Sunday, August 31, 2008

The wedding

I am writing from a toilet stall at an old sugar mill where the wedding reception is being held. I needed to find a place to write and this was the only area that I knew I wouldn't be disturbed. This place is beautiful. From the exterior it looks like a run down mill with broken windows and peeling paint. The interior is covered
with elaborate decorations and rows of tables with white table clothes. The ceiling has tiny lights that illuminate the dim setting. It looks like little stars sparkling in a big Midwestern sky. It is amazing to think that this mill used to supply sugar to Serbia and now it is catering the wedding of my cousin and his high powered friends from Chicago. Most of them are helping with the Barak Obama campaign team.

As for the ceremony, it was held in a Greek Orthodox church located in the city center. Driving to the church we went passed a half standing Serbian government building that Clinton bombed. At the church there was a tribe of Romes or Gypsies begging for money. We walked inside for the 10 minute ceremony. The priest did a chant like call that was responded by a guy with a baritone voice in a Hawaiian shirt. That was the first oddity I noticed. The second was a loud brass horn gypsy band playing outside. They were really good too. The sound of this Gregorian sounding chant with brass horns was bizarre combination.

Joe does not understand Serbian. His best man, Vladamir whispered the vowels to him. The priest placed a crown in front of Joe. He wasn't sure what to do then finally kissed it. Vladana did the same to her tiara. The priest placed the crowns on top of their heads and tied their hands together tightly with a white cloth. When the cloth was removed both Vladana and Joe flexed their hands to shake out the pain. The ceremony was sealed by a small kiss and everyone walked outside. Joe and Vladana were showered by rose petals while people threw coins out to the wedding party. The only ones going for the coins were the gypsies. The gypsy kids were wearing rags and dirt was visible on their limbs and faces. One of the little boys started to yell and hit another boy. A small boy lifted his shirt to reveal a perfectly visible skeleton. The boy was about eight or nine and looked really unstable. His eyes were glazed and wild as if he was on drugs. The little girls looked even worse. They were covered in dirt and holding tiny emotionless infants in their arms. The babies they were carrying looked like dolls. They kept repeating Money, Money with one arm extended out. The girls were ruthless to get money. They asked everyone several times pushing their hands in front of the people in the wedding party. When someone would give them 100 din *equivalent to a dollar, all the gypsies would swarm around the person like bees to honey. There were about 100 people in the wedding party and these 10 to 12 girls hounded us and even knocked on the windows of our cars while we were driving away. I noticed from the car window that the adult Gypsies were watching their children beg while they were sitting back behind the church. One little boy jumped in front of our car and did a little spastic dance flipping us off and ran to the side of the car to beg for money. It is really sad to think that these children will grow up to teach their children how to beg like this.

More to come about the reception. I have to get my laundry from the laundromat.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Just arrived in Rome. Met up with my family at their hotel. The taxi driver tried to rip me off, but I asked how much it should be at Termini train station so I knew it was 15 Euros cheaper than his asking price. I got him to go down to the normal fare of 10 Euros. Lonely Planet said that taxi drivers rip off tourist here.

I just found out that the family is going to take a tour of Naples and Pompei. So I guess I am going too. Last night was pretty hectic wondering around the Spanish steps looking for a hostel that my friend from STA told me about. It doesn't exist, I looked around for it until 2am. My cousins snuck me into their hotel room. It was such a bad decision to sneak me in to sleep, but there wasn't any other options and they insisted that everything would be alright. I walked out without any problems at 5 am in the morning to catch our bus to Naples.


On Air Italia now, almost made it to Rome. I've been studying up on common phrases in Italian and trying to familiarize myself with the subway system. It really doesn't look too complicated to figure out. The bus ride from Lozenets to Burgas to Sofia took forever. The driver kept making food stops. I was getting anxious to get there, especially since I didn't know how far away the bus station was from Sofia International. At least I wasn't bored I found many different types ways to entertain myself for the long 7 hour ride. Mostly, I just took pictures of all the gypsy villages we passed along the way. If you never seen one before then the easiest way to describe them is it looks like a dump. If you look closely you will see houses made from old wood planks, tires to secure the roof from blowing away, and yes trash to make their beds. I saw one man making his bed from an old car seat and part of a bed frame.

I got to the bus station with plenty of time to spare. I picked up a couple Bulgarian phrases, but nothing that would help me get a taxi. Violeta wrote down how to say, " I need a taxi to the airport." The taxi driver was around my age and actually spoke English and fairly well. I think he was the most friendly Bulgarian I encountered during my stay (besides Violeta's family), and he smiled often. I got to drive through the heart of Sofia . There are so many beautiful churches and a large soccer stadium. Not only was my taxi driver friendly, he also was very informative about the different buildings in Sofia. He pointed out many buildings and their significance.

I am doing pretty good not spending too much money. I only spent 425 dollars so far including my ticket to Rome. I haven't set out an around that I am going to spend while abroad. I am getting really tempted to extend my trip even longer either to go to Munich for Oktoberfest or to China to visit my friend Emily. China would require a visa and I don't have an address to send it to. First things first. I will see how I am feeling after the wedding in Serbia and plan from then on.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Made it to Rome

Photos from Bulgaria. I am super sleepy and just got into Roma. More photos and post to come. I am well.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

With all the challenges and painful events that are going on, I'm still managing to remain serene. I think this is one of the hardest times in my life, but I gain comfort in the fact I can't control the outcome. I can only take care of myself and ride it out. I hope my luck will change for the better and soon.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Pictures from Lollapalooza


Lollapalooza Day 2

Today, was hard. I dragged myself out of bed to find that my forehead was starting to scab up from a very bad accident with a very absent minded hairdresser. I went to the Vidal Sassoon in Chicago and got a very bad chemical burn on my forehead. The burns took about two days to heal and when they did they started to crack and bleed. I am afraid that the scabs will scar. There was nothing I could do about it now. I put my hair in a headband and went my day. The most important thing I needed to do today was report and photograph Day 2. Even though, I don't have a publication to pitch my stuff too, I've decided to persevere for a imaginary source.

I ended up getting to the venue rather late. I was pretty sad today and this causes me to move more slowly. I got to the venue at 3pm just in time to check out Broken Social Scene, who played a very good set. BSS consists of 19 players on stage including their only female vocalist (at least right now) Amy Miller. She was uplifting and sang with a beautiful voice that complimented the soft voice of their lead singer. He sang lyrics which I was surprised to hear including, "Why do you always fuck doves." I was intrigued by the lyrics and wanted to understand what he meant by this. But having a limited time to see the band I didn't have time to grasp what the lyrics meant. I appreciated his candidness. After seeing the BSS, I went across the park to see Rage Against The Machine. I saw some other acts in between, but I feel they are not worth mentioning at least in this blog post.

Last night at Radiohead there was 75,000 people. I wanted to see if my cousin Joey who was in the Lolla (fancy important people area) could get me in. It was off to the side of the stage and the view was not as good as being front and center, but it would have been impossible to get that close. Joey got a man named Bill who is in charge of the Park department in the Illinois government to help get me in. I got a couple free drinks of vitamin water and vodka. The best part was being able to see the stage and hear Rage Against the Machine.

The band played a solid set. I thought it was rather funny because they played all their most popular songs first. Then in the middle of one of their most famous songs they stopped. They said they wouldn't start up again until the crowd moved back 10-15 feet from the stage. Lead singer, Zach de la Rocha TK said he saw some people in the crowd getting hurt and he didn't want his music to contribute to the senseless violence of the people getting crushed from their enthusiasm of his music.

Rage Against the Machine made the audience jump. It seemed to me that everyone who was listening to the band perform were under some sort of spell to dance and scream the lyrics. It was mayhem, but in the best way. Zach de la Rocha said that if Obama gets elected and doesn't pull the troops out that he knew young people in every city that would burn down all the metropolitan government buildings. I was shocked to hear this, but this is what happens when disillusioned political rock stars don't see change.

After the show, no one seemed concerned about the political agenda and angst that the band showed. I think that most didn't get his message, which left me feeling that maybe our young generation isn't ready to really understand all the problems going on around us. I feel I understand the surface of what the band was trying to say. I will do my research on the message that the band tried to share.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lollapalooza Day 1 - August 1st

I am super sleepy after spending a day in the sun at Lallapalooza. It was 90 degrees today and my body is asking me for nourishment and sleep. I left my cousin's house around 10:30am for a quick hang out with my old roommate, Dan from Cambridge. He met me right by the L station closest to Grant Park where the concert was being held. We talked about his PhD program and my recent move to Cleveland to help out with my Grandmother. Our short meeting was really nice and he walked me up to the concert's entrance. We said our goodbyes and I went to wait in the giant entrance line into the outdoor venue.

The first thing I noticed besides the crowd was the lovely Buckingham fountain. It was much more grandiose than I remembered. I didn't have time to marvel at its beauty for The Black Lips were beginning. I ran down to the other side of the park to listen to some good old punky/blues tunes by these boys out of Atlanta. They were fun and really into showing off for their fans. Guitarist TK wore a black curly wig with a feather and screamed into the mike and then spitted up into the sky and catched it. He was quite good at it. The band played a lot of familiar tunes, but not my favorite "It feels alright."

After watching these boys play it was time to run to the other side of the park to hear the Yeasayer, which in my opinion were God awful. They were trying to be "wordly" and instead it just got on my nerves. I think I don't have a threshold for bands that create music from blending their favorite world bands together. However, I do realize my opinion really doesn't matter because they were playing at the large AT&T stage and their fans were really into them.

On my way back across the park (probably a good 1/2 walk) I stopped to watch a band called Enemy UK. They were obviously a new British band and didn't look older than 21, but they did possess a real raw punk sound. I'm going to check out more of their stuff. I got to the Bud Light stage to watch a very energetic The Go! Team with two amazing girl musicians. The lead singer reminded me of a Spice Girl, with a lot of talent. She jumped around stage and did aerobic dance moves while her Japanese guitarist worked it. I am so impressed by talented bands especially led by powerful lead females. The entire band danced and jumped into each other and crashed to the ground. A bunch of great performers who were obviously having a lot of fun while creating amazing music.

Walking back again to the AT&T stage, I caught a new act from England called Electric Touch. I was so impressed by these guys too. They really had a gripe on the modern British rock. The lead man reminded me of Eddie Furlong with a gripping voice of some famous singer from the past that I can't recall. They sang a lot of love songs while beating on electric guitars. Another newbie, worth downloading. I stopped for a bit to listen to Louis XIV, which was cool for a few songs. They are really not my style, but they play a very interesting style of blues guitar and reminded me of ZZ Top. They sang about getting it on and used just about all the sexual innuendos in rock for their lyrics.

I decided to sacrifice trying to stand close up to see The Black Keys so that I could be front and center for Cat Power. I truly like The Black Keys, I think they're one of the most talented bands out there, but I have been really been into Cat Power lately. I love her realistic perspective on love, heart break, and just the fact she has such dynamic lyrics and a voice to back it up. Yes, I was up in front, but the sound guy was horrible. The show consisted of the band trying to tune up with the sound guy and the audience plugging their ear's from the feedback. Chan was really amazing to watch perform. You could really tell she felt everything she was saying. She was very self pitiful in such a righteous way. Everyone seemed to love her performance even though the sound system was horrendous.

I decided not to stay for the whole Cat Power show because I really wanted to see Grizzly Bear. I believe this band is the best new band out there. Their set was so tight and really showed that these guys practice a lot. The two singer's voices were so beautiful. One of them could sing in falsetto, which I thought was impressive since his physique didn't match the lovely high notes he could hit.

After that, it was time to reclaim my position at AT&T stage to watch the headliners. It was packed with thousands of people waiting to see Radiohead. I missed a lot of bands that I would have loved to see such as The Raconteurs, The Cool Kids, CSS, but it was smart to stay in one place. I got to watch Bloc Party perform, which surprisingly turned out to be my very favorite band of the day. (Close second Grizzly Bear). It was so wonderful to hear them and they really got me to dance. I haven't felt that spirited watching a monitor. The band was too far away to see. Bloc Party is a really likable band. The lead singer wore an Obama shirt with red shorts. Very stylish.

After Bloc Party, the rest of the crowd and I wait 45 minutes for Radiohead. There were some funny convos going on and one that I especially enjoyed listening to was by a couple of local music writers. It was great talking to these guys about the writing scene in Chicago, even though they weren't really hopeful about it. After testing the water in three metropolitan cities for writing, I feel nothing could really make me disillusioned from wanting to become a writer. That's another story.

Radiohead was pretty cool. The only complaint I had was that I felt like I was watching them on TV since I was so far away. The light show was impressive. They even had fireworks in the background, but I don't think that was intentionally part of the show because it was rather cheesy.