Category Archives: North America

Toronto in the Wintertime? No Problem.

On a lark I flew up to Toronto for a quick getaway with a friend. Since it’s wintertime and most sane people travel south, we scored some cheap tickets, booked a cute airbnb, stuffed our wool socks into our weekenders and shoved off.

First timers to Toronto will instinctively try to compare the city to any other western city that they’ve been to (thoughts of New York and Chicago crossed my mind), but the truth is that Toronto is actually a definition unto itself. The city is brimming with culture and character, an amalgamation of old buildings, urbanization, and cultural diversity that stands out.

Toronto is big. Not New York big in the high-rise sense, but it will take you time to cross from one end of the city to the other. Street art is all over the place. In fact I’ve never been to a city with more urban expressiveness.

Another thing that struck me was how diverse the people are, perhaps due to a more forgiving and less paranoid immigration policy. The presence of Asians and Africans is solid, and every person you meet goes beyond friendly, a trait that Canadians have defined for themselves in the world.

As a result of the city’s size and diversity, the burgeoning food scene in Toronto is incomparable. Everything you eat is good, and anything you want can be found. (Once again, apologies for not including food pictures, but that’s what instagram is for).

Our airbnb was located in one of the many old neighborhoods that cover Toronto. The houses all looked weathered and experienced, as if they’ve been around long enough to tell you stories.

Being avid drinkers, my friend and I got to explore some of the night haunts. The bars we found were lively and full of character. Toronto is definitely a place to have a good time, day or night.

So, definitely planning on going back when its warmer! Here’s to you, Toronto.

Red or Green Chile? (New Mexico)

After a month of procrastinating, I decided that I needed to create a post about my recent trip to New Mexico. The place left such a lasting impression on me that honestly caught me by surprise, since we don’t really hear much chatter about the state over here on the East Coast.

A panorama taken on a random road going nowhere.

New Mexico struck me as a hidden gem of the American southwest, where those who know, know, and those who don’t know are told about it but passively nod off the recommendation for seemingly more exotic travel destinations.

Once you get there though, you realize that you’re in a truly magical place. I felt that the land and the people had this spiritual elevation that was both attractive and strange to my sensibilities.

The tone of the place is set by its terrain, large swaths of flat desert plains interrupted by random plateaus, red cliffs, and mountains. Everything is red and blue. The rusty clay that’s in every rock, the turquoise that they mine from the mountains, the gorgeous clear blue skies that must be quite intense in the summertime.

My pictures might convey a lonely place, there are in fact many, many people that live in New Mexico, strewn across the countryside and living in beautiful adobe homes. There is a large Native American contingent there that have separate tribal reservations, most inaccessible to the general public since they are private territories.

Our trusty steed, who I named Salazar.

Although the food is heavily influenced by the neighboring Mexico, New Mexico’s cuisine is unique in its palette and presentation (sorry I don’t have pictures, but you know, google). The first thing they’ll ask you when you order something is if you’d like red (hatch) chile or green, and they put that stuff on absolutely everything. Delicious but eventually overbearing, since you can’t really get away from it!

They also love their beef since it’s prime cattle country there. I had a burger there that almost moved me to tears.

The people there are so friendly and engaging, and not once did I perceive a negative emotion or sentiment. The roads are very fast, and everybody knows to stay out of the fast lane since the speed limit is 75 on major highways.

I left New Mexico feeling relaxed and peaceful. The big beautiful skies and exciting terrain was such a breath of fresh air to this city slicker. Definitely intending on going back, multiple times.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Just got back from a trip down to Punta Cana. I don’t have much to say since my trip was just straight beach time and I did not get a proper exposure to the culture there, but man is Punta Cana beautiful.  Cheap to get to, cheap to stay in, completely worth it.  We chose to not do the resort route, but instead to get an Airbnb to save some money. Punta Cana is very safe and tourist friendly, so deviating a little bit does no harm.  Don’t be afraid to try the seafood, and make sure you buy a lot of drinking water to keep yourself hydrated!  Also, be aware that there is a problem with coastal seaweed there. Beaches must be cleaned daily.








Charleston in Charge

I just got back from a trip down to Charleston, South Carolina to visit some good friends who had recently moved there. I’d been hearing some great things about the city; how it’s steeped in history but has become a burgeoning cultural gem in the South (USA).





We ran the gamut on that town.  Charleston’s slow paced, Southern culture is being revitalized by an influx of vibrant young transplants.  There are moments where cultures clash, but overall I think that it’s doing wonders for the city.

Right now there is a purity to Charleston, something magical and mythic.  You feel like your imagination could run rampant if you let it.  All that Spanish moss in the trees, man.





My photography professor in College was adamant about never taking photos in cemeteries, due to the potential for your photos to be tragically banal.  While I somewhat agree, I couldn’t help but want to capture the beautiful old cemeteries around Charleston.  Most have graves that are 200 years old, beautifully worn into the marshy terrain.

History is very important in Charleston, and its hard to ignore its bloody past as a slave port.  My impression of the locals is that they are in a transition period of remembering the mistakes of the old world, but trying to move forward.







The pace is slow, the people are polite, and the heat is hot.  We encountered mercurial weather, with periods of downpours in between hot sunny days.  I’m told this is normal.  Fortunately I love this kind of weather!





Thanks to Alison, Mike, and my Moms for being great travel companions.  We ate too much, and I’m still feeling full!

Bienvenidos A Miami! (and the Keys)

For the holiday season, my mom and I decided that a trip down south would be the perfect respite to the blinding cold that has hit our area.  I had mentioned to her that I haven’t been to Miami in a long time and that it’s one of my favorite cities.  On top of that, I’ve always wanted to drive the Overseas Highway to the Florida Keys. So we threw some flip flops into bags, summoned an uber driver, and jumped on a Southwest flight to Fr. Lauderdale (airport code FLL).





Miami always struck me as such a fun and diverse city, a giant bubbling spicy stew of Hispanic, Caribbean, and American culture, with a heavy dose of Cuban flavor.  It makes the culture and vibe interesting and colorful, and you can see that mix of culture infused in the music and art that have come out of the city for decades.  And of course, the food.  If you go there, try to get away from the bland, homogenized areas and get into the weeds a bit.





With that said, my mom and I stayed in South Beach for the first few days of our trip.  Although the area is hyper developed and whitewashed, its gorgeous and lively and always a pleasure to revisit.   We took a trip into Little Havana on Christmas Day just to get into the meat of some of that culture. Unfortunately most things were closed for the holiday.




We left Miami in our rental and headed down south towards the Keys, a chain of islands south of Miami that are connected by a (mostly) single lane highway that runs all the way to Key West.  The entire region is still pretty devastated from the hurricanes that hit them in April, with giant piles of debris lining the entire length of the roadway waiting for dump trucks to do the dirty work.  Here are some key points (or should I say, Key points) that I gleaned from this journey:

  • The drive is grueling but worth it.  The single lane highway is not enough to sustain the amount of people traveling on it, but the scenery is gorgeous. If you’re going to do it, perhaps aim for the off season.
  • The hotels are hit or miss. Do your research. We stayed at a beautiful one, and we stayed at a terrible, terrible one.  Both price gouged us.
  • Everything in Key West is meticulous and beautiful, and expensive. Gas up in the run down areas.









Seratonin Explosion! (Seattle, Again)

I just got back from my second excursion to the great Northwest city of Seattle, to visit my old friend Peter and his wife Audrey.  My previous layover was not substantial enough of a visit for me to feel satisfied with how much I’d absorbed of the city, so I decided that I had to return! (Read my last Seattle post, Coffee Jitters)







My prior trip was spent exploring the downtown portions of the city.  The financial district, the coffee shops, the tourist traps.  While impressive and seemingly unique, there is just so much more to Seattle.  It has become a mecca for naturalists and creatives because of its immediate proximity to water, forests, and mountains.  I had not fully appreciated the depth of how much nature means to the people there until I experienced it first hand.




Unfortunately we did not have enough time to jaunt into the deep wilderness due to time constraints, but I was able to see enough to be convinced that all modern cities should aspire to be what Seattle has become.  The city is obviously in touch with it’s presence and effect on the surrounding nature.  Public transportation uses green energy to cut down on emissions,  and I often noticed how the streets were absent of garbage and detritus.







The city is built around a series of lakes and bays, so as a result there are breathtaking views everywhere.  I couldn’t help but feel relaxed just sitting in the back seat of Pete’s Subaru as he chauffeured me around town, to music that is so expertly curated by him and is such a reflection of the scene and vibe that is the Pacific Northwest.  I’m pretty sure that I caught Seattle at the best time.  It wasn’t overcast for the majority of my trip (despite how it might appear in these photos), and I can imagine how the winter months might start to feel oppressive to the uninitiated.










The people there are polite but carry an edge that I could best compare with East Coasters, although not as black humored.  I found myself having to second guess my salacious comments for fear of sounding boorish, but Pete and Audrey assured me that I was not offensive 🙂







The tech industry is thriving in Seattle.    I’m told that this is due to the city’s proximity to California, as well as Asia.  Amazon basically owns a portion of downtown Seattle.  Blocks and blocks!  Its pretty scary, actually.







Pete and Audrey’s friend Greg blessed us with a lovely boat ride through the inner lakes of the city.  It was a pleasant surprise, and I’m so thankful that we could get on the water in a place that is so deeply maritime in culture.  We didn’t get to see Bill Gates’ (probably ridiculous) house, but we saw yacht after yacht, basically stacked on each other.  I had to ask them “Where do these people take these things?  Do they just stay docked and look pretty?”.  But of course they take them out, inspiring so many Entourage episodes.













I thought to myself the entire time how its no wonder legendary musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam derived so much inspiration from the city and environment.

Shouts out to my good friend John Dstruct (alias) and his daughter Hannah, who I was fortunate enough to have lunch with after so many years of working on music with him in the supergroup, Robot Death Squad.







Respect the Bagel (Montreal)

Last week my good friends and I took a trip up to Montreal, Quebec for a quick summertime getaway.  We chose Montreal because we’d heard that it’s a great place to experience in the summertime.  That it is!

Montreal is actually built on an island that was apparently formed from a volcano.  At the center of the city is a rather large hill called Mount Royal that offers a great view of the sprawling city below.




Once we arrived in Montreal, my friends and I hiked up the hill after dropping off our gear at our hotel.  The hike itself was fun and challenging, and definitely worth it for the view!  There were people all over it, jogging and cycling up and down the roads and trails.  For us, the hike took about 45 minutes to an hour. I wasn’t exactly timing it because I was blinded by sweat and exertion.







Montreal is very pedestrian friendly, but due to its rather immense sprawl the people have taken to cycling to meet their commuting needs.  There are bikes all over the place.  I was actually really impressed by the city’s cycling accommodations.  Bike lanes get their own curb-isolated partition of the road.

Le Plateau, which is the more hip part of the city, is covered with restaurants, shops, and lovely townhouses with wrought iron staircases.  The city is covered with so much green. There are parks all over the place and lots of old trees, which really complements the beautiful row houses.







After about half a day I really started to notice the street art.  Graffiti is unashamedly present on every street, and its beautiful.  It’s a lovely contrast with the European vibe that you get from the architecture.  The murals that cover entire building sides are so impressive, and its obvious that the city allows their local artists to thrive and expand in their element here.







My friends and I spent a chunk of time downtown in the financial district.  Montreal’s economy is obviously healthy and strong, as there was no shortage of looming skyscrapers to block your sunlight.  The streets are all well manicured and kept tidy, and the indoor public spaces like the Underground City are meticulous and gorgeously lit.










The thing that impressed me the most about Montreal is how friendly and patient the people are.  Even if you’re a tourist or outsider, you’ll be treated with tremendous politeness and grace in every store and eatery.  Every sign in the city is in French and the first thing you’ll hear when you walk into any establishment is a greeting in French.  Of course once they realize you don’t speak French, the English comes at you naturally. My mom said it best, that she’d never been to a city where the people were so fluently bilingual.







I made an effort to smile at everybody, try and dispel the American stigma that I’ve been aware of since I was younger and living overseas.  I did notice that the smile-backs are a little guarded, but there is absolutely no lack of friendly reciprocation.  I don’t think the Montrealites were appreciative of my raucous disposition after a few drinks (our poor Uber driver), but they’ll survive.




I got to spend some time by the water.  Not exactly the best views, but flooded with tourists and their DSLRs.  I felt like I did a tremendous amount of walking to experience what every other big city with a waterfront has to offer.  At least I found a bangin’ pizza spot that appreciated my propensity for tipping.
















If you go, don’t forget to try a bagel.  I scoffed, but man…respect to the Montreal bagel.

Also shouts to my buddies’ Hyun and Eric for not throwing their hands up in front of their faces every time I took a picture of them.


Just a quick post on some photos I took of Richmond.  This was my first time seeing the city’s core, and I really enjoyed it.  The vibe there is laid back, with lots of breweries and young people bouncing around with their young people enthusiasm.

Richmond 2015-2-2

My favorite aspect of Richmond is that it’s still in it’s early stages of gentrification, so you have a lot of old industry peppering the city.  Lots of exploration potential!

My good friend Carter, also known as Alcrani in the Drum & Bass community, was gracious enough to host my visit.

Carter Alcrani


Carter’s kitten, Funyons, is the sweetest cat I’ve ever experienced.  Such an intuitive little girl.  Something about Drum & Bass producers and their cats.

Richmond 2015-1


Richmond 2015-2-1


Richmond 2015-2-3


Photos taken with:

Sony A7II
Sony Sonnar 55mm/1.8 FE ZA

Ocean Pines

Summer time near Ocean City, MD.  The mosquitos were formidable, but I prevailed.

ocean pines-1