Inter-Realm Enclosure


a terrestrial European purgatory,
the terminal encloses
our transient souls
airport air, static and stale—
yet mobile and mosaic in its own way
spiced by the respiration
of thousands of earth’s denizens
worldly forms internalize and effuse
the captive atmosphere
that’s outside the outskirts of Stockholm

the Earth is near, but
only through periodic intervals of glass slates
can I scale such a realm
humbly sized hills span the horizon
covered by conical Scandinavian spruces
pointing towards the billowy clouds—
landscape that backdrops a Lufthansa aircraft
its wheels roll across the black tarmac
the winged carriage designed
to transcend mortal beings
towards the heavens above


the layover void entails
indoor insularity arrests the experience
the Swedish landscape, untouchable
the Stockholm cityscape, unperceivable
so describes my brief survey of the area
the only kind I truly know

I entered what’s technically Sweden
with but a smattering of regional knowledge
my first flight’s carrier screened Scandinavian factoids
the most memorable slice of the montage
informed me that Celsius was a Swede

I absorb minute observations
of my short-lived, transient sojourn
conscious that most in-transit concerns float
within the vacuum of myopia

removed from the comfort zone
of my home country’s currency
I calculate equations of divine banality
given variables: products and exchange rates
duty free: alcohols for sale, for outside EU borders
Euro accepted: after a Euro fee, crown trade encouraged
authorities from the material world
still control materialism’s realizations
in the hub of purgatory

I thus avoid acquiring additional matter
to my accompanying earthly possessions
packed into the parameters
of the airline’s weight and dimensional limits

American, I appreciate the English inscriptions
printed on café menu selections
continental reminders spot my surroundings
European English: A “Favourites” sign indicates sandwiches
European beer: A Staropramen bottle glows emerald
European water: An umlaut dots the o


a dialectal smorgasbord
simmers within the airport café
stews of words spiced with “mit” and “und”
hint of Germanic ingredients
“s kockou!” three nearby Slavs remark
about domesticated bestial entities
that enhance our planetary existence

I wait as I watch
a slew of summoned souls
queue up
to pass beyond gate 14-b
slowly they migrate
towards their aerial carriage to elsewhere
I sit waiting in anticipation
for my turn to come

I monitor the nearby monitor
which has yet to announce the gate,
my threshold of liberation
to advance to the next level
another world awaits beyond purgatory
my turn will come

Frozen Holidays Part I

Now that the Western holiday season is approaching, I reflect back on a unique couple days I spent this time of year in Central Eastern Europe.

On Christmas Eve in 2007, I took an early morning flight from Istanbul, Turkey, to Budapest, Hungary. I think we were the only ones in the wee hours of the morning to be at that gate at the Istanbul airport, but as I was less than half awake, my memory is rather blurry. All I can completely remember was the horrible Turkish pop music videos blasting way too loud for a pre-morning hour, while sitting on uncomfortable chairs, waiting to dock my two-hour journey.

I can hardly remember the two-hour flight, but I recall landing at the Budapest airport, taking a taxi into town amidst the snow and ice-encrusted brown architecture and bare tree branches of the city’s outskirts. Upon arriving into the proper metropolis, we discovered that our hostel was yet to be of accessible hours without a key.

So it was a long trek of walking in circles, storing luggage in some dingy old locker lair of the nearby train station hall, and wandering around, trying to stay awake throughout the city, stopping in fast food places that played obnoxiously overdone techno under the fluorecsent lighting in the AM hours.

After taking half-naps in a Subway and a McDonald’s, our hostel finally opened. What we were being kept from entering turned out to be a somewhat large apartment that seemed rather unofficial, but nonetheless a safe haven from the winter and techno.

We had to get our luggage back after that, but somehow had lost our tickets, so had to have a 10-minute fight with the luggage staff in English and Hungarian. Though no one understood each other and it is below freezing in this rustic establishment, we eventually managed to argue with them to return us our luggage. In order to do that, they had to take out every single garment and other item out of its storage, examine it and mark it down on a notepad. I got to watch an old man take out every single shirt, sock and piece of writing material I had in my suitcase being looked at and jotted down, until they were finally approved to be shoved back in the bag and returned to their owner.

After all of the confusion of shelter and clothing and storage fixed, it was then time to explore the city. I did not know this before, but Christmas Eve in Budapest is a very grave time when almost everything is closed. You can walk down streets and streets and streets to find no lights on, just the pale reflection of the white sky on the empty-looking shop and cafe windows.

Sometimes you must cross the street by going underground through a subway tunnel, and underneath the cityscape exists some live action of straggling sock vendors or musical instrument performers scattered on the ground on blankets. After entering this dimension of temporary shelter, you must ascend back into the streets of longing absence.

We eventually walked across one of the bridges that divides Pest and Buda (once two separate cities on either side of the Danube), up through the hills of Buda.

This part of town has a fine park with built-in walking paths amongst the bare nature, though they are packed in deeply with snow and ice, so one must be careful not to slip.

The view from the top of these hills of the surrounding park and city is quite a chilly and white experience this time of year, and the sculptures have an interesting appearance against the blanket of clouds.

We took what we could handle and climbed back down and retreated to Pest, back to the stripped cluster of civilization.

Somehow in the depleted action, we were able to discover a Christmas market. Some vendors were up in action selling their baked goods, itchy wool socks and hot, cinnamon-flavored beverages for the final hours of holiday shopping season.

Shortly after we arrived, we watched the outdoor shop keepers start packing up their equipment to head home for the evening. They were joining the secret of what this city keeps during this holiday, whatever traditional matters and domestic life they are used to as an annual happening, kept away from the awareness or access of its visitors.

Unexpected Czech Sights

Thinking of it, the Czech Republic was also full of weird things.

One unusual landmark in Prague was the TV tower.

I lived by Petrin Hill in Prague 6, so I was able to take a walk to a lookout point in this park, and see the Prague Castle to the left, followed by a sea of red rooftops flowing downhill to the Vltava River, crossed by old bridges, followed on the opposite banks by Old Town and pointy Gothic towers and historic sites, later engulfed by another sea of red rooftops, all eventually making their collective way under the giant, grey, modern structure of the TV tower on the opposite end of the city.

This tower would have a blinking red light at the top, and I remember taking cabs around that part of the city at strange hours of the night, and always looking upward out my car window, to notice the everlasting, consistent off-and-on glow brought on by the tip TV tower.

I went up close to it once, and it was all covered by sculptures of crawling babies. I thought this was rather appropriate.

Another weird part of Prague was the Museum of Communism. I don’t know what it’s history was, but it was somehow located across the way from a casino and a McDonald’s, in an area that had been apparently very capitalized. Within such an ironic location, it looked like a makeshift gallery that some people had thrown together by searching through their grandparents’ attics for some old propaganda material to throw together.

A bit outside of Prague was Kutna Hora, which had the famous bone church. This structure was hundreds of skulls, topped off by hip bones and femur surprises, arranged in the most beautiful way possible.

Individual human beings probably think of their own skeletons with a lot of regard. I had never seen a display where so many of them were just arranged all together, a bunch of passed human bodies from centuries ago actually having a physical presence in front of me. I hear of historic figures by means of literature or story, and maybe see some of their possessions in a museum, but here were a bunch of nameless humans from history actually present in front of my eyes, reduced down to their inner physical beings.

Riding the trains through the Czech countryside was also an interesting thing to do. The trains looked and acted like they had not been updated since the 1950s, so it felt like I was time traveling. I watched the movie, Closely Watched Trains, about a year ago, and it reminded me of these times.

I went the Czech at this time of year, almost exactly three years ago. My experience in this city and this country, and my nostalgia, would never be the same if it were not for all of these strange things.

PDX International Rose Test Garden

After living in Portland for a year and a half, I finally made it to the International Rose Test Garden.

I have to say that I never thought it was necessary because Portland is already called the “City or Roses” or “Rose City,” or whatever, all the time. They’re everywhere! There’s a medium-sized rose garden near my house at Peninsula Park, and every residential block you walk through is bound to have at least two rose bushes growing in front lawns.

However, I was impressed with this International Rose Garden. It is situated on top of a hill in a wooded area and manicured almost perfectly.

Each bush has a different type of rose displaying its particular color to the world, whether white or red or white with red tips, or small purple ones or huge pink ones. It was an interesting experience to get up and personal with the roses and examine their lovely form and sniff what they have to offer, and compare it to other smells I have come across in my life, whether sweet tarts or lavender or perfume or sugar or cucumbers or the other rose I had just smelled.

I think the best way to experience this place is to get really close with the specific batches of roses with all of your senses and display their unique differences, and then step back a bit, walk around, gaze over some new bushes from a distance and see and smell and hear their collective make-up.

This place also made me nostalgic for a small rose garden I would frequent in Prague. This one was up a hill in a big park near where I was living, behind that psuedo Eifel Tower and before some other strange-looking socialist dormitories. I would walk through it almost daily when the weather was nice or almost nice, and do what I did at the new rose garden, by touching and smelling and observing their individual characteristics and collective whole. Gardeners would often trim this garden to keep it neat, so I would pick up the expired flowers and their thorns from their piles on the ground so that I could bring them back to my tiny, spartan dormitory for subtle decoration. I think all rose gardens in the future will always remind me of this one…


I think Prague was my favorite place I’ve traveled. I feel very fortunate that I was able to live there a few months, my perspective definitely would not have been the same had I just passed there on a greater trip.

Of course my home, New York, will always have a special place in my heart, and I will probably always think of other places in reference to it. But going to Prague really puts things into perspective of why I’ve had a wanderer’s syndrome, and why I have the desire to depart from a standardized lifestyle. I really like Portland, where I currently live, and the nature of Oregon is really special. But not a day passes where I do not reflect upon my references on the Czech Republic.

I’ll always remember my flight to Prague from JFK, through Czech Airlines, a surreal airline with planes and stuartists that seemed stuck in a time capsule from the 1970s. I remember sitting next to an elderly Slovakian woman who took full advantage of her complimentary Becherovka shots (which I later learned the most popular Czech liquor) and going through some non-lingual conversations about the reasons for our shared flight experience, despite her lack of English and my lack of Slovak. Though it seems an expensive journey back, I’ll hopefully one day find a cheap flight to Prague again.

The food there was not my favorite, and the weather was not great, but once you can get over little discomforts, this city really has a lot to offer.

I do not know exactly what it was about Prague, I think it was just the little things, as cliche as that sounds. For instance, I loved living in some old Yugoslavian dormitory with walls that would brush white dust all over all of our belongings and clothing. We would get breakfast in the basement, prepared by these decrepit old ladies who were certainly a product of harder times. They would feed us things like chocolate Santas around Christmas time, and daily juice that tasted like really watered down gatorade. And yogurts that were flavored like liqueur or like aloe vera, or sometimes pomegranates, which none of us really knew how to gracefully disect and would often stain ourselves and the tables red.

Riding the tram was also one of my favorite parts. I lived in a buffer zone between Prague Castle, a really touristy part, and then Prague 6, a residential area, so it was a pleasant balance. I’d get on the 22 tram from the Pohojelec stop to head down the hill into Old Town every day. The tram would stop at Prague Castle, and then continue to swirl down the hill into the city center, moving from the tired Socialist architecture, downhill towards the picturesque gothic and medieval area, before dropping us off right before the river. The late-night trams were also a trip, full of drunk people and other interesting characters yelling or dancing or bouncing around, or just passing out on the chairs.

Prague was also a fabulous place to go on random walks. It is a small enough city to always have an idea of where you are, but a big enough city to run into unknown little neighborhoods that all have something to display without trying to. It was nice to finally learn enough Czech to order a tea or a glass or wine at some small cafe I would stumble upon, and then sit in the background to observe the people and the surroundings.

I also was fortunate to teach English at a local high school. The students there taught me so much more about Prague and Czech culture than I would get out of reading some ethnographical book.

I think I liked Prague for the overall feeling I had there. Of course the standard things were great; beautiful architecture, happening nightlife, good museums, interesting history. But just the way I felt, whether walking around the streets alone or passing through a daily commute, when none of these standard topics were distracting me and absorbing all my attention, was my favorite part.