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Posts from the “Essays” Category

Travels: Egypt

Posted on November 5, 2019

Five Days in Egypt

The Civilization the World Obsessed Over | September 2019

I recently traveled to Egypt which marks my first time in the Middle East in about 10 years and first time on the African continent in my life. As one might expect, Egypt shares more qualities in common with its Southwest Asian neighbors (Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc.) than it does with nearby Sudan or Ethiopia so I get to check the continent off on a technicality though it doesn’t feel like the most solid of check marks. I think my general consensus on the visit was I’m glad I went and I had a great time but I don’t need to go back for a variety of reasons which I’ll get into later in this article but for the time being, see below for a picture of the Sphinx and pyramids because, let’s be honest, that’s the real show here.

It’s nothing short of mind-blowing to look at these monuments, mostly tombs given Egypt’s historical obsession with the afterlife, and try to compute in your mind that these are some of the oldest things on earth and quite literally some of the oldest man-made structures still standing. Western cultures throughout history have garnered a penchant for Egyptomania beginning famously with Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign and filtering into Greek, Russian, British, and American cultures, hailing worship from societal visual vocabulary. Just look at our Washington Monument or the reverse of our dollar bill for the Eye of Providence floating above a pyramid. These symbols, adopted by some of the greatest civilizations to ever spend time under our sun, are still standing and readily available for you to visit. I think my father said it best when standing in front of the Sphinx. “Well…there it is.”

Let me give you some context on this trip. Every once in a while I take a trip with my Dad. He travels internationally for work and frequently to some strange or rarely frequented places by Western travelers. This is appealing to me for a variety of reasons so whenever he extends an invite to come along, I drop everything to go. Just two white dudes traveling in a country where we don’t look like we belong.

I think my father said it best when standing in front of the Sphinx. “Well…there it is.”

I flew out of LAX, through Chicago and Amman before arriving in Cairo. In Amman, I ran into a former work acquaintance from Philly about a decade ago purely by chance in the Royal Jordanian airline lounge as he was sipping Arabic coffee. He asked if I’d ever been to the Middle East before and I said I had, though it had been quite a while. “Be careful,” he said. “You’re really going to…stand out.” I excused myself to the restroom and when I came back he was gone. Arabic coffee was offered on the RJ flight leaving Chicago as well as Amman. I obliged for the Chicago portion but there was a soapy taste to it so I skipped it on the second leg, also realizing I would need to sleep within a few hours of my arrival. I landed in Cairo at sunset and arrived at an airport that looked like it had just woken up from a winter’s hibernation. We had hired a fixer for this portion of the trip as, from what we had heard, getting through immigration could be tricky. The fixer met me just before immigration where there were massive queue stands in place but no one in line, no one working, and not a soul in sight. A man abruptly stood up from the floor behind one of the immigration desks as he heard us approach, looking very much like he had just woken up from a deep sleep, and waved us over. The fixer said, “give me your passport, your immigration papers, and let me talk”. A brief conversation in Arabic ensued, money was exchanged, and we were through. My guy stepped around the vacant x-ray scanners at the security checkpoint, ushering me to follow him which I did and we were out at the street. A van pulled up and the rear door slid open. “Have a nice time.” The fixer shook my hand and walked away and I never saw him again. Click here to read the full article.

Travels: Havana, Cuba

Posted on May 1, 2016


Four Days in Havana

The American Forbidden Fruit | April 2016

A few weeks ago I travelled to Havana, Cuba, an increasingly common destination for Americans though still not entirely a simple maneuver. You may have heard about relations being relaxed between the US and Cuba in July of 2015 and the shiny new embassy being opened right on the Malecón; the challenge still lies in getting to the country. While you can pay a tour group to organize your trip and fly you straight from Miami to Havana, this is excessively expensive and you’ll be stuck to an itinerary for your entire journey. Currently, this is the only way to get into Cuba with the US Government’s blessing. We opted for the less licit route, flying through Mexico City instead. This option is, admittedly, somewhat nerve-wracking given that your entry to the country is entirely at the mercy of two governments (Mexico and Cuba) who are not your own. I know you’ve heard it from every news outlet imaginable but now is the time to go. The hard reality for Cuba is that it’s infrastructure simply cannot handle the sheer amount of money that’s about to pour into the country from hotel chains and waves of legal American tourism. It’s a fragile flower floating just off the coast of Florida that’s mere months away from being swept away by the tall waves of capitalist influence.

Havana is so thickly layered in culture you could cut it with a knife; from the incredible, yet tragically crumbling architecture of a bygone era to the music playing on every corner and out of every home, this felt like a barrel-aged moment out of a Kodachrome-steeped imaginarium of sound and color.

I can’t say enough positive things about my experience in Cuba. Havana is so thickly layered in culture you could cut it with a knife; from the incredible, yet tragically crumbling architecture of a bygone era to the music playing on every corner and out of every home, this felt like a barrel-aged moment out of a Kodachrome-steeped imaginarium of sound and color.  I wanted to take this trip strictly as an observer and I think I successfully accomplished this. It’s, unfortunately, rather easy to get sucked into the tourism industry in Havana (which is their main source of income, anyway) and I wanted to do my best to avoid that. If I were to do it again, I’d travel with someone who spoke Spanish fluently as the extent of mine can find me a bathroom and that’s about all. English is not widely spoken, and while I can rustle up some French in a pinch, we found that Spanish is king here even if you’re in a French hotel. I felt incredibly safe walking around the city at all times. I opted not to take my huge Nikon D810 and instead brought my Fuji X-T1 thinking it would make me a little more inconspicuous. Unfortunately, the second anyone sees you with a camera, they’re all over you to get you to come to their cousin’s restaurant or to let them give you a tour for a fee. Everyone’s in it to make a buck so be travel-wise and just say no. That being said, at no time did I feel unsafe walking around day or night. See the full writeup here.




Yosemite National Park: A Photo Retrospective

Posted on September 22, 2014


A few months ago we were fortunate enough to grab a coveted campsite near the base of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park here in California. Getting a reserved site is tough given that Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks and almost twenty years ago there was a huge flood that wiped out a good number of the sites. We woke up at early 3 months in advance in order to get our spot and we got the last one left within a three month window. Feeling fortunate, we prepped for our trip.

Traveling to Yosemite was a great excuse to turn off and focus on things we like; camping, drinking lots of good whiskey, taking photos, and traveling. Here I present a series of photos from our trip highlighting a few of our hikes and cool sights. If you need a creative recharge or a respite from the working world, I highly recommend taking a trip to Yosemite. If you can’t swing that type of travel, find a campsite near you and get out of your own bed for a few days. It’s worth it. We’re not hardcore outdoors people and Yosemite caters to all levels of woodsy-folks. Camping between two streams at the base of an incredible mountain near the basin of several waterfalls while also being close enough to a few restaurants and a grocery store has it’s merits.

We hiked the Vernal/Nevada Falls trail which takes you through some of the more lush greenery in the park. There’s two major waterfalls along the way with plenty of views of the valley, Half Dome, and the opportunity to dip your feet in the river (be warned: do not get in the water as you could be easily whisked over the edge to a certain death). One of my favorite points of this trail was coming around a corner and the mist from the first waterfall beating the cliff face on your right. The rocks were soaked and covered in moss. It was a slippery climb but felt like something out of Lord of the Rings. Rainbows, massive rock formations, heavy mist, sunshine, and greenery abound. We ate lunch at the very top, the halfway point, which is the top of the second waterfall. There’s plenty of places to grab a rock and relax while recharging for your hike down the mountain.

You’ve probably noticed that things have been fairly sparse on the site recently. We’ve been busier than ever working on a variety of creative projects for clients around the country from music videos to photo shoots and haven’t had a chance to focus our time on producing the content that we love doing; free stuff for the world to enjoy. Recently the going motto has been if it doesn’t pay, don’t do it. Fortunately right now we’re able to jump back on board and do a little more with The American Classic. Whenever something you love becomes time prohibitive, it’s time to take a break and wait for the right moment to come and spark you with some inspiration. We’re happy to be here and hope you enjoy the content we have coming over the next few weeks. Click here to read the full article.


Closed for the Weekend

Posted on October 8, 2011

The past few weeks have been pretty hectic with returning to Philadelphia, lining things up for the site for the fall curriculum, and working on several records and films. I hope you’ve been enjoying the weather changes wherever you are and are ready for the good winter ahead of us. The photo above is from my grandparents home nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina. I haven’t been there since last winter but this was taken after a fresh snow melt which reminded me of this time of year as the air grows crisper and long-tucked away layers of clothing emerge from closets and drawers having been forgotten for the past warmer months.

I also hope you’ve been enjoying the materials published here lately. Getting to talk with designers, small businesses, and emerging brands has been an exciting and eye-opening experience for me as I develop what this blog is really about. There are some very exciting things coming in the next few weeks including interviews, write ups, and event coverage that I can’t wait to share with you. It’s sort of been an unwritten rule that I’ve maintained while writing here for the past few months but I think for a while at least I will be closed on weekends. All posting will occur between Monday and Friday unless something is urgent or time sensitive or I absolutely cannot wait another second to share it with you. It gives me time to explore and expand the horizons around these parts and it gives you time away from the computer or phone or whatever you read this on which these days is an invaluable time we all need.

I’m inching ever closer to launching the shop and I’m very excited to get this ball rolling. I know there’s growing interest in what’s happening with it so I’ll say this: it will be extremely small, highly curated, mostly unstructured, and as affordable as I can possibly make it. It’s an interest I’ve held to do something like this for a long time so when the time is right and everything has put itself in it’s proper place, the shop will launch. Starting small is the best way to approach this and I hope to see it grow into something pretty amazing.

Thanks again for reading and, as always, follow us on Twitter for more updates.


Philadelphia Bike Expo 2011

Posted on August 11, 2011

Well folks, it’s getting to be the end of summer and it’s time to start thinking about your fall plans. For those of you on the East Coast who enjoy cycling, here’s an interesting event for you. Philadelphia’s Bilenky Bikes is hosting the Philadelphia Bike Expo for another year in Center City Philly and this year it’s at the 23rd Street Armory, just around the corner from Rittenhouse Square and the Mutter Museum on October 29th and 30th, 2011.

Bikes are back and it’s no new news. Bilenky has been championing beautiful bicycle frames in Philadelphia for many years which is why it’s appropriate that they would curate such an amalgamation of bicycle brands. Some particularly interesting companies in attendance will be Brooks England (classic leather saddles), Rene Herse (custom bicycles), and Rapha (cycling-wear company particularly cool for their collaboration with Paul Smith). We were able to catch Bina Bilenky for a few questions about the upcoming event. Here’s what we discussed. Click below to read the interview.