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Buzz Management - The Blog

Learn about the stories behind the stories, as well as a little this and that - and then some.

Thursday
Jul022009

Madrid - A Comedy of Errors in III Parts 

A Comedy of Errors - Part I

We are on a train heading out of Madrid toward Longroño, the jumping off point and capital of La Rioja region, and while it has been a fun few days, it has been a trying few days. I thought Bret was going to crack this morning in the Atocha Train Station as we fumbled about trying to store our bags in lockers, and 12$ and 35 minutes later we had achieved a simple task that should have cost 5$ and 3 minutes. As one minor debacle after another seemed to take place, I’m learned that food can quiet an angry beast.

With that said, on the morning of the 24th, we hit the ground running. Our first random stop was the Museo del Jamón. Much to my surprise, Bret broke out the camera and started filming.

“Wow!” we thought. “They must really love Jamón. So much so that they’ve created a museum in its honor!” When we passed the Museo del Jamón at a second, third, and fourth different location, being the savvy travelers we are, we quickly realized it was a chain restaurant. For travelers on the go-go, it is a really inexpensive, quick option for lunch, and what makes it even more convenient is that the menu items and prices are displayed on the wall in big pictures. It would be a vegetarian’s nightmare, however, with leg after leg of ham hanging from the walls. JWT approved cheap eats – Museo Del Jamón.

As the day wore on, I got choked by a Darth Vader - who was wearing hiking boots -and startled by a mime. But honestly, who knew they talked?

The mime was locked in stillness pretending to eat a shoelace, and thinking I was all witty with the camera rolling on me, I asked, “Are you going to eat that or just stare at it all day?”

Not only did he talk, but he spoke in very calm, clear English. You can only imagine how taken aback I was when he answered, “Nope. Just gonna stare at it. It’s not edible.”

Moments later Bret challenged the most out of shape Spider-Man I have ever seen to a balancing contest. Not only was Spider-Man out of shape, but his tights were so tight, I felt as if I had been invaded by his bulge.

 

A Comedy of Errors - Part II

Side bar: We have two video cameras; one which is a palm size HD camera with no audio input - which we were going to use for filler shots - and one that is quite a bit larger and heavier, which we were going to use for interviews. The older, heavier video camera has an audio input for the mic. The mic while practical and certainly ads to the production value, is also kind of a prop we use to get people’s attention; it at least gets them to pause and momentarily assume we possess at least an ounce of professionalism. (Fake it till you make it)

As it goes, however, all of the video we took with the interview camera, which was the majority of the Madrid video, is null and void because it requires a firewire port to export the video. Bret’s Mac Air does not have a firewire port. Big problem.

***

And so we wondered about the city Saturday afternoon for several hours just having a good time and stopping along the way here and there for a beer. As you may or may not know, with every drink you are served in Spain, you are also given a plate of tapas. What we came to discover was that if you drink enough beer at lunch, then you can actually fill yourself up on tapas and you don’t need to eat lunch.

From our liquid and tapas lunch, we proceeded to the Parque del Campo del Moro at Palacio Real to do some more filming whereby we set up a tripod to tell you a little bit about what we’re doing, or at least attempting to do. I have to say, I actually thought it was quite good. We did about six takes to try to keep it short and tight; meanwhile curious onlookers laughed at the spectacle that was under way.

We called it a rap and I suggested we head back to the hotel – sorry, I missed an ‘s’ – the hostel, Cat’s Hostel, Madrid to be specific where we shared a room with four other travelers. It is quite a nice, modern hostel with a Turkish feel, equipped with a bar that feels like you are in a catacomb, free Wifi, and a lounging area with a Turkish feel. While I probably could have used some rest, Bret had another plan and his momentum carried us forward in the name of good times, so who whom was I to break our stride. (Ain’t nothing gonna break Jack Will Travel’s stride.)

We stopped at the hostel for a moment to pick up some belongings and much to our surprise, our two Brazilian roommates were gone. Basically all they did the two days we were there was sleep unitl 2 or 3pm, wake up, and start the party again. Nice guys, but how can you not be when you are that well rested. We also met a new roommate named Travis from Berkley, California.

***

My one-and-only goal for the evening was to find a local pub to watch the US soccer team play Spain, and since Travis was a soccer fan as well, we asked him to come along. Our motley crew took the Metro up a few stops to get out of the Plaza del Sol in the hopes of finding a pub that wasn’t so touristy, and after passing up an Irish bar that smelled like puke, we made our way to a local pub filled with Spanish rebel-rousing futbol fans. I was curious how we would be received but it seemed to go quite well on the whole. And I must say; the Spanish were graceful losers. But really, who could have predicted the United States would beat the number one ranked soccer/futbol team in the world, 2-0? You can only imagine the look on the Spanish fan’s faces when they walked in off the street and saw the zero next to the Spanish score. What I also appreciated was that fact that it took some effort to get Bret to watch the soccer game because its not really his thing, but by the second half, Bret was calling plays and saying things like, “Clinical tackle...Oh come on! He wasn’t offside...The defense has to drop back!”

During half time we went out on the street to interview some locals and wound up interviewing Travis, but when we heard a group of Americans walk by, I flagged them down to chat. They were halfway down the street before they turned around and the next thing we knew we were chatting it up with Pamela from Wisconsin. Pamela and her crew were on their way to another bar but said they would come back – and they did. The next thing we knew the three of us had turned into a posse of jovial Americans relishing in a win of epic proportions.

Pamela and company brought us to El Tigre, a bar that these American students frequented. Jack Will Travel bar fact: Turns out when a girl is ordering your drinks for you in a crowded bar in Spain, or probably anywhere for that matter of fact, except a gay bar, service is more efficient and you are given overflowing helpings of tapas.

After wandering about Plaze del Sol into the late ours of the evening trying to find our way home, we finally reached our hostel and slept until 12:30pm the next day, but when we awoke, the Brazillian brothers were still snoozing, not to see the light of day for several more hours.

A Comedy of Errors - Part III

We had things to accomplish on Thursday, but first we had to cancel a segment we were going to do. We had arranged to do a segment on a business called Adventurous Appetites whereby the owner had waived the 50 Euro fee in exchange for us promoting his business on video. In the end, it wasn’t so much the previous night that made us cancel but the jet lag.

All day walking about Thursday we were lagging - and walking we did. We had three very simple goals to accomplish; buy our train ticket, go to an outdoor store to get a camping towel and a few other missing pieces of our camping kit, and make an undisclosed stop in Retiro Park, a giant park near Atocha Train station.

To make a long story short, I had received an email from a friend of a friend who told me if we needed ANYTHING, the place to go was El Corte Ingles, a giant department store in the heart of Plaza del Sol. Bret is not one to hit touristy places, in fact, he may have broken out in hives when we walked into El Corte Ingles - the first time that is. I had to push him to get him into this store, and when I asked about outdoor gear in my less than broken Spanish, they took me to the luggage department. This language barrier cost us about four hours.

I felt Bret getting antsy so we decided to split and find the outdoor store in Plaza del Sol on our own, or as Pamela told us the night before, just off of the Opera Metro stop. We scoured the area for hours and even went into hostels and hotels asking for this mythological giant outdoor store. We walked in circles until, quite by accident, we came upon El Corte Ingles again. Should we try it one more time, I asked?

“If they have camping gear in there, I’m going to hate it even more than I did the first time,” Bret said.

As it turns out, we discovered the 6th floor had everything we needed, and in hindsight, we probably should have just bought a regular towel. Yes, every ounce counts when backpacking; and yes these towels are considerably lighter than your regular bath towels; and yes, we could have had a lot more free time in Madrid, but I would say it was worth four hours of wandering the streets of Madrid seeing far more than we might have otherwise.

After walking about Retiro Park, we had plans of finding a nice authentic Spanish restaurant to eat at while working on Jack Will Travel videos and writing. While we did find a happening neighborhood called Anton Martin, which was full of bars sporting young, attractive, stylish professionals, we wound up eating outdoors at an Indian restaurant, where it seemed as if we were in an Indian District. That’s how we roll in Jack Will Travel.

We were so tired we bagged finding a place to work and instead found ourselves back at the hostel where a pub crawl was starting at 1am. It was at this time that we discovered all of the video we had shot in Madrid could not be transferred to Bret’s Mac Air. Over the course of the next week, this would be the first of many challenges we would face, and perhaps one of the smallest.

In the adjacent room, Phish was playing, which Bret observed isn’t really a good sign for us; just indicative that the crowd was a bit young and not what we were looking for. Their youth, or perhaps our age was reinforced around midnight when a new roommate who arrived commented to us “Seems like you guys are kinda old,” and then quickly reframed his statement by saying, “Well, older I mean.” If he had any social graces, he might have known that that is an “inside thought.”

This was not Jack Will Travel’s scene, at least not what we were looking for.

What we learned that night is that it turns out people in hostels don’t go out, and instead party at the hostel, and this in turn makes getting a decent nights sleep somewhat of an effort. I guess that is why it is a hostel and not a hotel though, because people are on a budget.

As we have said, this is an organic process, and what it seems this first leg of the journey has unearthed is that Jack Will Travel is not a travel web-show that shows you how to travel, but rather how not to travel. In truth, Jack Will travel has never been good in the city. Jack Will Travel is more about getting off the beaten path, and that’s what we intend to do in the Rioja region.

Stay tuned for more blundering and general tomfoolery. Additional observations include:

  • Prostitutes in Spain have a strong marketing pitch, for instance, although there might be a language barrier, they will hand you some take-away collateral in your native language, such as “suck and fuck = 30 Euros”
  • Vietnamese cigarettes give you headaches
  • Cities suck money out of you
  • Mimes sometimes do talk
  • It’s not hard to find an Irish bar in Ireland

 

Wednesday
Jun242009

Key Take-Away From the First 36 Hours

The short story is – When traveling internationally, Jack Will Travel does not recommend lollygagging when getting to the airport. This includes having drinks at The Bravest in New York City and then stopping for wine and pizza before heading to the subway. *Make sure you know how long it takes to get to the airport.*

The upside of the knowledge gained from this experience is that we are made our plane, despite obsessively sweating while looking at our watches on the “A” train heading out of Manhattan towards JFK airport. The downside is – well shit, I guess there is no downside – we made our plane. With that said, let’s get on to biz-ness...

Jack Will Travel had a 9 hour layover in Dublin where we put to the test whether or not Guinness in Ireland tastes different than Guinness in America. After several pints, the verdict is still out. What we do know is that Guinness is creamy, smooth delicious-ness, and when necessary, can take the place of a meal. Jack Will Travel endorses Guinness.

What we have learned at this point is that we are rusty. With the mistakes we have made so far, all of which we ourselves have gotten quite a laugh out of, one would think we had never ventured out of the country before. It’s like riding a bike, however, and part of err we like to think is due to the fact that we maybe – if we were lucky - had a couple of hours sleep in the first 30-plus hours of our adventure.

Today will be spent working out the kinks. Part of working out those kinks and getting back on the trail is getting your kit sorted out - your kit being your backpack and everything it contains; therefore we’re hitting an outdoor store today to pick up the missing pieces – little things like soap, a towel, a cup for drinking wine on the vineyards we may be camping in, etc. We are also hoping to get our first video up today to tell you, the public, a bit about what we are doing – and in the process, maybe we too will discover a bit about what we are doing. As we’ve said before, this is an organic production and we’re all in this together.

Also on tonight’s agenda – the semi-finals of the Confederation Cup. Much like the World Cup, this only happens once every four years and is a lead up to the World Cup. Tonight’s match up; Spain vs. The United States, winner plays Brazil. Spain has just been ranked the #1 team in the world. Lucky for Jack Will Travel that we are in Spain to cover this one.

From Madrid, most likely Friday we will be heading up to the Rioja Region of Spain, best known for its world-class wines. There are three regions of Rioja:

 

  • Rioja Baja, which produces fruity, full-bodied wines of higher alcohol content
  • Rioja Alto, which is known for its one-year old red wines (called añadas) and for reservas, which are wines aged for at least two years in a barrel, plus one year in bottles. White wines (best drank young) are also produced in this area
  • Rioja Alavesa, which is an area that produces young red wines

 

Special Reserves

The Rioja region produces some truly extraordinary wines, called special reserves. These wines come in three categories:

 

  • Crianza – aged at least one year in a barrel, then stored on a bottle for a year and the Crianza are made from grapes of the third, fourth, or fifth crops
  • Reserva – aged for at least two years in a barrel, then one additional year in a bottle
  • Gran Reserva – Aged for at least three years in oak barrels, then one year in bottles in the underground cellars in La Rioja, called calaos.

 

Where to go, what to drink, and what to eat? Do tell us...

Friday
Jun122009

Transparency in Government - Transparency in Jack Will Travel

"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my pleasure to do for it whatever I can." - George Bernard Shaw

I was on a rantum scoot (a journey without a set destination) the other night in my Phinney Ridge neighborhood of Seattle and saw the above quote engraved on a bench in a tiny park. On the other bench was inscribed, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” by our little friend M. Ghandi.

I got to thinking; since there is this whole push for “Transparency in Government” these days, I think it is only fair that Jack Will Travel is as transparent as possible as well. Therefore I'm gonna be honest with you because you’re probably going to figure this out pretty quick – this whole Jack Will Travel thing is kind of a half-baked idea. Wait...No...

You know what? Strike that from the record. I take that back...

I think the better choice of words would be a “half-baked social experiment”. A half–baked idea would mean that Bret and I have not been thinking and planning Jack Will Travel 2.0 since we left each other in Amsterdam two years ago (at the tail end of Jack Will Travel 1.0).

Since it’s already been proven that I am a shameless self-promoter, and since we are speaking of transparency in Jack Will Travel, I’m going to share our “social strategy” at the moment, which is to find “connectors”. These are the people within a social circle who will connect with this project on some level (whether it’s the writing, photography, videos, the story, or indulging in the fantasy of doing something like this themselves) and push the idea out to their friends. I am always amazed at the power of these people within a “tribe” to spread ideas, music, or whatever they might be into. I wish I could find a way to measure their power to share ideas to see just how far and wide they can spread them. I find it so fascinating how one person in a group can open up a whole new group of people to an idea. And I do believe that ideas are - without getting too new-agey on your ass - real living things. I don’t think there is anything more powerful in the world than an idea. Just look at the quote above from our little buddy M.Ghandi, as I like to refer to him.

So here’s the deal – for this to be most effective for both you as a viewer, as well as for us as entertainers/jackasses/idiots/knuckleheads, etc., this experiment is going to require people - and the more people that are involved the better it’s going to be.

I like to think of it like this; both Bret and I have been in bands, and while I can’t speak on behalf of Bret at the moment (since I believe he is in transit from China to NYC), when I was in front of the stage and in front of a crowd, the more people that were present and the closer they were to us, the more energy they fed us. And conversely, the more energy we were fed, the better energy we put off and the better a time/party everyone had. (Knowing now that I was in a band, do you now see the roots of my shameless self-promotion? Bottom line is, if you don’t put the word out, ain’t nobody gonna show up.)

The more people that are involved in this project, the more outrageous the many possibilities and outcomes are going to be. All we know at the moment is that we are flying into Madrid on June 22nd and around June 29th we will be in Haro, Spain. Around July 6th, we will be in Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls. What happens in between these destinations is up to you, the viewers. In the mean time, you will tell us where to go, what to do, ask us questions you might want us to address, or tell us things you might want us to do. The only other thing we know at the moment is that our responses will be in the form of photography, video, and writing.

And as for the overall story – well, I like to call it a little something I coined called sensationalized nonfiction. It is art in action. It's Improv out in the world. It’s choose your own adventure. It’s a story we (collectively) are making up, and we (Bret and I) are walking into as caricatures of ourselves - agents of rogue fiction. This is really going to be a grand, social-networking, community building experiment.

I can not comment on where Bret is at in this moment of his life since I have not seen him in two, but I’m feeling pretty fucking good for the first time in a long time, and I’m feeling like I am an antenna for ideas and inspiration (and perhaps you the viewer are the signal). I am ready to throw my pack on my back and walk off a very challenging year, ready to rediscover a lot of things about myself and the world, and I am open to any possibility, even if that means putting my/our destiny in your – the viewers – hands.

The sky is really the limit on this one (well, I guess our measly budget actually is). While I said I don’t really know where Bret is at, I have a pretty good feeling he is right there with me, in the midst of feeling a creative explosion about to happen in our lives and ready to take this production from Jack Will Travel 1.0 to Jack Will Travel 2.0.

Since you are already a friend of Jack Will Travel, and since we have already established I have no shame, if you are digging the idea and like what you see, I’m asking you to proselytize on behalf of Jack Will Travel. Tell your friends. Have them sign up on Facebook. Help direct our show/adventure/production.

New Web site is coming within the week.

As always, stay tuned for more...

Friday
Jun122009

The Back Story of Jack Will Travel

The first time I met Bret I was in high school, and while we didn’t go to the same school, we had many mutual friends. We had been at a parent-less party that evening and afterward, Bret, our mutual friend Eric, and I went back to Bret’s house to further the party and imbibe in spirits and other things a high school kid might do.

We brought a six-pack up to Bret’s room and when we got upstairs, he turned off the lights and put on a black light, as well as a laser machine that was in synch to this strange music I had never heard called Enigma (pretty much all I listened to was the Grateful Dead at that point).

Once the lights went out, under the eerie glow of the black light, the walls revealed all sorts of images that Bret had painted with fluorescent black light paint. It was as if the doorway to his room was a doorway back to the Neolithic Period, and here I was encountering and deciphering a troglodyte’s history upon his cave walls.

This guy is a freak - but really creative, I thought to myself. And I want to be friends with him.

Since college - and then when we worked together for a brief stint in New York City at Barnes and Noble.com - we had always wanted to travel together because we knew we had a great creative energy between us. But as life and your early 20s would have it, either he was living in another country or I was broke in New York or Seattle. With one email in the spring of 2007 however, it all came together; not only did we both have the time and money to travel, but we both had been thinking of the trip as a creative endeavor. What if we could start a new category of travel called creative-connected travel? We pondered.

So we came up with a business name that meant nothing, because at the time, we had no idea what it would become. I had the image of youthful curiosity in my mind, which was inspired by my ten-year-old nephew, and so Jack Will Travel was born.

The first step was I hired a talented Seattle designer, Mikelle Morrison, to create a logo in the likeness of my nephew Jack. We then had business cards printed up and we built a fake Web site that told a fake story of how we received money to shoot a pilot. (Seems like business cards and a Web site legitimize people, right? Especially in a foreign country?) In the meantime, our friends followed the real story behind our journey which I kept on another blog.

Essentially we created a work of fiction and walked into it as caricatures of ourselves.

We knew we were onto something new, but we weren’t quite sure, so we followed two mottos; Trust the process and fake it till you make it. But really, isn’t that what everyone is doing until they have a budget behind them?

We followed the Grande Randonée trail system through France - Provence specifically. The Grande Randonée is a well marked, easy to follow trail of close to 8-9,000 miles through Spain, Italy, France, and northern Europe. As far as we could tell, not many Americans knew about this route, and we discovered -without a doubt - walking a country is the best way to not only get to know it, but to know its people as well. On more than one occasion, little old French ladies who couldn’t speak English saw us walking and sweating profusely and invited us in for lemonade, as well as to fill our water bottles and feed us. The stylish, seductive Parisian women – not so much. I think they found us a little too recro-sexual with our khakis and camping gear and not metrosexual enough. (We have a plan to combat this time around.)

So we walked around Provence hiking from one wine village to the next, sipping on some of the best wine in the world and pretending we knew what we were talking about –

Oh – this one is heady!
This one has a nice finish!
How long has it been aging?
Wow! You can really taste that oak!

We slept in orchards, designated camp sites, Gites (sort of high-end hostels in France), or wherever we could rest our heads. All the while we were meeting incredibly inspiring people from all over the world on a daily basis. We did it on the cheap and realized if two knuckleheads from suburban New Jersey can figure this out, anyone can. People just needed to be shown these well kept secrets.

Stay tuned for more of the story....

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