Monday, July 5, 2010

First Impressions of Bogota

It was pitch black outside our plane window as we began our descent into Bogota, the capital city and largest in Colombia. Even though it was dark, the view was absolutely amazing. Every few seconds the sky would light up from beneath the clouds, making the top of the clouds look foreign world. I was in a trance- the lightning storm was amazing. But it was nothing compared to the gorgeous Colombian beauty sitting behind me. My next hurt from straining so much during the flight. I'm a sucker for brunettes, so I knew I was in trouble before coming here, but my God, I did not expect to see for many beautiful women. By the time we had gotten our luggage I had fallen in love a good 5-7 times. True love. It was unreal. I had forgotten that Shakira is from Colombia.

Moving on, we got our bags, found our translator, and starting packing a small bus. The drive from the airport to the church was anything but inspiring. I had read up a little on Bogota before we left, and from all I read I was expecting a modern city with most of the comforts of home. Driving past some of the slums to the place we were staying only reaffirmed that we were in South America. But I really didn't give it too much thought. I mean, you do have to drive through Kenner to get to New Orleans.

We got to the church and were greeting with open arms. That's probably the first real thing I noticed about Bogota. The beauty of the people, inside and out. Complete strangers acted like we were family. Somehow our hosts made us feel more welcome than I've ever felt before. It was great.

We found our rooms and took a tour of the place. First thing to note: do not flush toilet paper. Instead, put it in a little trash can right by the toilet. Yep. Next thing, there is no water heater. Your water gets hot by running through an electrical showerhead that heats the water as it passes through. Oh well, at least we have hot water. I didn't realize until the next morning that in order for the water to be hot, it could be no more than a trickle. This only ensured you from freezing to death and taking 5 minutes to rinse the shampoo out of your hair. Oh well, if this is as bad as it gets we'll all be alright.

Yes, those are electrical wires sticking out of the showerhead. A bit unnerving...

We've had a busy couple of days, so we haven't had much time to actually explore beyond a few block radius of where we're staying, but already I can see the major contrasts of Bogota. In front of the church you have a downtown feeling- tall buildings, busy streets, shopping, restaurants, tons of people...

...and on the back side you have huts, crooked and crazy streets, makeshift roofs that sprawl into the nearby mountainside... Just one block away from each other and there might as well be a difference of a hundred years.

We haven't seen much yet, but this weekend we have a lot planned. So far, so good. There are a lot of stray dogs running around, there are a lot of people selling a lot of random stuff on the streets, and the drivers are absolutely nuts. Crazy is an understatement. There seems to be no traffic laws. I mean, they do have stop signs and traffic lights and lanes... but they are largely ignored. You could not drive here, I promise you. You would killed or in a wreck before you could shift out of park. The drivers seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to driving. I've been to Europe where the driving it considered crazy, and it has nothing on Colombia.

But all of these things (maybe apart from the driving) are true of most other countries I've been to. It is far too early in this trip to make a call on Bogota. More to come.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Market Street Power, Part I

Residents of the lower garden district will certainly recognize the building, resembling a haunted version of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Come to find out it was actually a power plant once upon a time. Just like the Dixie Brewery, we walked right in without so much as a chain link fence to keep us out.

Surprisingly the place was in pretty decent shape, unlike the Dixie Brewery. Besides some rust, slime and graffiti the building looked like it could actually clean up pretty easily. The roof was still intact and looked structurally sound. Only after a little research did I find out this place has been abandoned since 1973! That is absolutely crazy...I would have guessed mid 1990's at the latest. The Dixie Brewery has only been abandoned since Katrina and is in far, far worse shape.

Anyway, the building dates back to 1905 and once generated electricity to much of New Orleans. It was shut down in 1973 and set idle for more than 34 years. It was sold to a developer in 2007 for $10 million with plans to develop it into a multi-use condo/mall/entertainment type development valued at $2.2 billion. It never happened. Read more about the development here.

Anyway, below are some pics from our recent excursion. And I have to say, this massive structure blew me away. By far the most interesting building I have been in yet. We were there for a couple of hours and managed to explore only half the building. Needless to say, I will be going back soon.

High Krime...the back way in.

Giant boiler?

No floor.

Busted staircase.

Giant least 4-5 stories tall. Just massive, this doesn't do it justice.

Electrical hall.

Our way up.


Flooded II.

Dark, creepy, and flooded tunnel.


You Go Girl.

Coal storage?

Catwalk to the roof...little did we know its been sitting there since 1973. But look at the roof, pretty good shape for going on almost 40 years.

Stacks...going to the top on my next trip.

River view.

Downtown...needless to say this place would be amazing if fixed up. And unlike Dixie, this place looked very structurally sound. Lets hope it happens.

Look for the whole collection on my website soon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Instant Legend

I was recently introduced to the music of Ray LaMontagne, and thank God. This guy is one of my new favorite artists and one of the best singer/songwriters out there. I don't pretend to be a critic of great music, so I'll mainly let the music speak for itself.

But like any good artist, there's an interesting story behind the music. Born to a traveling mother and a violent musician father (how cliche) Ray found himself hiding from his parents and entertaining himself by reading and writing stories. He frequently got in trouble at school and he struggled to graduate.

Shortly after graduation he moved away from his family and started working 65 hour weeks at a shoe factory. Because of his father's past, he had no ambition to ever become a musician. It was at age 22 when he heard Stephen Stills' Treetop Flyer and had a musical epiphany. He quit he job and began writing songs. In 1996 he started renting studio space and recording his songs.

His personality is also quite interesting. He is deathly shy and avoids the spotlight as much as possible. He doesn't make music videos and personal interviews are few and far between. He has even been known to turn out the lights on stage while he plays to take the attention off of himself. It is all this that adds up his beautiful and soulful music.

This guy came onto the scene in 2004 with his first album Trouble, and had an instant classic with his single of the same name. He has since released two more albums, Till the Sun Turns Black, and Gossip in the Grain. Please do yourself a favor and check this guy out if you haven''s truly great stuff.

Below is a song from each album, but trust me, they're all great. Its a shame that we make millionaires out of rappers and pop stars and this guy is relatively unheard of. He should be way bigger than he is, but then again that's exactly what he doesn't want.

Trouble (live)

You Are the Best Thing


From Venice

Some fixed up photos from my last excursion to Venice using my trusty old point & shoot.

Venice sunrise.

Airing out.

Ed, the thinker.

Larry & Ed fighting over some tuna scraps.

Cajun sunset.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Beautiful Creatures of Africa

Nick Brandt is literally a one-of-a-kind photographer. Based out of London, this guy makes a living on photographing East Africa's most beautiful and dangerous animals. His unique style and development process has put him in high demand all over the world.

He only shoots in black & white on a medium format negative and has never used digital. That translates to 10 shots per roll of film. Do you know how much more work that is? He also doesn't use a telephoto lens, meaning he gets very, very close to what he is shooting.

As you can see, all of his hard work pays off. His images look as though he walked right up to the beasts and put them in the position he wanted. They are absolutely stunning. Do yourself a favor and check out his whole gallery here. It's well worth it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Devil is Ice Skating

Hell has frozen over. The Saints are world champions. World dominators. The best in the universe. Wow. For the past four years I've always believed it could and would happen, but to actually say it is still a little weird.

Its official: we are now America's team. With over 106.5 million people watching it now holds the record for as the biggest audience in television history. The biggest audience in the history of the universe watched the Saints play. They watched Brees dissect the Colts D. They watched Tracy Porter jump the route and take it to the house. They watched us celebrate. We captivated the world. That has to make you feel pretty good.

The game itself started off hot. Before you could refill your beer 10 points were on the board. I have to admit, going down by 10 in the first quarter put some bad thoughts into my head. I started to think that maybe all these people praising Manning and the Colts might know what they're talking about. After Drew Brees' first quarter 3 for 7 performance I had fears that he might not be on, again. I know, I'm a terrible person for even doubting it for a second, but a 43 year old history is hard to forget.

Luckily for us we have the best quarterback playing the game. From the second quarter on he went 29 of 32. That's 91 percent. A+. One of those "incompletions" was a dropped pass. Another was a spike to stop the clock. That's as near-perfect as it gets. Once Brees found his rhythm it was game over.

The first half of football couldn't have been more night and day. The first quarter: Indy steamrolls 154 yards and 10 points to our 36 yards and 0 points. Second quarter: Saints roll up 143 yards and 6 points to Indy's 15 yards and 0 points. The Colts had the ball for two and a half minutes in the second quarter. How do you prevent Brees and Manning from racking up the points? Keep them on the bench.

And speaking of two elite offenses, did the clock ever stop? That was the quickest game I have ever seen.

When it came down to it, Brees stayed on the field a minute longer and racked up some superhero numbers. 32 of 39. 288 yards. 2 TDs. O interceptions. 114.5 QB rating. Superbowl XLIV MVP.

In 3 postseason games he accumulated 732 yards on 72 completions and 102 attempts. That's 70.6% completion, or 7.2 yards per attempt. He threw 8 touchdowns to 0 interceptions with a 117 QB rating. And Payton Manning got the league's MVP? Child please...those numbers are the stuff that legends are made of.

And was there ever a better post game moment than when Drew lifted up his son? I still get choked up when I see it. It was the most real, genuine moment I've ever seen. If that doesn't warm you up you simply have no soul. Like I said before, prepare for Drew Brees to be everywhere.

But its the unselfishness of our offense that makes it so special. Everyone gets a touchdown. If your mother was on the field she'd get one. So, like Brees, I'll spread the lovin' around.

Jeremy Shockey. What a man. He's never afraid to sacrifice his body in the name of football. He would jump in front of a mack truck if it meant he could gain a yard. He's a bigger, badder Kyle Turley. He's the wild card. I'm so glad he got a TD.

I would argue that Lance Moore has the best hands on the team. He could catch a bullet. David Tyree who?

Devery Henderson had a breakout game. This is not the same Devery that would make the most breathtaking circus catch you've ever seen only to drop the next ball that hit him right in the hands.

And if Pierre Thomas isn't the most underrated running back in the game than I don't know who is. He has a sixth sense when it comes to avoiding pressure and finding the end zone. What a game.

Mr. Clutch goes to Tracy Porter. He and Brett Favre are single-handedly responsible for sending us to the Superbowl. Then he goes and does it again. He outsmarts Payton Manning, owner of the biggest head in the game, if not all of sports.

I hope all the work by Jonathan Vilma gets noticed. He's the QB of the defense. He calls and changes the plays at will. He's responsible for switching the coverage at the line that led to Tracy Porter's life saving interception against the Vikings. He is involved and hitting a snot bubble out of someone on every single play. He's a beast. We would not be celebrating without him.

Our defense has played outstanding all season. Brady, Warner, Favre, both Mannings...the best of the best, all beaten like red headed step children. Best turnover ratio in the league. What more can you say about this cast of old guys and undesirables? They held Peyton Manning to 7 points in the final three quarters. Enough said.

And lets not forget the unsung hero of almost every NFL game- the Offensive line. These guys get so overlooked its almost tragic. Every single stat on offense starts with them, but here's the most important one: Drew Brees was only taken down once in 40 dropbacks. That's some good blocking up front boys.

And Garrett Hartley...are you kidding me? Where did this kid come from? No big deal, just setting a Superbowl record as a 23 year old. And speaking of records, we shattered or tied 17 Superbowl records. We set the record for broken records.

Did we witness the second coming of Steve Gleason, fan favorite and special team sensation? Chris Reid just cemented himself in Saints history. "The Colts were punching at it and grabbing for it, trying to get it out. But I didn't care if they broke all my fingers. There was absolutely no way in the world I was going to let go of that ball. That was our ball.'' Thanks for holding on dude, I can't even imagine what ungodly things were being done underneath than pile.

And thank you Sean Payton and Greg Williams. You are both brilliant. You both have balls of steel. You have changed an entire culture. No longer are we the lovable losers. We are now respected and feared.

So after this kind of a season, what's next? What can possibly top this? A first born child? Maybe?

But seriously, this beats everything. Its the best story and best collection of underdogs in the history of sports. Its so "feel good" it would have made a bad movie script.

One thing's for sure. These guys just made it hard for themselves. The only way to top this would be a 19-0 Superbowl winning season. And with this team that's certainly possible.

Bless you boys....bless you. You've given us the greatest feeling in the world. You have changed New Orleans forever. Let's hope next season is half as special.