Tuesday, February 23, 2010

5 Things I Missed About Guahan

I'm back "home" on Guam after a month away from the island. I thought I'd change up the format a little for this post, so here goes my "5 Things I Missed About Guahan" list, in no particular order.

Located on the water next to Chamorro Village. Where else can you get sushi this fresh, and this tasty at this price? This is what 5 dollars worth looks like:

Just a few blocks away from home, and also from my favorite food spot (see #5) is my favorite drank spot. The Venue almost always has a live band playing downstairs, with a DJ in the upstairs room a few nights a week. I'm looking forward to having my going away party there next Friday.

The movement's been moving since I've been gone. Just over a week ago, the Governor introduced an Executive Order to officially change the the name of the island (back) to Guahan, which means "What We Have." On Tuesday we attended U.S. Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo's annual address to the island's Congress. This week was also the deadline for public comment on the military buildup, so We Are Guahan was present in full effect at the address. Now that the deadline has passed, the focus in on getting Obama to speak with the community, not just "on-base," when he visits next month. On Sunday I checked out a campaign party/rally on the beach for gubernatorial candidate, Carl Gutierrez, to round out my week in politics. Mr. Gutierrez wrapped up his speech by saying that he was unequivocally in favor of the military build-up, and it seemed to me that most of the crowd was also. It was a little weird when the band that came on after the speech started of their set by covering John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change," and then followed up with "Zombies" by The Cranberries. I was catching mixed messages, but as always, I enjoyed the music and the free hot dogs and beer.

2. Vicky and the Folks
The Chamorro family love has been good to me! The Leon Guerreros are still putting up with me with a smile! The homies are ridiculous, and this week was no exception. Ronnie's birthday dinner was a good time, even when it turned into a roast. Saturday was Hush Masquerade which turned out to be the best party party that I've been to on Guam. Live House band (as in house music, not as in the same tired ass musicians every week); DJ's who still play music from California, and a finale performance from Jovan the Oddchild and Million Billion. Melvin (aka Million Billion) is one of the handful of folks on-island that I had met before I got here; but, I hadn't seen him perform since we met in Hawaii (2006?), so that was cool.

1. The Sunsets

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Last Week with my Kiwi Family

Last week started with Super Bowl Monday... yes, I said Super Bowl Monday. Remember, this blog is called "Live From Tomorrow." I had a few hours to kill during the day while my friend was recording the game for later viewing, so I strolled down to Courtney Place in downtown Wellington to do a little book shopping. I had spent the previous two weeks laboring through Don Quixote, which I had been meaning to read for a long time. The first 50 pages were hilarious; unfortunately, the book is just over a thousand pages. Let's just say if someone tells you to read it, don't. I guess some books are just a lot more important than they are good. Needless to say, I was looking forward to redeeming myself with a better choice, so I took my sweet time in the aisles of Arty Bee's Books. You know it's a good bookstore when they have three copies of Cane River and two copies of Red River.

After a couple of hours of shopping, I headed over to the folks' spot for the big game. The weekend before I was watching the Rugby 7's final, so it was nice to be the one answering all the questions about the rules of the game for a change. I will admit, I had to ask a kiwi friend which teams were actually playing in the Super Bowl, since I hadn't actually watched a football game since last November. We made it a point to keep it real... so we found a store that sold Miller, chips and dip, and some franks for the grill. It's amazing how short the Super Bowl is when you take out all the commercials.

After the game I headed back downtown to catch my friend, James Nokise, hosting a stand up comedy night. Then, just for old times sake, I joined in on a midnight guerrilla marketing run. Sometimes I miss the smell of wheat paste and glue, but truth be told, I'll be alright if I never pass out another event flyer for the rest of my life. There were two other highlights of the rest of the week in Wellington. One was watching a completely off-the-hook Korean movie called "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance." The second was catching a play called "Vernon God Little," directed by Willem Wassenaar and Sophie Roberts (one of my lovely hosts!).

Later that week, I hopped on a train to head back north to Auckland for my last weekend in the land of the Kiwis. The plan was to go out in style. Friday night was Summer Jam, so I headed to Rakino's to check it out. A few weeks back I had connected with local MC, Bella Shanti, when her group, Shine Forum, was opening up for dead prez. This time they invited me to join them on the mic for a freestyle session while DJ Manuel Bundy handled the turntables with true class and finesse. After the cypher, I stuck around for a while to catch The Brofessionals, a quality live soul band. The skills were tight and the energy was right, so stay tuned for a Sok and Shine Forum collaboration, in the works as we speak.

The next night was the true coup d'grace of my trip to New Zealand... Palais Du Chat. Technically, it was a house party, but to call it that would just be misleading. Just ask yourself, when is the last time you saw a live trapeze act at a "house party?" I didn't think so.

This function was complete... full service bar... poker table... cabaret... siamese twin dancers... walking on the ceiling! Tom Rodwell invited me again to join him on piano during his blues & calypso set. I love my keyboard, but there is nothing like playing a real upright. I also love Yoshi's and the like, but there's is nothing like live blues in a true party setting where people are dancing... almost on top of the piano. Honestly, it felt like a scene from Idlewild... a true Prohibition-era gitdown! After Tom's set, I joined DJ Barney on the turntables, and we kept the dance floor on meltdown until well after 3am. After a little slow-dancing, and a lot of trying to get people to leave, the night wound down to just four of us.

It was a beautiful night... I woke up the next morning, literally humming Jamiroquai's "Do You Know Where You're Coming From?" So that's where I'll leave you until next week... (click below)

Bibliography of My Trip (updated on 2/16/10)
> Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human - by Richard Wrangham (2009)
> Angels & Demons - by Dan Brown (2000)
> Last Words: A Memoir - by George Carlin (2009)
> Say You're One of Them - by Uwem Akpan (2008)
> Long Walk to Freedom - by Nelson Mandela (1994)
> The Da Vinci Code - by Dan Brown (2003)
> Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies - by Jared Diamond (1997)
> Foundation & Earth - by Isaac Asimov (1986)
> Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle - by Moritz Thomsen (1969)
> The Alchemist - by Paulo Coelho (1988)
> Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America - by Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
> Don Quixóte - by Miguel de Cervantes (1605/1615)
> Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy - by Carlos Eire (2003)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Weekend in Wellington

I may have come to Wellington for the craziest weekend of the year. After a 10-hour drive south from Auckland we pulled into New Zealand's capital city, parked the car, and sat down for a pair of beers and a basket of curly fries. Later that night we checked out a funny, funky play called Pirates vs Ninjas. The production is written, directed and produced by Anya Tate-Manning, who also happens to be one of my hosts in New Zealand. In fact, a lot of the friends I've made here are in the theater community, so it was cool to see them in action.

I had been warned the Wellington would be a little... well... "different" this weekend. It was very true, for three reasons.

First off, Saturday was Waitangi Day, a national holiday to commemorate the signing of the Treaty between the British Crown and the Maori chiefs. I mentioned before that the treaty is somewhat controversial, and I've learned a little bit more about that since I arrived in Wellington. The treaty was translated into Maori before it was signed in 1840. Years later, it came to light that the Maori translation was a little different than the English version. Not a big deal when you're dubbing over a japanimation flic, but this is the founding document of the country. It's kind of like of your version of the First Ammendment said, "Congress shall only make a few laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, of the press; or the right of the people peacebeably to assemble, and the petition the Government for a redress of greivances." You can see why Waitangi is a sensitive subject.

The second reason why this weekend was special is that Saturday was also the birthday
of Robert Nesta Marley. I had plans to attend Wellington's One Love Festival, but I heard he was going to be a no-show so I backed out too. Instead, I had a more personal Marley Fest on my iPhone and at a friends BBQ, enjoying about three or four of his albums throughout the day. My personal favorite is still Kaya. The BBQ was also cool because I tried my very first Ostrich Sausage, which, to my surprise, does NOT taste like chicken.

The third, and wackiest, reason why this was a "different" weekend in Wellington was that the International Rugby Sevens World Series was in town. Rugby Sevens is a small-sided variation of the game with a lot more speed, and a few less scrums. Every year when the Sevens come to Wellington, the city turns into a two-day party. Imagine Halloween, the Bay to Breakers, Mardi Gras, and All-Star Weekend all rolled up into one, and then you're halfway there.

I didn't attend the actual games (most folks don't, they just get dressed up and go nuts), but I did get a little caught up in the fun. While cruising down the wharf, we came across a massive restaurnat with a few hundred folks hanging off the balcony, all facing the walkway. Hmmm... I wondered what they were all watching? So I went inside to investigate (and to have another beer).Apparently, the walkway out front was actually more of a runway... or a catwalk of shame?

I watched from above as groups in costume filed into the restaurant below. My friends and I were pretty juiced when Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and Macho Man Randy Savage showed up in full wrestling gear. It was all fun and games until we spotted a SECOND pair, also dressed as the Hulk and The Ultimate Warrior. Now, anyone that's seen a decent science fiction movie knows that this would have dangerous repercussions for the fabric of the Universe... apparently, the drunken wrestlers agreed. Next thing I new, the catwalk had transformed into a makeshift WWF* wrestling ring and the crowd went wild! These guys were actually pretty good... DDT's, pile drivers, the suplex press... even a few "chops" to the shoulders and chest (do those actually hurt?)

I won't give all the details on what I witnessed from the balcony, but most of it involved peer pressure and countdowns.

After that show, we headed to the other side of the wharf or a quick jump off the pier. No, we're
not trying to look hard, it was just some cold ass water. From there, we headed to the BBQ, and
then to a bar to catch the finals of the Sevens: Fiji vs Samoa. Based on my recent travels, I decided I was going for Fiji. Plus, the buddy I was with is Samoan, so I thought that would make it more interesting.

The next day was relatively calm and collected. I got to meet up with Toya, and old friend from high school who's been traveling in Australia and New Zealand for the last 5 months. We swapped war stories and book recommendations. We shared thoughts about how amazingly hospitable the world can be, and what it will be like to come home to The Bay. We ordered gumbo and fried chicken: the food was cool, but a little overrated, and not quite worthy of Nina's Blog. I think when I get home one of my first stops will be Lois the Pie Queen!

Pura Vida,

*Any self-respecting 80's baby refuses to use the term WWE. No disrespect to the panda bears intended, but WWF will always stand for World Wrestling Federation.