Long story short I made it to Hong Kong last night. I will explain more later, but I must head out again. It’s been non-stop since I left New York!
And touchdown! After almost 16 hours in the air from Detroit I land about 45 minutes early at Hong Kong’s International Airport.
I compose myself, grab a little money and then find the bus to Mong Kok.
Above was just around the corner from where I was staying. I wasn’t resting for long because I then jumped on the train into Hong Kong island. A friend from college had moved back to Hong Kong about a year ago and I was only able to give him a heads-up to my arrival a few hours prior to leaving NYC. He was ready with a warm and very American welcome, beer pong!
Woke up to my full day in Hong Kong somewhat sore from the night before, but I was still able to move forward and head to the Gagosian Gallery first thing. I walked down Nathan Road all the way till I hit the bay. The view was very impressive and one that I’ve wanted to see for at least 10 years now. I knew the next thing I needed to do was jump on the famous Star Ferry to head toward Central. I found the gallery and gained another spot for the challenge. The brief conversation with the manager was funny.
“So, where to next? – We’ll I’m trying to do this only on the weekends. – WOW! Good luck then. Well, you should take advantage of the weather and head to The Peak.”
Then I agreed and headed out into the city. I did some wandering and tried to work my way towards The Peak. I read that not visiting this location is equal to seeing Paris without the Eiffel Tower climb.
I finally made it back to the apartment before having to quickly run out again to meet a friend. She was actually a pen-pal from about a decade ago. We got drinks at the top of the ICC building in Kowloon. This spot was crazy high (118 stories) and didn’t even seem real. We said goodbye after a fun talk and then I was off to meet up with Frankie again. Dinner with his family and then we hit the night life… hard.
So I finished up my rapid stay in Hong Kong the only way I knew how. I went out with both new and old friends until I needed to run back to where I was staying and bounce straight to the airport. A bunch of these shots were me trying to keep myself together that early in the morning. This includes asking the flight attends for several beverages, including a bloody marry. Yes, bloody marries help hangovers, but they certainly don’t fix you if you’re still drunk! There are photos of me with other friends having a great time in the city and there is even a video of me doing a “Flaming Lamborghini”, but I’ll just show you these guys doing it (at the same beer I think).
Thank you Hong Kong.
I packed real tight and simple this morning because tonight I’m headed to LA. It’ll be a very quick trip, but I should have a brief chance to see one or two familiar faces. Photos will go up right after I touched down back in NYC.
Tickets, IDs, Cards and Drugs:
I think I have everything ready to go for the first leg of Europe, which begins tomorrow night. For now I need to sleep after packing and prepping for the office in the morning. I’m excited because it looks to be a pretty quick, but very fun trip. If you notice the pain reliever in the photo, that would be to help the ankle injury I got last night (wonderful timing). I was bouldering at my gym in the cave, flew of the ceiling and landed wrong on the incorrectly placed pads. I was scared, although fine the rest of the night. To help prevent any injuries I put ice on it before going to bed; around 4am I woke of in crazy pain and instantly worried about the Whirlwind Weekend ahead of me. Long story short, I got a brace on my way into the office this morning and did my best to stay off of it for the time being. Now to rest before starting another day of work ending with travel.
Came saw and conquered. Even got lunch with a good friend, who was also my wheels for the day.
You never know who you’ll run into.
I spent Thursday night doing a little prep for my trip. This weekend I packed very light, I almost feel as though I took less than when I went home to LA! Either way I was ready to go when I went to the office Friday morning. This trip I felt a little different about how I wanted to travel. I really enjoy traveling for the most part and decided that I’d celebrate the old times of when people dressed for the occasion. A button-up, good dark jeans and some nice Y-3s were perfect for my weekend in Paris and London. Leaving the office early I arrived at JFK with the perfect amount of time to relax and think about the whirlwind ahead of me, and what they might hopefully be serving for dinner in Business Class.
The flight was good, got some rest and then off into Paris I went. Nothing is open at 9am on a Saturday morning in the city of love. Luckily I remembered a Starbucks near the city center from years back and knew it’d be open, along with having wifi. I walked from the North Station down towards the river. Grabbing a shot of expresso and some internet I warmed up (18 degrees roughly) before taking a trek around the city.
Gagosian Paris doesn’t open until 11am, so keep that in mind whenever you’re visiting for any reason. I had a pretty amazing morning around town, making it to the gallery just after it opened. As I walked in I was kindly greeted and took to viewing the small collection. I heard anther visitor enter two minutes later. Turning around I saw someone I knew, “Rob?”
“Hey, perfect! I’m so happy to see you” he said. I met Rob last week in LA and we had a nice talk about our trips to date. He mentioned that he’d be in Europe the following week. We swapped info, but never set anything official up. I assumed I find him in London. It was great seeing another familiar face doing this crazy trip, especially in a similar way to myself. “Are you taking the train to London?” – I asked. He thought “Yah, the 1…” I butted in with “the 1:30?” And boom, we were both headed to London together.
Don’t worry. I never actually blasted the Jay-Z and Kanye song around Paris.
Nothing like an Irish Breakfast for the journey ahead.
After a very enjoyable ride through France and the Chunnel, Rob and I reached London. We had exchanged stories and learned a number of things about one another. One of the main topics that constantly came up between us was the prize. What would Damien Hirst give everyone who finished the challenge? How big would it be? This has become a funny joke with Rob and I at this point.
The first stop in London was the Gagosian located on Britannia St., which thankfully was only blocks from the central train station. Upon walking in we both received the warmest welcome to date. The Director was at the desk with his check-in girls and they all asked where we’d come from. Then they wondered if Rob and I were traveling together, which we explained as sort of… we ran into eachother! We browsed the gallery and the Director met us in the room with the “Controlled Substances” series and their corresponding pieces. It was actually a historic event, since basically none of these paintings that were designed to live together (the puzzle and its key) have been shown side-by-side in decades. Rob and I took our photos, got our stamps, met some other Spot Challengers (who won’t be able to finish) and then made our way to some coffee and wifi.
To the airport I went. Thank you Heathrow Express for your extremely easy system. I had a little fun in duty free – I didn’t get that KAWS/Henny you see. I got something better. Made my way to my flight to plop into business class and rest the whole way home. Only three more Gagosians to go.
This riot wasn’t here earlier
I started Thursday off by getting into the office two hours earlier than usual in order to handle a number of things before I bailed to the airport. Luckily I was able to get out of there right on time and get a nice seat to Athens that afternoon. I ended up having one of the best seat buddies probably ever. Kelly is a young flight attendant who is pretty awesome. It turns out that she probably had a crazier schedule than me to start the weekend off; coming into Atlanta from South America (she was working the flight), connecting to New York, jumping on the flight to Athens and then she had a final leg to Bulargia I believe. As for myself, once I touched down I sleepily made my way to Athens’ city center via the metro.
I came out of the subway right at 11am and was just a few blocks from the gallery. They are located right off the main square that has a big road and huge government building or palace. At Gagosian I saw the pieces in the nice little space and then started my walk about the city. I don’t know Greek and I’d never been to Greece, so one of my favorite things to do is get a little lost. I ended up seeing all kinds of people, ruins and great views from different locations. There was also evidence of the riots that took place just a few days earlier.
Eventually I circled back towards the main square because the woman at the gallery suggested a local spot for me to try some good non-tourist Greek dishes. However, as I got closer to the center I noticed traffic, then the road blocked and eventually a number of dudes in armor. Ahhhh, yes this riot wasn’t here earlier. A crowd of young Athenians had gathered to shout at the police and government. Myself and a number of others watched while also documenting the scene. As I finally decided to make my way around the protest somehow I heard a shout and the police rushed the crowd. People scattered, I jumped back and tried to put distance between me and the guilty party. I just wanted to make it to lunch and out of Athens alive. After a little tear gas in the eye and asking some official looking military dude how to get around the event, he pointed and said “go that way, and be careful.”
A little bit of history had been experienced, I made it to a great meal and then the airport. My conclusions are that Aegean Airways has some awesome service (they provide a meal for a two hours flight!) and the Greeks may be having a little financial trouble due to how many shoes they purchase. Seriously, I have never seen so many different shops and vendors selling one type of product in a city!
A vacation to mysel
I landed in Rome Friday night and even touched down early. By the time I had gotten to the bus and eventually made it into town I wasn’t sure if any time was actually gained. Either way finding the apartment I was staying at was only a little tricky once I was on the block. My host sort of forgot to describe it to me. Regardless, she was extremely welcoming and then she headed out with her daughter (who I kind of wanted to get to know!). Anyway, I got situated in the very nice and spacious modern apartment in Italy’s capital. I love coming across new juxtaposed with the old. This high roof apartment had white walls, modern finishings and was on the top floor with great light; it was simple passing out here.
I started my Friday morning casually with a breakfast in the apartment to myself and then headed out into the vast city. I’d booked two nights in Rome because the cost of everything was cheaper than my next destination, Switzerland. I also didn’t need to be in Geneva until Monday. Basically once I finished at the Gagosian in town I had two full days to do whatever. The gallery was a pretty awesome one. It was housed it some old bank or embassy or something. The front door was flanked by massive columns and the main showing space was an oval. I realize they could’ve added the curving interior walls, but that fact that they had the space to do so was what impressed me. I viewed the work and had a nice talk with the ladies at the front desk. One even had glasses from the same designer as me and then she mentioned that she’d lived in Philly for a couple years. Stuff like that is so random. One more stamp was added to my collection and all that remained was one.
I walked out happy and ready to go! Shit, I still had two days in Rome. Honestly it’s not one of my favorite cities, especially not in Italy. Time to play my wondering self. I walked about town towards the Vatican and somehow ended up going around it in some crazy way. I enjoyed it because I saw the city from the large hill that the Holy City sits upon. I also found myself in some random park at a certain point as well. After the heavens parted and I eventually made it back towards the city center I walked my ass home. It was time to rest from the epic day. That night I found a small spot and treated myself to a good traditional meat dish and wine. Rest was next!
My Sunday was walking up to the Vatican as the Pope (I think) was finishing his prayer. I looped back around midday because I had decided to do something tourist related. I’d been to Rome more than once before, but never inside the Vatican. I waited in the off and on rainy line before making my way into the cathedral. It was extremely impressive and I really wanted to hear a choir in there, but that didn’t happen by the time I’d seen all the little details.
The remainder of my day was just more roaming around and trying to see what the locals do. One reason I’m not a huge fan of Rome is all the tourism. The city is spread out, there is history at every turn and the downside to that is if you want to get off the beaten path it’s very tricky. Good thing I found myself some coffee to start. Now time to venture to the apartment in some random series of turns!
American? What are you doing here?
My last night in Rome was spent at the main train station. Well, for at least a couple hours I read and people watched. I had booked an overnight train to Geneva via Milan the second I stepped foot in Rome on Friday night. The Whirlwind Weekend has not just been extremely daunting on my body, but at times it’s been tough on the bank account as well. Due to this I figured a non-sleeper compartment would be find for the 7 hours to Milan! Next time I’m going to spring for the bed. Six people sitting sort of straight up in their seats for that long rolling cold night isn’t the most comfortable event. I felt like I’d stumbled into some movie, possibly a Wes Anderson piece. The train pulled into Rome already packed with a number of passengers. I found my compartment already loaded with a dude asleep at the door, two African men and a small woman from somewhere in Eastern Europe. Now, add in another Italian and myself – oh what a party.
Do you need money, watches or chocolate?
The train pulled into Geneva station and as I stepped out onto the street I almost couldn’t believe it. After all of those hours and the distance traveled on land in the last 24 hours, I’d made it to Lake Geneva. I was now in Switzerland!
I figured out which way I was pointing and headed towards downtown. Geneva is quite pretty and very clean. This wasn’t surprising that a Swiss city lived up to being extremely organized and well kept. I had also never seen so many financial institutions so close together in my life. That little series of sightings helped the Swiss live up to another stereotype as well. Nothing was hard to find around town, which meant arriving at the gallery was easy.
I found the door and made my way upstairs to the final Gagosian of my trip. I was greeted with a warm welcome. Upon seeing my pack and hearing that I was a little tired they asked if I was doing the Spot Challenge. Of course I was and handed him my card. “Oh you’re finishing” he said. He then mentioned that I could place my bag in the office and he’d begin taking care of the final stamp. Another man named Greg handled the stamp, papers, etc and then I was offered a glass of Champagne. Now this officially meant that I was done. How crazy it was. I talked to them about my journeys around the world and the method to my madness. Greg said I was the first person he’d met doing it my way. He also told me that I was probably the seventh person to finish the challenge in Geneva, which I though was pretty cool.
Everything (that they new so far) was explained to me and I thanked them greatly. After that I headed out to explore Geneva for the afternoon. I covered a good amount of ground and did my best not to freeze in the icy winds from the lake. I called my friend Michael back home to tell him where I was and that I’d finished the Spot Challenge in almost exactly a month! He went back to sleep and me the airport after a little more roaming of the lake. All I could do was reflect on what I had accomplished… and then the somewhat long trek home.
When did you enter?
This is a post that has been delayed due to the fact that I had been going nonstop for the entire month of February. Obviously because of that fact I had a few things slightly pile up. That’s why some of these final posts have been coming out slowly. Anyway…
Making it to Geneva and getting that final stamp was awesome, but my longest Whirlwind Weekend was still far from over. My trip home was a little bit of a tricky one due to flights, prices, and timing. So I was looking at three flights ahead of me before I made it back to NYC. Oh yah, and it wouldn’t be till the following day. Upon walking back to the Geneva train station I hoped on the free train to the airport (great!) and checked in with a nice Swiss girl. Leg number one of the evening was to Brussels where my connection was okay. The funny part is that I used Expedia for the first time in probably 6 years to book this connecting flight and it showed. I clearly just looked for the best price and timing. Apparently my connection from Brussels on to London was in business class, that’s a win considering they served me a meal with beer during a practically 45 minute flight. I had no complaints; I just got dinner with my plane ticket. We’ll get to that later.
We got to Brussels fine and a little early, but I almost got stuck there. It’s always the little quiet guy in class that has to be a stickler about a subject no one cares about. I had to pass through immigration before continuing on to Heathrow. Well, the Belgian guy in the both had concerns about my passport.
Long story short, I had to explain myself and help him find some of the stamps. He ended up blaming me for passport controls in other countries not doing their jobs well. How the fuck am I supposed to have any say in that? I’m more intimidated by those dudes than any other police officer in existence! I’m not going to tell them how to do their jobs. He explained some rules and let me through and I was able to take a deep breath.
Now back to me arriving at London’s Heathrow. We touched down at some point in the late evening and it was the quietest I’d ever seen one of the busiest airports in the world. My final flight home was at a little past 9am, so I said screwed it and for the first time I stayed over night in the airport. I ran the numbers and it made no sense to leave the airport. Now, if you ever have to stay in an airport over night then I do suggest Heathrow’s Terminal 1. At a little before midnight they come to gather everyone up and take you to a quiet room where you can rest, while someone watches over the misplaced travelers. I was took a nap for a few hours and when they said the terminal was back open for passengers I headed to the restroom to freshen up. After a fresh change of closes and my toiletry bag I was ready to go. I found the bus to terminal 4 (as you can see in the photos I was VIP).
I eventually boarded a couple hours later to a meal and the wonderful flatbeds in business class as I made my way back to JFK. Then BOOM, touchdown, off the plane and through customs in literally 5 minutes. Now, one last thing – I had to get to the office. Yup, I made it in after 2pm and put in at least four hours.
In 24hrs I had stepped foot in 4 countries, on 3 flights, 2 trains and still made it into the office. Now time for a full day. Let’s see how long the energy lasts.
There will be a final update to this project once the Geneva gallery closes on the 17th of March. Sometime shortly after that I will know what my prize (signed print) will be. The world will discover just what craziness Damien Hirst has in mind.
Dream of paradise
I woke up this morning and realized that I should share the music I’d been listening to during my weekend adventures. I’m sorry I didn’t make any special event mix for or during the trips. However, I listened to one album far more than the rest, and for good reason. When it came time to taxi to the runway or just after climbing out of any airport (typically JFK at the beginning of my trips) I’d play Coldplay’s most recent album “Mylo Xyloto” that came out in October. As everyone knows, the group is pretty damn awesome and they keep evolving over the years. Their sound is great for putting you in a relaxing and ambitious mood for taking on the world.
Another sign of why I needed to listen to the album constantly when flying was because Delta had it listed onboard in the music section as a new release. Yes, I had it on my phone too, but it was always there for me when I took a seat. When I think about it, the music helped ground me as I was continually on the move around the world.
March, specifically March 17th, marks the two year anniversary of the conclusion of the Spot Challenge. I finished about a month before that, but I wanted to make sure this post happened before April rolled around.
When I finished the challenge I wasn’t handed any prize, except for a glass of champagne and a nice congratulations. After the paperwork was handled I was simply told to be patient and wait for some form of contact from Gagosian. It took some time and during it my new buddy Rob and I joked about what or how large the prize would be. Months started to tick away and people were starting to wonder. I myself didn’t really care; I had faith something was coming and probably something pretty good. There were individuals taking part in the challenge that had far more money or influence compared to me, so they sure would make a stink if it all turned out to be shit.
Finally the notice email came with information about the prize and how to eventually obtain it. I decided to have mine shipped to the Los Angeles gallery instead of NYC. Rob on the other hand had to come pick his up in NYC since there wasn’t a Gagosian gallery near him. We made a fun morning of it with breakfast, picking up the print, which turned out to be pretty big, and then Rob headed back to the airport.
Now, I got to pick mine up just a couple weeks later when I flew home for the holidays, which worked out to be perfect timing. I landed at LAX on my birthday and we drove right to Beverly Hills to pickup my prize!
Carrying a large tube out of the Gagosian Gallery was pretty fun. I had seen maybe one or two photos online, but I wanted to of course see mine and if there was anything specific to it. So we got it in the car and headed home where I carefully removed it from the tube. We laid it out and simply gazed at it. I just smiled and giggled a little I think. This item wasn’t my goal 11 months prior, but looking at it there in front of me just brought the adventure right back.
It’s simply one of those things I’ll always think “shit I did that!” And anyone else I tell will ask “shit you did that?”
Michael Thomas – “If you can do it, then you certainly should.”
Liam McWilliams – “If you start this, you’ll finish it. No, you will!”
Don Zinzell – Being the most supportive boss/art lover
And of course to everyone who cheered me on during my travels and safe returns home.
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