are born with the innate ability to make. If you dont, its the one in this picture , in which she, of course, looks fantastic. Next, we have a picture of what appears to be a whole bunch of white boxes. Well, jokes on you...

This gallery is so modern that just by walking in, you yourself turn into a sideways piece of abstract art. I swear I'm standing normally here and the buidling is sideways, you figure it out .

...its actually a WHOLE RIDICULOUS UNBELIEVABLE AMOUNT of white boxes (sorry about the sideways picture, technology is a fickle friend). This was the main exhibit at the tate modern gallery right now. The tate modern has an entrance foyer that would comfortably house three NASA space shuttles, and have enough room left over to store a lifetime supply of twinkies. The thing is massive. Into that space, an artist named Rebecca Whiteread has placed a kind of maze of the plaster molds of thousands of cardboard boxes, an idea she apparently got while cleaning out her closet at her mothers house.

NOTE TO THE TATE: I recently cleaned out the closet at my parents house and found a half eaten milky way bar, a belt that fit me when I was 7 and a comic book about telling the truth. I am willing to sell these items for your next collection for 8 million pounds...of cookie dough. Non-neogtiable.

Anyway, this shot is of the biggest tower that there was (which I dubbed "the big tower"). Cool huh? Huh?

And finally, this picture actually got me in trouble. Apparently, you are not supposed to take pictures of anything in the museum. I pointed out that I wasnt using a flash and that my intentions were pure and noble, there was no way that I would put the images up on a website. Nope. Never gonna happen. So I braved the stockade for my art, Im a true rebel. Anyway, I was in the surrealism section and as soon as I saw this, realized that both my sister Tovah, and my Brother Noah needed to be made aware of the existence of such an object post-haste. Thus, brother and sister, I present to you...The Lobster Phone.

Boy do I love art.

Lobster Phone!!!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Sometimes, pictures say more than words

Usually, I like to fill this space with words. However, once in a while, pictures can save me the trouble...thus
Wednesday night: 8PM

Thursday morning: Noonish

Friday morning:AM

Friday morning: 6:10AM

Friday morning: 6:45 AM

Friday morning: 7 AM

Friday morning: 8AM...Isabels flat...woohoo!!!

Time of this writing: 4PM Saturday afternoon Isabel had to go out of town for the evening, leaving me in the care of her very lovely roommate Eileen and Eileens boyfriend. Despite falling asleep after taking a 4 hour walking odyssey in the afternoon, they managed to drag me out to a pub where some very interesting people bought me any number of pints, none of which helped to reduce the tiredness.

I think that going out in London will take some getting used to, as the tube closes at midnight, as do most pubs. Apparently, the normal schedule of events is that after the pubs close you go to clubs, however as I could barely stand (tired, not booze) we hauled ourselves home. Of course, it wouldnt be a night out unless at the end of it, there was food involved. And seeing as how i am in a different country, with a different culture, different people and different food, I went way out on a limb and had....burger king.

I am so attuned to the ways of the world.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

People keep asking me if I'm excited, and I don't know what to tell them. This is the single craziest thing that I've ever done in my life for any number of reasons, and at the moment I'm feeling very calm and cool. I'm mostly thinking about how my pack is packed and things of that nature.

What I am doing is moderately, to totally insane for the following reasons:

1. I am going to many, many countries alone, where I don't speak the native language
2. I am going to many, many countries where merely drinking the water, eating the food, or standing outside have the very real ability to kill me.
3. I am going to many, many countries in which the customs will be completely alien to anything that I've encountered before, the people will look nothing like me so I won't blend in, and the political stability of which is questionable
4. I have only planned to the extent that I know where I will be arriving on a given day, and that is pretty much it. I don't have hostel reservations, I don't know people in a lot of these places and I'm going to have intermitent access to internet
5. (on a diffferent theme) I will be spending every penny that I have saved over the last year and a half and then some on this
6. When I get back, I will be attending one of the most expensive law schools in the country, and living in one of the most expensive cities in the country

So thats whats scary. Now here is what makes it better:

1. I have been enough places enough times in situations that are passably similar to what I am doing and have always worked things out.
2. I have done extensive enough research that I know that at the very least a place for me to stay exists in every place that I will be
3. I have plans to meet people along the way. These plans excite me almost as much as anything
4. A life without risk, a life without chance and without uncertainty and nerves and sheer chutzpah is a life that I could never be content with.

People ask me if I think that this will be the trip of a lifetime, and there is almost no question that bothers me as much as this. I have every hope that this trip will be fantastic. And I fully expect that it will be only the first (or second or third depending on your criteria) such trip of many. My wanderlust did not begin with this trip, my wanderlust led to this trip, and I don't see how it could possibly be satiated in a mere 6 months.

So here I am, my bag packed, passport visa'ed, cheap watch on my wrist and a pen stuck behind my ear. I'm wearing cargo pants and a t-shirt and sandals which can be exchanged for boots. I have a drug that will prevent me from getting malaria and a drug for climbing to high altitudes and a drug for when I get sick and some drugs for if I think that I'm getting sick. I have a knife and some tools and some underwear and I have socks and pants and a fleece. I have a bag that will be my closet, bureau, space under my bed and laundry hamper. I have been poked with needles and I have cut my fingers on the paper of books. There is little that I feel unprepared for, and there is little that I feel that I am ready to do. All that I know is that in the very near future, I will be somewhere else, and if that is the measure of travel, the physical removal of a person from one place to another, then I will be traveling. You may even say that I have traveled and be speaking about the past.

However simply moving from one place to another does not, to me, seem to be an adequate measure of travel. I don't expect to know what travel will feel like until after it has happened, because if you are contemplating the semantics of such a word, then you are clearly ignoring the sunset before you, the new friends to be made, the works of art by man and nature and the experiences that are passing you by as you sit pondering. So when I leave where I am now and go somewhere else, tell people that I have kept moving, kept changing, and that there will never come a day that that will not be the case. I can travel at my computer and I can travel by mule caravan, the point that remains is that it isn't traveling until you can say, with certainty what it was that you traveled to. Not where, what.

I will travel to something, and the moment that I find out what that something is, I will be sure to pass it along. After all, it is not something that can be kept to oneself, bottled up and preserved, or captured on film or disc. A camera captures an image, a memory captures a feeling, but an experience stays with you, becoimes an intrinsic part of you that can no more be broken out into individual components and analyzed than can the idea of the soul or the spirit.

Experience is travel, and I, for one, intend to make the most of that.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

You can find a poem for just about anything...

I made a big decision a little while ago,
I don't remember what it was, which prob'ly goes to show,
That many times a simple choice can prove to be essential
Even though it often might appear inconsequential
I must have been distracted when I left my home because
Left or right I'm sure I went. (I wonder which it was!)
Anyway, I never veered I walked in that direction
Utterly absorbed, it seems in quiet introspection
For no reason I can think of, I've wandered far astray
And that is how I got to where I find myself today
-Bill Watterson, of Calvin and Hobbes. Truly a genius
Words that I'll be thinking of as I venture out into the wild blue...uhhh...the wild blue pastry dish! Yes! Wait...that could be wrong.
I'll get back to you.