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Volcano Soup – Potosi, Bolivia

granted, it IS considered to be a touristy thing.

but a touristy thing for Bolivians.

which ain’t touristy for me.

and even though a lot of restaurants offer it, there was said to be only one that does it properly.

mmmm.

my new show on the BBC.

a year or so ago, I got a call from the BBC. they wondered if I had any ideas for a new show, so I sent ’em a few. one of them got picked up for 5 episodes.

it’s called ‘Treasure Hunters‘ [original, I know…] and we filmed the first season in South America.

they’re listed below, with links and a few production notes.

 

Argentina

1. Buenos Aires, Argentina [watch it here]. a long time ago, one man brought tango into the mainstream, with one startling act. in this, the first episode, I traveled to almost every neighborhood in B.A. in search of a 100+ year old record. what you don’t see in this was the constant rain, which hampered filming horrendously. when I’m sitting in the cafe, the sound is barely recognizable because it was pissing down outside. the man playing at the beginning of the show is famous, but he didn’t want me to talk about that. and the record store owner, Paco, turned out to give one of the best interviews I had on this trip, and basically carried the show. I got lucky.

 

Bolivia_22. La Paz, Bolivia [watch it here]. this was my favorite one in the entire series. half of that stems from Bolivia being my favorite place in South America, the other half being that this was black magic, something I’m obsessed with [learning about]. the treasure was good luck, but in the tangible form, so I travel from witch to shaman and back. hit with a discouraging fortune, dead llamas and a gorgeous [photo above] ceremony. and I still carry the treasure around with me.

 

Colombia

3. Bogota, Colombia [watch it here]. at one point, near the end, I border on losing my shit. this was the final episode we shot, and it all kind of came crashing down – but in a good way. remember my show on National Geographic? the one where I start crying after the Grand Canyon? same here. I suddenly realize I’m standing on the edge of the lake that launched the world’s biggest treasure hunt, El Dorado, and it’s me talking about it. on a show. for the BBC. to say it was ‘special’ doesn’t seem to do it justice. per behind-the-scenes, I went to this lake with my friend Jessica, who helped immensely. the expert at the beginning of the film was also my landlord, which seriously helped cover the cultural end of it. this is also a treasure I carry with me.

 

Ecuador4. Montecristi, Ecuador [watch it here]. this was the viewer’s favorite. it was also the first one I shot. perhaps it was the most popular because it was short, simple, but with a twist – of sorts. the town was a sad one, but the hat I left with is one I’ll pass down to my nephew. a funny side note is that I filmed all of these [save for asking strangers to hold the camera] myself. so if you notice in the walking shots, I’m looking out of the corner of my eye to make sure no one stole my camera.

 

Chile5. Valparaiso, Chile [watch it here]. this one was the most stressful, and one that I only got through because I have a dear friend who lives here. stressful because after filming in Ecuador, I got trapped at the border because of some riots so violent that they closed down the border [more on that in another post]. and then it was 30 hours of bus rides [one I got caught with coca leave on, and questioned by the police]. so then, finally, I arrive here and begin filming… only to get caught in another massive riot. I was stuck here for two weeks, with barely enough money to eat. but thanks to my friend, who happens to own a guesthouse, he refused any money and sent me on my way with a full belly.

 

 

… and that’s it, the first season. there might be a second one, there might not.

but I’m proud to have done it, to have gotten it out there.

I had an idea.

I made that idea work.

and it aired on the world’s biggest network.

so yeah…

I’ll take it.

 

 

garbage from havana.

cub_11

I loved Havana.

this has been documented in a photo gallery [one of my personal favorites] a podcast from the balcony where this short begins, as well as a street musician who’ll break your heart.

I loved it so much, I even posted how to sneak in.

and – in the midst of all of that – there were some gorgeous shots that ended up on the cutting room floor. maybe they were shaky, maybe it was too dark, maybe it was funny without relevance… whatever. but I couldn’t bring myself to throw them in the trash.

so, to the tune of my favorite Cuban song, from my favorite Cuban voice – the gradoux.

the beautiful gradoux.

 

 

a vespa over a bridge.

I miss New York, I really do.

it, along with Ireland, were the two places I’d never been, but as soon as I landed I felt at peace.

would I ever go back? sure. for a lot of money. but that’s the rub – you need a lot of money.

so, until then, I’ll keep calling myself a ‘fake New Yorker’ [barely true] and digging up old footage of my time there.

ps – this is the Manhattan Bridge. not the Brooklyn Bridge. sorry, got all excited.

 

rodovaldo suarez – blind street musician [havana]

you’ll sleep here tonight

while this site is reserved for things of mine, when a vignette so well put together as this one I recently did with award-winning director J.R. Heffelfinger is produced, I couldn’t help but share it.

this – one of the more heartbreaking stories from the road I’ve ever encountered.

a walk through marrakech’s central square

the square we brave the annoyances of Marrakech for – with her fortune tellers and orange juice mafia. the story-tellers of old and tourists of new. you’ll catch a glimpse of the snake charmers, but only a glimpse – he’s the one almost chasing me in the right frame – demanding some money. sadly, it’s come to that, ‘meester, some monee!’, but hey… there’s also my favorite tea pimp at the beginning, if you ever go to this strange land, I’ll make the introductions.

the old [shanghai] apartment

this is more for me than you… me and my old neighbor, Scott.

if you go to Shanghai’s Tai Kang Lu area now, you’ll find this building to have been raped right into a karaoke mecca. but it didn’t use to be like that. no, back in the day, this old knitting factory was full of boutique artisans – 5 floors of them – and a funky couple of kids on the roof. that was us. we could be as loud as we wanted, drink as much beer as we wanted, eat as many chemicals as we wanted, watch as many sunrises from the roof as we wanted – and nobody cared. there are a thousand memories that come to mind simply from re-watching this – the nights spent out of the deck, the cold winters spent holed up inside.

these would also be the doors the police kicked in, that would be the stuff they ruined. I’d never get back – for that very reason – and I never really wanted to… until I found this laughingly bad-res video that was filmed on an old phone.

for my neighbor.
for a striped dress and for the lawn chairs.
and the Blade Runner themed party that never happened.
for the bbq’s and the $30 Jim Beam.
the custom table and hookah we had to bribe the Turkish to help us fill.
for the smog and McDonald’s delivery.
for the fucking memories, my god.

this was us – way back when.

Bolivian Mines

as shown in the heartbreaking film ‘The Devil’s Miner’, life as a Bolivian Miner begins at ages you wouldn’t believe.

and usually ends before the miner turns 40.

on the outskirts of Potosi, lies a mountain famed for taking those lives.

a group of us and a guide – a previous miner who managed to escape that lifestyle, took us into the beast.

to deliver gifts to the men inside.

to play with dynamite.

and to pay respects to Tio – The Devil, and guardian of all those who enter.

the shanghai [exile] diaries – part two [sukothai] & three [chiang mai]