As our world grows increasingly smaller it’s easier than ever to seek refuge in the comfort of familiar places. Yet, we live in a time when thoughts and ideas manifest in flashes of delight, th blink of an eye and round-the-world travel is at the fingertips of risk takers and adventurers alike. I see Marco Polo and Gertrude Bell in the men and women I met abroad. Sharing the road, sharing tales of individual split-second experiences worth more than time itself.

I started blogging back in 2012, shortly after moving to Jordan — not only to share my story and to learn from others, but to inspire, to instill the momentum it takes to lace up ones boots and hit the road. It wasn’t until I found myself alone in a most foreign country that I felt the hot passion of life. Where my native tongue was about as useful as the moo! of a cow and most the time, I had no idea what the hell I was putting in my mouth… but it tasted good and I wanted more! And that is why you must hit the road.

Don’t be victimized by the culture of fear. Our planet is waiting to be explored, to reveal it’s secrets to you, to me, to any who dare ask, it will expose you to the raw truths of life. To the quarks of distant cultures and alien tongues. To disgusting foods and delicious cuisines, to dangerous and countless blessings.

Let’s take control of 2015. Don’t be afraid to leap without looking. I encourage you to take off the training wheels and take the road less traveled.

-Yallah!

Support Free Education

The Wandering Scholar is a free, non-profit resource for radical, educational, and hopefully, entertaining material. I hope eventually that means podcasting, vlogging, and much, much more but until then we're working tirelessly to bring you relevant and provocative material with stolen time between work and school. You contributions directly support this site! And we are deeply thankful.

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What an immense pleasure it was joining fellow author Maria Rochelle in what became quite a revealing conversation… A discussion on travel, literature, writing, life, love and losing oneself in the beautiful madness of all things.

Since reading Knausgaard i’ve determined to take several wide steps away from the ego (easier said than done, right!). Giving my literature room for accuracy, honesty. It’s too easy to dress yourself up with fancy words, credentials, achievements etc. but what I want to hear, what I need to hear, comes from the fabric of reality — the truth.

So, it’s my objective this year to be more honest, with myself as much as others. Learning to say “no” more, and feeling less obliged to the prophetic “yes.” And in turn, taking care of my very self — I have a tendency to overcompensate, to be “too nice,” as they say.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy our conversation and be sure to visit Maria’s work as well. As a multi-genre author, she’s covered some very impressive territory, including her tour de force children’s series, Jasmine Dreams.

Read the full interview here.

Hey, I’m Nicholas, you probably know that already. 

Writer, thinker, hopeless poet and most importantly a student of life embracing the quirks, the quandaries, and curiosities that make us human. 

Photo by Tomu00e1u0161 Malu010do Malu00edk on Pexels.com

Oh, Education:
I’m launching this campaign as my semester comes to a close. Eyes turned eastward, dreaming of snowcapped mountains and ancient monasteries, cultural exchanges and roads less traveled. I’m diving head first into deepening my research in Asian Studies — go hand in hand with outreach programs and volunteer work — and launching a series of educational webcasts promoting diversity and cross-cultural understanding from an entertaining slant — let’s call it EduTainment

The Web-Series: 
So this bit is particularly exciting. Additionally, though in its beta, The Wandering Scholar will consist of webcasts, vlogs, potentially even podcasting, on the cultures, foods, customs, traditions, and experiences that make us human. Think of it as a highly integrated travel blog. Full of interesting and meaningful information.

Your generous contributions will directly support tuition and tuition alone. I will update you at a later point as to which institution I’m accepted into – aiming for Dharma Realm University. As a student, I am at the mercy and heavily dependent upon the financial generosity of others — for which I am endlessly grateful.

College Fund

$1.00

I’ve run a successful website for nearly six years now. Whew! As a writer, archaeologist, and former travel blogger. All the while striving to publish my debut novel — a novel about a grownup of students in Arabia searching for purpose, finding love, loss, and “growing up” in the Middle East — all during the Arab Spring. An emotional rollercoaster, full of wild romps, heartache, and all that delicious adventure we seek in a good story.

Look, I understand this is an absurdly individualistic request. And I am no way under the impression that I am owed, or deserving of asking for financial assistance. But I just wanted to go out on this limb and be open, honest about my financial setbacks and take this next step towards achieving my dreams. So here I am, slightly -very- embarrassed and asking for your help, from the bottom of my heart, to support these dreams so that I can become a participant in the global peace process. So that I can deepen my studies/understanding of Eastern Philosophy, mindfulness, and language at the University level. All with the intention of bringing it full circle and sharing every morsel and lovely detail along the way. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I am an open book, read me. If you have any comments, thoughts, or want to connect otherwise I’d love to get to know you! 
Reach out here on Fund My Travel, or email me at 
andriani1208@gmail.com
You can add me on Instagram at @NicholasAndriani
And on Twitter at @nickandriani

One Dollar, Almost Free

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Whether you’ve come for The City of Fountains, Paris of the Plains or Cowtown, Kansas City is an innovative and inspired place, full of kinetic and potential splendor. People frequently ask us, What’s fun here? Where should we eat? drink? shop? We love talking about our city and thought it helpful to compile a list of our favorites. These are among the various places and reasons to make Kansas City your next Weekender

No longer the Midwest’s flyover town, KC is striding forward with newfound vigor and a burgeoning sense of self which has the world watching — as if to say, ooh, what’s all this? When juice bars replace steakhouses and the maker movement is now commonplace, you know something interesting is brewing. 

**disclaimer: this is a deep dive into locally owned and small businesses. Like us, these businesses are unique and non-mainstream. To us, that is what makes them the best places to patronize. 

Eat: It’s not all steak and potatoes

  • Port Fonda: Why we love it: Port Fonda is an absolute gem. Authentic, yet creative Mexican cuisine. Chicharrones and Salsa, Borrego, Jackfruit al Pastor. The brunch menu is one of the best in town. Their agave (tequila/mezcal) collection is monumental and arguably unmatched. {locale: Westport}
  • Rye: That rare quality of providing comfort food done right. A difficult task and executed masterfully. Upscale comfort food prepared beautifully. {locale: Plaza}
  • Extra-Virgin: Sure tapas are trendy, overblown, and often leave one feeling empty and cheated. Not the case at this lively eatery. A marriage of purposeful menu groups, meaningful bartending, and a rotation of fresh ingredients spearhead Chef Michael Smith’s bistro. He has a James Beard thingy so take note if your into that stuff. Regardless of accolades, Extra Virgin remains our favorite treat when the mood strikes — which is always. {locale: downtown/crossroads}
  • Room 39: Atmospheric ease. Room 39 is the kind of place you walk into and never leave. We love the small, intimate and all around low key vibe the space and staff provides. The farm to table menu never disappoints. {locale: midtown/39th St}                                                           

Worth noting: Novel, The Majestic.

Drink: (Bars & Cafes) Early Mornings and Night Caps, something good is brewing about. 

  • The Campground: Why we love it: They do it all. We couldn’t decide which category to put this in. The drinks and the food are tops. And both are prepared with flawless execution. The cocktails are timeless yet full of nuance. Inspired, yet not highfalutin – and still not your fathers drink. Additionally, they offer a collection of naturally fermented Pétillant Naturel wines — also known as”PétNat” — which have become our drink of choice! {locale: West Bottoms}
  • Green Lady Lounge: A hallmark of the freshest Jazz Kansas City has to offer. That late night feeling. {locale: downtown}
  • Our Daily Nada: Boozy Bookstore – Enough said. Add to that an impeccable wine list, craft toasts (hello smoked salmon) AND a thoughtful selection must-read books: from the Greats to the hidden treasures. Our Daily Nada emerges ahead of the crowd in a movement to marry both liquor and literature, literary fancy and libated fun. Pouring coffee from one of our favorite roasters, the baristas-cum-bartenders never miss a beat. Lounge: this is the sort of place you can hang around all day.. {locale: River Market}
  • Ça Va: “Champagne for the People.” Ca Va features a list of bubbly from across the world specializing in Grower Champagne (wine produced in small batches by artisanal vintners). Those who like to indulge will love their menu with everything from duck fat kettle corn to caviar. P.S they offer the best absinthe service in town which I’ve indulged many a night!  (locale: Westport}

Worth Noting: Mildred’s. Nomad’s 

Shops: Keeping it local 

  • River Market Antiques: Our go-to resource for past treasures and present whimsy. At 30,000 sq.ft. and boasting nearly 200 vendors, this remains one of the true resources for finding vintage gems. The Rivermarket stands its ground and we stand in solidarity. From vintage clothing to esoteric vinyl, Victorian ephemera, this is one of the funkiest, freshest collections of randomness through which to find some legitimately valuable and meaningful pieces. {locale: downtown/river market}
  • Foxtrot Supply Co: Owned & operated by two genuine and friendly guys, their leather goods are utilitarian and elevated (we happily represent their line here at Coveted Home). {locale: downtown/crossroads}
  • Shop Dear Society: Modern & Vintage. Thoughtfully curated pieces from centuries past and present. All things dear in fashion, accessories, and home. {locale: midtown/broadway}
  • Fine Folk: Shop high-end apparel and accessories as well as the beauty and wellness shop en shop, Within Apothecary {locale: downtown/crossroads}
  • George: A lifestyle shop after our hearts. George marries a beautifully curated arrangement of high-end accessories, apothecary, antiques and jewelry. {locale: south plaza/Crestwood shops}

Worth Noting: 45th & State Line Antique District houses many quirky and wonderful small shops filled with curiosities

Do: Do/do not miss.

  • Nelson Atkins: Why we love it: Museum with a world-renowned collection. Everything from Monet to Lautrec. Reconstructed Hindi temples to regional exhibitionists. A brilliant Egyptian/Near East collection. If you visit during lunch hours, the Rozelle Court Cafeteria, located inside the museum is both beautiful and delicious and worth a visit in its own right. {locale: east plaza}
  • Country Club Plaza (home of the Coveted Home!): Why we love it. Touted as America’s, maybe the worlds, first modern shopping mall. Established in 1922, the Plaza boasts beautiful architecture and fountains. Don’t miss the last few standing locally owned shops (besides us), The Better Cheddar (with one of the biggest cheese selections in the country) and Made In Kansas City Marketplace, where you can get beer on tap, t-shirts, coffee and more that are all..you guessed it, made in KC. And if you’re in town for an event, Parlor, next door to us, does amazing blowouts/up do’s/braids and makeup. 
  • River Market: Shops, cafes, restaurants, mostly locally run businesses with a genuine spirit. Worth an entire day: Brunch, lunch or dinner at The Farmhouse, pick me up at Quay Coffee, Al Habashi Restaurant and Spice Market, Japanese Imports, and much more. Come Spring, Summer, and Fall Farmer’s Markets fill the square with produce grown everywhere from Kansas City to parts unknown, offering cheeses, flowers, produce, honey, and an abundance of repurposed goods (weekends only). If you have the chance we encourage you to check it out. {locale: downtown}
  • Union Station: Not that long ago KC was the end of the line, everything West belonging to the various tribes and nature herself. Schlepping itinerants since 1914, Union Station remains a KC icon. catch a train home or dine in the luxurious Pierponts Restaurant — an exquisite 1920’s steakhouse feat. an extraordinary wine list, oysters, the most detailed service. A number of shops, from chocolatiers to KC memorabilia, Science City  Imax, all great places to entertain kids. {locale: downtown}
  • Loose Park/Rose Garden: To “escape the city,” head just south of the plaza to discover 75-acres of rolling hills, expansive fountains, and secret gardens. A popular destination for weddings and picnics alike, you can truly lose yourself in the rose bushes or spend the day meandering the fields. Also, a great place to take kids, with a large playground and water splash park in the summer. (locale: South Plaza)

Stay

  • The InterContinental: Legendary, swanky, conveniently South Plaza, the InterContinental plays host to celebrities and staycation-ers alike. Newly remodeled and we love the modern brasserie’s swanky new decor. (locale: Plaza)
  • The Crossroads Hotel: Downtown’s newest gathering place, for locals and out of towners alike, known equally for their hospitality, restaurant/bar, and accommodations. Enjoy a delicious upscale Italian meal at Lazia, located on premise. (locale: Crossroads)
  • The Bell Victorian: On a budget? Consider staying at our newly remodeled historic 100+ year old Victorian home, listed on Airbnb. We currently offer a guest room in a shared living space, suitable for 1-2 people. (locale: West 39th/Midtown)

Afterthoughts

  • Southwest Boulevard with its drag of authentic Mexican restaurants: menudo, lingua, and traditional dishes abound. A Kansas City past time and the best lineup in the Midwest. Try El Patron, La Bodega and Tropicana. 

                 The Majestic: Old World steakhouse meets 30’s Jazz club.  

A Note on BBQ: There is a dispute among local residents as to who remains the truest, most OG of all BBQ pits. These are among the most popular:

  1. Arthur Bryant’s: FRIED CHICKEN. Simply the best. 
  2. Q39 (a newcomer but immediate 1KO contender): Classic BBQ plates, from brisket to burnt ends.
  3. Gates. Known for their sauce and their friendly greeting. 
  4. Kansas City Joe’s (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s) Featured by every food critic on every food network covering KC BBQ. Charmingly located in a historic Shamrock Gas Station (still fueling the empty!) Try the Z-Man Sandwich or the pulled pork. Noteworthy vegetarianoption: Portabella Sandwich 

Cheers, and welcome to Kansas City! We look forward to meeting you and know you’ll enjoy the beautiful people and businesses that make this a great city. 

The 9-Minute Novelist: How to Write a Novel in Just Minutes a Day
Story 1

Writing a novel is a complicated equation involving a lot of variables and moving parts — not the least of which are the authors themselves. In fact, the process of writing a novel is so arduous and soaked in magical thinking that many writers struggle to explain the process coherently, and about the only thing anyone seems to agree on is that writing a novel requires an author. While artificial intelligence has certainly come a long way, you still need a human being to get a great work of fiction. And if you ask that human being about the most important aspect of their writing process, they’re likely to say “time.”

In fact, “not enough time to write” is probably the number-one complaint of most writers when asked. Between jobs, school, families, chores and everything else that comes along with a busy life, it often takes a superhuman effort to find time to write, much less write a fully fledged 80,000-word book. Much less 80,000 words that make some kind of sense.

Except that’s actually a fallacy. Because all you need to write a novel is nine minutes a day.

FAMOUS FAST NOVELS

It’s common knowledge that every year a bunch of perfectly mad writers challenges themselves to write 50,000 words in one month — and plenty of them succeed. There are also loads of examples of well-regarded published novels that didn’t take long to write:

  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac: Three weeks.
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne: Two and a half days [4].
  • The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: 26 days.
  • I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane: Nine days.

You get the drift — great novels don’t need thousands of man-hours. Of course, there are caveats. Kerouac spent months on the road making notes and experiencing the things he synthesized into fiction. Dostoyevsky was broke and desperate and agreed to deliver a novel by a specified date or lose the rights to future works, providing inspiration. But the fact remains that if John Boyne can write a novel in less than 72 hours, you can write a novel in short daily segments.

STRIP IT DOWN

None of that means the struggle to find writing time isn’t real. We have only so much mental, emotional and spiritual energy — all three of which are required to write something true and beautiful.

Most often, the real problem isn’t so much time, but how we use it. This is one of those situations in which Perfect is the enemy of Good; we’re often stymied by the desire for a “perfect” writing environment — the right spot, with the right implements, in the right mood, with the right music, sipping the right cup of tea, basically the right everythingincluding the right amount of time.

But very few things in life can be perfect. The first step toward writing a novel in nine minutes a day is to think objectively about where your writing time actually goes. For the majority of us, much of it probably isn’t actually spent writing. We search the internet and do on-the-spot research, we review yesterday’s pages, we procrastinate. Sometimes that’s part of the process, of course — but sometimes it’s just wasting time. Chances are if you strip away all the rituals and the idea that everything has to be optimal before you can concentrate, you’ll find that much of what you think you need isn’t really necessary to the process.

After all, aside from those novels that were written super fast, many great works have been penned under terrible conditions. Jean Genet wrote Our Lady of the Flowers while in prison, mainly so he’d have something to, uh, entertain himself with. Peter Brett drafted his debut epic fantasy, The Warded Man, on the subway commuting to and from work. And William Carlos Williams wrote most of his poems in-between seeing patients while working as a doctor.

Like them (and countless other writers who are typing “The End” on novels every day while working under imperfect conditions), you don’t need a perfect nook or endless free time. You just need those nine minutes.    Read More…

I’m going to be extremely honest in this one…

It all began in the Spring of 2011 when the East caught fire and revolution spread across North Africa and the Middle East. Something in that moment struck a chord and I before I knew it, I was on a one-way flight to Morocco.

There I nurtured a desire to understand our world and a burning passion, not only to see and share in the rich complexities of life but to explore our past in hopes of answering such questions as, How did we get here? and, Where are we headed?

 

Since then I’ve traveled across the regions of Arabia, Europe, and the United States working as an archaeologist, journalist, ditch digger, butcher, cheesemonger, and a variety of odd jobs.

Now returned I’m seeking a formal education at the local community college in hopes of having a greater impact on our world.

I currently work 60+ hrs/wk and, after the subtraction of rent and investments in start-ups, I’m struggling to achieve the funds needed to return to school and complete my degree.

My wishes are simple: to complete my education so that I may pursue a career in Elementary Education and Comparative Literature

I feel nothing but excitement for the future of humanity, of this extraordinary planet, and it would be an immense honor to have your support along the way.

Thank you for your time and please feel free to reach out at any moment should you have any questions or like to discuss my intentions.

–Nicholas Andriani

Student Grant

$5.00

P.S. This in no way will prevent the progress of my novel work! Which is going along quite well and I thank you for the continued readership and support as I work towards publishing

SaveSave

Rhythmic swells reverberate trough my lungs. The back streets of Valencia.

Back street Europe.

Romani enclaves and gypsy parts of town.

We’ll sit here in the Plaça de la Virgen with our stiff sangria, smartly bashful in red-faced delerium.

For it is Spring and the blossoms have begun to sing.

A nod to blanco nerium.

New Series. Composed of stream-of-consciousness writing and photoessays, thoughts on life, music, love and everything in between.


spontaneous combustion: #1

It’s your daily fix
Fresh ingredients.
Something new.
It’s not an ad.
It’s not for sale.
It’s not easy to digest.

I’m not here to pretend to be some guru or act like I know anymore than you do because, believe me, the older I get, the less I know.

Funny how that works when the world is running wild with “twenty-somethings” peddling Nirvana and life-coaching: really just give me $99 and I promise you’ll feel better. Go ahead, try it.

Try.

It.

You ready for this?

(more…)

A strange thing happens when you begin to contemplate the end. It’s as if setting such a definitive goal opens the world to endless possibilities

A phone is buzzing

It’s occurred to me that with the end comes the potential of a new beginning.

There are many types of death. Just as there are many types of love in which the subject, or subjects simply depart from one existance to another. Trading this for that, and in exchange receiving a fresh beginning and a new life, a new identity.

We are flowers forever teetering from Spring to deep Winter.

Forever waiting for Summer. For Fall

Our chance to really live.

Only to rise and be struck down.

Spring. Winter. Awakening. Death.

Where is Summer?

Where is Fall?

This realization came so urgently, slapping me across the face, I shot right out of bed that morning. Before the sun herself could shine and make me straight again, before the day could cleanse my palate as it often does and, in the deadpan winter, shuffled across my frozen, miniature tundra in snow flurry Kansas City, and drained my savings account in exchange for a one-way ticket to Morocco.

That will show em, I thought. Still unsure of who them was. For some reason, whenever I looked outside my window, hoping to spot them, all I saw was the hollow reflection of myself…

A phone buzzed, gliding smoothly across the bistro table. I don’t recognize ringer until realizing it’s mine: I’ve never heard it ring.


It was a cold spring night.

The city still reeling from the previous year’s terror attacks and whispers of Al Qaeda carried through the streets like cautionary tales foretelling the bogeyman. Maybe that explained the police on every corner, their unwieldy machine guns and serious frowns. They had no effect on me. That’s not true: I found it absolutely intoxicating, that life or death appeal is what lured me here in the first place. 

“Nobody said it was supposed to be so cold in the desert.” I said, catching my scarf as it fluttered in the sharp wind. It only occurred to me then that I hadn’t checked a single forecast. 

Moona laughed, “That’s because this isn’t the desert.” She said, looking up at the snow covered mountains. “It is winter isn’t it?”

“Is it?” I cringed as another gust came down from the mountain, lifting table skirts and extinguishing candles.

The waiter returned with my drink just in time for us to leave. I paid, left a few coins tip, downed the drink, shay ma nana, tea with mint, and flagged down the first cab on the square. A big burly man, mustachioed and jolly.

“Where from? Where? Oh, Kansas City! I have cousin in Kansas City, maybe you know him? Welcome to Morocco, America. We love America. Welcome to Morocco!”

He shook my hand as we paid and crossed the street to the souk on the other side. The shops were being washed out, dirty water came surging over the cobbles. And the streets were being watered down, to keep the dust from rising when the tourists arrive.

“And that is how we do it in Morocco.”

“You know it… Do what?”

“He just ripped you a big one. Do you realize what you paid him. What, like twenty dollars.”

My heart sank with shame. OK, so I didn’t check the forecast. But what about the exchange rate? The currency? The mysteriously scrolled dirham papers, lined with calligraphy and stained in pinks and greens. I could count to one-hundred in Arabic by then, but what did that mean of money, of value. Not a thing.

I had just paid twenty dollars for a two block ride down the boulevard.

“Now,” Moona said with her big smug way, “you are in Morocco.”

What are you wrapping this year?

Books. Cold Brew. Star Wars Gadgets. Pokemon Cards. Friends. Family. Brother. They’re all on my list and for the first year in my collected twenty-eight Christmases, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve completed my Christmas List!

Feeling rather mature about this.

Tell me, are you on the naughty list? The nice? Or that oft forgot, list’o’krampus?

Whatever you’re up to, know that you are loved and that everything, from the large swaths of snow covered trees to the dust bunnies collected under your sofa, is simply a figment of our collected imaginations 🤔💫

SCENE:
I landed in Andalusia, via Morocco, a few weeks/scenes before. In this text I’ve just met the Belgians Ingrid and Petra, We’ve been traveling together for a few days now and i’m beginning to feel a sort of tugging deep down, in my heart of hearts whenever she appears. Ingrid, that is. Of course, this feeling conflicts with my already strained, long-distance relationship (with Shay), yet I allow myself to be swept away by Ingrid’s presence. 

I remain unable to confront my own feelings. Therefore, before I say anything to Shay, before coming clean to Ingrid, I, selfishly, want to feel out my options.

The nights, dancing, tossing back jugs of Roja, the piles of Manchego, the furious foot stomping, hand clapping Flamenco, twirling through cavernous Gypsy grottoes and aimlessly, drunk on it all, wandering across the cobble stone markets. The old castle that was planted over the city have a millennia ago… this is all I’ve ever wanted. To be where I truly see excitement. To be where the world interests me and for the first time in my life I felt a purpose. 

And caught right there at the center of all that purpose nonsense were the two most extraordinary people I have ever met: Shay and Ingrid…


 From my working draft of The Outsider

     “I can hardly make out the old pointed steeple across the clay rooftops. A fog rolls in over the mountains and blanketing the village in that amber streetlight glow of Old World Europe. Church Bells pulsate through the clouds, as if echoing off canyon walls, a sort of wobbling, underwater sound. Even my own hands look strange in this light held before my face. The fog sweeps over the palm, through the fingers and the golden crown of Ingrid’s long curls. Blinking lights, something I can’t identify in the hazy distance, so foreign in this event –for haze so rich really is an event, isn’t it? Like a sunrise you never forget or the tail of a comet– glowing like dragons eyes… 

A sudden burst of red hits the rooftop as Ingrid’s glass falls to a shatter and wine washes over the Spanish tile where, beading at the edge of the terrace, it drips over the cobbles below.

“Shit.” Leaping up from the weathered futon, “–right back.”

When the coast is absolutely clear I dial the number.

“Hello?” It’s her. 

“Shay” My heart leaps, she’s answered!

How long has it been? A week, or two at least.

“Hi.” unhappy.

“Shay, how are you?” 

“Fine.”

Pause.

“I miss you.”

“Really? Because it seems to me that you’re having a great time on your own. In fact, I don’t know why you’ve called to begin–”

“–please don’t do this.”

“Do what? I’m doing nothing here. This is all you. If you want to go out and forget about me until it’s absolutely convenient then don’t even bother because I’m busy too y’now, i’m not sitting around, waiting for your call. This is all on you.”

“What are you talking about?” My voice cracks. Oh, how I revert to the desperate codependent puppy that I am. “I’m doing the best I can here. It’s not easy finding a phone, let alone a spare moment just when you’re available. The countless times I’ve called and gone straight to voicemail–”

“Words. Words, Nick. I want to see action. I need to feel you with me. To know you mean what you say. This is the first I know of these missed calls. You called this morning, well guess what, calling at 3 A.M doesn’t cut it.”

“Shay, please understand.”

“I do. You’re obviously onto bigger things and you should be. I’m not going to hold you back anymore. Don’t worry about me. Forget it. Go on and do you. It’s clearly what you want.”

“What I want? Would I be calling you from the other side of the world, busy and stressed and manic and missing you and in the middle of life, would I be calling you if this wasn’t what I wanted?”

“I don’t know what to say to that.”

“Be reasonable.”

“It’s never been so clear. You need to figure yourself out. Maybe someday that means us having something but now.” Shay pauses. “Now there’s just empty space.”

I can’t believe what she’s saying. A veil of darkness settles over my thoughts, muddling my vision. It’s all I can do not to crack this headset into the wall. To hurl my phone through the adjacent window across the chasms, stained glass raining over the alley below… but I hold tight. Oh, but to drain this bottle and hurl it through the window, wouldn’t that feel so good. I want to start a fire and watch something burn.

“Hello? Nick?”

I want to hang up. Give her a taste of what distance really feels like. But i’m still that codependent puppy in the throes of loneliness, hurling myself at the closest thing I know to be real.

Ingrid. On the stairs. She’s laughing and coming my way.

Shit.

“Nick? Hello?”

“You’re right. Maybe we’ve let too much air fill the space between “

Shay, hurt. “You really think that?”

Was she bluffing?

Now, agitated. “Isn’t that what you just said to me?” I let that sink in, feeling justified.

“Let’s talk about–”

“–how about I call you later. Let’s think about it. Email me. I have to go.”

“OK.”

I grab the bar as a wave of exhaustion crashes over. I need a drink.

“Hey Cowboy, how you holding up there?”

Ingrid’s cherry presence and brightness fills my cup once more. 

“I need a drink. Shall we?”

I mean, it’s not cheating if nothing happens. Oh, but emotions run deep. Which begs the question: What’s worse, an emotional or a physical affair?

The sky out my window is that fiery red which makes the heart swell with life and there it is again: that sensational expanding within my chest, rising to my throat, gripping and stinging my eyes.

Oh, no.

I bury my face into the scarf. Traces of fig leaf and sandalwood bring her rushing back to me as the mountains stretch into fractals, the tears come. The puddle on the red sky horizon, where the sun has fallen and melted, flickers with a faint shimmer and so suddenly the desert goes dark and I have never been so mysteriously out of sorts than I am on the six o’clock from Casablanca.

Gliding to a stop, the train hisses and pops, and ever so tentatively the doors stretch open, as if waking from an ancient sleep, creaking, stretching and finally, almost there, quit so those deboarding turn sideways, sucking in bellies and removing packs and balancing boxes upon trained heads. There’s no telling where we are. Out there, way out there, I mean stretching-your-eyes out there, is a city or at least a cluster of lights. Is that it? But here, it’s just a lamppost and a platform of backlit women, veiled and watching our subtle roll and pass through as their smiles fall into frowns, and they go on waiting and we lurch deeper into the African night.

Each one’s the same. Hiss, pop, impossibly congested desert town platforms, lampposts blackened with moths and large scaly things as the moon, rising beyond, lends a silvery glow over all the details she touches as the desert comes to life once more in this reversed role as nature returns to her rightful place and it’s our turn, us humans, to hide away within dens and shrubs.

So. Completely. Alone.

Every single desert town. Platform of veiled women. Waiting. Sometimes I catch sight of their villagers beyond, dusty main streets and always the shadowy figures of children running amok, kicking cans and beating the tattered remains of saggy cardboard boxes with twigs and old broomsticks.

Cracking the seal with a sharp click I down the bottle and bury the evidence deep into pack as the tremble in my hand steadies and I drift away…”

 


 

Scene:
The protagonist has just landed in a mysterious town in Africa. With nothing but a rucksack and a name scratched across a piece of paper: Djemaa el-Fna, “whatever that means…”

We open as he’s feeling deep regret for the past year and taking this tremendous leap into the unknown. But, at the same time, aware of this need to liberate the self from the old life which has led to a deep pit of depression and drinking…


 

While my novel is entirely true, there are moments which I allow artistic license to paint scenes with more interest.

I would love to know what you think.

Yes, this is only a small glimpse, but I know the importance of landing an intriguing opening. And this is my goal here…

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Uncovering the modern identity of an African Kingdom. A beautiful and rugged society, multicultural, secular in some ways, rigid in others.
I cannot stress enough the vast beauty and sacredness of Morocco. A great country to learn of Islam’s strides in science, medicine and even literature (Moroccan authors absolutely rock.) I feel that to understand the world at large this is a great place to start. But by starting you’ll only realize that you know nothing at all. And that we’re all as confused and bizarre as one another. But isn’t this the lesson anyway? In less words: #takemeback

Experience New York City like a local. Expert tips on where to eat, what to see and do in a weekend or layover.

Stay: The Jane

Built in 1908 for sailors docking in Manhattan, the Jane Hotel offers historic, cabin-like berths for single and double occupancy.

The overall vibe marries Victorian and Ottoman stylings–with a nod to the cult of Wes Anderson–as porters run luggage to and fro, dressed in bellhop uniforms and Fez caps. The walls are ornamented with antique wood molding and portraits and paintings from the Orient hang alongside gypsy folk art and a stuffed monkey and other trophy heads that include, if I’m remembering clearly, a peacock. The Jane is also notable as having hosted survivors of the Titanic in 1912. At night, the lounge comes to life in quasi-Gatsby delight where hipsters rub shoulders with entrepreneurs and socialites over cocktails.

Highlights: On-site restaurant, Cafe Gitane. Rooftop bar. Lounge on ground level. Free bicycles for day use. Shared bathrooms and showers for those not staying in “Captains Quarters.”

You may ask yourself  “Is this the Grand Budapest Hotel?”

Single $80 — Double (bunk bed) $139 — Captains Cabin $225 (prices as of Jan 2017)

*Truth is, single and doubles are tiny. But, there’s absolutely no reason that should be a problem–you’re in NYC, hit the streets ASAP. And those prices!

Breakfast: Cafe Gitane

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Translated as “Gypsy Woman,” Cafe Gitane serves French and Moroccan cuisine, a la Paris meets Marrakech. American made absinthe, croissants, couscous, baristas, bartenders, fresh juices and breakfast smoothies made with cereal, bananas, and maple syrup. What’s more, Cafe Gitane is built into the Jane Hotel. Go figure!

Make this your morning stop — caffeinate, carb-up or whatever your morning routine.

I suggest pairing an espresso with pain au chocolat and the baked eggs. If you’re in a hurry, opt for the breakfast smoothie to go.

*Best of all?  Their no-bullshit policy on prohibiting the use of laptops.

 

Explore: HighLine

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I’ve said a lot about the Highline in the past, have strolled its verdent lanes time and time again, yet it never grows old. In fact, it grows anew as more platforms are dedicated to the city park.

Think of it as a pedestrian bridge that runs North and South across the West Village and the Meatpacking district. A collected respite from the madness below with a near dystopian vibe for much of the reclaimed Highline has been build to incorporate the original rail lines which ran trains for centuries. Now, they’re grown over wild a healthy helping of local flora and an array of birds and bees and butterflies. The skyline is just wild from up here.

Highlight: Ice cream sandwiches, buskers, street art, people watching, bars below, bars above. Strictly pedestrian and a great fountain made to walk through, take off them kicks and splash around!

 

Shop: Three Lives & Co…

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Some say local bookstores are a relic of the past. I say they’re just getting started. I mean, it wasn’t even that long ago that printed books were hard to come by, let alone afford. The players are just warming up, if not off to a weary start. Heads up. For we have our heroes.

Three Lives and Co. is nothing less than a ship of bibliophiles. Employees know their shit, as in they don’t just casually read the bestsellers, they inhale, they ingest every phrase, every line, every book with deep rooted passions for the written word so that when a wayward wanderer (yours truly) goes in search of some fabled memoir, they have not only read the book, each one of them, but they can happily assist in finding a similar read.

Host to a curated collection of books and boutique zines since 1968, like the AMNH, you could spend days inside.

Apps//Happy Hour: Virgola

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New York, like all my favorite cities, is known for an endless arsenal of cubbies, of hole-in-the-wall establishments with more charm than any desperate big box shop can buy.

Virgola is just that, a cubby hole oyster and prosecco bar. Menu boasts cheese plates, meat plates, salads, caviar and other articles of the sea.

We ended up with a 9 oyster varieties a piece, each more succulent than the last… or maybe that was the prosecco talking?

Flights of oysters, flights of fancy, whatever your poison. Live it.

Happy-hour from 4pm to 7pm

Dinner: Joseph Leonard

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Joseph Leonard is one of those restaurants that you will take with you. That you will think about time and again and that you never fail to recommend. I generally avoid visiting the same place twice when traveling, at least in the realm of food, but I recently had my third meal here and they keep getting better. No trip to NYC can be complete without a meal at Joseph Leonard.

Always on point with a strong seasonal menu ranging from wild caught fish to hearty vegetarian entrees, and NY strips to the artisan cheese plates and craft cocktails and house made pickles, sat out at every table. The oyster menu is always fresh.

After dark candles are lit and lights are dimmed. With a central bar at ground level and the kitchen being a few steps up, the small restaurant feels even more intimate when seated. Try for a window seat towards the back.

*Joseph Leonard does not accept reservations. So arrive a little early. Worst case scenario, you’ll wait at the bar, have a few cocktails, waiting for a table to free. Or, eat at the bar.

Dessert : Big Gay Ice Cream

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What began in 2009 as an ice cream truck has grown to two permanent parlors (with more to come). The menu offers cones, shakes and floats incorporating  experimental flavors that anyone can enjoy. Featured on many top-tens, best of, and best in the world lists, Big Gay’s has quickly become a NY staple and an absolute must all ice cream loving humans.

Try the Salty Pimp (dulce de leche, sea salt, vanilla ice cream in a cone dunked in chocolate) or as Thanksgiving rears its head in the US, the Gobbler (pumpkin butter, maple syrup, pie pieces and whipped cream, all in one cone!)

Here’s a little secret — do not, under any circumstance, eat inside — you WILL succumb to seconds, and thirds… ad nauseam. What you want to do is order your ice cream then use this time to stroll the beats of Washington Square. Hit the streets where Bohemia has once again settled in…

See/Do: Washington Square Park

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Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson shot the shit here. This is where you and that Big Gay load of cream will mingle with the night. Could be to the tune of some vagabonding gypsy quartet, could be a tearjerking talented  junkie who’s future shines like a dwarf planet never to spark the mainstream but you know you have found solid gold if only for a moment. This is New York City. This is the heart. Where everyone is someone and in that the maddening chaos that it could be flows like poetry.

Self described as

“A marsh. A cemetery. A parade ground. A gathering spot for avant-garde artists. A battleground for chess enthusiasts. A playground for canines and children. Washington Square Park has served various roles for its community throughout the years, adapting to meet its needs. Well-known for its arch, honoring George Washington, the man for whom the park is named, and its fountain, the arch’s elder by 43 years and a popular meeting spot, Washington Square Park also houses several other monuments and facilities.”

Hauntingly, or not, around 20,000 bodies of victims of early America rest under the concrete park

Now. For me, the best dessert would be to skip the Ice Cream and pick up a bottle wine, maybe some cheese and nuts and head straight for Wash. Square Park after dinner to watch the scene unfold. I’ve seen lightsaber duels, impromptu dance demonstrations and raging jazz bands horning and howling out familiar tunes that you just can’t name. Hula hoopers and tricksters are not unheard of.

 

Itinerary:

  • Stay: The Jane
  • Breakfast: Cafe Gitane
  • See: The American Museum of Natural History
  • Do: The Highline
  • Shop: Three Lives & Co…
  • App//Happy Hour: Virgola
  • Dinner: Joseph Leonard
  • Washington Square Park

For an added bonus–after Washington Square Park, if you’re feeling wild, restless, if this city life has gripped your core, hail a cab to Times Square. Wander the streets starstruck, high on the nighttime New York.

To find yourself in Morocco is to enter into a most foreign world. Still, it is a globalized world. One of Coca-Cola and Bob Marley and the endless fascination with technology. But don’t be fooled by these familiar traditions–the world remains a wild place, full of surprises. This rings especially true for the Kingdom of Morocco. And here we find ourselves in the salty-sea splashed village of Tangier.
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Summer is long days, the sun pouring its song across orange-evening skylines with everything its got. Summer is falling across damp grass, wine bottle in hand, picnic blanket shaken out and mosquito bites. Summer is sun-burns and sand-where-you-don’t-want-it vacations. Summer is lush, drunk on springs abundance. The death of winter is almost forgot, the rebirth of spring a dizzy memory and the autumn far from the horizon for summer is here and now.

Over Memorial Day Weekend I had a few friends over on whom I was able to experiment with some new recipes which I’ve picked up on the road. Now, I’ve never been to Thailand but these wickedly delightful grilled corns are another great reason to visit Thailand, not to mention Asian Snake Whiskey and my Buddhist tendencies.

One more thing, i’m a heavy wine drinker. I’ll take or leave, usually leave, beer. I’m a gin snob but not that jerk who won’t enjoy a cheap bottle… all I’m trying to get at is that I love me some good wine. These days, at least my current fixation comes from Spain.

So for this meal we uncorked a bottle of Verdejo from Finca Montepedroso, which I highly recommend to accompany this meal.

Grocery List

Wine:

Thai Street Corn

  • However many heads of corn you need…
  • Coconut Cream, one can
  • Cayenne 1 tsp
  • Ginger 1 tsp
  • Honey 2 tsp

Salmon:

  • Salmon filet w/ skin, however much you may need…
  • Cedar plank
  • Olive oil

Crostini:

  • Sourdough loaf
  • Ripe pears
  • Goat cheese

Finca Montepedroso, Verdejo 2013

An award winner and one of the smoothest, most delicate white wines I’ve tasted. Yet it remains very complex, with notes of green apple and a soft minerality. Not sweet, but crisp, I’d call this an exceptional summer wine — pairing damn well with tonight’s dish. Hailing from a family run estate in the rugged foothills of Rueda, Spain it’s become one of our go-to wines when stocking the cooler.

Thai Street Corn

  1. Shear corn so that the husks are pulled back from the meat but not torn off.
  2. This is the trick part, but easy enough — with the husks pulled back, take two of the longer strips and tie the remaining husks together like so… see following images image
  3. Heat up all other ingredients in a pot — Coconut cream, honey, cayenne and ginger over medium for three minutes. Or until thickened and homogenized.
  4. Place corn on grill. Brush with coconut sauce ever few minutes when rotating.
  5. Cook until slightly charred or to your preference

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CROSTINI

  1. Cut crostini into thin slices and butter both sides
  2. spread a generous layer of goat cheese across the face.
  3. Top with a thin slice from a ripe pair
  4. Grill to liking

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SALMON

  1. Set grill at a stable medium heat.
  2. Place salmon skin side down upon the cedar plank.
  3. Rub fillets with olive oil (simplify the ingredients, embrace the smokiness.)
  4. Place on grill over indirect heat, cover.
  5. Grill until darkened, 20-30 mins.

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Earlier this year, I set a goal to finish a solid draft of my memoir and to achieve this mission i’m going into the wild, er, offline…

A MONTHLONG period away from social media, the internet, ethernet and all those nets, in an archaic approach to finish this labor of love that i’m damn excited to share with you.

Now, I generally write longhand, heavy Cross pen, paper, table and tea–so this writing without a computer business is basically how I conduct my work anyway. But, to be away from my peers, my colleagues and you people taking time to read these articles, that’s the toughest part.

I want to keep this short so let me finish by wishing my fellow Americans an enlightening and restful Thanksgiving. And, you Turks, love him or hate him, happy Ataturk Day (Nov 10th.) The same goes for you Zoroastrians out there, happy Adargan (celebration of fire Nov 10.)And, to you Moroccans and Lebanese–happy Independence Day (Nov 18th, Nov 22nd respectively.) And, you, yes you, take a break and celebrate “Buy Nothing Day” (Nov 28th.)

You can reach me at info@nicholasandriani.com and I’ll get back to you in 30 days or more. It’s just little strange to say that.

Thank you for all the support and encouragement. I look forward to catching up with all of you in one month.

Until then…

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–Andriani