Author Archives: Roem

About Roem

Blues singer. Songwriter. World traveler. IG & Twitter: @roem

South By South…What Just Happened?!

 

I’m sitting in the Austin airport after a wild week of music, more music, brisket and beer. (With a side of music.) Yes, folks… I “did” South by Southwest. What is SXSW, you ask?

Well… in short, it’s city wide film, technology and music festival and conference in Austin, Texas.

The first week is for independent film, the second for technology innovators and

startups, and the third week for independent and upcoming musicians… well, sorta.  Not just.  The last week of SXSW is how it all started and so the draw for music week is the most compelling, I would say.  So compelling in fact that anyone and everyone that has even so much as pressed play on an iPod shows up.  And every single place is a music venue.  Houses, corners, even elevators.  I’m not kidding.

It is a beast of a music festival, if you can even call it that, and it’s an event I’ll never miss after this one. How I’m saying that after sleeping so little and the fresh hum of guitar amps still ringing in my ears?  It’s hard to explain.  I can only attest to the energy around here. People are buzzing still, after non stop music 20 hours a day for a week.  The paint still hasn’t dried on some of the venues that were painted, rebranded and reinvented for SXSW.  Needless to say, for Austin, SXSW is a VERY BIG DEAL.

And here at the airport, flights are delayed. People are updating their Facebook status’ with “I made it through SXSZzzz.”Everyone is tired. Or hungover.  (Mostly both.) Everyone has raccoon eye tan lines.  And a guitar strapped to their back like a Baby Bjorns at a Lamaze convention.  I just realized that I have been walking around with BBQ sauce smeared on my tight jeans by seeing it on someone else.  And I don’t care.  It was delicious.  There are arms tattooed in multicolored, crunched paper bracelets from VIP parties and uber exclusive secret shows and unannounced mayhem at 4am where P-Diddy sang karoake and Kanye healed the sick. It was epic. It was also somehow, in all this craziness it manages to be special. Dare I say, intimate. Maybe it’s southern hospitality, the sweet drawl and manners, or simply too many Shiner Bocks, but Austin, in all her Lady Gaga-Madness managed to charm me.

  • Foodtrucks sell Migas

Austinites love tacos. And they love that they love tacos. And they want you to love tacos too. My first night in Austin after landing was spent in a Mexican food joint with my cousin Kalyn on the outskirts of town eating “Migas” tacos and waffles, while drinking cold Negro Modelo. Not a bad start to the week, if you ask me.

Migas is a breakfast taco, essentially, my local tour guide informed me.  And since I’m not the Food Editor of this blog (or any blog, unless, if by “editor” you mean, “Nomnomnom…”, then yes, I “edit.”) so I’ll not wax poetic about the flavors, but they’re good. Eggy, peppery, veggie-y, good. I give them 3 out of 4 Nomnomnoms.

You’ll quickly notice upon arrival that Austin is a hotbed for foodtrucks. They’re EVERYWHERE. The locals call the gathering of foodtrucks “trailer parks” (probably because most of them are fat little mod’d airstreams) and when they gather, wagons circled in a little powwow, they deliver delicious foodie creations ranging from cupcakes to snowcones, paninis, crepes, waffle tacos, korean tacos, brisket tacos, breakfast tacos, and also… yes, you guessed it. Pizza.

  • Beers of Austin

There are some very proud brewers in Austin. And rightly so.  I could go on and on about all the fabulous beers I tried, and probably will in a future post, but let me make 2 recommendations.

Drink a Shiner. It’s the unnofficial “good” beer of Texas (I’m not much for the fizzy yellow stuff), and it tastes better there than it does imported to your local corner store.  I have no scientific evidence to support this, but if we had enough of them, I’m sure I could convince you.

Go to The Ginger Man. If you’re a brewer or a fan of strong interesting beers, you’ve got to check this place out.  They’ve got everything and are quick to show you to the Texas Micro-brews if you ask, which I like.  A little local pride. The staff is very nice and drunk informed, and will make sure you get a cab find something delicious for you to try.

Now, to be honest, this is really just the tip of the iceberg for how many thousands of shows and activities that went on over the week at SXSW.  But you simply can’t make them all.  (I barely made my own show.)  Some more advice?

  • Book Hotels EARLY

If you can book it a year in advance, great.  We booked ours a couple of months early when I booked the gig.  I recommend it.  We grabbed our comfy 2 bed La Quinta Inn room just a few minutes from downtown and took one convenient public bus right into the heart of the action.  Bus tickets are $1 each way or $2 for the whole day.  That’s a no-brainer for WPP. And busses run till 2am during SXSW.  Holla!

Also, when you get there, go with the flow.  Find friends.  People are nice there.  Don’t rush.  There’s so much to see in Austin.  I fell into an early trap of trying to make this huge schedule with times, and shows, and bands, and parties, and sharing that document with the entire world, whew.  I’m tired just trying to wrap my head around what a mess that would have been.  Luckily these guys did a much better job, and it helped.  But spontaneity is really where the fun is at SX.

  • Don’t Forget H2O!

Get yourself a foldable water bottle.  (I know.  Why didn’t I invent that?!)  They’re genius, can fit in a man-purse (what?) and will keep you from falling down and going boom.  Not to mention, the oows and aws when you open that baby up.  Oh man…  I’m gonna go drink out of mine right now.

(Oh, and don’t forget the flush-able baby wipes!  Amber scoffs, but just trust me on this one.)


Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Austin, Beer, Food, Music, SXSW, Tacos, Travel

The Lost Journal Entries | Honeymoon Pt.3

Part 3 of a series from a journal returned to me from Belize.  You can read part 1 here.

Pg.3 & 4

..:: Just outside Belize City on a “Chicken Bus” to San Ignacio ::..

Maybe it’s the steady growl of the old American re-purposed bus engine or the steady stream of green tropical trees flying past like motorized palm fronds bringing the relief of a cool breeze… but I finally feel like myself.  As if some person, the younger and purer me, just woke up.

This is a local bus, a “chicken bus” as they’re referred to by backpackers who either borrowed or coined the term as locals supposedly board with pet chickens in hand.  All I see are Mickey Mouse t-shirts and Nike’s.  It’s not at all the salmonella coup in the horror stories we were emphatically told.  In fact, it reminds me of riding the bus to school as a kid. The frequent stops and the torn vinyl seats feel familiar. Even the look of Belizean people look familiar except for the beautiful hint of the Caribbean in their deep chocolate faces, light eyes and welcome smiles.

The old bus radio gently swings it’s passengers along the way. 70’s Top 40 American radio mixed with Spanish radio commercials. All of us nod our heads as the old yellow Gillig sways side to side, bumping over potholes to the swaddling sounds of George Benson sing “Gimme The Night.”  (Budubuduba… alright! Tonight!)

The opening notes to a popular Black Eyed Peas song comes on next jolting me out of a daydream (the musicians ear never rests), but then I realize it is a cleverly lifted sample to an advertisement.  A well plagiarized one, I might add.  This would never be tolerated Stateside, of course, without Will.i.am’s gaggle of label watchdogs (see: lawyers) swarming the carcase of the overplayed licensing “gem” of a song.

But here, just like the bus, Mickey Mouse and Nike’s… repurposed.

This makes me smile as I drift back into a daydream.

Leave a comment

Filed under Belize, Honeymoon, Journal

The Lost Journal Entries | Honeymoon Pt.2

(Read “The Lost Journal Entries, Part 1 here.)

..::: Somewhere on a beach in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico :::..

Pg.2

…My bride and I sit, sandy feet, cross-legged in a duet of relaxed poses. Synchronicity is the international sign of honeymooners.

Both of us are tired, and accomplished.  Looking back on what was the culmination of hard work, respectful *cough* disagreements, tender bed talk, nervous phone calls and the usual madness that family brings, oh, and the wedding too.  We were lucky.

We are lucky.

Not because we found ourselves gambling, but because we don’t. This was not a gamble for us. It was… more on this later.  My beer is empty.

She’s wrapped in a bridal white bikini (that she may have had on under her wedding gown, knowing her affection for anticipation) fit for a bride, smiling as she reads her 3rd book in as many days, contentment married with her joy of sharing life with me. She is not one to look backwards much.  And her love of what is to come feels like hands clasped, fingers interwined with my regret of opportunities in the long lost yesterdays.

I am loved.

-Roem

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Lost Journal Entries | Honeymoon Pt. 1

I have a tendency to lose things.

Call me A.D.D. or Scatter-brained, or what have you, I can’t really help it. I try.

And the trying makes me a little OCD when I travel. Everything in it’s right place or… I’ll probably lose it. (Pun intended.)

A pocket for sunglasses, keys in another, wallet in the same pocket every time, passports in the opposite, map in shirt pocket, hat, check, rain poncho in side of backpack pouch, hiking sandals on top, dirty clothes in bottom, and the toiletries… oh. That’s the one thing Amber lost. Hehe.

The camera was my last folly. *Sigh* I can’t tell you how bad I still feel about that one.

But every once in a while, a Fairy God Mother of sorts will help me recover something that I thought was long gone… these are some entries from my lost Honeymoon Journal.

(I still haven’t found my Costa Rica Journal. Anyone know a Fairy God Mother near Arenal?)

-Roem

p.s. Thanks a million to the kind souls at Table Rock, Belize.

..::: Somewhere on a beach in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico :::..

Pg. 1

I’m watching a family of Mexicans frolic fully clothed in the shallow teal beach, cooling like fruit in a blue green gelatin casserole and they are watching me.

Or us.

“La Gente” or “the people,” which, like in all latin Equatorial regions of the world we have visited, we are told, and assume, is a respectful nomenclature. But maybe it is my tiny American brain, or cultural paranoia, but I suspect a hint of sarcasm in the turned up corners of these foreign mouths. Or not so foreign, the pride of the patronized.

And how can they not?

Our pale masses flood the white sands, all clad with new

brightly colored spandex suits, stretched with inappropriate minimality. Like erotic parrots, bug eyed aviators, stuffed with “dolores,” “euros,” “ceviche” a

nd of course, “el Sol” both the new sunburns and the beer. Our spanish is weak, but our currency is strong.

We are authentic even in our cancers, but I’m no different.

Sweating between a circular, large bed of a lounge chair (designed for fat tourists or orgies, I can’t tell) and a ceiling of Perrier branded emerald tent umbrellas and palm fronds, I am a bologna sandwich. A BLT, if you will. How American.

The waiter assured me there was no minimum today, as my broken spanglish “mas caro” confessional, in attempt to assue him I was not just another wealthy tourista, but I was only here taking advantage of a coupon from the hotel. A budget traveler.

Well, I hoped. Opposing hopes, I’m sure.

..::: To be continued….

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Welcome The Strange

I’m laying in a park listening to Kanye West.

whitepicketpassport.wordpress.com

And I’m having a moment.

Don’t worry.

“I’ma let you finish,” your internet-travel-vacay-daily-candy-blog-cotton-cupcake-brain-fluff diet in a minute.  (I’m sorry if you just spit Merlot and frosting on your laptop.)  But this is important.

Welcome to Buenos Aires.

| whitepicketpassport.wordpress.com

This is a strange and beautiful place.

| whitepicketpassport.wordpress.com

Beautiful and Strange.

Of course, I’m the strangest part.  I’m the alien, here.  Landed with lights and smoke.  Pale white skin and strange green currency.

| https://whitepicketpassport.wordpress.com

“Take me to your leader.  And if he’s making dinner, I’ll have the bife de chorizo.”

Cause I’m a rude American, and I’m still learning the language.  So feed me.

| https://whitepicketpassport.wordpress.com

And while I’m thinking about it, I think I may have sounded like a jerk in my post about the language here.  But hear me.  I’m not expecting the world to speak to me.  Seriously.  Who am I?  I have no right.  This isn’t my home.  It’s borrowed.

| https://whitepicketpassport.wordpress.com

On lend.

| https://whitepicketpassport.wordpress.com

It’s beautiful.

And so are the people.

| http://www.whitepicketpassport.com

And the culture.

| http://www.whitepicketpassport.com

I love it.  And the best thing I can do for myself is learn a new language.

And I’m not ready for Scotty to beam me up, just yet.  I’m still learning my schevars and my escha’s.

| http://www.whitepicketpassport.com

My empanadas y parischas.

Mi esposa.

| http://www.whitepicketpassport.com

Mi, verdad.

There’s nothing like another country to help you realize you’re an alien to yourself.  And that’s what is the scariest thing about travel, my fellow North Americans.  Not the Hollywood glorification of a “3rd World Country.”  It’s the mirror in the airport bathroom.  See yourself.  Your passport photo self.

| https://whitepicketpassport.wordpress.com

Let’s be honest.  You really think the mathematical anomaly that makes blockbusters is going to happen to you?  Please.  It will sell ads in newspapers, but it won’t happen to you.  If we’re honest, our greatest fear is not being sold into sex slavery.  It’s whether or not we’ll find those familiar golden arches within whose crotch we hear an ever more familiar golden drawl, speaking “Ya’ll want fries with that?” (Don’t worry.  They’re here.)

| http://www.whitepicketpassport.com

Our excuses are what scares me.  Excuses for not getting out of our neighborhood.  Our cult-de-sac.  Our bubble.  Ourself.

And it’s not too late.

It’s enlightening to say you did it.  It’s more affirming than that raise or promotion or set of new jet skis.  It’s elation near nirvana to realize that you can’t really share Victoria Falls with the folks back home.  It’s all yours.

It’s also humbling.

It’s humbling to see the humble smile.  It’s humbling to see the Father on the Subte (subway) holding a 6 month old in his arms and giving an oratory performance for “ayuda” (help) that would make Churchill blush.  The chills are conviction.  Watch the working people on the train open their wallets, and open yours, and have that Father thank you.  He looks you right in the eye.  Right in the heart.  In your gut.  What’s the difference between a hustler and a provider?  Gratitude.

Yes.  You need a vacation.  But more than that.

You and I need deliverance.

We need to welcome the strange.

| https://whitepicketpassport.wordpress.com

Btw, I love travel blogs too, and I wrote this in a towel next to a glass of Malbec, so we’re not that different, you and I.

[Dedicated to my parents who helped kicked my ass to Africa when I was 16 years old, and to whom, I am forever grateful.]

2 Comments

Filed under Buenos Aires, Language, Lifestyle, San Telmo, Travel

How I met a Clan member at the Public Storage

There are moments in life when you realize you may have pushed yourself a little too far.

Mine came just before we moved out of our apartment in San Francisco to jet off to Buenos Aires for a month, as I was shoving the last of our belongings into the smallest (and cheapest, mind you) available storage space that I could find.  See, I was sure that if I stacked everything methodically and carefully, that I could use the great amount of unaccounted for space above eye level to fit everything that we had from our little studio apartment by the sea, into this even tinier compact space.  Yup.  As sure as ten dimes buy a dollar.

Well, pretty sure.

Big items, not including boxes: a couch, a bed, mattresses, coffee table (because it didn’t disassemble like most of our IKEA pets), and a wine fridge.

Manageable right?  (And all the Engineers said, “Amen.”)

It was like Tetris.  Without the annoying background music or 10 of those damn “S” blocks coming in a row.  (I mean do they EVER send those long skinny suckers 10 in a row?!  The answer is, no.)

And I wasn’t even the slightest bit daunted by it.  I wasn’t even slightly worried when my wife first saw the space half full after I had already made 2 loads by myself in a Zipcar, and hadn’t even moved the big items yet.

“Uh, hunny?  Is this the biggest storage space you could get?”

The look on my face must have been one of determination, diligence and the same calm strength that made her decide to marry me and not at all the “How dare you challenge my manliness?” look, because her look back to me was definitely not, “Ok.  I can see you’ll be learning the hard way.  Again.”  No, it absolutely was not that look.  *cough*  Nope.

But did I take a hint?  No, I did not.  I did what every man given a challenge by the woman they love would do.

I pushed harder.

I stacked higher.

I broke a few things.

I packed tighter.

I threw a few things away in some random dumpsters around the city.  (Don’t get all uppity with me, I spread it out over several dumpsters.)

And…

I may or may not have cursed the mother of the slippery concrete floors of the storage building as I leaned against the door, straining for a foothold, and trying to push the last corner of my mattress in the door.  The thin tin walls of the space creaking and quivering like my quads, sweat beading down into my eyes, I furrowed my brow and pushed harder, veins bulging, “C’maawwwn. Get. In. There!”

Then it happened.

My shoe hit a slick spot in the concrete and slipped out from under me, and I crashed to the hard cold floor as the mattress corner, already the bane of my existence, popped out and smacked me in the face.

“Ow.”  I groaned.  But I was too tired to care.  I just lay there.  Defeated.

Mattress 1, Roem 0.

“You should always go for the bigger one when it’s only a dollar” said a voice from above.

I thought, “If that’s the voice I’m hearing in the afterlife, I must be in hell.”

But I wasn’t dead.  That would have been a relief.  Instead it was an older lady, skinny frame, clad head to toe in a J-Lo jumpsuit and folding her laundry near her storage room down the hallway.

“When you are only paying a dollar for the first month, you should always go for a bigger unit.  You know, you are only paying a dollar so it’s the same if it’s that tiny one you got or the bigger one.  Because you’re only paying…”

“I know.  I heard you” I replied coldly, cutting her off.

I then picked myself up and went right back to work.  I didn’t have time for manners or niceties at this point.  And I really didn’t have time to make friends with the Public Storage Clans living out of their tin spaces and giving out unsolicited advice like a fortune cookie at a Mexican restaurant.  Nor did have time for excuses.  I was tired, damn it.  And I wanted to be DONE.

So I kicked in the bottom bend of the mattress and pushed it in the corner to help it fold better, lifted the other side and inch, and gave it the ole heave ho!  And it worked.  The mattress slipped in like a charm.  I stood there for a second in absolute shock and pride.

“You see?!” I shouted down the hall.

But it was empty.  The woman was gone.

No matter.  I shut the door, locked it, and looked back at my finished work.

“That’s how you move to Argentina, Roem Baur.” I said to myself in moment of self accomplishment.

Then it occurred to me.

I have no idea how I’m going to get that stuff out.

“]boxes & breakfast

Photo: rugosa rosa

 

1 Comment

Filed under Moving

Para Schevar

I’ve always prided myself on the ability to rummage through the dusty attic that is my mind to scare up just enough of the Spanish language to navigate through the Americas.

In North America, I use it to “talk” to my amigos in the la cocina, which often leads to my getting to try some amazing home cooked meals even while at work in a restaurant.  We are talking about family recipes, here.  Grandma’s Grandma’s recipe.  You don’t measure.  You don’t write it down.  You pass it on through the years and eat it like a good story.  It’s history.  And you sure as hell can’t get flavors like these at your local Taco Bell.  Or at a taqueria in the Mission District of San Francisco, for that matter.  People who eat the real deal don’t wear skinny jeans.

I think they feel sorry for me and my sad attempts at the language, and the fact that I’m half latin, I’m like a culture orphan, but I don’t mind.  This Gringo gets fed.

In Central America, I’ve managed to get to the hospital in the middle of the night after a stubborn taxi door finally came sliding shut on my fingers.  My Spanish got me to and from, and my respect for Costa Rican healthcare knows no bounds.

*Taxi Door slams shut*

Me: Aaaaaaaaargh!!!

Amber: What’s wrong?  Babe?!

Me: Aaaaaaargh!!! My mano!! Mi hand!!! Open the DOOR!! Aaaaabeirto!!!

Amber: (Opening the door.)  There!  You okay?

Me: (Blood shooting out of my fingers)  Aaaargh.  Oh my god that hurt. (To the hotel staff.)  Donde el hospital?  El doctor?

I spent the next 10 minutes with my hand filling a Champagne bucket of ice full of blood, and the following 30 minutes with an actual Doctor cleaning and stitching me up with the same care I would expect if we were family.  It was almost worth the smashed fingers just to witness healthcare that actually is about health and care.  Almost.

What I found out (in what is now known as my wife’s least favorite traveling memory,) is that if adrenaline is supposed to allow you to do Super-heroic things, like the mother who jumps a 15 foot fence to save her child from a rattlesnake, or the Father who lifts a Yugo off his child’s leg, or the Second Cousin… well.  You get it.  Anyway, my super power is not speaking Spanish.  (Why is that damn kid always in trouble?)

In South America, I had a whole different type of problem.  Here, it hasn’t been my limited vocabulary, conjugation, or lack of reflexives.  It’s not Spanish.  I’m serious.  Well, it’s not the Spanish that my wig wearing, dress made of old curtains, “I’m allergic to soap” so I smell like mothballs, Spanish 2 teacher Mrs. B, taught me to speak, so many years ago.

I mean, I know how to order food.  I know take-out.  Trust me.  I don’t miss meals when it comes to Latin food. Sure, I can’t remember left from right, Calle from Avenida, or how to say “street block.”  (Just ask my wife, when we get lost.  She loves my Spanish then.  Where is the sarcasm font on this thing?)

Pero el alimento, lo sé.  (But food, I know.)

Well, I thought I did until I tried to get something “To Go.”

*In a restaurant in Buenos Aires.*

Me: … y para llevar.

Argentine Waiter: Que?

Me: “Para llevar.  Para llevar?  Comida para llevar?”

AW: “Llevar?”  No se.

Me:  (I just look at him with a crinkled forehead and not much going on behind it.)

AW:  Oooh… si.  ‘SCHevar.’ Es bueno.”  (Taking my order.)

Me:  Wait.  Lo siento.  “SHHe…var?  SHHe, var?”  Es correcto?

AW: Si.  Bueno.

(I slap my hand to my head.)

So now, “LL” is pronounced “SH!”  Not to mention the pronunciation all sounds like italian, of which I know ZILCH.

Cry for me Argentina.  Cry.

2 Comments

Filed under Buenos Aires, Food, Language, Spanish