Sunday, October 29, 2006

Pilgrimage complete …it’s all gravy from here on out!

I visited the Acropolis today. The weather was great. I'm not sure I want to give to much detail until I can sit and write a full story of the events, but you all deserve some pictures. I would ask that all of you would keep my Brother and his Wife in your thoughts as they are going through a tough time with a sick family member.

Friday, September 29, 2006


WOW! I feel like a rock star without all the booze, drugs, and women. Well I did get drugs. $200.00 for penicillin and ear drops. Doctor in Copenhagen doesnt know what i have but that should do the trick he says. German Beer is way better in Germany then in the states and the pretzels are huge. I also got to play some german game I call slam hand. This old German guy with a belt of bear claws (NO NOT the Doughnuts) the he supposedly acquired himself in battle, that's what I understood from the sign language. Well he wanted to play this hand slapping game with a bunch of Italians that were in Munich, it was Italian weekend at Oktoberfest, but none of them would play. Well when he saw Sara and Patrick playing cards he had a fit and tried to take them away. To make amends I offered to play the game with him. Little did I know what I was in for. the game starts out with all hands on the table. One person starts by slapping the hand of the other person, then the other person reciprocates with an even harder slap. Now begins the first of escalations in hostilities. The first person goes now but slams his fist on the other persons and back again. Next is shoves to the shoulders, then a punch to the chest, and finally slaps in the face. I won the second game when I showed the guy my finger deformed at birth, but he didnt know that. He felt so bad he bought me a beer and kept trying to hug me and kiss my head. I guess I have a bear wrestling friend forever in Munich somewhere.
To watch a clip of my game of SLAM HAND click on the picture and you will be taken to video of live action!

Leipzig was o.k. Still feels like it's under communist rule. Went out to the Zaha BMW offices and headquarters. Took some illegal shots inside and then got yelled at by security. "PAPERS AND PASSPORT! DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE THAT TAKE PICTURES IN HERE?"

"They are asked to leave?"


Anyways, you get the point. That night we went to out for a bite and when we got back to the hostel I forgot we had a key to let us in the front door. So I buzz the front desk to get let in and as I'm doing so I remember the key. As i am smiling into the little camera and pulling out my key I tell the guy who just said "YES?" that I have my key. "That's nice", he says, as if to ask if I wanted a cookie as a reward.

Munich = Beer, Leipzig = Communist, Hamburg = ?. I know one things for sure: You can ride the subway all day and never pay, but I think if you get caught you have to choose between a E500,00 fine, or get sent to Leipzig. We went to see the new Multimedia center on the Northern edge of town. We got off at the Beef Dominator metro stop and walked a mile without realizing the Halter-Top stop was right in front of the building. Returning back to the Hostel we missed the Gross Hands Off stop and ended up back at the central station. In Hamburg the metro stops all have names we can't pronounce, so we made them up. There also seems to be a problem with people being drunk and just passing out where it suits them.

I had to step over a guy that had some how gotten into our room in the middle of the night and was in a lump on the floor inside the door.

I knew when you go to Copenhagen you had to take a ferry across a large stretch of water. I didn't know they drove the entire train on it!

This was a very interesting building. Two concrete grain silos along the river were converted into condo's. The interesting part was how they enginnered the structure so allow the living space to be on the outside of the silo's and the inner core to remain empty as if to celebrate it's original intention.

This was one of many highlight to the trip. We got a personal tour of Jean Nouvel's Danish Radio Preformance center construction site. They have a display area with drawings, models, and multimedia demonstrations. Outside they have a bunch of wall mock-ups along with a shed that contains a model of the interior perfomance space. By code, because there are acoustics involved, they are required to have a 'to scale' model of the performace space that they can test the sound in, which requires pumping gas to change the density of the air inside that mimics air's density at that scale.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Being Tom Denney

Dedicated to my Brother who wonders every day what my daily routine is like.

As the cool air circulates through the livingroom/kitchen/my bedroom (the couch) I fumble around for my cell phone as it chirps every few seconds, and I can never seem to remember exactly where on the floor I put it the night before as I fell asleep. I only remember it was somewhere least likely to get stepped on or kicked if I got up in the middle of the night. It's 6am and the sun wont be up for another hour or so, and the horizon which I look right out over the rooftops at, is just starting to turn blue. I always notice the clouds, they will usually disappear with the arrival of the sun as if somehow being warmed by it turns them translucent. Walking to the bathroom, I turn on the light and feel the humidity of it's ill ventilated tomb-like atmosphere. Everything is finished and shiny sealed concrete, even the counter tops. Inevitably whomever took the last shower never remember to turn the valve closed on the shower head and as I lean in to turn the water on I remember this annoying fact just as the cold water steams down on my head. FUCK! Every morning! The rest of the time is spent finishing bathroom stuff, with the exception of shaving, that's only on the weekends.
I quietly get a pot of water going on the stove and try not to make to much noise as Patrick is still sleeping we share the livingroom/kitchen/bedroom (he has an air mattress). I finish getting dressed and as the water starts to boil I pour it into the french coffee press and remember I don't have any baguette left from yesterday so today I will just have to get one on the way to studio and fore-go the butter and jam. I'm out the door by 6:45am; Keys, wallet, sketchbook, living on the 7th floor requires this check. I hope there is no dog shit in the first block, as this is where I will step in it if there is, still not totally awake. Half way to studio there is a bakery that just reopened a week ago. They were on holiday the first couple of weeks we were here. The lady knows all I want is a petite baguette and also knows I cant understand when she say cinquante-cinq she is telling me it's E0,55 (that's about $0.65 in English) so she always turns the display on the cash register and smiles pointing to the price. It's still warm and chewy as I take a bite on my way out the door. The streets are quiet and only a handful of people are out, but all the bars are open with a few people sitting inside sipping their cafe, having the first mornings smoke and talking to the bartenders. One morning I'll get up the nerve to go inside one and have my cafe with them, I just don't know if they would understand or enjoy listening to me babble about the two new mosquito bites I got from sleeping with the windows open last night.
Arriving at studio is always the same: a dark hallway leading back to that scary-ass elevator I got stuck in that first week. Why do I still have the urge to jump up and down in it, WHY! I actually have to restrain myself from bouncing up and down as it ascends the 3 floors. Opening the door the studio is warm. I walk around opening windows like an innkeeper getting ride of the piss stench left from the previous nights drunk boarders. I finally get settled at my desk, computer booting-up, baguette in hand. I promise myself to only eat half of it so When my stomach starts to growl around 1 or 2 in the afternoon I can satiate my appetite until dinner and be proud I only spent cinquante-cinq for breakfast and lunch today. I check my email replying to those who have sent me emails, that takes about an hour. If I have just returned from a trip I go through the 100's of photos (no those 6-8 I put up on the blog are not the only ones I take). If it's the middle of the week I start to doodle and write in my journal, copies of which will be available in December for only $39.99 + $9.99 for a DVD containing all the photo's from the semester abroad.
By this time any one of the others have shown up and we discuss the next weekends trip and strategies for optimal site visits along with what we have to show for studio today (doodles and enough reading to have 20 minutes of conversation). 10am Prof Roesch arrives and wants to know if which ever straggler is not there will be there shortly. We go back to doodling on trace or in our sketch books. Peter (Prof. Roesch) prefers sketchs instead of looking at computer images. I am wishing the weather here wasn't so hot, having the windows open is a constant distraction as scooters are always whizzing down the street below, and with the building across the way so close it seems to amplify the noise up. I am beginning to wonder why do they need to have mufflers that make that much noise, it's gotten to the point where it is more annoying then the dog shit everywhere. I'm tempted to keep a box of rocks next to me and start chucking them out the window. As quick as the thought enters my head I begin to think "How American of me, someone else annoys me so my first reaction is to throw a rock." Can you have diplomatic relations with 10,000's of scooter riders and ask them all to get quieter mufflers? Maybe I'll try next week.
By 2pm things are beginning to break-up at studio, each of us is secretly planning the rest of our afternoons so as not to let anyone know where we are going, as that might give away some cool new secret place in Paris you get to explore on your own and then come back and tell everyone how cool this new area was you went to. By about 6 I'm sweaty enough and thinking about dinner and start to make my way home. I put a quick menu together in my head...4 people for dinner, Sara always brings the bread, haven't had pasta in a few days, and the tomatoes are always excellent at the Fran Prix Super Marche. The egyptian guy next door has 30 barrels of different olives. Today he also has huge fresh figs, and I have honey in the pantry back at the apartment to pour on them for a nice simple dessert. I get home by 6:45 or 7 and take a small glass of diet coke out on the deck as my evening 'cocktail'. I start dinner and preparing it all only takes as long as boiling the pasta, the rest of the ingredient are cut and simmering by the time the pasta is done. A quick toss in the pan and I'm turning it out onto plates. Patrick takes a picture, like every time I cook dinner, to tease his friends back home about the fact he gets to live with a former chef in France for a semester. As the sun light fades about 9pm it signals time to get a little more work in for the day, back to studio or reading for a few hours. As we break they ask how much was dinner tonight...E2.00 each will cover the total cost of the meal and I break even with only my experience and time spent.
The walk back to studio is uneventful. Looking in the window of the bar with the Stella Artois sign reveals the same french faces and the young Mediterranean owner/bartender. I try to convince myself that tonight will be the night I will go in if he is still open when I am walking home from studio. Why should I be afraid? I will bring a book, I tell myself, feeling like it will be a well deserved reward for only spending cinquante-cinq on breakfast and lunch. I spend a few hours doing research, scibbling some design ideas for the Les Halles project, throw them in the garbage, embarrassed to show them to Peter. At midnight I start to close up the studio and head home. I see the lights are on in the Stella bar as I approach, the first stool is occupied, then the next and the next, the small bar is full, I couldn't even pass the people lined up to get to the only open stroll at the back. Oh well maybe tomorrow night. I yawn wide as I pass the window making sure anyone caring enough to look out will see I am to tired to bother with their little hole in the wall.
I ride the elevator up and emerge into the pitch-black hallway. All the lights in public areas of buildings are on timers and after a few minutes they turn off so lights in hallways arn't on 24-7 like in the states. You have to hit the switch to illuminate the area you are in. Going inside, I undress. I take the cushions off the couch and put my cell phone, which now acts as my alarm clock, on the floor somewhere least likely to get stepped on or kicked if I got up in the middle of the night. As I drift off to sleep I think of my wife, tomorrow is out 10 year anniversary and I would love to be able to kiss her.

Back from London: Piss and Vinegar

Well I got back from London last night. I dont know how anyone can afford to live there. Pounds just seem to fly out of your pocket even when you are just standing still. What a great weekend to go though. Not only was it the last weekend of the Future Cities exhibit at the Barbican school, it was also the OPEN HOUSE, where some 600 buildings not normally open to the public are opened and some offer guided tours. Of course the Gherkin was a pre-book only and getting tickets were impossible. I did get down by the old Batter-sea power plant which I have always enjoyed the shape of and let me tell's more monstrous then I ever imagined. We got into Norman Foster's office (WOW!). Walked around Trafalgar's square Saturday night where they were having a huge concert (Scissor Sisters) Would have prefer ed they not been there, as the square was covered with their stage and junk all weekend preventing a true viewing of it's enormity. Monday was up at 5am to take a train out to Salisbury for steak (joke). Took a bus from there out to Stone Henge, which was cool and I enjoyed it, but not as impressive as if getting in the inner circle for a sun-rise, or -set tour might have been. Then back to Salisbury for more steak and a quick run around the cathedral. 1pm train back to London and a quick shopping spree at Harrods. I bought some of those shaving cream bars you use with the brush and after shave, But that was after I went down to the gentleman's lounge and sat for a hot shave with a straight razor. It felt great and was nice to sit for the 25 minutes the entire thing took, but let me say this...if you face is not accustomed to a straight edge amount of after shave will fix the burn. I think I had an entire layer of skin removed with my whiskers, which were whiskery and why I decided to go in the first place. Before the shave I sat up in the food court and had a bowl of Bouillabaisse, when, as I was slurping away, I was fortunate enough to witness the weekly parade of Scottish bag pipers as they made their way in procession through the aisles. All in all it was an o.k. trip and I was glad I saved my money for the last day at Harrods, in my opinion the bread and water for 3 days was worth the pampering before getting on the train home last night. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention...dont bring pocket knives to the U.K., apparently any kind is considered a concealed weapon and can get you 5 years in prison, even if you re trying to LEAVE the country with it in your backpack. I dont really want to get into the details on that one. Oh and what do you get when you drink cider? Piss & Vinegar!

Foster's City Hall,outside and in!

Battersea Power Plant

Some Rocks I saw on the way to the Steak House!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Cemetary in Paris. Half the crypts have been broken into and really is a shame.

These are more shots of Arles and the train station in Avignon there which is really cool looking and has this slight eliptical curve that really gives you a sense of speed especially when you go up stairs and out onthe platform when the trains pull in.

Monday, September 11, 2006

4 cities in 3 days!

O.K....first off I am a total idiot when it comes to managing blog journal! I didn't realize some of you had been posting comments, but for some reason I managed to turn on a setting that required me to approve comments before they were posted. Anyways, I go to the page with about 8 comments from people that were waiting to be approved. Needless to say I have now turned that off and I think people should be able to post comments now by: 1.clicking on the white "comments" link, 2. writing comment, 3.retyping the carnival mirror word in the line below (anti-spam tool), 4. choosing if you want to post anonymous or not, 5. clicking on the "post" button.

Now for some photo's from the trip:

Palace of the Popes, Avignon
SCARY! Lyon gargoyles are always sticking their tongues out.
Sunrise out the window of my bedroom at Lyon Hostel.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWater trough in Roman amphitheater ruins
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingHills of Lyon two cathedrals for the price of one.

So I had another cool experience when I was walking in the Parc De La Tete D'Or on the norther elbow of the Rhone in Lyon. There was an old building that looked like it might have been administration offices for the zoo there. An artist had a bunch of his work on display and was working on new stuff. From what I could tell,and am half assuming based on the living area I sneaked a peek at behind a curtain, is that he got to live in the space as part of an art grant. Seeing as how the Museum of Contemporary Art is Ont he other side of the park it's totally likely. Well one of the ideas he was working with was shaped derived from nature and applying those shapes to working sculpture that created space...potentially livable space. The idea of deriving new concepts about structural integrity from structures in nature is a new idea. It just isn't used enough in my opinion. Well when I started to talk to the artist and asked if he had extra copies of his 24 page book for sale he said no and acted as if he didn't speak english and referred me to his friend with him. I started to explain that I was a student in architecture and the forms he was investigating were very important to organic space conception. Then the artist jumped back in and started speaking to me again almost with a zen ease as if we both understood each other, but didn't want to be dorky about how excited he was that some understood. I could be wrong, as I said these are just my perceptions of the events. Finally, after showing me more about how the circular tube with interwoven sticks that could be shaped in numerous ways, he walked over to his work table and dug under his sketch book and pulled another copy of his book out and gave it to me. I asked if he would accept money for it, but he refused.

The Pitch... and other useful obstacles in children's games. On my way back to the Hostel to get my bags I stopped in this plaza outside an old theater. A few kids showed-up with a soccer ball escorted by one of their mother's and an older brother. The kids looked like they were about to play soccer on the wood planked plaza surface, as the smallest one was wearing goalie gloves. Well a heated game of Rocks, Paper, Scissors began, but took a form that appeared to be more like Ones, Twos, Threes, Fours, and Fives...I couldnt figure out how the winner was determined, but that person obviously was then out. Well I thought for surebased on the numbers they would play 3 on 3 witht he goalie being full-time, some sort of half-pitch soccer. Not the case, as I have quicly discovered being American in France. The older brother went and sat down, and confussion set in as they had to scramble to reasses the teams. So it was going to be 3 on 3 with 3 offense against 2 defense and the goalie. Of course the goal was the mouth of the narrow path crossing the water. and the penaly of missing your shot on goal would be having to go inteh water to retreve the ball. Well it must have been the goalies mom as he went over and begged to have his brother be allowed to play. Absolutly not! He was to big to play with the rest of them, but her motives were clear as she sat pouring hot tea into two cups handing one to teh older brother. She was probably at that stage where she had realized as most mothers do that her oldest son was going to be on his own in a few years and she had decided she was going to take advantage of those moments when she can to spend time with him. Rejected, the goalie returned to the group and suddenly the game became a little clearer. The boy who had lost Ones, Twos, Threes, Fours, and Fiveswas instructed to close his eyes and with that one of the others boys kicked the ball off to a far corner of the plaza and everyone except the loser scattered, hiding. Opening his eyes, the loser scanned for the ball fast and ran after it, bringing it back to the center of the plaza, leaving it there and started to hunt for the others as one kid taunted him in one direction another snuck out from the bushes behind him darting for the ball. The loser heard him on the wood planks and spun running for the ball two...You think carpet burn hurts?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Lyon and left luggage

So I got off the high speed train from Avignon yesterday and the exits are closed. Seems someone has left a suitcase in the plaza outside and the policz think it might be a bomb so nobody can go near the exit which is a 25' high wall of glass. That was exciting. Fast Forwad an hour later, 1 robotic bomb sniffer, and a fearless french policeman, the all clear was given. Mean while who's ever bag it was and all their belongings were just lzft in the plaza spilled everywhere, as all the annoyed rush-hour commuters walked over it. Next I take the metro to the stop for my hostel and ask a ldy directions . . ."oh, you go down that street, take a left where the stairs are, and then you have to be very courageous", then she point to the top of the cliffs right behind the buildings " up there is where your hostel is." I have a slight conception of that philosophy guy that was doomed to keep rolling the stone up the hill only to have it roll back down and have to push it back up again.
Today more sights and hill climbing, there is a huge cathedral that is even further up the hill that overlooks all of Lyon. Tomorrow I go back to Paris and get ready for London next week. Oh yeah, and I forgot that I told my roommate Wed. night before I left "If Prof. Roesch asks where I am tomorrow in studio, tell him I went to Lyon to buy a pig." I dont know if he believed them, but when I talked to one of them yesterday, he said Roesch wanted to know when he could come over for dinner then.

For those of you that say you would leave a comment but arnt sure how...right below this post you should see "0 comments" in white or if not 0 whatever number of comments have been left. Just click on "COMMENTS" and it will take you to a page where you can leave a message for me. Dont forget you have to retype the weird looking word in the empty ox below, that prevents spammers from leaving advertising comments. I would love to hear from all of you and know how everyone is doing.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I'm in Avignon so it must be Friday

Got on the wrong high speed train in paris yesterday, wound up in Neins, not Avignon. Oh well, go with the flow. Using a french keyboard at youth hostel in Arles, France. keys are totally arranged different.Traveling laptop, just one change of clothes, and just a pencil and small sketchbook to write and draw in. Today I might stay to see bull fights, but probably will go to Avignon to see gothic cathedral and then on to Lyon tonight...that is the plan for now, but who knows I might get on the wrong train. Post More at the next computer I can get on.