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Showing posts from 2016

Untold Festival: Days 2, 3, 4

I took a 9 minute long video of the streetcar party on day two and  thought it was the greatest thing. Then I watched it on the computer the next day. As with every day at Untold it's about 4 or 5 in the afternoon before I'm ready to face the world. Another day of Untold at this point is not only difficult but almost a punishment. Yet we persist.

Eat, Sleep, Untold, Repeat. Never have I lived a more accurate t-shirt cliché.

Friends come by and we sip some tea. Three shots of it. Start feeling better and call an Uber. Oh yeah, Uber finally made it to Cluj. It's been the same pre-festival ritual four days straight. Eat, Tea, Uber, Untold.

A Brazilian marching band welcomes us in past the security gates. Nobody knows how to Samba but the beat is intoxicating (which is fitting isn't it?). The crowd follows the band through the park. To the spectators on the side it must look like Rio's take on the pied piper.

We said we'd explore but it's hard to stay away fr…

Untold Festival: Day 1

I didn't think I'd write about Untold but I was there and started writing about Untold. Here it is, from the trenches.

The bass is bumpin'. Tiesto is making us sing along like it's kindergarten for adults. I don't know any of his new songs although he was top dog when I was coming of age in club land. He still is apparently. That was like 15 years ago. He's old. I'm old. Fuck it. 
I'm drinking this nasty cocktail called Beton- Concrete. The name does it justice even if it tastes mostly like cinnamon. Should've got the hint when the barkeep told me I'm only the second guy to order it tonight. I can't wait to finish it. The cup is getting soggy.   Thinkin' back to Route 94 who has melodic house tracks with millions of views yet he built up and played the exact same beat for half an hour. Maybe only the headliners are allowed to get the crowd going.

Meanwhile the place is twice as crowded as last year. Looks like people think it&…

Childhood Memories: International Relations

When we were kids, my brother and I spent all day playing outside with the other neighbourhood boys. When it wasn't soccer, it often meant the 'ștrec',  a deep embankment on either side of the train tracks that crossed Blaj from one end to the other. The ștrec was headquarters. That's where most of our games started or ended. We were soldiers, cowboys or indians,  hunters, explorers, and, best of all, we were spectators to one of the greatest spectacles of all: the thundering passing of trains.


The Rapid (now InterCity), especially, was a joy to behold. It would fly by in a blur of grey and blue, holding the promise of far away places that were as inaccessible as Coca-Cola or Juicy Fruit.

Three of us (my brother and I and another kid) were practicing karate moves on the embankment a little ways from our usual spot. We had just finished watching Bruce Lee's Fists Of Fury and today we were all Bruce Lee. We practiced high kicks, roundhouse kicks, flying kicks. We pl…

The Prophet of Lyon

The little time I spent in Lyon left me with the impression that it resembles Cluj - maybe a Cluj 100 years into the future, but nonetheless some sort of Cluj. The city's topography, with its perched 5th Arrondisment, and the Place Bellecour, which bears a striking resemblance to Piata Unirii, down to the mounted horse statue, helped cement that notion.  But this is not what this post is about.

On the 19th of June we made our way to the fanzone located in the aforementioned Bellecour. We walked down from the 5th on the Avenue Point du Jour to the Rue de la Favorite, and finally, somewhere in a little street, we ran into some kids playing in an alley on the side of a small building. We were dressed in Romania fan attire; jerseys, flag, clown hair, and good cheer. "Allez les Jaunes!" I chanted. But I was wearing the red Romania jersey and that probably didn't make much sense.

One of the kids eyed us suspiciously. "D'ou etes vous - where are you from?" he…

Why Trump is Winning America

How does anybody explain the Trump Phenomenon? Most opinion pieces talk about his fear mongering, an ignorant supporter-base, the disarray in the GOP, weak opponents, or his anti-establishment persona. The fact is, Trump is a polarizing figure, but he's never going to win the presidency. Still, that doesn't explain why he's come so far.

I live in Romania. I only really hear about Trump if I want to hear about Trump. It's a blessing.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't discuss a man who's making a serious run for the world's most powerful office. But people seem to be missing the bigger picture.

Why did Trump get so big?

I don't believe the 'perfect storm' explanation. How he plays on people's fears in a precarious geopolitical situation, how he's a straight talker in a world of political correctness run amok, and how he's not in anybody's pocket. These play a role, maybe, but there's more.

If you've read more than a…

Five Years

I moved here with high spirits and low expectations. My official stance was that in one year, maybe two, I'd move back to Toronto. But in the back of my mind I think I knew there was no going back. Had that been an option, I wouldn't be here now - or wouldn't have moved to begin with.

These past few years delivered the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Loneliness, broke-ness, self-doubt,  finding love, 'finding myself', reconnecting with family, making a new family, new friends...new life.

Ultimately it's the sum of this baggage that makes you belong somewhere, and in five years, I've gathered enough to belong here.

These are some of the reasons why:


1. When I visited Toronto last summer it felt merely familiar, not like a trip 'back home'.
2. I usually drive at least 10-20 meters before putting on my seatbelt
3. I learned how to do Romanian small talk. It's not about the weather or sports teams, it's about how something (work, cit…

How Communism Was Good For Romania

Notice the title is not, "Why Communism Was Good For Romania".

With that out of the way, let me explain 'how' communism did us a favour in Romania.

When a country is run around a massive lie (ie. Reality = people are starving. Official stance = "Everything is great!") and the lie is so blatant that any fool can see it, it doesn't take long for the Average Joe to reach two basic conclusions:

1. "The government lies to me"
2. "The government doesn't have my best interests at heart"

It's like cheating in a relationship. Once the trust is gone, it's gone, baby, gone.

Romania went through three successive generations where the core of understanding around governance and authority echoed these sentiments. (Granted, there are some nostaligcs who miss the guaranteed employment and yearly vacations, but, as with any toxic relationship, nostalgics only remember the good times.)

You might think that, post '89, this pervasive c…

The Clock on Piata Mihai Viteazul

On top of P-ta Mihai Viteazul (aka "Complexul Leul"), in the heart of Cluj, sits a large, brutalist, cement clock. It's so drab that, on a dreary day, you won't even notice it against the grey sky. Besides, it doesn't even tell the (right) time.


For the past 26 years, it's been stuck at 12:07. A man named Jozef Palko stopped it the moment the Ceausescus fled by helicopter from the roof of the Central Committee building in Bucharest. As the building's administrator - and a witness to the previous day's shooting of anti-communist demonstrators in Unirii Square - he thought it important to capture the moment in history; the minute that communism fell in Romania.

Many years later, when I took this snapshot, I found that the contrast between the crisp, bright flags and the dreary commie architecture is a reminder that, with time, things do change.


You Can't Plan a Romania Road Trip, But You Should Anyway

I started writing this post in September 2014, not long after coming back from vacation. I dropped it because I got sick of going through the hundreds of pictures we took just to pick the perfect ones for this post. But, like a seed once planted, it needs some water and the right conditions to flourish. In my case: an email from a reader, asking me about road-tripping through Romania, and the chance to lift this weight off my back. So here it is, a summary of one Romania road trip, from Cluj and back.



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2,656 Kilometers.
188 Liters of gas.
2,919 RON.

That's more or less the tally for the Romania road trip I took with my roomie/wife Roxana. We could have booked an all-inclusive vacation to Greece, Turkey, or Bulgaria at about the same cost, but how could we resist a road trip? A unique waterfall, the 'tunnel of love', the best driving road in the world, Summer …