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!

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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.

All of these things are true...

I had been in Jordan for several weeks and my love affair with Arabian sweets had reached a lofty peak. In fact, I would begin and end each day with a platter of pastries, smothered in honeys and syrups that would flood through heaps of pistachios on my plate.

Then it happened… I voraciously reached junkie status. More, more. Never enough! Every bakery that caught my sight was fair game,  out for a greater high, exploring the labyrinthine neighborhoods for the more legendary bakeries. But it was in Wadi Musa where my friend, Khaleed, led me right into the snare of Kanafeh.

An unmarked door led to an unnamed bakery where, despite the raging 100f degree day, a father and son were cheerfully slaving away, racking out sheets of pastries. They were using round, shallow pans and alchemy to produce what many call “Arabian cheesecake”.

This “cheesecake” was Kanafehe

A definitive oxymoron- soft and crunchy, sweet’n’salty, cheesy, gooey and crispy. All neatly encased in a glaze of simple syrup and rose water. Good enough to make one prostrate in reverence to the baker.

The ingredients are few yet they lend themselves to an endless array of pastries. We all know and love baklava but it wasn’t until I discovered Kanafeh that the Arabian culture opened up before me, so delicate and sweet behind that mysterious veil.

Now, please excuse this appauling photograph…

…but 1879!!!

IMG_2298
Knafa, Kanafeh, Kunafa? Whatever it is… Tel Aviv, Israel

Let’s just say there’s no right/wrong way to spell it- “A rose by any other name” and all that-

523975_3679462710501_1083950525_n
Kanafeh in Ramallah, Palestine

 

IMG_2093
Kanafeh and assorted pastries in Wadi Musa (Jordan)

There are three variants of kanafeh but in this recipe we’ll focus on khishnah (rough Kunafa)

Ingredients

  • 1 Package- Kataifi Pastry (kataifi is something like spun phyllo. Rather than laid out in thin sheets, it is processed in a way that produces vermicelli-like noodles. Check out this great video to see how it’s made)
  • 1 cup- Ghee
  • 2 cups- Akkawi cheese (you can substitute with mozzarella)

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup- water
  • 1 1/2 cup- sugar
  • 2 tbsp- Rose water (or orange blossom water)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Optional Toppings

  • Pistachios (crushed)
  • Almonds (whole or crushed)
  • Whatever else catches your fancy (if you dare stray from pistachios…)

As with all recipes- preheat your oven (350f/180c)

Prepare the simple syrup (so that it can cool entirely before the kanafeh is finished) by mixing the water and sugar in a pot- bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Promptly remove the syrup and allow to cool for several minutes. Then add the rose water, or orange blossom water.

At this time, you’ll want to begin shredding the kataifi. This is best done with a food processor but can be achieved by hand. As packaged, kataifi comes in endless noodles and you’ll need to shred them further- so that the average noodle is around one inch in length.

 

Once you have the noodles at the right size, place the kataifi in a large mixing bowl and gently incorporate the melted ghee (clarified butter.)

As the noodles set, begin the process of cutting down the cheese, or even shredding it if possible. I’ve experimented with many cheeses, some sweeter, some saltier, and there’s no rule for what you use. Just be sure to have 2 cups of a quality melting cheese to your liking either shredded or cut in long, narrow strips.

Taking a 9×13 pan, spread out a generous layer of the processed kataifi (about 2/3 of your noodles). Press the noodles firmly into the pan working it into a flat, even surface so that you can then evenly distribute the cheese, all of the cheese.

Follow the cheese with the remaining kataifi and, again, pack the noodles into the cheese, evenly.

With the oven heated, cook the kanafeh until the noodles have become a golden brown (around 10-15 mins)

Once the kanafeh has baked through you’ll want to allow it to cool for 10 mins

At this point, the kanafeh should have become more firm and set into its cheesy, sexy self.

Now, carefully place a cookie sheet atop the baking dish with the kanafeh and invert the pan so that the kanafeh is now on the cookie sheet.

Litter the surface with crushed pistachios and drown your darling with the simple syrup/rose water concoction.

Voila.

OK, so the example given below, about that. I had a tough time finding kataifi, so I substituted the noodles for simple phyllo sheets… no harm done. Yet, I will admit that iteration does neglect all the pleasing textures that comes along with kataifi. However, i’ll take what I can get. So get creative.

20140418-111911.jpg

20140418-111902.jpg

 

So, any takers?

Yallah’bye!

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All of these things are true...

A couple weeks in my desperate affair with Arabian sweets had reached dangerous highs. In fact, I would begin and end each day with a platter of pastries, smothered in honey and flooded with syrup and pistachio.

Junkie. That’s what you’d call me. A baklav-addict. More, more. Never enough. Every bakery was fair game as I lurked ancient cobbled alleys, out for a greater high, wandering deeper into the labyrinth in search for legendary bakeries. All of this was is good and well but it was in Wadi Musa where my friend, Khaleed, led me right into the snare of Kanafeh.

I followed him downtown through an unmarked door into an unnamed bakery where, despite the raging 110-degrees, a father and son were cheerfully slaving away, racking out sheets of pastries. Round shallow pans and alchemy. Arabian cheesecake.

This cheesecake was Kanafehe

The edible oxymoron – soft and crunchy, sweet’n’salty, cheesy, gooey, and crispy. All neatly encased in a glaze of syrup and rose water.

The ingredients are few yet they lend themselves to an endless array of pastries. We all know and love baklava but it wasn’t until I discovered Kanafeh that I finally tasted the essence of Arabian culture: so delicate and sweet behind that mysterious veil.

Now, please excuse this appalling photograph…

IMG_2298
Knafa, Kanafeh, Kunafa? Whatever it is… Tel Aviv, Israel
…but 1879!!!

Let’s just say there’s no right/wrong way to spell it. A rose by any other name

523975_3679462710501_1083950525_n
Kanafeh in Ramallah, Palestine
IMG_2093
Kanafeh and assorted pastries in Wadi Musa (Jordan)

There are three variants of kanafeh but in this recipe we’ll focus on khishnah (rough Kunafa)

Ingredients

  • 1 Package- Kataifi Pastry (kataifi is something like spun phyllo. Rather than laid out in thin sheets, it is processed in a way that produces vermicelli-like noodles. Check out this great video to see how it’s made)
  • 1 cup- Ghee
  • 2 cups- Akkawi cheese (you can substitute with mozzarella)

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup- water
  • 1 1/2 cup- sugar
  • 2 tbsp- Rose water (or orange blossom water)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Optional Toppings

  • Pistachios (crushed)
  • Almonds (whole or crushed)
  • Whatever else catches your fancy (if you dare stray from pistachios…)

As with all recipes- preheat your oven (350f/180c)

Prepare the simple syrup (so that it can cool entirely before the kanafeh is finished) by mixing the water and sugar in a pot- bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Promptly remove the syrup and allow to cool for several minutes. Then add the rose water, or orange blossom water.

At this time, you’ll want to begin shredding the kataifi. This is best done with a food processor but can be achieved by hand. As packaged, kataifi comes in endless noodles and you’ll need to shred them further- so that the average noodle is around one inch in length.

Once you have the noodles at the right size, place the kataifi in a large mixing bowl and gently incorporate the melted ghee (clarified butter.)

As the noodles set, begin the process of cutting down the cheese, or even shredding it if possible. I’ve experimented with many cheeses, some sweeter, some saltier, and there’s no rule for what you use. Just be sure to have 2 cups of a quality melting cheese to your liking either shredded or cut in long, narrow strips.

Taking a 9×13 pan, spread out a generous layer of the processed kataifi (about 2/3 of your noodles). Press the noodles firmly into the pan working it into a flat, even surface so that you can then evenly distribute the cheese, all of the cheese.

Follow the cheese with the remaining kataifi and, again, pack the noodles into the cheese, evenly.

With the oven heated, cook the kanafeh until the noodles have become a golden brown (around 10-15 mins)

Once the kanafeh has baked through you’ll want to allow it to cool for 10 mins

At this point, the kanafeh should have become more firm and set into its cheesy, sexy self.

Now, carefully place a cookie sheet atop the baking dish with the kanafeh and invert the pan so that the kanafeh is now on the cookie sheet.

Litter the surface with crushed pistachios and drown your darling with the simple syrup/rose water concoction.

Voila.

OK, so the example given below, about that. I had a tough time finding kataifi, so I substituted the noodles for simple phyllo sheets… no harm done. Yet, I will admit that iteration does neglect all the pleasing textures that comes along with kataifi. However, i’ll take what I can get. So get creative.

20140418-111911.jpg
20140418-111902.jpg

So, any takers?

Yallah

“With only enough time to unpack from our trip to Portland Jaclyn suggests we rent a jalopy and drive our tired souls to North Carolina for the High Point Furniture Market.”

The HP Furniture Market is a Mecca for designers and business owners to network, in-person with manufacturers and gets you in on the know-know. Jaclyn runs a furniture boutique here in Kansas City (the Coveted Home) and making it to events like this can be essential for success. It’s far more than furniture though. Hoards of vendors bring in antiquities and handcrafted goods from around the globe; Southeast Asian, African, you name it. All the while parties are raging. Good drinks and vibes to go around tenfold. Who could pass this up?

Her suggestion ignited an even greater plan; raid this designers “treasure trove” and hit the Smoky Mountains. Taking with us our camping gear, we would mosey along, sampling from local cuisine and the Appalachian Trail.

A week later we were renting that van and on the road with our dog and a cooler stocked with cheese…

Step 1- Kansas City, MO to Franklin, NC

(822 Miles/12 hours and 32 minutes)

Saint Louis, Missouri

Our first sight is the iconic Gateway Arch of St. Louis, MO.  This 630-ft arch is the tallest manmade monument in the states and I must admit, this photo, given the weather, does little justice for the true beauty of this beast.

2013-10-15 15.51.30

We reserve our energy by sleeping through the route between St. Louis and Franklin. Driving and snoozing, equal shifts between Jaclyn, myself, and Simone…

The following morning we’re witness to the beginnings of the Appalachians splendor as we enter North Carolina.

2013-10-17 12.03.22

Early morning sun, burning the Smoky Mountain haze.

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As the sun begins to peak, so does Simone, leaf peeping.

2013-10-16 17.01.30

Fall foliage begins to reveal its orchestrated plumes and hues of autumns tune.

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Taking in a dose of Americana; Avett Brothers blaring, banjo picking, snare drum kicking.

2013-10-20 14.35.52

Franklin, North Carolina

Arriving midday at our first destination we pop our tent and hit the trails

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For those points where it’s hard to distinguish between game trails and the actual hiking trail, cairns are strategically placed along to keep the pious hiker safely on the right route.

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About an hour in, we run into these two who have been out here for days, working their way around the lower AT. They apparently had a run in with a small black bear earlier in the day. Nothing these two champs can’t handle.

With the sun setting, temperature dropping, we spend a few hours fighting the elements to get a fire started, burning through 3/4 of the journal I brought to document this trip… And for a brief moment we actually had a fire raging, cooking our bundles of carrots, potatoes, onions, and turmeric wrapped in foil, roasting with a can of beans and cheese. Enough to heat our food before the moisture snuffed out our flame for good. Eating to the musical backdrop of Appalachia we welcomed the darkness in excitement for the days to come.

The Appalachian Road Trip will return in Franklin to High Point.

Yallah, Bye

الْأُرْدُنّAl-‘Urdunn, Aqabah

Sun Blazing, the Red Sea, still, cool with Spring. I sit over Cafe Salaam, coffee, freshly roasted with cardamom and a handful of roasted nuts, wedged between an abundance of potted sage and a crumbling banister.

Open my sketchbook and look into the valley…

…Al-Sharif Al Hussein Bin Ali Mosque — open air markets winding and knotted, where camel heads swing from butcheries and parrots are sold hand over fist — all common fare. Beyond the mosque, the water opens in an uninterrupted display of coral and sunset pink, shipwrecks spot the depths like freckles between Egypt and Jordan.

al-Aqaba sketch

Could there be a better rooftop for writers and their manuscripts on a romantic getaway?

NAH!

Let’s hear it, tell me about your favorite rooftop experience. Where? Why?

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It was during my long and dusty sojourn in the Middle East when I first saw them. Buried deep in this old collapsed village, on the far end of town where the market spills into a sea of sand and slate. My boots had worn thin, literally, threadbare the cheap rubber soles were no thicker than a sheet of paper and I was due to return to the excavation any minute. Pressed for time I went to the tattered edge of an old cobblers shop and there they were, hanging in pairs of two, from the vaulted ceiling down to the cobbles like lattice.

The Turkish Yemeni

Now, i’m not the most fashion-driven or even fashionable guy, but the effortless, dare I say, timeless cool of these utilitarian shoes embedded deep within my heart. So much so that I refused to wear anything else –weather climbing, hiking, excavating or swimming the coral banks of the Red Sea (true!).

But it wasn’t until I returned to America that their spell had fully settled in. When I was heartbroken to find my home country a desert for yemenis…

Then in 2012 I met the Sabah Dealer.

(more…)

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.

The Bosphorus splits Istanbul in two parts. A rift in the madness of Europe and Asia, drifting between bodies of fresh and salt water cooling the heated passion of a most ancient urban jungle.

The hot, hot, heat of human movement generates organized chaos as this great strait, this rift, cushions the blow, keeping this romantic city on its axis.

Gulls parade our smooth cruise to the Black Sea as Istanbul, in all its glory, surrounds us reaching out with minarets and the omnipresent aromas of a heavily spiced city.

It’s here, in the interstitial space between East and West, that time stands still…

photo


Will Write for Food. Or Coffee!

Being an artist, whether poet or ventriloquist, violinist or Beck, it's a taxing gig. Low pay, long hours. Sleepless nights,spotty work. If you find that my writing provides any pleasure, any sense of joy at all, I hope you will consider throwing me a bone, or an espresso.

$5.00

These are a few of my favorite things.
Wishing everyone wellness and peace through the holidays!

What are you up to this week? New Years?
My material obsessions right now?
•Alt J • Poetry by @r.h.sin • Antique Bedouin Coffee Pots • Coffee via Portland • @originalfunko Luke Skywalker.

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…

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

Before the world can truly reveal itself you must take a period of meditation. A time of reflection. To pre-game, to set a cosmic course of action by stating your intentions and making them manifest. This is the driving force behind Sketching Sights. To become one with the elements of each and every environment that strikes me.

Dreaming of old Bagan I left brush and paint to guide themselves across the stars and secure my itinerary.

Burma on my mind

Scattered about the enchanting valley of Bagan are the remains of some 2,000 structures (monasteries, temples and pagodas). Historically this land housed over 4,000–each one thoughtfully placed and with purpose.

With this country of monks, gold clad domes and incantations opening its doors I see no other location more relevant to our cause at Yallah’Bye. That is, to document indigenous cultures at risk in this world of globalization.

Burma 2018?

Until next time

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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.

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

 

It was nearly a year ago that I discovered the Sabah Dealer.

A chance meeting on Twitter led me to this exotic, almost whimsical Instagram where I was transported to Anatolia. To the bazaars, the buskers and baksheesh and medieval villages. To a world still crafted by hand.

I soon found that behind the Sabah Dealer’s travels were shoes–Sabah’s themselves–hand stitched slippers crafted from calfskin and buffalo leather in the countryside of Turkey.

In other words–I was moved! Moved by a bloody pair of shoes that hit my like a Sufi poem.

At some point I shared my newfound passion for Sabah’s with Jaclyn and, with a trip to NYC in the near future, she emailed The Dealer. His reply came swift and his demeanor warm. He described his story:

“This style of shoe (and more importantly the construction technique) was once the chosen footwear of southeastern Turkey and Syria (dating back nearly 1,000 years), but has now mostly disappeared from daily wear. I personally discovered the shoe style because I lived in Istanbul for several years (working as an expat) and was gifted a pair by a friend’s grandmother who grew up wearing them.

The original style looks more like a genie slipper, not a Sabah. However, I was so impressed by the comfort and quality of my first pair that I wore them almost everyday and everywhere I traveled: the beaches of France, dancing in Beirut, a work trip to Munich, hiking through Morocco, even once with a Tuxedo to a fancy Turkish wedding.

A year later, in that same pair, I was back in NYC (they had worn in beautifully and were even more comfortable) and I couldn’t find anything like them in the market. My friends and even strangers on the street were always asking me about them as well. So I sought out the craftsman through my friend’s grandmother, and over the course of nearly a year, a couple trips to the ancient bazaar, (and many mistakes, I did not know a thing about shoemaking), I launched Sabah utilizing this family’s traditional construction technique and skilled craftsmen, but with a more modern design, better fit, higher quality leathers and a replaceable rubber sole. We still make every pair by hand with those same craftsmen today and are actively working with them to grow the business and train additional skilled labor.

To make Sabahs, we employ a traditional method of shoe construction that has been cultivated over generations in the ancient bazaars of southeast Turkey. We work with the few remaining traditional cobblers in the region whose families have been making this style of shoe for generations. The process to make a Sabah is quite difficult and tedious (requiring extensive training and practice), but the result is a pair of shoes that are remarkably comfortable, really well made and distinct looking. Also, since we use very high quality leather for all components except the rubber outsole, Sabahs mold to your feet after a few wears and continue to gain comfort and take shape over time. And, as a testament to the quality of materials, Sabahs never, ever smell – no socks, just Sabahs, all summer, no problem.” 

Sabah’s aren’t sold online. They’re made in small quantities, can be ordered to size in a multitude of colors and when they sell out, they’re gone. At least, until another batch arrives from Turkey. The only way to get your trotters into a pair is by arranging a visit to their showroom called the ‘Sabah House‘ or emailing The Dealer.

August came and we found ourselves on the subway towards the Sabah House. Jaclyn confessed a vivid dream about arriving to the Sabah House and swimming in a sea of colorful shoes (she still had not made up her mind on a color–red? blue? mint green?) but the only color in her size–white. The one color she really had no intention of buying. As we exited the subway we laughed about the fact we had become so obsessed that we were dreaming about them. Shoes!

Tucked between noodle bars and residential buildings, the Sabah House sits, low-key, harboring the goods that brought us to Koreatown. The only indication of what’s inside is the address. No signage, no neon lights, no fanfare. Just a Manhattan address.

While arranging for this trip we found that The Dealer would be out on a reconnaissance mission (aka – road trip across the States) and that we would be meeting with one of his trusted colleagues.

We were greeted at the door by Gabby, a former customer, now intern, who would act as our guide through this apartment-gone-showroom and we were quick to see that once you’re involved with Sabah’s you become part of this family, this movement.

Before getting down to business Gabby engaged us in conversation. Less business, more get to know you. Sparkling water and chocolate espresso beans flowed as she led us through the showroom, insisting that we take our time to explore the wide range of shoes by “dressing up” and getting to know the slippers themselves.

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Butter. Oh, the pleasure of slipping your feet into the softest,  form fitting calfskin leather. I grab a pair of oxblood red Sabahs, just for kicks, and they melt to my feet.

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This red pair on Jaclyn were perfection and they would have gone home with her had it not been for the sticky note on the inside reading “sold”. She tried on several other pairs before we realize that Jaclyn’s dream had manifest. The only pair that fit her was white. Deciding to take it as a sign, they left with us.

Gabby pulled out a pair of olive colored Sabahs explaining that this pair came in with a shipment that were produced during the month of Ramadan. Now, if you’re no stranger to Ramadan you’ll know that this is a time of fasting for the Muslim world. So these craftsmen, in rural Turkish villages, were fasting from sunup to sundown, high on piety and a abstinence, making this very pair of shoes! Meaning, that while still structurally sound, they exhibit more human error than is typical of Sabahs.

SOLD.

Without trying  them on I was completely infatuated with the humanity of this pair.

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Despite being the sort of place in which you could kick back for hours on end, where good conversation and mellow vibes are guaranteed, this is New York City and we had just tapped the surface of our itinerary.

Decisions made, white Sabahs, olive Sabahs, high on espresso beans, we bid Gabby farewell, strolling off into the sunset… OK midday sun, towards the Brooklyn Bridge.

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I wear them as a charm and in exchange they carry me safely through life. And, now i’m talking about a pair of shoes as if they were my brothers in arms… You know what? They are. To the market, on my back patio, and to the pyramids.

Onward.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Orquideas Hostel, Cancun, Mexico

On the Manhattan High Line.

*All photos by Jaclyn Joslin unless noted

Before the world can truly reveal itself you must take a period of meditation. A time of reflection. To pre-game, to set a cosmic course of action by stating your intentions and making them manifest. This is the driving force behind Sketching Sights. To become one with the elements of each and every environment that strikes me.

Dreaming of old Bagan I left brush and paint to guide themselves across the stars and secure my itinerary.

Burma on my mind

Scattered about the enchanting valley of Bagan are the remains of some 2,000 structures (monasteries, temples and pagodas). Historically this land housed over 4,000–each one thoughtfully placed and with purpose.

With this country of monks, gold clad domes and incantations opening its doors I see no other location more relevant to our cause at Yallah’Bye. That is, to document indigenous cultures at risk in this world of globalization.

Burma 2015?

Until next time–Yallah’Bye

We stumbled away from Another Kind of Sunrise high on good food and despite this the lure of chocolate never wore off. I felt like a child longing for a view into Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory. Knowing that what lies beyond contained the secret of cacao alchemica; that is, the transformation of cacao from plant to biodynamic and holy confections.

Rounding the alley we found ourselves in the presence of a true American pioneer- ZenBunni

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Overturned turtle shells emit a soft glow as they light a path through the rabbit hole.

Bohemian and whimsical in equal measure the storefront carries the timeless essence of passion and sustainability. After repurposing an old broom closet husband and wife -Zen and Bunni- created this space using clay and mud from their property outside Los Angeles. If that isn’t admirable enough, this was followed by a final dusting of cacao powder (the walls are chocolate!). Thus encouraging any and all to take a trip down the rabbit hole.

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Packets of hand selected chocolate mingle with pine cones and antlers on display for a quick fix.

Below the counter ten artfully prepared recipes await for you to explore the world of dopamine enhancers.

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This is the kind of chocolate in which it’s a shame to chew. That which you’re drawn to for the sensation of all those well balanced compounds like phenylethylamine and cannibinoids; a recipe for childlike giddiness.

We sample the “Lost Salt of Atlantis” following up with an order for the Rainbow Pack (which comes with 9 chocolates and a little crystal) and several bars (Maui Turmeric Ginger, Cali Almond and the Shiva Rose). It’s hard not to smile after breaking a bar in your mouth. Sit back and let the good times roll. But know your limit. Between Jaclyn and myself, we could have cleaned out this store in one sitting!

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With one final pass we bid farewell to Zen as our last day in Los Angeles comes to a close.

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In the alleyway between ZenBunni and Another Kind of Sunrise.


Our original plan had us on the road, leaving L.A. at 9am. It was just past noon as we left ZenBunni. And that is how to travel consciously.

Abandon your precepts and break the rules. Otherwise ZenBunni, Another Kind of Sunrise would have been nothing more than chalkboards I probably wouldn’t have seen and Abbot Kinney just another place-name on a map.

One last thing–ZenBunni is up for a Guinness World Record for smallest chocolate shop. How cool is that?!

until next time–yallah’bye

 *Photo credits to Jaclyn Joslin

Calling all philanthropists, all investors. This year brings my first opportunity to attend the travel writers conference, Tbex, in Cancun, Mexico and i’m looking for a little support in the financial arena. Now, I know that sounds like a load of drunken debauchery in the midst of Maya ruins but there is just so much more to it!

Between the 11th and 14th of September, Tbex will include one-on-one networking with experts in the travel industry. Writers, businesses, publishers and masters of this or that field. Three days of lectures, classes, and hands-on training. All of which could propel me from the seat of an amateur to a full-time professional travel writer.

Since 2012 i’ve been working on my memoir chronicling archaeological research and cultural exchanges across the Middle East. A time immediately after the great Arab Spring and before the hopes and dreams of the Syrian uprising became a brutal civil war. By attending this conference I will be able to pitch my manuscript to a wide audience of publishing houses while also making my name relevant.

Here are the links to my campaign and to the official Tbex site.

If nothing more please share this campaign with your community. Any support would be extremely appreciated. All sponsorship and contributions will be noted.


 

A special thank you to my first donor Kaori Nishimoto of Fragments of Travel. Kaori “Likes traveling, talking with locals, and finding “common” in different culture”. Her Instagram feed dazzles from Morocco in the west to Japan and China in the East. With an eye for detail she captures the soul of travel through the art of photography. Do be sure to pay a visit to her site.

33% funded thus far!

Thank you and Yallah’Bye