Thursday, March 17, 2011

Glasgow, Scotland

My heritage is Scottish so I should have felt at home in Glasgow, but I have to be honest, it wasn’t the most welcoming city in the entire world. With a bit of a language barrier, we made it through though. The Scottish have such a thick accent. I didn’t say much while I was there except for “what”, “I’m sorry” and “excuse me.” I guess that makes me sound like a silly American. The people of Glasgow were nice, the city itself is just a little blah. Not much energy, nor were there many things to see or do. A few places to mention though. 

First off, Lucky 7. Go ahead and write that down. It’s a restaurant on Bathe St. just off the main shopping drag of downtown Glasgow. Everything on the menu for dinner is just £7, and you get a lot for that. They have everything from fish and chips to burgers and all in between. They even have a few vegetarian and vegan choices. Everything my friends and I ate was delicious. And by the way, at lunch it’s only £4. Yum and cheap. What more could you ask for? 
After lunch, stop by Flat 0/1 right next door for a tea or cocktail. Run by an American girl married to a Scot, the place is a kind of mix between bar and vintage shop. With hanging claw foot porcelain bath tubs as chairs, it’s really cute. And she makes good conversation. A nice ambiance to relax and read a book. 
The Glasgow Botanical Gardens were a nice diversion from the city. Although it wasn’t at the height of the season for plant viewing, they have a green house which was quite interesting. Complete with a “Killer Plants” section including Venus Fly Traps. Good times for all. 
As far as going out, there is one gay club that kind of houses everything. It’s huge and beautiful. The Polo Lounge was a bank that was renovated using most of the same Art Deco style to make it feel rich and historical. They got it right. The main entrance and main bar have that exact feel. Continue through out the venue and every doorway leads you into another mood and another bar. There’s modern chic with a single flame gas fire place and small plush sitting stools. The rustic tavern bar makes you feel at home. And you can dance the night away in the Euro-centric dance floor in the basement. It’s interesting, it’s like bar hopping with out ever walking outside.    

All in all, Glasgow is alright. It didn’t really sing to me, but a nice place to spend maybe a couple of days. I recommend more, the countryside out of the city. I think the natural surroundings have more to offer than the city.  

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Antigua, Guatemala

Once the capitol of Guatemala, Antigua has a vast amount of history. From the Mayans to the Guatemalans themselves, Antigua is bustling with culture and rich heritage. The people, architecture and terrain all combine to throw you into a world all of its own.
Antigua is the centre of where the Mayan’s population first started. On many a street corner, there are markets vending priceless, hand made Mayan crafts. Some genuine and some not so genuine. Either way, they are truly beautiful. Animal masks, Mayan masks, religious statues, coffee, furniture and textiles. And do they do textiles. Little old ladies sitting in the shops, weavings in front of them, creating intricate stories with their yarn of vibrant colours. It’s what they are most famous for. The woman of the city still wear the native dress of textiles. What a throw back in a world full of Guccis and Pradas. It’s like a little runway show walking down the streets. Everyone wearing their own fashions, with baskets on top of their heads. But at the same time, no one notices as it is normal dress for the Guatemalans. 
Every building is no more than two stories tall and each connected to each other, only separated by a different colour of paint. As if the line where the paint changes colour on the outside of the building creates an imaginary line that divides each unit through out the inside as well. Most of the churches date back to the 1600’s and are some of the most beautiful ever seen around Central America. So well preserved. The colours are just as brilliant as you could image they were 400 years ago. And devout Catholics are they. I sat in one of the churches for a moment, breathing it in. A woman crawled by me up the aisle on her knees, slowly making her way toward the alter, mumbling a “Hail Mary” in Spanish as she went. I’d say it takes about 30-45 minutes and is considered to be a normal daily ritual.
Antigua is surrounded by three volcanic mountains, two of which are active. More earthquakes happen here than in Japan, although none happened while we were there for 4 days. But, one evening, one of the volcanoes did give an impromptu performance. It is said to go off quite often, but that it is better that it does this instead of lying dormant   for a long period of time and then giving a huge explosion that may cover the city in ash. I have never seen something so amazing. Through the night sky you could just barely see the outline of the volcano in the distance. The lava and fire shot into the sky in small spurts. Towards the end, a large amount shot into the sky. Like hot melted chocolate, it oozed down the sides of the mountain, covering almost the entire mountain in red hot lava until all you saw was a blazing mountain in the midst of blackness all around. I wish I had a photo or something. Brilliant.
The public transportation that runs through the city is quite interesting. American school busses bought by individuals in Guatemala and painted. And by painted, I mean “pimped”. There is almost an unspoken competition to have the more elaborately decorated bus. And PACKED with people at any given time of the day. I would hate that kind of travel but I guess if you grow up with that as the norm then you think nothing of it. 
Eating out in Antigua is alright. be careful as the food quality is not exactly the best. As in most of Central America, don’t drink the water. But there was an excellent restaurant that I ate at a few times. A little Americanized, but good. It’s called Tacontento. A Mexican restaurant that, based on my Mexican friend, has the best Mexican food. If you are looking for something a little more local, try Los Tacos by the artisan market in the middle of the city.  Don’t be confused by the name, they don’t sell tacos, nor do I really understand why they call themselves Los Tacos, but I digress; portions small but delicious and local. 
Now, Antigua is not all perfect. There is a lot of poverty going on. There is a definite separation of the “haves” and the “have nots”. One must be careful with your belongings. A lot of the poverty leads to stealing and trying to take advantage, so be careful. Don’t walk by yourself. But, if you keep an eye out, you can truly enjoy the people of Antigua and what they have to offer. One of my more entertaining memories was that of two octogenarian ladies in native dress, dancing to the sound of marimbas being played by a group of men. Just two ladies, enjoying what life has to offer, not a care in the world. 


Monday, March 22, 2010

When in Piacenza

Because I’m lucky enough to I get to travel everywhere, quite often I get to meet famous people along the way. My company is popular therefore different types of people come to see us. You see people on television or in movies or hear their music and you get to know them for what they put out there. Meeting someone face to face is always a different experience.  It can either make a connection stronger or completely separate it. I was a fan of Duffy, the British jazzy pop singer, but not until I got to meet her in London did I really fall in love with her talent. Her personality was so engaging and natural that I felt like she was just talking to me; a trait that always makes people feel better about themselves and the person they are talking to. I instantly quadrupled my passion for her music.

It’s not always what you expect. You see people as how they portray themselves in the media and you expect them to be just like that. If there is one thing I have learned about showbiz, it’s that life is constantly a show, from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to bed. I need to work on my acting skills.

Places that I have been to are like this. Sometimes the cities that I like the most are not the ones that everyone would think. It’s all a matter of your perspectives. A place is what you make of it. Life is what you make of it.

Saying that, I’m gonna bitch a little bit. Italy is a tough country to get used to. Everything closes all the time. Why? Not quite sure, but walking around Piacenza on a Sunday afternoon will make you feel like you are in a ghost town. It’s a day of rest.

Maybe we can learn something from this. What’s wrong with everyone getting together one day every week and spending the entire day at home, eating, talking, drinking and being with each other? What’s the difference between the media portraying famous people and how we perceive people walking down the street? We are so quick to judge someone. If we took the time to get to know where someone was coming from would we be so hostile with a rebuttal?  

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


この朝に私たちがバスにのっていました。メサ、アリゾナに行っています。ただ今US Tourをしっています。






Saturday, February 6, 2010

Vegan in Asheville

I am not vegan, nor am I vegetarian, but due to a new friendship of mine, I have recently been introduced to a completely different lifestyle of food.
Did you know that there is more protein in a cup of spinach than there is in a pound of beef?
I love eating meat. I am not an animal rights activist so I don’t really care about killing animals when it comes to the usage of their meat. But it is really interesting to learn about different types of food that give you the same nutrients. Tofu for example was something I never wanted to touch until a few years ago. It’s now one of my favourite foods. Of course, even as I write this, all I can think about is the bland flavour of vegetables and rice, but actually there are many different flavours that can amuse the palate when it comes to vegan foods.
And that is why I am writing about this. I was in Asheville, NC this past week and tried a wonderful restaurant. It was called the Laughing Seed Cafe, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant on Wall St. in downtown Asheville. My friend, being a vegan, after having to pick through menus to find something that he could eat at regular restaurants, was in heaven. And I surprisingly was as well.  Now, I know it’s not the only one of its kind, but the food was great. They took regular meals and “vegan”ized them. I had a burrito and while it had nothing in it even resembling meat, it tasted just like something out of any Casa Rosada Tortilla Mexicana Cantina. I highly recommend checking it out if you are in the area.
To add to it, just 2 doors down on Wall St. is the Full Circle Salon. After grabbing a bite for lunch at the Laughing Seed Café, get Aaron Karcher to cut your hair. He’s a perfectionist when it comes to hair. Huge recommendation.

Going to switch tracks. The show in Asheville went really well. We had 1,800 people there, a great audience. My grandparents, my aunt and uncle and his brother and wife were in there also. The first time for all of them and they loved, loved, loved it.

I am learning something about myself and about my performance quality. Less is more. While I am in a company that tends to exaggerate style to bring out comedy, there are certain things that I have to exaggerate and certain things that I have to hold back on. There was a party afterward and many people came up to me saying that their favourite part about my character was my subtlety. I’ve got a big body so I have to take the style of my dancing to another level, but when it comes to making the audience see something comedic, even the smallest of gestures or a look of the eyes is enough. I think. I’m going to play around with it a bit. Most the time, subtlety is best; it leaves more to the imagination. Learn from Betty…

“That’s where the double-entendres came from. What you don’t say is funnier than what you do. Now they let it all hang out. It’s all single-entendre... They keep hiring young writers with no frame of reference.  Older writers are subtler. And subtlety is a rare commodity.” – Betty White on her version of comedy and the difference of television back in the day and today.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Outback in Virginia

People will stare.
It’s amazing how you get so used to your surroundings, from both sides of the coin. You get used to the environment that you live in and people get used to what they see in their own environment. It’s like aliens from Mars when you see someone that you aren’t used to seeing. It happens everywhere. Being 6’4”, I guess I get my fair share of staring just because I am a giant.
When you walk into a neighbourhood in New York that you haven’t been into, it’s like walking into another world. New York is the most accepting and open minded city in the world, yet when something is so open, it allows for all types to come in. While you want to be in a place where you are accepted, you still have to be aware that others will be just like you and want the same thing, yet will have completely opposite views as you.
Going to other cities in the US, the US having such a broad spectrum of people living in it’s borders, sometimes you might walk into that “neighbourhood” that isn’t full of people welcoming you with open arms.
I’m in Virginia right now, a state that kind of borders, figuratively, on being considered the south or the north. The south, a word that puts a weird feeling in my stomach having grown up all over the south and been put down because I was “different” my entire time there. It’s a little unsettling to be in an area when you feel out of place. You are constantly on guard that someone is going to say something to you or worse, get violent. How much of it is in our heads though? How much of it is that you think they are going to say something therefore you expect them to say something? Meanwhile, they are just living their own life, not thinking twice about you. But, that being said, they can’t take their eyes off of you, trying to figure you out.
I went to Outback Steak House last night. (There aren’t many choices by the hotel.) I felt like I was on display the entire time. We have a joke… “Yes, the circus has come to town.”  Now, I will get a little partial here.  Many tourists come to New York and will ask me directions from time to time. I answer and move on. They are not from New York, they don't look like they are from New York but they are there enjoying the city. People like or do different things, why can’t we just let each other be even if we don’t agree on any level?
I love Japan and as this goes on, you will come to see my obsession with the country. The Japanese people are very to themselves. They are very polite. But at the same time, they have a wonderfully subtle way of staring. You have no idea unless you know how to spot it.  They are very respectful and at the same time, very true to themselves and their beliefs. A bit rigid at times and some could say conservative. Quite conservative. A friend asked me if I still liked the Japanese mentality even if they may or may not accept my thoughts and beliefs. Yes, most definitely! The thing about the Japanese people is that they may not agree with you, but they will never put you down for something that you believe in. They will never confront you. They may disagree but they will look past it and see what else there is to you. We may not have the same views on many things but there is always something that we have in common, we are both living on this planet, trying to get by. It’s all very Buddhist.

Getting around America

I know I have the luxury of traveling around the world, and trust me, I know it’s a luxury even as travel becomes more of a hassle day by day. But travel doesn’t have to mean across an ocean or around the globe. Many people live their entire lives in one country, one state or province, or even one county. Not everyone has the desire to get out and see the world when you have all your comforts right there within a short drive. 
My next trip is around the country that I call home, sometimes proudly and sometimes reluctantly, the US of A.
Living in New York, it’s hard to go to smaller cities, especially being someone who loves the hustle and bustle of fire trucks driving by at 3 in the morning and people’s car stereos blaring random songs that no one else wants to hear. But there is something to be said for the fact that no two cities are a like and no two kinds of people are a like. People from the south are very different from the north and people from the west coast are very different from the east coast. It’s a huge vast span of land and a huge vast span of people to fill it up.
Now, I have been all over the country before. I have lived in the southeast, the southwest, the northwest and the northeast.  But I am starting to see things in a different way. Starting to see things with different eyes.
I’m sitting in my window exit row of this Continental ERJ Jet, looking out at the sprawl of Virginia we are passing over. Bays from end to end each filled with beaches that look like they are completely untouched by nature. Waves and swathes of current and tide swirl through out the waters. Nothing moves, everything is completely still, yet there is a constant movement to it. Everything is so much more peaceful from 25,000 feet, and then turbulence hits.

Not to get too deep with this, but I just read this and it’s beautifully said.

“Time is always moving, minute by minute and second by second.  As time moves on, so do our lives. Nobody can stop this movement. However, one thing is in our own hands, and that is whether or not we waste the time we have; whether we use it in a negative way or a constructive way. The passage of time through which we live our lives is the same for all of us and there is also a basic equality between those of us who are a part of this time. The difference lies in our state of mind and motivation. “  - Tenzin Gyatso, XIV The Dalai Lama