Quality Media from India

by bicyclemark 2 Comments

There are few projects on the internet, that make me stand up and say — see.. this is what videoblogging is for! And while I’ve mentioned this particular one before, as I watched their latest video I was once again reminded of how great they are.

The project is called Swajana, a videoblog which started around the time of Jay and Ryanne’s visit to India. It is about people in India. More specifically, people and their jobs. What they do, why they do it, how much they make, how they manage their lives, their hopes for the future, their hopes for their children, their concerns in general. It is a fantastic collection of snapshots, video capsules of life in cities like Pune, India.

Watching the tailor and the tailor’s wife and the tailor’s son, I’m reminded of what life is like outside of this first world disneyland known as Amsterdam. I love living here, but the standard of living is so high, It makes me need to have reality checks, reminders, of how a majority of the world lives. That means poverty. That means jobs that many of us would not do. That means struggling for the bare essentials. While I often say I struggle, my struggle is nothing in comparison. And in my humble opinion, this is the true power, the true significance of what videoblogging and personal publishing could be used for when it comes to global understanding, reporting about reality, and learning from each other. So on this fine friday, I recommend you re-check out and subscribe to Swajana.

Dishwasher Wisdom

by bicyclemark

Dishwasher Pete is a friend of mine. Like me, he’s an American who moved to Amsterdam. Like me, he’s also a European of another country living here in Amsterdam. And that is only the beginning of what he and I have in common.

Pete had gotten in touch a few days ago about getting help posting a video from when he was on Letterman. See Pete’s book has just come out, and the buzz coming from both sides of the atlantic is that DISHWASHER is a smash-hit. I’m two chapters in and honestly, I already knew the thing would be good because only inspiring things can come from the mind of such an excellent person.

As I was sorting out the video issues with him, he asked that classic question, “So hows it going.. are you able to live off your website?”…. I’m sure I’m misquoting him, but I know the question well.. as Im lucky enough to have concerned friends everywhere.

But the great part was his answer to my answer. I told him, “At this point, no… no I can’t. But I don’t care, this is what I want to do.” (something to that effect) Pete responds very quickly and calmly with his great brand of wisdom — “Just keep going. Keep doing what you’re doing. Corporations and media groups can’t make the type of connections with an audience that you’re making. Keep going… you’re building something very special…” (again I’m misquoting, but I remember the good parts)

Then I remembered, just as he reminded me… before the whole book thing.. Dishwasher Pete had a zine and a dream. He published a zine and traveled from state to state, washing dishes. He had amazing experiences, and saw the entire US is ways that the average person will never get to. And throughout that experience… plenty of people cast doubt on him… but he kept doing what he was doing.

Fire escapes.

I digress, Pete is not my idol (though maybe he should be!). But it was his way of reminding me and assessing my goals… one of those moments that reminds me of how far Ive come, and where I’m going.

Breakdown, Northern France

by bicyclemark

Well. I could make this stuff up… but the fact is.. this shit just happens.

As previously mentioned, I met up with the hitchhike ride from Amsterdam to PAris. Cool people, old ride. Like old classic Mercedes minibus ride. I noticed everytime she shifted gears I could see the pavement beneath us. That and I couldnt hear much besides the engine the whole ride.

About 5 hours had passed, and we were enjoying the scenery; their dislike for highways meant that we took as many country roads as possible. Which was slightly odd since the bus was would crawl up those hills of northern france, but no matter… more time to enjoy the scenery.

That is, until, KERPLUNK.

SOMETHING FELL. NO SOMETHING HIT US. NO WE RAN OVER SOMETHING? Quick pull over.
She starts looking over the engine, and I notice she knows that engine like the back of her hand. In a matter of seconds her hands are completely black from the oily engine grime. Her husband scours the two-lane country road.. retracing our very slow steps. EUREKA. ITs a waterpump, and its laying on the side of road. Apparently minus waterpump, engine overheats.

Enter local parts and wood salesman. He lives across the street. Comes out and examines the engine, carrying with him a jar of a zillion spare screws. I stand around useless, trying not to look useless.. thinking of how likely the chance is that we’re stuck. They seem to notice my thoughts and start asking the guy how they can get me to paris. A station.. a train.. one town over… you can make it before the engine overheats… only problem is.. lots of hills. We didnt even make it passed the first hill.

The Scenery

Suddenly she runs to the side of the road and sticks out her thumb. Im dumbfounded.. figure shes hoping to get advice or a mechanic. Instead, when someone finally stops.. she starts yelling for me to get my stuff cause Ive got a ride. Boom.. I thank them quickly and step into the warm car. Kid and wife in the back, nice guy driving Callypso music blasting… I was completely dazed. Just said many thank you’s and mentioned that I had no idea where I was. They were also confused — “Will your friends be ok, stranded back there?” I hope so, I said.. at least.. they have a whole living space in that bus and tons of food.

Another hour goes by and Im wondering where theyre leaving me. Wonder no more, Im dropped off at the beggining of whatever metro… a thousand thank you’s and a big smile… poof.. Im half asleep on the metro and eventually.. at ze local café with Max and Stacy.

So it goes sometimes.. if you’re me. You hitchhike via internet.. it breaks down.. you hitchhike the old way. So it goes.

Blogging and Friendship

by bicyclemark

Couldn’t sleep last night. And I don’t sleep much at night anymore since crossing over into the world of freelancing. A mix of too many things on my mind and too many concerns about what the future will hold and how life will be.

But last night there was one fundamental reason: my best friend.

We used to call each other “my heterosexual life partner” because ever since our first year of college up in North Jersey, that’s how it was. As we progressed through college we both found ourselves knee deep in the political science department, both admiring similar professors and strategically ending up in the same classes. It used to be my task to bring candy just in case the man needed a little boost during class. And as those years progressed, we always lived somewhere near each other.. on campus, off campus, never a dull moment with my boy D.

As college came to end we both went to europe for a semester. Him, interestingly enough to Amsterdam, and myself down in Aix-en-Provence. Naturally we visited each other and took turns showing our respective international student worlds. Not soon after we both finished our student life in New Jersey and the man ended up working for a very prominent human rights organization in DC. Myself I worked as a waiter in NYC, with aspirations of either being a freelancer for the then-still-alternative Voice or flat out taking off to live in Portugal. Portugal won that contest.

It was around that time, 2001/2002 that I launched this here blog. It was a place for my opinions on current events, as well as for telling personal stories… like this one. And underneath it all, it was the perfect way to continue the daily conversations and debates that D and I always had have. In a time when no one had heard of a blog and certainly not this one, he was there commenting… sometimes the only one.. and in my eyes the most important one anyway. Years went by.. and this blog changed.. I changed.. moved to Amsterdam.. and he also made big changes.. climbing the DC non governmental ladder (or thats how I saw it). Every year I’d go back to Jersey…. and he’d offer to pay my ticket for me to come down to DC and spend some days with him. And so it has been.. year after year.

Blurry DC 2005

But last night threw me off.. tho perhaps I should have been more aware of things. As lately I’ve been attacking those that celebrate the results of the recent US elections. I try very hard to stick to very strict expectations for the country of my birth, obviously you’ve noticed that I hate stopping to celebrate anything when in my eyes.. things are so disappointingly far behind where they could and should be. Somewhere in there I forgot some things.. most importantly my buddy who has been working very hard on a campaign in Virginia. Yesterday it was finally announced the candidate for which he had worked so hard for had won. And here I was, making my heavy statements, denouncing the entire outcome… I hadn’t (and should have) considered that in doing so I was insulting his hard work. It’s easy to insult strangers in vague sweeping statements, and I certainly do it, but last night I got to thinking about D and what Id been saying lately. Nevermind arguements and values and words… I was utterly depressed to read the angry and condemning words of the man I still think of as my partner in this life.

So here I sit in Brussels. Took the long train ride to come see family and feel loved… because I was hoping to find answers or at least clear my head. But I couldn’t NOT write these thoughts and these feelings. If you read the comments yesterday than you’ll see the statement that he won’t be reading this anymore. I don’t know if its a coincidence but he hasn’t responded to any emails either. While I can picture him yelling at me for writing this and being so dramatic… I’m willing to take that risk just to have this out there and stated.

Having already said too much Ill stop here. The point of this is not to make someone like me more than him, or justify anything Ive done. The point is for me to write how sad I am because I may have just alienated one of my oldest friends and a constant source of inspiration.