Friday, December 4, 2009

Day One; London


Seems like every time I prepare to leave for a trip I have some fucked up argument with a girlfriend and lose her. It is becoming such a par for the course piece of my working framework that if I had to guess, well, I would say that it is fated that I not ever be in a committed relationship. Whether it is them or it is me, or some roughly equitable combination of both of us together, it happened again. And here I sit in Heathrow Airport (London, UK) drinking my cappuccino wondering why these episodes keep occurring, and how I am going to find my way to Hackney, and sometimes I think about both at the same time.

I am beginning to establish a sort of martyr complex in my dealings with this book and its evolution. A few days after completing the tour of the US and Canada a publisher showed an interest in the book. The only condition imposed on my pursuits was that it had to be good. Now, If I were some dirty young punk good might look like a cut-and-paste zine. However, when I was a dirty punk I did a zine and, predictably, my visual aesthetic evolved. As I began buying art, design, and architecture books, what I began to desire visually became more involved than what I used to desire visually. And now I feel like I must perform to that standard. DAMN AESTHETIC EVOLUTION TO HELL.

So here I am in London for the first time ever. Most of my Philadelphia friends never knew me when I traveled to Europe every year, and so when I set out to produce photo shoots there a few of them were like, “do you know what you are doing, really..?” And I had to say, YES I DO. Piecing together information from a number of social networking sites, originally I had 10 shoots set in stone; or so it seemed. However, I let some of my contacts slip while I was overly-concerned with finishing the US tour and I found the entire European venture in jeopardy.

The fact of the matter is that the European venture was never really supposed to a series of photo shoots, but was to be a one month trip to Italy where I would do my damnedest to focus in and finish the text of Barred For Life. The photo shoots would just widen the scope of the book to include The Bars, and the barred, from the perspective of a culture that had no direct connection to Black Flag until they first toured there. And so I opened up the structure to include only the cities that reached out to me since the theme of the data collection evolved from me “taking the country by storm” to me “letting the dedicated reach out to me and document those that share a key piece of the Black Flag work ethic, which happens to contain a chunk about information-proactivity.

The European tour now consists of roughly 5 shoots, including London (tomorrow), Manchester (Sunday), Paris (Tuesday), Roma (Dec, 27th), and the possibility of Milano and Barcelona. All are chill and all are being promoted by people that really, really, really want to tell their story, and that is totally fine by me. The rest of the time I will be camped out in a small town in Italy called Scarlino, in the home of my close friends Mauro and Laura Corbani. I will be accompanied and assisted for the first week by my good friend Audrey, and everything is shaping up to be a solid mixture of work and relaxation.

My flight from JFK left at 6:50pm, and the trip to JFK from my friend Richard’s house in Jersey City took about 2/3’s the time that it took for me to fly from JFK to Heathrow. I’ve flown into Italy about 5 times in the past bunch of years and to me the insanity of the airport in Rome is less a bizarre situation than landing at 5:30am in a county where English is the native tongue. I don’t know why I’ve been so confused but I am sure that it has something to do with the fact that nobody that I know, and especially those who will be helping me settle in and set up shop, will be awake for another few hours.

Deciding to sit tight in the airport and plan my day has been a blessing. Cappuccino for clarity, fluffy seat for comfort, and ears open in order to sonically spy on those who are moving through space close to me, all of which is keeping me from losing my mind while desperately trying to find a wireless network that doesn’t want to charge me the equivalent of $5 just to check my email for an hour. Plus, I just hate signing up for services that I will use once (and they will batter my email acct for eternity with frivolous advertisements). Fuck that. So when the clock strikes 9am (45 minutes) I will make my first official phone call in the UK and set out on my first ride on The Tube. A few hours later Audrey arrives on a train out of Manchester (yeah, we didn’t book our flights together, or at the same time, or for the same city), and by tomorrow we will be shooting our first Barred For Life folks in Europe. Very exciting. I will have to let you know how it turns out.

From what I’ve been told it is about 40 degrees outside. I brought a sweater, a hoodie, and a fluffy vest. I didn’t bring gloves, but I did bring a hat and some scarves. So off to enjoy the ride. Wish me luck and shoot me an email if you have a chance (


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lots of sleep but no rest...

crossing the Atlantic Ocean

It seems rather premature to say that my stop-over in Philadelphia is over but, well, it is. As of tomorrow I stow my truck, pack my bags, and then to and sit in an airport for about 20 hours waiting for my plane to the UK.

As Noe and I were driving up the eastern coast of the US we had our ears and eyes on a brewing problem here in Philadelphia; that of the vicious split on the roads between cyclists and motorists ushered on by two unsolved bicycle/pedestrian hit-and-runs that resulted in the death of two people.

As a former Philadelphia messenger I knew first hand that the police generally favor automobiles and pedestrians when there is an encounter with a bicycle, and frequently cyclists are vilified and fucked with simply for not bending to the whims of people driving gigantic steel boxes with four wheels that can cause huge, if not catastrophic problems when they connect directly with bicycles.

It is a fucked up mess that is resulting in radical legislation toward cyclists in the name of safety, but with more than a hint of anti-messenger glits and glam attached. Two unsolved hit-and-runs, two deaths, and ALL OF PHILADELPHIA CYCLISTS ARE TO BLAME..? That is highly doubtful, but that is what is happening.

What is worse is that in this messy local political landscape is that a friend, and former coworker, suffered at the hands of both a vicious motorist and a frothing-anti-cyclist police force. After being run off the road by a car my friend was pushed onto the sidewalk and fliped over her bars. She landed on her face and was messed up pretty badly. Once the cops arrived they apparently refused to write it up as an aggressive hit-and-run, and blamed her accident not on the driver but on her flipping over her bars. For FUCKS SAKE, flipping over bars is generally something that doesn't happen to a well traveled cyclist, but for some reason the cops just generally gave her a piece of what the city has been serving up for years; a taste of "I don't give a fuck about you. You are on your own."

So, as I prepare to go overseas I am hoping that the PBMA (Philadelaphia Bike Messengers Association) along with the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition push for legislation that protect cyclists instead of vilifies them. I don't know. I felt helpless the whole time, like there was nothing that I could do. So, I guess that the best that I can do is put it out there to you. Check into the recent incidents here in Philly and judge for yourself if this city is really trying to go green or if it is just talking cheap talk. Let's face it, bicycles are fucking green. Cars are not. Do the math.