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Borders: Humanity in Exile

Earlier this year Holden and I ventured across the U.S. and Mexico border from San Diego to Tijuana. We took a 45 minute trolley ride to the Mexican border and crossed on foot. The juxtaposing skylines served as a depressing metaphor for what humanity has become. The richest people to have ever existing segregating themselves from the third world by a concrete barrier. All to protect our jobs, our border, our country. Nationality over humanity.

Immediately crossing the border there is a bridge to Tijuana that hovers over a filthy canal. In the canal are dozens of dirt and shit covered Mexicans.  Men, women, and children dressed in rags, teeth rotten, begging those Americans brave enough to cross for change. Cultural degradation as result of poverty, corruption, greed, and mal-education.

A few military guys crossing the board at the same time as Holden and I crack jokes about how they are going to “fuck some hookers” as they spit over the bridge down to where those “crazy fucks” are in the canal.

Years of conditioning has trained us to dehumanize the “other”. They are not one of us. Not human beings. We spit on them. We fuck them for pennies and brag about how cheap it was later. We separate ourselves from them by a few feet of concrete and steel. Dissociation -and the whole world is doing it.

More Borders: More Human Division

Then today I read a first hand account about another border. The border of Isreal and Palestine.

“I went to Israel. Saw a city much like any city in Europe. Clean streets. Beautiful big store fronts. Sidewalks. Nice signs telling you where to go. Little stands and shops everywhere. Great food from around the world. Pastries, pizza. It was Europe, basically. I loved it. It was very clean! It was great…

…You exit and on the other side [of the border]is a tall wire fence covered with barbed wire. There is graffiti all over the wall. The buildings are crumbling. No nice food, streets made of dirt, everyone is poor…”

It all sounds so familiar. Those fortunate enough to be rich create barriers to separate ourselves from those who are poor. Sometime we even call those people enemy. Subhuman. Terrorist. Barbarians. Backward.

Then we wonder why the have-nots are willing to die, to kill, and to terrorize. We wonder why these same people can be converted to extremism. Meanwhile we maintain a foreign policy of separatism, elitism, and turning a blind eye to exploitation. How can you call yourself a Christian, a Jew, a man of integrity, and moral atheist, a human being – and be okay with any of this?

That Dive Bar in Puerto Rico

I love dive bars. I seek them out. Something about a place most tourist avoid, a place that doesn’t serve mojitos just because it’s too much damn trouble to make, and tequila on the rocks is the house special just feels right. El Batey in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is that place.

El Batey

El Batey is pretty rustic. By rustic I mean the place basically consist of four walls and a bar. It’s perfect. The day I chose to visit I was lucky enough to be one of two patrons. The other guy at the bar was a white guy in his mid-70s. He was former Navy and also just happened to own the place. After a few beers I worked up the courage to swap a few stories and find out how the hell a 70 year old white guy came to own the coolest bar in San Juan.

It turns out he was stationed in Puerto Rico while serving in the Navy. He was a weather man – which according to him was the easiest job in the world.

“Its the same everyday. It’ll rain a little in the morning, clear up, and be sunny and 80s the rest of the day. Some days I didn’t even do anything – I just foretasted the usual. I even won a damn medal for being the most accurate weather guy in the Navy.”

After the Navy he opened the bar and never left.

If you find yourself in San Juan, Puerto Rico count yourself lucky and head over to El Batey for a long afternoon and night. Just sit back, enjoy the good conversation, and relax. The drink specials are Corona, a Margarita, or anything the bartender can concoct without a blender. El Batey is definitely the best dive bar in Puerto Rico.

Location:
Calle de Cristo 101
San Juan, PR 00901

2 Cheap and Delicious Meals in New York City

1. 53rd & 6th Halal Cart
The 53rd & 6th Halal Cart in New York City is the most popular and from my experience the most delicious food cart in the country. For about $5 you can get a gigantic portion of Indian style lamb, beef, or chicken with rice and pita.

I must have visited this food cart at least 3 times (ok more like 10). If you are looking for something that is equal parts cheap, quick, and tasty look no further. In fact, skip the gourmet meal and just eat street food. We spent $100 to eat dinner at Bobby Flay’s restaurant one night and would have rather had the Halal cart lamb any day of the week!

Street food will be a much more authentic NYC experience anyways. Your wallet and stomach will thank me.

halal

2. 2 Bros Pizza
If you are looking for an authentic slice of NYC style pie, that is also cheap, check out 2 bros pizza. You can find a 2 bros pizza almost anywhere in NYC so they are quite convenient and the taste/service is pretty consistent, but the most popular location is in East Village (between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave).

The slices of pizza cost you around $1 and are the size of a large infant. I challenge you to find a larger portion of food for less anywhere in NYC. There was a 2 bros pizza on the way to the subway from my hotel so I ended up grabbing a couple slices of $1 pizza more than a few times.

2 bros pizza

7 Tips to Navigate Nightlife in Tokyo, Japan

If you are in Tokyo for the first time I think it can be a bit overwhelming. It’s crowded, you are basically illiterate, and for the most part you don’t know the “rules”. That shouldn’t stop you from having a good time though. Overall, Tokyo and its people are pretty laid back and ready to have a good time. So here are a few tips that should help you successfully navigate Tokyo’s nightlife.

1. Public Transportation Stops at 11:00pm
If you are relying on public transportation to get around in Tokyo be aware that trains stop running around 11:00pm. That means you have to make a critical decision when you are going out. Do you party all night long or leave at 11:00pm?

I chose to party all night long twice while I was in Japan. Both times I was afraid that by 3am I would be regretting my decision and begging to pay a cab $100 to take me home to my nice warm bed. That didn’t happen though. The energy is so high, the clubs so crowded, and the drinks so delicious that before you know it you will have time traveled to morning.

Pulling an all-nighter is a rite of passage when it comes to nightlife in Tokyo so if you are planning a visit – plan to stay out all night at least once. It’s worth the experience.

2. People speak English
If you don’t speak Japanese, don’t worry. Almost everyone speaks at least some English. Most people are probably fluent.

If you need directions, want to start a conversation, or are just feeling chatting don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. Just be polite.

3. Roppongi
Roppongi is known as the clubbing district around Tokyo. If you are planning to pull that all-nighter this is a great place to do it. Choosing a place to go isn’t hard either, just look for the crowd and go.

4. English Friendly Bars
If you are feeling a little skittish about going to a random bar there are several “English Friendly” pub style bars floating around. The most popular of those bars is probably the HUB.

The HUB is modeled after a British drinking pub. You will find a lot of English speakers from around the world as well as a decent drink selection and bar tenders that are completely fluent in English.

I dropped by and was delighted to find the range of countries represented. There were people from all around Europe and the US hanging out – which was awesome.

5. Avoid Nigerians
There isn’t much crime in Japan, but there are one group of people that like to pray on tourists. Nigerians. They are easy to spot as they will be the only black guys bugging you on the streets of Tokyo. If they try to talk to you just say “no thanks” and walk away.

There are a lot of horror stories about these guys ripping tourists off and stealing from them. I assume these are probably the same Nigerians that spam your email.

6. Smut Culture
Japanese culture is very conservative, but smutty. You will find a wide variety of sex shops, “massage” parlors, and peep shows as you walk through the city. I did not personally partake in any of these activities, but overall most of these establishments, while creepy, seem completely safe. Use your judgement.

7. The Pregame
One thing I had no idea about in Tokyo is that you can drink on the streets. You can go right in a convenient store and grab and alcoholic beverage and enjoy while walking to the next bar.

Since Japan is so expensive we found that having a few drinks before arriving at the bars was a great way to keep our bank accounts happy. If you are wondering what to buy try a Chuahai.

A Chuahai is about 10% alcohol, but tastes a lot like carbonated lemonade. Beware – these things are a lot more powerful than they look/taste.

Ireland: The Pub

I spent the last week exploring Ireland. It wasn’t a place too different from the United States – much of the culture I found almost indistinguishable from our own.  That’s not to say Ireland wasn’t unique though – not by a long shot.

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The Irish – more-so than any culture I’ve experienced – are a hard bunch to dissect. They have a soul of iron that is almost impossible to pierce. The hundreds of years of British occupation, the civil wars, the bad economy – but nothing about any of this is revealed too easily. The Irish are layered. They don’t live with the hearts on their sleeves – and to a tourist you almost miss entirely who the people. It’s complex and maybe that is the real distinction between Ireland and America – a thousand years of history have made things a little more complicated.

But if you want to understand any of this you have to understand the heartbeat of Irish culture – the pub. The pub isn’t a place to dance your ass off and fist pump until you puke all over your friend’s shoes – the pub is proper. It’s a meeting place where you discuss the goings on of the world: politics, religion, life, and love. If you can see the pub as more than just a place to grab a beer you can start to uncover what it means to be Irish.

Here are few bars I crossed paths with:

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