Thursday, May 27, 2010

Photo Break


Ulan Baatar

Name another country who's one international airport is named after a 12th century warlord.

I wonder what Chingghis Khan would say about his Mongolia today. The capital city of Ulan Baatar looks like something in Blood Meridian. The capital has moved over a dozen times before settling here. Appropriate avatar for nomadism.

Another Mongolian Tale:

Day 1: Anne arrives at airport and looks for driver with sign, arranged for by Michelle. Driver nowhere to be seen. Arrival floor ratio of solicitous drivers to actual arrivers--2::1. My impression from epicanthal Y-chromosomes is already profound.

Finally relent to a cabbie that's been vising me since I stepped out of customs and take the overpriced ride to The Seoul Hotel. Cab-music is strange techno of the following words, which will run on repeat in my head for the succeeding 24 hours:

Rainy days, can't you feel the rain in your face.

Finally see Michelle. We get me some food, then head to second floor bar/stripclub at hotel. See an old white dude get down with a semi-nude local on the dance floor. Embarrassing/hilarious/deflating.

I make eye contact with "Anna." Anna is an Asian goddess.

She comes over and without provocation starts dancing straddling my legs. I keep my head low and talk to Michelle like Anna's not there. Anna eventually starts The Lap Dance, putting my hand on her flesh, pressing her breasts against my face.

Reminder: I've just deboarded from 26 hours of transit and am dead tired.

Michelle's laughing. "Grab her ass!" Though Anna's the one almost totally naked and failing to turn me, I'm the one embarrassed and looking around the room for compassion. I notice Anna's left nipple is only half-erect.

After what feels like an eternity I finally indulge Anna, stroke her ass and smile at her. I look over at Michelle. "They know not to try this with me. I'm not making eye contact with anyone."

Eye contact...

A confused exchange of money ends my lap dance, and I ask to take her picture. Anna SQUEEELS. Michelle: Yeah, noooo. Don't do that. Anna's madam-boss looks up from the computer she's been playing online poker at in the corner since we got in. Pause. She returns her gaze to the screen.

Michelle and I go back to the hotel room and I crash like a stock market. Wake up the next morning more anxious than ever to get the fuck out of this city.

Ulan Baatar from Ill Iterate on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The First

Michelle Borok. Essayist, Businesswoman, The Giant's Robot, Member One of the "Best People We Know" Triad, Mongolian.

Someone once explained to me that the only reason parents can afford the risk of not vaccinating their children is that everyone else's kid is. I could only afford the risk of taking this trip because Michelle had already vaccinated us from danger and ignorance. So first off: thanks, Michelle.

Beauty, nature and ten days without technological communications all highlit the steppes. All that notwithstanding, the 200 mile trek around the Terelj region in Mongolia showed me only one thing: humanity. [Sidenote: Most of the pictures I took were on film and of people. When they're developed I'll dedicate another post/page to just them.]

Watching Michelle's humanity was a wonder. It took her five days to even mention life back in Los Angeles, the game-players, the game-changers, the cunts, the idiots, us. That might be a world record. And then she fell in love. And then she fell in love.

Watching people fall in love is pretty amazing.

Say, won't you stay for a while

I saw Mars. I saw roads dotted with quartz, slate, crushed by hooves, drunken ambling, the human toxic faces the great outdoors unlocked and it's a wonder to hear the silence in my head is a rope of water running from the back of my head, a faucet, an Indian breeze is my hair.

Thank you, Mongolia.

Monday, May 24, 2010


There is much more to say about my trip than I can pump out of the world's largest Samsung "laptop" on borrowed time at an internet kiosk in Incheon International Airport, where I wait for the last leg of my flight back to NYC to start boarding (seriously, this computer is ridiculous), but let's reverse-engineer The Trek with today. The last day.

Day 12: Anne heads home.
My flight to Seoul is scheduled to leave from Ulan Baatar at 6:45am, so I need to arrange for a cab to pick me up at 4am. I need to go to the lobby of my 3-star hotel. You would not be remiss to assume the three stars represent how many things worked in the room. 1. The door, 2. the refrigerator, and 3. the phone. My bed was missing one of four legs and hobbled. The ceiling had shit stains (not making this up), and our door was half-broken. The floor, pieced together with what felt like driftwood and rope, was covered in a vomit-stained carpet (still not making this up), and the shower dribbled lukewarm water for only a minute at a time. Not complaining, really. Just funny.

I go to the lobby and ask the receptionist first if she speaks English. She does. I request a reservation for a taxi to take me to the airport the following morning at 4. I have to be explicit about it because the taxi that was ostensibly reserved to pick me up from the same airport had never showed up. While I'm talking to her the phone rings. She picks up the receiver and gently hangs it up. Like she doesn't want to interrupt our conversation. I pause incredulously and look at the phone before repeating my taxi request a second and third time. I think she got it. I wonder who called.

3:50 am, I saunter down the stairs (elevator doesn't work now, naturally) with my heavy luggage, and the noise I'm making wakes up the receptionist and doorman who are both sleeping on the couch in the lobby. Doorman doesn't bother opening his eyes or standing up, but the receptionist quickly tucks her shirt into her suit-skirt and pulls down the matching vest to align her gig.

She gestures out the door to the cab waiting for me. Turns on one lamp and unlocks the front door.

Cab takes me to Chingghis Khan airport 60km/hour over the speed limit. Mongolians drive like they want to die.

Chingghis Khan airport has all of 2 gates. Neither of them have signs. Yet it miraculously has one of the only real coffee machines in possibly all of Mongolia (all the coffee here is freeze-dried powder. Again, not complaining. Just an observation). The real coffee is surprisingly OK. I'm beginning to feel like a bourgeois cunt again. I start checking email. 50, 60, 100, 300 new emails... ugh.

I hear a sound on the PA.

"Ishii, Anne Makiko what sits in 16F please go to Gate 1 please."
(repeat at 2 minute intervals for ten minutes)
(repeat consecutively for another ten)

Thing is, I am AT Gate 1. There is not one employee there. I try to flag anyone wearing a suit with pins on it. None of them want to help me, or they don't understand my sign language. I enunciate to a confused woman in a suit with pins:

Someone is paging me.

She says, "Bejing you! OK," and points at the mob of people standing between gate 1 and 2 (which are really only ten yards apart). I walk away from her and try someone else, who says in broken English to follow her. She opens a door and points down. It's a stairwell. I walk down it.

I walk down the stairwell directly to a storage closet full of stacked plastic chairs and a woodscreen. I feel cold air leaking through broken windows and someone behind the wall talking loudly over clanging metal (probably cooking). So now I'm in a storage closet. Alone.

I run back up convinced I just escaped a Mongolian airport gang rape, to what I thought was Gate 1. Still no one there, still my name being paged. I flag someone else down and say, "someone is calling me" and point at the speaker in the ceiling two feet above my head. Miraculously, he speaks solid English and knows what's going on, but the explanation is still disconcerting.

"Don't worry. Your bag being checked at customs. Ignore naming."

It's 6:45 now and our flight's supposed to have taken off, so now I'm worried I'm actually on the wrong planet. I ask the people around me where they're going.


I run into a couple Hungarians Michelle and I happened to meet on the last day of our wildnerness trek. They are apparently boarding a plane at the same time out of the same gate as me. I don't try to unravel the logical impossibility of three flights boarding at the same time out of the same gate, and just push my way to the front of the "line" (more like the trading floor of the NYSE). I get on a plane following the snippets of Korean and Japanese I hear (all equally confused as me).

It's the first time in my life I actually feel safer on the plane than on the ground.

The flight attendants welcome us to "Flight 501 to Tokyo via Seoul" so I rest easy and fall asleep through the three hours it takes to get out of Mars.

It's a beautiful place.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


on the eve of my departure for mongolia i decided to see my dad for the first time in 14 years. i asked him to meet me at the Long Beach Aquarium upon someone's suggestion ("It's quiet, it's public, it's fun. You guys won't feel any pressure."). it's also spitting distance from interTrend, where i go in to work every few weeks from NYC. i'd never been to the aquarium before but it's adjacent to the beach i go to most every morning before work to sip my coffee and unwind. it's the beach i affectionately call "mine."

i've spent many hours there thinking about you, about me, about other things i affectionately call "mine."

after my father and i did a quick pass through the overpopulated aquarium, my dad said he wanted to take me somewhere. he drove us over to the Long Beach Museum where we had hamburgers at the outdoor cafe. on the way out of there he tells me:

This is Esperanza St. and when you were born this is where we lived. Right here. You should remember this. For the first 2 years of your life we lived here. I was always busy with work but your mom would walk you in the stroller to the beach every day. One day a car hit you while your mother walked you across the street. She called to tell me, "Makiko popped out of the stroller he hit us so suddenly!" I'm sure your mother still bears the scar on her hand.

it was my beach.
it was my beach.
it was my beach.

it was mine.

(my beach. remember?)

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Anyone want to help me design a new website for me?