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Archive for May, 2009

An EK In The UK

Posted by evankessler on May 29, 2009

I’m not the Anti-christ and I’m not an anar-chist (pronounce accordingly), I’m just me, Evan Kessler, a simple American blogger who just so happened to spend Tuesday through Thursday of this week down in London town.  God save the queen indeed.  My tale is not a cautionary one, nor does it involve seedy characters from a previously unseen underbelly.  It’s merely a story rife with planes, pubs, pints, and once we’re out of the p’s there’s a commercial shoot and an awkward encounter with a hand model.  So without further ado, I suppose it’s time to launch into this as only I can…seeing as this is my little anecdote.

Following the largely alcohol-fueled insanity of Memorial day weekend, I spent the majority of my Monday making sure I was completely prepared for my brief jaunt to the United Kingdom.  Unbeknownst to me, prior to my departure, my roommates had planned yet another BBQ for the actual holiday.  So as I prepared to take off for the airport I did a slight amount of mingling and even partook in a few burgers to fatten me up for the flight.

A little after 7pm I made for the Flatbush LIRR stop, which took me to Jamaica where I caught the JFK airtrain to the American Airlines terminal.  I had given myself a little too much time as check-in was a breeze.  Apparently Monday night is not the most popular time to fly.  I killed some time at the airport sports bar watching the Mets vs. Nationals whilst drinking a tall glass of the King of Beers.  I didn’t want to get too comfortable and too involved in the sport fanfare, so after I was done with my glass I made my way to the gate where I enjoyed some reading.  I did my fair share of browsing my fellow passengers.  I became somewhat fascinated with a man who bore a striking resemblance to one of Harrison Ford’s more famous characters.  The only thing he was really missing was a bullwhip…but if he were the flight marshall, perhaps he had one in his carry-on.

Harrison Ford's Kingdom of The Crystal Skulls Stunt Double Waits For A Flight

Harrison Ford's Kingdom of The Crystal Skulls Stunt Double Waits For A Flight

The flight began boarding an ample amount of time prior to our scheduled 11:30 takeoff and I settled in to my seat towards the rear end of the plane.  For a while, as the plane continued boarding, I had an empty seat next to me.  This seemed too good to be true and ultimately it was.  There were a few large hasidic men mulling about a few rows up not-so subtly eyeing my seat.  I was half-resigned  to the fact that one of these bulky men in bulky clothing would end up in that seat and slightly intrude on my personal space for the duration of the flight.  I lucked out though.  As it turns out, the two men were discussing with the flight attendant how they would rather not sit next to a woman and so the smallish woman was moved to the seat next to me as opposed to one of the bulkier gentlemen.   It wasn’t a fateful occurrence or anything.  We didn’t have an enchanting conversation and fall in love, but I was able to sit comfortably for the duration of my six-hour flight across the Atlantic.

It was around 10:30am on Tuesday when our plane reached it’s gate at  London’s Heathrow Airport.  I was a little unsure what to do once I got off of the plane aside from going through immigration and having my passport stamped.  The only directions I had were to meet my driver at “the J”.  Unsure if this was the name of a place in the airport or the slang name for the pick-up area, I just followed signs past the baggage claim.  Sure enough…I came to an area with people wrapped around what could’ve been a j-shaped area holding signs for passengers.  It was none too long before I happened upon the bloke with a sign reading E. Kessler.  Being familiar with my own name, I surmised that this was for me.

After a brief walk to the car, my driver took me on a left side of the street adventure through what seemed to be the entirety of this historic world capital.  It really does strike one silly, just how clean and well kept a city London is.  Every row of houses has a certain charm, each old building appears to be laden with some sort of history and aged artfulness.  My driver was none too familiar with the area in which my hotel was located.  He gave the GPS a good workout until we happened upon the Hoxton Hotel in East London.

The First Thing I Saw Upon Entering My Hotel

The First Thing I Saw Upon Entering My Hotel

Upon entry into the lobby I was met by an orange shell sculpture of a Lamborghini Countache…not really the type of thing you expect to see in the lobby, yet it was kind of a sweet setup.  Upon checking in at the front desk, I asked the concierge-type person if anything had been left for me in the way of an itinerary.  “No” was the answer to that question.  I was kind of shocked by this.  In my previous experience with the PR company who invited me on the trip there had been a whole host of activities for everyone invited.  This time there was nothing.  I was going to be in London for two whole days.  What was I to do?

My first move was to go up to my hotel room and dump my luggage.  Upon exiting the elevator on the 2nd floor I was greeted by a neon-lit futuristic appearing hallway.  I felt like I was in the movie Tron.  After a few false starts with my key card, I entered a relatively small-but incredibly sleek-looking room, with appealingly modern decor accented by a low-key lighting motif and some unique pillows, not to mention my very own flat-screen TV.

My very first move upon dumping my stuff in room was to find out what my plan of attack was supposed to be.  I immediately removed my computer and emailed my contact, Zaireen.  Despite the fact that I should’ve been tired, I was really eager to do something in London and sent an email to that effect, but I was still unsure if anything was planned on arrival even though no itinerary at the front desk suggested as much.  I was a little hungry as well, and wanted to go have a walk around to find a pub that I could get a meat pie and a pint.  Instead, I waited around my hotel for a bit and waited for word to come.

Soon enough I got an email from Zaireen suggesting that I wait til 3pm when she would be by and we could grab a pint.  Seeing as I didn’t really know where I was and that waiting til 3pm wasn’t so far off at this point, this sounded like an okay idea.

It was a little after 3pm when I met up with Zai in the lobby of the Hoxton.  Having never met before I had to rely on her to recognize me.  It was pretty effortless though and despite having never met in person, there was an overall air of familiarity about her.  Maybe it’s that we had already talked on the phone or maybe it was because she bore a strong resemblance to my friend Marisa who I used to work at VH1 with, but I found that we were off to being fast friends.

We didn’t take an incredibly long trek to find a suitable spot to have a pint.  We settled for just down the road at the Three Crowns.  It wasn’t the most sophisticated of pubs, but it had plenty of suitable options for drinking and that’s all we needed.  I feel ashamed that I can’t remember what I got a pint of, but it was most likely something that sounded traditional and British to me.  We sat for a few minutes inside and got to know one another before moving the festivities outside and enjoying the unusually clear London weather. It was a bit chilly, but I was clad in long sleeves so it was none too much of a bother.

After finishing our pints and talking for a bit, I told Zai that I was eager to have a walk around.  I wasn’t too interested in doing touristy things, but I wanted to hang around and walk near the River Thames.  Into the underground we went at the Old Street station.  I was a little confused by the complexity of the map and the zones, but Zaireen did her best to help me navigate before actually getting on.  I got myself an Oyster card and joined my new friend on the train to Bank where I was instructed to switch lines to Embankment and get off the train there.

The 2nd leg of my Underground journey was taken alone, but it was none too difficult.  I took the District line to the aforementioned stop and left the station.  When I exited I was in the Charing Cross region, which I quickly realized was one of the more touristy area.  As I walked out of the station and made a few turns I was face to face with the Thames and could see the London Eye and Big Ben all in the not-so-distance.  I wandered along the bridge over the river for a bit trying to take pictures of myself with landmarks in the background.  A kindly British girl offered to take my picture for me.  I took her up on the kind gesture, but I think I ended up liking one of my own photos better.

Keeping An Eye On The Eye

Keeping An Eye On The Eye

After staring at the Thames for a few, I decided to stroll around the neighborhood and see what I could happen into.  I strolled right into Trafalgar Square and the Theater district.  It sort of felt like Times Square with an HMV store and souvenir shops and general chain stores including a TGI Friday’s.  What I really wanted was something to eat, specifically a Meat pie.  However, my first order of business was a quick pee.  The pint from before had left me with an urge to splurge.  I found myself wandering around the London Trocadero, a mall like structure, which luckily happened to have a pay toilet.  It cost me a pound, but it was well worth it since afterwards I felt foot loose and fancy free.

As I wandered through the Trocadero looking to find a way out I saw daylight through female accessories store that may or may not have been a Claire’s.  When I finally got out of the mall and to an outdoor sidewalk I found myself staring at Waxy O’Connor’s.  Waxy O’Connor’s is a pub I first frequented in London eight years ago while on a post college jaunt through Europe with my friend Joe D, Rich M, Matt C, and Sapfest.  I had a bit of a laugh at the coincidence and decided to snap a photo to show my friends back home.

Misty Water Colored Pub Mem'ries Of The Way We Were

Misty Water Colored Pub Mem'ries Of The Way We Were

Several seconds passed after I took the photo.  I started to walk away and then said to myself, “Aw screw it,” and headed in.  I greeted the bartender and ordered a Beamish Stout as advertised on one of the taps, but my request was rebuffed since they were fresh out.  I don’t remember what I requested next, but they were out of that too.  I settled for a Carling and began reading my free London newspaper that I was given in the Underground that was more or less the UK equal to AM New York and the Metro.  I felt odd drinking my pint and not saying anything though, so I looked for a point to open up conversation with anyone at the bar.  I noticed a hefty helping of Budweiser in the refrigerator behind the bar.  This surprised me.  I thought the Brits took a lot of pride in their beer, too much to serve an inferior American brand, especially one with the audacity to refer to itself as royalty in the land of the Queen.  I took this as my conversation entry point and soon enough I was immersed in all types of conversation with the bartender Vivian and a kindly, yet somewhat slightly grizzled man in his late 30’s early 40’s named Gerry with two snake tattoos on his forearms.  We talked beer, football, and general cultural issues throughout the course of three pints. I was probably there a good hour and a half to two hours before finally taking my leave as the sun was beginning to go down.

Vivian Watches on As I Imbibe Yet Another Carling

Vivian Watches on As I Imbibe Yet Another Carling

Still hungry, I staggered out of Waxy O’Connor’s in search of a meat pie to satisfy my stomach.  I had planned to head back on the train and find something near my East London hotel, but before I made it to the Underground station I happened upon The Brewmaster.  On the menu at “The Brewmaster” I spied the item “Beef and Ale Pie.”  This sounded like just what the starving doctor or artist ordered.

I went in and ordered up my culinary choice along with a half pine of lager and waited patiently staring at the window and again uncomfortably browsing through the paper while attempting the crossword puzzle.  Soon enough my feast was on hand and I was ready to savor the deliciousness.

Meat Pie and Mash

Meat Pie and Mash

With a bit of gravy added on, I immersed myself in meat, crust, and gravy accompanied by a generous helping of peas and mash and was able to carry on my evening narrowly averting my hunger crisis.

What I didn’t avert, however, was the confusion of being in a strange city.  I found my way to the nearest underground station, which was not the one I started from.  Nonetheless, I was certain I could navigate my way back.  Before I could do that though, I would have to get my Oyster card to work.  I thought it had enough pound-age left on it to net me a return trip to Old Street, but the turnstile disagreed.  I went to the ticket machine and fumbled with my unfamiliar currency in a slightly drunken state and eventually just settled on getting a new ticket for zones 1 and 2. My route back was slightly different than the one I came from seeing as I had started my return route at a different stop.  That being said, I was able to pick up the route fairly easily once I stared at the map for a few extra seconds.

It was a different story once I exited the Old Street Station.  I’m not sure what exactly happened for when I first got on the train with Zai earlier it looked as if making my way from the hotel to the exit was a fairly straight shot, even though I couldn’t see the hotel from the station entrance.  Walking back by myself was a different story.  I must’ve turned off too early down a street that was just before the hotel that I thought was the actual street my hotel was on or something to that effect, but I spent the next 15 to 30 minutes circling the perimeter around that which The Hoxton Hotel was located. I had to stop into a market or two just to ask.

It was a little frustrating because the entire time I knew just how close I was, but I was somehow avoiding making the correct turn.  Eventually, I saw a green glow emanating from decorations in the front windows or the windows of something nearby and save for a quick stop at the market across the street for some toothpaste, I was back home.

Upon re-entry to hotel central, I attempted to get a little writing done, but promptly fell asleep on my bed directly next to my computer.  This occurred at around 10:30pm.  I woke up around 2:30am feeling semi-well-rested, but with entirely too much time on my hands to kill.  I was still tired, but not overly sleepy.  I turned on the television and came across Game 4 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals, watching those til what I think was a little after 5am.  The thing that struck me funny about the coverage was that they carried the regular American broadcast, but during the commercial breaks they would cut to two British guys in a studio just discussing the game.  I guess it’s not that odd, but I think I’m just used to being bombarded with commercials at every possible second where sports aren’t going on that analysis during breaks seemed novel.

I didn’t really get a good deal of sleep the rest of the morning.  At one point I looked myself in the mirror and found my eyes terribly bloodshot from the lack of sleep.  I tried to get a little more shut eye, but left the TV on.  I caught a little bit of the famed soap Neighbours, which I found none too interesting save for the man in the corner of the screen translating all of the dialogue into sign language.  I wondered if this was the norm on most other channels.  It would probably prove terribly distracting in moments of serious drama.

The din of the television did eventually coax me into at least a little sleep and when I woke up, I hopped into my incredibly sleek shower to attempt to wash away the crustiness from my eyelids and start the day anew, even though the day had been around 7 hours old for me at that point. I partook in the lovely breakfast provided by my hotel and readied for a full day down in London town.

Zaireen came by the hotel and grabbed me at 11:30 am and we made our way to the shoot.  The weather was exactly what I would expect from London, which is to say cloudy and drizzly.  It wasn’t raining so much that you couldn’t get by without an umbrella, which was good news since I didn’t need one.  The shoot itself seemed to be in a very hip area of London in a bar-type setting.  Upon arrival I was introduced to Zai’s co-worker Mandy, a pleasant, friendly and somewhat cheeky blonde woman who seemed like she instantly took to people and people instantly took to her. We also met up with another blogger named David from City Drinking, an in depth site about all things drinking in the UK, also a good bloke and pleasant conversationalist.

I’m not sure if the location was an actual bar or if it was a warehouse with two sets within, but it didn’t really matter I guess.  We were there for “The Apartment” shoot for the new Bailey’s “Listen To Your Lips” campaign.  Very early into our stay at the shoot we were introduced to James from Bailey’s and Hugh from JWT London.  They were basically the two people at the heart of my stay in London as they’d be the ones providing me with all of the pertinent information on the campaign I was there to write about.  Hugh sort of reminded me of Stephen Merchant, though a little bit older and certainly more distinguished looking, whereas James reminded me of my friend Robert were he older and spoke with a much different accent.

I found their information to be most helpful and their demeanor to be more than friendly.  The set seemed none too tense as the overall feel of the commercial kind of circulated around the environment.  The shoot consisted of models singing along to catchy songs and I found myself humming the music to myself at points or wanting to sing along.

After a bit of shooting, lunch break was called for and we made our way to the craft services truck.  Next to the craft services truck was a grey double decker bus where all of the cast and crew were to enjoy their meals.  It was the same sort of bus where Andy Millman and Maggie would eat while  during many a scene on the show Extras.  There I partook in a lovely meal of Jerk Chicken with some rice and beans and extremely garlicky bread that we all feared would put a damper on talking for the rest of the day.

We stayed at the shoot a little while longer, before I headed back to my hotel for a brief nap.  There was an underlying excitement heading into the evening hours.  Not only was there a plan for another pub outing with myself, Zai, and Jonny whom I had met in Miami last year, but throughout the day there had been a tremendous buildup about a particular sporting event taking place that evening  You could hear talk of the Champion’s league final jumping off the lips of Brits on virtually every corner you walked.  The city was abuzz for the evening’s match that featured Manchester United vs. Barcelona in what was ostensibly the Super Bowl of actual “football.”

I’m not a huge fan of the sport most Americans refer to as Soccer, but I do find it extremely watchable and entertaining in it’s highest form and these were the two best teams duking it out.  So before even meeting up with Zai and Jonny later I was excited to bear witness to some serious English Football fanaticism that I hoped would border on stereotpyical hooliganism.

It was closer to 7pm, I believe when Zai and Jonny met me in my hotel lobby.  My first thought was that we’d eat at a pub that would have the game and plenty of rowdy fans shouting either in support or disdain for Man U.  Instead, we settled on making our first stop solely a dining outing at Pizza Express, a chain sit-down pizza establishment where one orders gourmet personal pizzas.  I was a little surprised at our restaurant choice as I was hungry for Football atmosphere, but I was also hungry for edible food.

Soon enough the three of us were immersed in conversation and thin crust.  We discussed everything from work to technology, to just general catching up stuff all the while downing two bottles of wine.  This was a welcome respite from the pint after pint pace of the day before.  A relaxing meal amongst friends was no match for screaming hordes of football fans.

Jonny and Zai Before Banoffee Pie

Jonny and Zai Before Banoffee Pie

Jonny and Zai seemed to finish their meal in a flash.  I surmised this must’ve been on account of me doing so much talking, but once my pizza slate was wiped clean rather than make for the pub to check the action on the pitch, we eased into dessert.  Zai got the chocolate cake and Jonny and I each got a slice of Banoffee Pie.  The ordering of Banoffee Pie led to me sarcastically remarking that everything was named so creatively.  I also made a motion that name Banoffee Pie was misleading since it could easily be mistaken for Banana and Coffee flavored, when it was in fact Banana and Toffee flavored.  I suggested a compromise of Tofnana Pie.  That way both flavors win and everyone knows what they’re eating.  Naming aside, the Tofnana Pie was delicious.

Tofnana Pie with Ice Cream

Tofnana Pie with Ice Cream

With desert in our stomachs and the bill paid, it was off to the pub to partake in more pints.  Unfortunately, one member of our party was dropping out.  Zai decided she was tired and with that Jonny and I set out for the rest of the evening.  Our first attempted stop was The Old Blue Last, which from the outside looks like a traditional booze joint, but according to Jonny has since become a trendy pint place for the stars.  He recounted a story about a none too pleasant encounter with Kelly Osbourne and a member of the Arctic Monkeys involving an accidentally spilled pint, no apology and an unforgiving bouncer inside said establishment. The previous incident apparently hadn’t completely turned Jonny off to drinking there, but the fact that they had no TV on to display the match certainly put a damper on our quest.We settled on a pub none to far away, just down the road called The Nelson’s Retreat.

IMG_9696

Upon entering The Nelson’s Retreat we found just what we, or at least I, was looking for.  The pub was packed with football fans screaming intermittently at the action going on on-screen.  Unfortunately, we had missed a good deal of the match as it was around the 60th minute of play when we arrived.  Fans were into the game though as Barcelona held a 1-0 lead over England’s Manchester United.  The majority of the crowd though seemed to be pulling for the foreign element as I had sort of figured out that Man U can easily be equated with the New York Yankees as a hated rival in many league circles.  They even had their own A-Rod type character in Cristiano Ronaldo, who I instantly grew to hate when his extreme arrogance emanated through the screen the first time I saw him on the TV.  He even sort of looked like A-Rod, which just brought about bad feelings.  Shortly thereafter he was given a yellow card for a somewhat dirty tackle, which had the crowd up in arms against the Man U superstar.

Some Football Celebration Going On On The Pub Screen

Some Football Celebration Going On On The Pub Screen

Several minutes into our stay as I downed another Carling while Jonny sipped on a Tiger, we bore witness to Lionel Messi’s game clinching header, that gave his Spanish squad a 2-0 lead.  From then on things seemed to die down in the pub.  Jonny and I eventually got a seat at the bar and closed the place down talking about our Miami trip the previous year and doing an increasing amount of catching up, much of which included talk of his expensive purple convertible he had been coaxed into buying by his ex and his impending move into his new apartment.  I was sort of jealous of his profitable station in life, but glad since from all I’ve seen of him, he is a deserving guy.

The night had one last stop after we left the Nelson’s Retreat and that was back at the jolly old Hoxton Hotel.  We sat down for one more beer at the hotel bar and ended the night on a high note talking about Jean Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris and various other stars of the ouevre.  Yes, my final night in London was quite the fine time.

I had set a wake up call the following morning as I had to pack up and check out before being met by Zai in my hotel lobby to head out to the final day of shooting.  I had already gotten the meat of information I needed for my JoshSpear post, but I had forgotten my camera the previous day.  So on this go round I could try to grab some quality snaps of the shoot while soaking in the uncharacteristically warm London sun on a 75 degree day while camped out on a rooftop, watching models and directors do their thing.

On Set With Bailey's

On Set With Bailey's

Craft Services Line

Craft Services Line

Grey DoubleDecker Bus: It's Where To Eat

Grey DoubleDecker Bus: It's Where To Eat

While being joined by a similar cast of characters in Zai, Mandy, and much of the same creatives from JWT and Bailey’s, there was also a blogger named Cate who ran a site called BitchBuzz.  The lot of us had a rather good time taking in the sites and enjoying the shoot.  At one point we became fascinated with the fact that there was in fact a hand model on the shoot.  We watched as she daintily held her digits deflecting against all contact.  She seemed to keep them hid aaway from harm in her pockets and just taking extra care as to not doing anything foolish like get them caught in a  blender or mangled by any non-existent bandsaw.  We couldn’t help but stare waiting for her prized fingers to show themselves.  I made a few attempts to get good photos of her but never really succeeded.

Later in the shoot day, after again eating at our Extras-esque meal base, I noticed Zai was sitting next to said hand model.  I calmly approached with the rest of our group and just as I was going to covertly snap a shot an awkward situation was created.  Zai basically confessed our fascination to the hand model, putting me on the spot by telling her I had something to ask her when all I really wanted was a photo of her hands.  Mandy and I scrambled for a good question to ask her regarding hand modeling, but all we came out with was something along the lines of “how do you get your hands ready?”  That was pretty weak and the model was kind of standoffish, asserting that she hadn’t been booked as a hand model before walking away. Oh well.

So much for our dream about knowing everything there is to know about hand modeling.  Oh well, we got over it and went on to watch even more of the shoot for the next couple of hours.  However, the time soon draw near for me to leave for the airport and myself, Cate, Zai, and Mandy headed out for one last pint at a place called The Big Chill Bar.  There didn’t seem to be a heaping helping of English beers there and instead I ordered a Budvar.  While we only had 45 minutes or so to shoot the shit at the end of our busy day, it was certainly enjoyable.  I felt like it was the fitting end to 2 wonderful days in London.

Just like that, I was on my way back to the Hoxton Hotel with Zaireen to pick up my bags and head off to the airport.  As the driver pulled away from the Hotel I had this overwhelming feeling that London was a place that suited me.  Sure I hadn’t stayed a month and I didn’t have to pay rent or navigate the underground on a regular basis, but there was a certain comfort to being there.  I felt welcome there and I guess I have the folks at Immediate Future, Bailey’s and JWT to thank for that.   I guess my only question now is, when can we do it again?

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Crossing The Pond

Posted by evankessler on May 25, 2009

Every year on Memorial Day weekend, EvanKessler.com celebrates yet another anniversary.  This year it’s a biggie.  It was approximately five years ago today, when one Evan Kessler, kind of annoyed at the fact that two of his roommates at the time had websites, decided to take up arms against his Internet oppressors and shout his own digitized and or pixelated voice from the mountaintop known as Mt. WorldWideWeb to tens of adoring readers and anyone who accidentally happened upon the site while searching for photos of Matthew McConaughey or placenta (seriously, they’re important keywords for this site).

So to celebrate this very relevant landmark for this “extremely relevant” site which has seen three separate incarnations, nearly 740 posts, and somewhere in the area of 51,000 hits, we’re taking the show on the road.  We won’t be jumping in our 1998 Honda Civic and hitting the highway.  We’re way to0 jet set for that, which is exactly why we’re leaving on a Jet Plane for 3 days and 2 nights in scenic London, England, UK.

The Union Jack Waving Hello

The Union Jack Waving Hello

So, why exactly has the EvanKessler.com anniversary crew of one set its sites on Britain?  Well, because we hear it’s a place that appreciates “talent” and seeing as we consider this site to be a work of such a talented individual, we thought we might feel right at home in the Queen’s good graces and the Prime Minister’s less regal ones.

There is also another motive for the visit;  as the site’s namesake has been invited by the wonderfully hospitable folks at Immediate Future to get a first hand look at a commercial shoot that I will subsequently cover in the annals of JoshSpear.com.  Don’t worry, I’ll cover it here too, but the updates you’ll read here might just be a horse of a different color…or a bird of a wider beak; Whichever you prefer.

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All Without Fight At The Crush of Veils and Starlight: Jay Bennett 1963-2009

Posted by evankessler on May 25, 2009

Jay Bennett: November 1963- May 2009

Jay Bennett: November 1963- May 2009

Jay Bennett’s heartbreaking, feedback-laden guitar solo on “Via Chicago,” the ninth song on Wilco’s third album Summerteeth, bears a heavy burden on the very soul of my music fan-dom.  I remember the first time I heard the song in question on my 3-CD AIWA changer, sitting in my 2nd floor dorm room at Dellplain hall at Syracuse University, staring blankly at my computer so as to soak in the music.  Following the lovelorn whimsy of “Pieholden Suite” which reminded me somewhat of the Beach Boys “Surfer Girl” and the contemplative “How To Fight The Loneliness,” I felt as though I had been set up for the devastating blow at “the crush of veils and starlight” when Bennett’s musical mastery seemed to be beckoning me to weep along gently with his guitar.  And you know what, I did.

So when I read early this morning about the passing of such an integral part of the music I felt so deeply connected with, I was inclined to shed a tear for old time’s sake.  Here’s to you Mr. Jay Bennett.  I hope you’re in a better place.

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Sneaks Attack

Posted by evankessler on May 22, 2009

I have a tendency to let things turn to crap; job opportunities, electronics (if I could take a picture of my camera that could speak a thousand words…), and last but certainly not least sneakers.  It’s a good thing no one’s ever seen fit to give me children.  If you’d ever like to see what a tattered child looks like…give one for me to care for for a couple of months.

Looking down at my feet for the last couple of weeks, it’s become apparent that the state of footwear in Evan Kessler’s personal union would best be stated as “not good.”  My most recent “favorite pair” of sneakers was acquired in early March of ’08 on a desperation shopping trip with my brother.  They lasted me a good year, but I was not really aware that I should not be wearing them most of the time, including while trekking around temples in Cambodia.  The last time I wore them was in April on a muddy golf trip to Rockland for a friend’s bachelor party.  This is what they look like now:

Crap Covered Side View

Crap Covered Side View

Utterly Destroyed Tread

Utterly Destroyed Tread

Not having the audacity to wear these mud and goose waste drenched remains of a once proud Nike sneaker, I shifted to my old battle scarred, tattered Saucony Jazz with soles best described as hole-y…but nonetheless  I like to refer to them as “The most comfortable sneakers in the world.”  I’m probably on my 3rd pair of them, but this specific pair has certainly seen better days as evidenced by these photos:

So Shiny!

So Shiny!

Holes In My Soles

Holes In My Soles

I could very easily remain content with this pair, but something has come up.  I am going on a trip.  A brief trip, but a trip nonetheless.  On this trip it would be most beneficial if I were to look my best.  Also, why shouldn’t I want to look my best at all times anyway.  So rather than just forage around the East Village and Chinatown and renew my pair of old favorites, I decided to strike out in search for a brand new, stylish pair of sneaks.

Prior to the outing, I had scoured the netweb looking for some sick shoes (as opposed to slick shoes worn by Data a.k.a Key Huy Quan).  I came across a sweet pair of Adidas with Red, White and Blue stripes.  I thought they could be the ones, but it would be most beneficial to see what was out there.

So this Friday I gathered up Arby and made for Manhattan to check out some choice sneaks.  We searched the near and far regions of NoHo and The Lower East Side.  When the dust settled, we wound up at ClassicKicks on Elizabeth Street.  Lo and behold there was quite the wide array fashionable footwear, but as I glanced around, I began to question my sense of style because nothing seemed too appealing.  However, when my eyes met the Adidas section, I had met my Internet match head on.  I was a little cautious about appearing too patriotic…so I also asked for a green pair to offset the Stripe Spangled glory of my first choice, but when they told me they didn’t have the green pair in my size…I knew it was meant to be.  So without any further ado.

My new sneakers:

My A.D.I.D.A.S.

My A.D.I.D.A.S.

Posted in shopping, Sneakers | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Statistics I Would Like To See

Posted by evankessler on May 21, 2009

People randomly murdered before the existence of the Internet

vs.

People randomly murdered since the advent of the Internet

RandomMurders

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I Test Drove A Car

Posted by evankessler on May 15, 2009

Behind The Wheel Not Under The Influence

Behind The Wheel Not Under The Influence

File this under the short column of “very few things I forgot to tell you,” but last week I test drove a car.  No, I’m not planning on buying a new vehicle (unless I were buying a new vehicle to live in down by the river once all of my funds run out) I was merely invited to test drive the vehicle by the kind folks at smart USA.  So why would I, Evan Kessler, be invited by a car company to test drive their ever-so  environmentally friendly tiny smartfortwo vehicle?  Well, let’s just say that writing for a website that many consider to be “ahead of the curve” in it’s championing of not only technological trends, but also environmental and style trends, has it’s privileges.  No, I’m not referring to EvanKessler.com, rather it’s my gig writing for JoshSpear.com that occasionally affords me such interesting opportuniites.

So with the sun peaking through a cloudy sky threatening of precipitation but looking a tad hesitant to unleash moist fury, I headed out to midtown west to the BMW/smart USA dealership to an informal blogger get together with the President of the company himself.  Having left my apartment in haste after trouble locating important items such as my notebook and other miscellaneous tools, I looked rather on the unkempt side; not neccesarily unkempt for me, but I hadn’t taken a great deal of time to consider my dress and that I was meeting the head of a company.   To be fair, I didn’t think the event would be as personal as it was.  I pictured a sort of conference room with 30 people viewing a presentation.

Blonference= Bloggers + Conference

Blonference= Bloggers + Conference

It ended up being between 5 and 10 people in a small conference room with mostly people who worked for the car company and a few bloggers for a very personal presentation.  We even got press kits and smartfortwo figurines, which were very cool.  Anyway, I think I was the least car savvy of the entire crew.  That probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t regularly drive a car unless I’m going on a road trip of sorts ,which really only happens every 6 months if that.  I don’t take time to ponder Miles Per Gallon rates or the carbon footprint of the vehicles that take me from point A to point B since I’m so dependent on public transport.  Furthermore, when I hear about buying a car that cuts down on urban congestion the only word that comes to mind is “oxymoron.”

However, here I was in an intimate conference room setting with the head of a car company, me, a guy who couldn’t tell you the first thing about the engine of any car he’s ever driven.  I have however driven stick and burnt out a few clutches, so I know that I’m not necessarily a great stick driver and that’s about all I know.

In any case, despite my general automotive unawareness, I was enrapt by this presentation.  Many astounding facts were presented about the marketing of this tiny vehicle which cut across all age and income barriers.  It appealed not only to baby boomers, but to first time drivers.  While it was no ferrari for the amateur cocksman in need of an ego boost, it seemed to suit most other demographics.  Still, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be moved to ever own a car so small using my own savings to purchase it, despite the dynamite safety rating and passenger limit (I hate driving with other people in the car.)

After the presentation ended, the lot of bloggers including myself took a stroll around the showroom to get a first hand look at the vehicle that more than 30,000 drivers had already taken to the US streets in, with their swappable panels and ability to perpendicular park.  I spent the majority of my time in the showroom staring at the gearshift wondering how in the heck their manual shift/sans clutch worked.  As previously alluded to, the clutch was no friend of mine in my days of manual transmission driving, so it seemed like a good thing that it had been removed from the equation, but I was pretty sure that it still allowed for me to mess up something within the car’s internal mechanism were I to step on the gas wrong.

By the time we had made it upstairs the rain had begun to come down in torrents.  It was not a pretty site.  The city was drenched and it felt like a bad situation to be in for a test drive.  However, if I had just left the dealership at that point, not only  would I’ve been drenched during my 3 avenue stroll to the subway, but I would’ve not had the experiences of  driving this nifty little vehicle…and what is life about if it’s not about having such experiences and being able to talk about them in more than 140 characters (I’m looking at you Twitter). Several of the bloggers on hand did decide to leave the premises without their golden opportunity…and I briefly considered following their lead.

Based On What These Cars Were Wearing They Were Just Asking To Be Test Driven

Based On What These Cars Were Wearing They Were Just Asking To Be Test Driven

Now, I’m no fan of city driving, and I certainly do not enjoy hitting the streets in a car I’m not used to driving with rain cascading down the front of my windshield during rush hour, but when the opportunity was finally offered to hop in a smartfortwo I threw caution into the wind…very gingerly. It helped that the rain was starting to subside.

First I jumped in the car and received a quick primer about the manual option vs. the automatic option.  Then I was recommended a route which I quickly abandoned once I realized the chaos being hurled at me as I attempted to enter the West Side Highway in a vehicle I was none too familiar with.  I managed to squirt into traffic, but quickly turned off the highway to the next block  and got stuck in bumper to bumper congestion.  There was a little movement and eventually I made it to the light where cars seemed to be scattered about attempting to move in all directions.

I sat at the light waiting for an opening large enough to fit through.  It was at this time that I realized I was driving like I was in my substantially bigger Honda Civic.  I was not in a Honda Civic though.  I was in the tiniest of Smartfortwo vehicles.  I could probably fit through any nook in my tiny two-door.  So this is what they had meant by combating urban congestion.  I think they might have something there.  Once I got broke through slight hole through automotive offensive line to paydirt, I decided to turn onto 9th avenue and go a few more blocks before turning back.

I was met though with much congestion  that was completely unable to be maneuvered around.  Eventually I made it to a street where I decided to make a right.  However, a car seemed to be blocking my path to a right hand turn.  Again, the size of my car capsule came in handy.  I realized that the distance between myself and the sidewalk could most likely be navigated by my wee wonder of a vehicle.  And with that I was back on track to the dealership though I definitely had a bit of a hiccup as I almost got sucked into Lincoln tunnel traffic.  However, I was able to somehow cautiously zip across two lanes of gas guzzlers eager to hit that particular road.

I was relieved to get back to the dealership in one piece and while I was impressed with the car’s maneuverability, I’d probably need more time in more of a highway situation to appreciate driving the smartfortwo, frankly because I feel so unnatural and uncomfortable in city driving that I try to avoid it all costs.  It doesn’t help a driver get an honest opinion of his new wheels when all he can think of is, “I hate this! I hate this!”

Posted in blogging, cars, human interest, new experiences, technology, work | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

No Party In The Desert

Posted by evankessler on May 6, 2009

After a blazing hot summer-like weekend to close out April, things cooled off quite a handsome amount last weekend.  Shorts were briefly sent back in storage as temperatures plummeted into the high 50’s and everyone more or less wondered where the super happy fun park weather went.

This self-contained blogging apparatus didn’t exactly have the most eventful weekend, due to somewhat damp and cool conditions, but things started off promising and maintained a relaxing pace all the way through…and there was a derby.  Friday was cause for celebration as Andrea P celebrated hitting the big 3-0 in style.  I took the subway into the city around 8:45, despite VP Joe Biden’s mass transport warnings.  I have to admit, everyone on the train looked beat down and full of suffering as they could’ve been carrying some sort of disease that may or may not have swine flu…and the two who did not were young ladies dressed loosely enough to cause me to ascertain that they might also be candidates for a disease of another ilk…if you know what I mean.

I met a bunch of my friends including the birthday girl at around 9:45pm at Jadis where a slew of folks had been enjoying a dinner and fancy wine type get together in the early evening after-work hours.  I decided to stroll in fashionably late as to avoid taking part in a hefty bill situation opting to miss out on the heaps of champagne in favor of a few Stellas from the bar.

There was plenty of discussion afoot of our hopefully upcoming video project which is currently on the QT even though people reading this might know something about it and there was also a heaping helping of action film discussion spearheaded by Ajay, Suli, Andy, and Jason.  The main topics in that discussion were the Transformers movie, the Star Trek movie, and GI Joe…all hitting theaters this summer.  I have to say, I am excited for GI Joe as I had an odd animated attraction to The Baroness as a child.

From our cozy beginnings we made way for a hot and  happy underground conclusion to the evening, spending the last several hours dancing to the straight up rock and soul sounds at Home Sweet Home.  This was the 2nd time I had been to said establishment in nearly a month and it was even more entertaining and energetic than the last.  The largest difference in going this time around is that the elevated dance floor had been removed, which is probably for the better since it was a bit of a hazard having people onthe closely cramped riser fall on top of those one foot below them.  Either way, shoes were shuffling and body parts were twisting and turning all around to the great soundtrack.  When the night ended I had danced and sweated up a storm, which I know is highly unlike me…but the music was that good.

The Birthday Girl Mid-Dance Move

The Birthday Girl Mid-Dance Move

Lina Wants Peace On The Dancefloor

Lina Wants Peace On The Dancefloor

Saturday morning there was no plan.  I knew the Kentucky Derby was that day, but that was about it.  I was tired from a late evening the night before and really had no motivation to conquer the world.  It was mostly overcast with slight periods of sunnyness at a semi-pleasant…but slightly cool 62 degrees.  At around 1:30 or so I decided to take on the outside world for a brief spell and work myself down to the OTB on 5th ave and 14th street to place a bet on what I thought could be a winning horse for the derby.

After picking up a NY Post to read their assessment, I lined up amongst the most obvious crowd of degenerate gamblers, who in their steadfast dedication to the thoroughbred had obviously built up quite a hatred for the tellers who had handed them one too many a ticket for a losing exacta.  There were mutterings about how slow each teller was and how all of the people in there for the derby didn’t know how to bet and were obviously affecting their ability to bet on the 4th race at Yonkers and the 6th at Meadowlands on time.  Old men who had most likely pissed their life savings in this place yet came back everyday to salvage some rent money or enough for a few beers, but really knew how to pick a winner scurried about.  The audible field was a sea of haggard mumbles and I thought to myself that this might be an interesting place to spend a day.  Sure, I liked Atlantic City, which was it’s own cesspool of negative currency sadness…but this was probably the end all be all of degeneracy and it was oddly appealing. I sort of wanted to hang around, but had no knowledge of any of the other races…though it’s not as if I would have picked winners based on that knowledge.  I just go by names and so the name that sounded like the derby winner to me was “Desert Party.”  I could almost hear it now reverberating through the speakers on my TV “…and down the stretch they come Desert Party takes the inside and stretches his lead to two lengths.  He’s got a few challengers, but looks to be widening the gap…And it’s Desert Party by two lengths to win the derby!”  At 15-1, that all had a nice ring…so I place my $5 bet with my dream scenario floating around in my brain.  I also placed a $5 one for Arby on Friesan Fire.  That wasn’t a bad name either but it had 9-2 odds and not so great payday potential.

Before returning home with my potential I.O.U. from OTB, I stopped by 7-11 in the hopes of grabbing a cherry slurpee.  Unfortunately, the sad look on the fat eleven year old’s face attempting to drain the icy treat into his super-sized cup told me that wouldn’t be happening.  So instead of having a tasty cool beverage to enjoy as I strolled on the sunny side of the street, I was empty handed.

I didn’t head straight home after that, I swung by Jenny P’s place to pick up a notebook I had left over there on Monday and then accompanied her all the way to 7th ave and 9th street to latch onto Robert, with whom she was going shoe shopping with.  From there, I stopped at Louie G’s for some ice cream to satisfy my cool treat fix and eased on down the road back to my abode to catch the beginning of the Mets game.

I didn’t spend too long by my lonesome enjoying baseball.  At 6pm, I headed over to watch the end of the game and the  Derby with Arby and Steph with a 6-pack of tallboys in hand.  Once the gates opened and the jockeys did their jockeying and horseys did their thing that horsey’s do when they’re getting whipped and steered or whatever happens down there, things looked promising.  At first I didn’t hear the words “Desert Party” very often but then at around the midway point I caught wind that my 15-1 champ was pacing himself in 4th place primed for a stretch explosion.  Unfortunately, another horse got into colossal spring seemingly coming from all the way back.  Mine That Bird weaved his way through the equine competition and won by well over a nose.  My ticket was worthless.  I wanted to go commiserate with my beaten down brethren at the OTB but that would’ve been too far of a walk.  Instead I continued drinking with Arby and Steph and continued watching the baseball game.

There Would Be No Partying In The Desert on This Evening

There Would Be No Partying In The Desert on This Evening

From our sporty perch in Arby’s apartment we moved the weekend festivities to La Taqueria for some delicious nachos, tacos, and ice cold beers with the helping hand of our lovely bartender Kayla.  The tacos were tasty while the nachos were disappointingly soggy, but I was hungry for them anyway.  We drank our fill and the time flew.  Before we knew it it was 11pm.  So much for making any night moves, it was time for bed.

I woke up pretty early on Sunday, kind of unaware of the fact that I had passed out on the early side for the weekend.  The majority of my final day of the weekend was spent inside, deterred from tackling the outside world because the outside world was wet and wholly unappealing.  Rain persisted throughout the day and the chair in my room got a work out if supporting my smallish expanse can be deemed a workout.  The weather’s been more or less crummy ever since… but there’s always next weekend to look forward to.  C’mon mother nature, give us some sun…and maybe add a little more heat in there this time around.

Posted in birthday party, Brooklyn, Gambling, Weekend Recap | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »