I’ve recently developed an acute

I’ve recently developed an acute addiction to This American Life. Everyday at work I listen to two (sometimes three) episodes of the show. I’m working my way backwards through the archives. I’ve reached the November 2000 episodes, and you know what that means: The 2000 Presidential Election. The memories of inane debates, bullshit “policies”, and “likability” all came flooding back. What an embarrassment. I remember how inconceivable it was to me that George W. Bush would be elected president. And then after the inconceivable was conceived (by some nightmarish magic by The Supreme Court), i consoled myself by thinking that in the end it really wouldn’t matter who ended up in the White House. Exxon and Wal-Mart would still be running things. Boy was i wrong. Well, i mean, Exxon and Wal-Mart probably are running things, but if we’re gonna have to listen to a load of crap everyday, at least it can be delivered by a guy who won’t lose an allied country every time he goes off script. What if he “wins” again?

Scanned images of anthrax-containing envelopes

Scanned images of anthrax-containing envelopes on The Smoking Gun.

My senior year of high school i was into handwriting analysis. (Yeah, “Why?” is a good question). Anyway one of the few things i remember is that someone with down-ward sloping handwriting has very low self-esteem. The steeper the slant, the lower the self-esteem.

So i woke up this

So i woke up this morning with my left eye lid swollen practically shut and an aching gash on my left elbow. At first when i wasn’t fully awake, i thought i was still dreaming. Rolling around in groggy pain, i tried to rouse myself from the weird dream. But no it was real. I can’t figure out how any of this happened. I went to sleep fully healthy last night i swear. I can only assume someone came into my room last night and beat the shit out of me. Oh that and s/he made sure to leave my previously immaculate apartment a mess. Either that or bio-terror.

Anne-Marie underground. Last night

Anne-Marie underground.

Last night i went to the Catacombs of Paris with a group of people, mostly work friends. It is a labyrinth of tunnels, rooms, swamps deep beneath the city of Paris. It is offlimits to the public, but for a few adventurous Parisians it’s the best and biggest playground they know. Another world which is everything from dark to light, meditation space to dance club, completely prehistoric and also the best restaurant in town, all in the same journey. Peaceful and vicious, a rainforest and a barren desert. It is Incredible.

There are 9 of us. Our guides are Eric and his girlfriend Laetitia. They have been going down for 10 years at least. They amazingly understand the maze of black caves as if it were their childhood neighborhood.

It is Incredible. The pictures don’t do it justice. Words can not describe it. It is one of the most strange and amazing places i’ve ever seen.

We got in through a tiny hole after walking in a tunnel through some abandoned train tracks in the very south-east of Paris. Upon entering we waded through what seemed to be a never-ending stretch of knee deep water. After the first 20 minutes, i knew that if i got lost or separated there was absolutely no way i could find my way back on my own. I tried to keep in the middle of the line. Once i was last and instructed Xavier in front me, in really bad french, to make sure i was still there often, very often please. Some of the tunnels were 3 feet high at most and required a strange sort of crouched running. My back is a mess now. Without our lights and our chatter, it is silent and completely black. Like monkeys we gripped walls to avoid falling into sometimes waist-deep water. Me, severely lacking in the balance department, lost footing at one point, and there was a collective “Ohhh!” from the group as water filled my left boot. I ended up pouring 2 gallons of water out of my boot. But get this, the water is totally clean. It’s clouded with white dust from the decaying stone, but other than that, completely clean. Unreal. We stopped and unpacked a delicious dinner of French goodies brought by the group. No matter how subculture or underground you are, food is always special here. Always. Eric told us of stumbling upon a Croque Monsieur party where there was some sort of grill and a boisterous group of ham and cheese eaters. There was another long dinnertime conversation about the best way to collect unemployment (small world, it is).

We ran into a treasure hunt set up by some strangers, where you had to figure out an “Enigma”, a riddle, which would lead you to a certain areas of the catacombs to find CDs. We didn’t find any.

We wore knee-high rubber rain boots, though i wouldn’t mind sporting one of those rubber overall suits that fly fisherman use. It seems the pros do it by practically running through the tunnels which gives you an intense feeling of exhilaration. At first i couldn’t understand why Eric was running, but once i hit a stride, the exertion warmed up my entire body and the very light film of perspiration felt wonderful. The air down there is absolutely clean too. A stark contrast to the pollution of Istanbul and even Paris. Occasionally there is a faint scent of what i assumed was sulfer from the underground water. That seemed too complicated a topic to bring up in my spotty French so i kept it to myself. I was silent almost the whole journey. Just concentrating on the path and absorbing the immense wonder of all of it.

At one point two explorers with a radio playing metal music strapped to them ran by us with a “Bon Soir” and a woosh. Later we stumbled upon what looked like The Last Supper: a long banquet table fashioned out of stone bricks covered with half-empty bottles of wine. The head of the party wearing a flowing red and white scarf slurringly implored us to stay and smoke something. But they seemed super-sketch. We pressed on. We took rest stops in certain “rooms” every so often. The rooms had names like “Le Rainforest” and “La Plage”. I lost all sense of time. I looked at my watch maybe 3 times, but barely registered the hour and didn’t much care anyway.

In some places there was a moist clay substance underfoot and all over the walls where people made little sculptures, and added on to others. Some rooms were so humid it was like being in a rainstorm, others were so dry i could feel my lips go from moist to chapped in two minutes. Some rooms were really cold, some really warm. Everything was covered in graffiti or art. It was impossible for me to tell if they were 5, 10, or 50 years old, or had just been hammered in yesterday. I asked Laetitia if one of the “street signs” was old, very old. “Yeah it’s from the paleolithic era,” she laughed. I was way outta my element, clearly.

Once or twice when we were higher up, we heard the faint rumbling of a metro above us. Yes, above us.. Eric said, “C’est le dernier train.” (It’s the last train). It dawned on me that the whole of Paris could have been burning and we wouldn’t know it. It amazed me that the only souls here were adventurous kids, and not sqautters or homeless people taking shelter from the naked city. I guess the police sweep through the place every so often, or maybe they are here, but are so deep inside Eric wouldn’t take neophytes like us there. I think i heard him say that there was a guy who lived down here for a year.

As we were were crawling though one particularly hilly, wet, and cramped tunnel someone remarked, “Are we the Taliban or the Northern Alliance?” There was a soft snicker of agreement from the group. Along with everything else, there was something entirely sinister and violent about this place. Who would build these incomprehensible networks of black tunnels and why? Eric and Leticia told some of the history but i couldn’t get most of it because my French comprehension requires total concentration. I couldn’t swing paying attention to both the language, not cracking my skull on a low ceiling, and not slipping and getting 2 gallons of water in my right boot all at the same time. Something had to suffer.

At one rest stop we turned off all our lights and didn’t speak for what could have been 10, 20 minutes, an hour, i don’t know. And it was the most peaceful space i’d ever been in. Just the light breathing of the guy next to me, and the occasional rustling of someone’s clothing. There was no difference if you closed or opened your eyes. I have never been in quiet like that before. It brought back a memory of me driving with my mother in LA when i was about 9 or 10. I had observed,

“How come, i’ve never heard total and complete quiet? How come there’s always noise everywhere?”

I think she ignored my “precocious” remarks. I made a habit of saying things like that i think. But now here it was, a complete quiet. My mind drifted from wondering why i was so delicate that my ass hurt from sitting on stones for twenty minutes, to thinking about having a sleeping bag and camping down here. How would you have any idea when to wake up? Would you carry an alarm clock? Or just let the workings of your body regulate the patterns of walking, running, eating and sleeping the way it does with breathing? And where were we anyway? Who was walking their dog on a sidewalk far above us? And then for the last bit my mind went blank, and i sat with eyes open in utter darkness and felt nothing. Nothing seemed to exist anymore, not the world, not my body, nothing.

Either we got a bit lost, or Eric wanted to take a new route, but at one point he got out a map of the tunnels, which was a book of pages in plastic sheathes. It was all hand drawn lines. It looked ancient. The cursive writing was so ornate i had trouble making out any words at all. But it wasn’t ancient, these were the maps explorers like him were following, making, and updating everyday. We’d try a new exit route he decided. On our way out we ran into The Last Supper diners again. This time their numbers seemed to have increased and they had turned their little cove into a dance club. There were glowsticks and strobe lights set into fissures in the rocks and some really obscure Rolling Stones and Tina Turner was blaring. All i could think was “Gimmie Shelter”. Gimmie shelter, indeed! I might have joined in but my body was beginning to rebel. I was tired. I had stupidly already taken a three hour walk earlier that morning. Also the dudes seemed uber sketch. Ama said they must be really drunk, but i am pretty damn sure they were tripping their asses off.

If you’re going to party at all, you develop an internal sketch-o-meter so you don’t end up in a place you don’t want to be. I have a very reliable one in nyc, but i haven’t yet figured out the party culture here so i am pretty vigilant about everything. In this case it’s not just the language but really, the culture. I’m not sure where the line is between just “Partying like it’s 1999″ behavior, and what is “Ok let’s move the fuck on and quick” behavior. Eric knew some people just behind them who looked like major pros. They had on what resembled city issued blue Public Works jumpsuits with miners helmets and the coolest light thingies on their belts. They were sober and alert. He stopped and chatted with them for a while. Meanwhile a random girl behind me was screaming “RIIIIIICO!”, that’s Eric’s nickname, repeatedly at the top of her lungs. I think she took a few years off my hearing. Finally he turned around and looked at her blankly. No recognition. I watched the dancing scene with great interest and a serene smile, but made a point not to make prolonged eye contact with any crazed trippers.

Finally we moved on, and in no more than 15 seconds, we were bathed in total silence once again. Incredible.

We decided to try out an exit different from the hole we crawled into so as to avoid crossing the waist-deep water tunnel again. We weren’t sure it was open. If it wasn’t we’d have to take the entire tour over again which would take an hour and a half at least if there were no rest stops. We reached it and a big sigh of relief when we discovered it was open. It was basically a 30ft chimmney with the oldest most rusted metal ladder i’d ever seen. But there was a sliver a street light and faint breeze. It was open and that’s all that mattered. The exhiliration of coming out is equal to the exhilaration of being in. We’d have to keep our head lamps pointed downward and turn them off a few feet before coming out to avoid attracting any unwahted (read: police) attention. One by one we emerged on a sidewalk next to a half-built skyscraper. We had to crawl on the ground so as not to be seen by anyone. I crawled a few feet and flopped on my back, completely spent. Everyone else did the same. For ten minutes we were all laying on our backs, a sprawling dusty mess staring at the enormous crane building a city high into the sky, on top of a city well below the earth. It was almost too much symbolism.

We were quite a sight as the nine of us, covered in dust, stumbled in an unfamiliar neighborhood towards where we thought the cars were parked. Soon we reached the entrance we used to get in. We were across the street and saw a group of cops waiting for the next load of dusty moles to take down to the station. Amazing luck we didn’t use that as an exit. We escaped being arrested by sheer laziness.

When i finally made it into bed at 5 am (i think it was 5, i don’t even know. It could have been 6 by then), after peeling off my clothes and washing up a bit, barely able to move, i flopped into bed. And then i couldn’t fall asleep for a long time because of the adrenaline still coursing through me. But i couldn’t move either.

Today every inch of my body aches, but a good athletic body ache not a shit-i-was-so-fucked-up-last-night ache. My clothes and pack are covered with a layer of white dust. There’s a plastic baggie of two soaking wet left foot socks on the floor. It’s well into the afternoon, but i’m just out of the shower. Back to the light, the sky, the watch. But it feels like i’ve been away a long time.

And i want to go again and again and again.

(More pictures to come)

I’m back. Istanbul is an

I’m back. Istanbul is an incredible city. I am at work today and will write more about it this weekend when i get some alone time. I’ve spent more non-stop time with my mom in the past week since i was like 10. For the most part, it was pretty nice. She’ll be goin’ back to Cali tomorrow. I am happy to be back in paris. Only when you leave it, does a place feel like home. I had many conversations about war, New York, politics with my Turkish family who have, what i find to be, a much broader and well-informed perspective than I’ve typically heard in the West. I would say Istanbul is really East Meets West. For example, sitting in my uncle’s living room with my pierced and tattooed cousin watching American CNN showing pictures of a green and pixilated Afghanistan, all the while the voice of the Imam singing the after dinner prayer wafts through the corner window. It really is incredible.


Off to Istanbul. In the

Off to Istanbul. In the meanwhile, here are a few drunk pics from bretagne.

see ya in a few days


Tomorrow I am taking a

Tomorrow I am taking a plane. A plane to the Middle East at that. It feels very defiant. In fact, I feel defiant just riding the metros. In a crowded metro i’ll get a strange feeling like, hey it would be easy for someone to walk in here with a buncha bombs strapped to him or a siphon of chemical weapons and kill us all. And strangely enough i’m not really afraid, more defiant. Like “Oh Yeah? Well fuck you i’ll ride the metro. Fuck you i’ll take a plane. Me American and Jewish and Turkish (i don’t think you can rack up more enemies than that in three adjectives). Yeah, Fuck You.” That’s what i think to myself.

And there’s a new song —> there, it’s over there —> (and down a bit).

juli writes: when in spain,

juli writes:

when in spain, i discovered that the kit kats there are MUCH BETTER than the kit kats that are sold in the states. the chocolate is good chocolate – the chocolate here (regarding kit kats) has that sort of plastic-y taste to it. so i want to know why europeans get better quality kit kats than we do? i assume they must be better in france as well. europeans get fanta too. it’s NOT FAIR.

This is, in fact, SO true. The Kit Kats are wayyyy better here. I thought it was because the vending machines are refrigerated. And we all know how much better refrigerated candy bars are than room temperature ones. But, ah yes, juli is right. The chocolate is just better. Maybe if you pay higher taxes, your government gets you better chocolate? No? You don’t think so?

For some reason i automatically

For some reason i automatically assumed Kit Kat’s were born in the USA. Another Ameri-centric slip of mine i guess. Standing by the candy machines with Anne-Marie, saying i wanted a Kit Kat but couldn’t rustle up the required 5 Francs in monnais (change), she said,

“Oh they have Kit Kats in America?”

Me, surprised, “Of course! I mean they’re born in America!” Pause. Now a bit unsure, “Aren’t they?” Another pause realizing that actually I know nothing about Kit Kats other than that they’re tasty. I certainly don’t know where they’re from. “Wait. I have no idea, do you?”

After visit to my local public Internet, I found out that Kit Kat was actually born in London September of 1935. The Kit Kat site goes on to tell you pretty much everything you might ever want to know about our yummy 4 fingered friends. Here’s a smidgeon:

The name

Kit Kat was supposedly named after the Kit Kat club, an 18th Century Whig literary club. As the building had very low ceilings, it could only accommodate paintings which were wide and not very high. In the art world, these paintings were known as ‘kats’. It’s believed that Kit Kat derived its name from paintings, which had to be snapped off to fit into the rooms with the low ceilings.

Now I really really want one and still don’t have the pieces in change. Hmph!

Also, is anyone aware of how old Mr. Rodgers has become? Wow. Yeah, that’s really him. Find his official site here

This is really great: Nudist

This is really great:

Nudist pensioner lands Benetton in hot water

PARIS (Reuters)

Wednesday October 3, 06:06 PM

Notable quotable: “The French government said it was not its intention to censor advertisers, but to prevent them from using women’s

bodies as objects in a way that was degrading.”


Has anyone seen the ta-tas that are on the cover of the news magazines here?! Clearly there are some boobies that are degrading to women and some that are not. Large pale floopy ones = degrading. Pert tan oily ones = deep and substantial. Hmm..

more later..