Mind Trip is on Amazon

It’s out! Mind Trip is finally out. So click the link and get your copy now. If you need a reminder of the plot:

Surrealist artist Eric paints what he thinks, paints what he sees, and sees what he thinks. Ever since he was a child, the world appeared to him through vivid, dream-like hallucinations that inevitably inspired the paintings that put food on his table. However, the last of his visions have come and gone. Eric blames his long-time girlfriend Tara. While she may be loving and supportive, Tara is a powerful sedative.

Then Eric meets Alice, an offbeat girl whose every breath turns the world into a powerful fantasy. Won over by her zany antics, Eric must decide between the safety of Tara’s dull arms and the ever-morphing excitement of Alice’s.

In the meanwhile, Eric is losing his mind. Hallucinations grow, and not all for the better. A dream world would not be complete without the occasional nightmare. Eric must decide what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s real and what’s fiction. Depending on his choices, he might lose both girls and his sanity too.

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Vienna the Wunderbar

After a lovely morning in Bratislava, my friends and I took a bus to Vienna, Austria and planned our day over a picnic in the park. First on our list was the Schonbrunn Palace.

Originally built in 1548, the palace was purchased by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II in 1569. Since emperors seem to have a taste for the excessively extravagant, you can be sure the palace and its gardens were expanded upon over the years. But enough about the history. Look at this place!

So the front looks a little bare, for a palace anyways. However, you haven’t seen the back yet. God, I considered throwing behind all my friends and family just to live in one of the bushes and wake up every day to see such beauty. From the French gardens to the lilac covered walkway to the great, open fields, I fell in love. I wouldn’t have believed that I’d soon see another palace just as gorgeous.

We continued on, walking from place to place. We saw Karlsplatz, the Vienna State Opera, and the Hofburg Imperial Palace with its Burrgarten. We never stayed too long. Our plan was to come back to Burrgarten the next day. Aside from that, we simple enjoyed walking from place to place. Stunning tourist traps aside, the city as a whole is breathtaking. It’s certainly worth renting a bike just to see as much of it as you can.

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In the evening, we headed down to a little marketplace, which also just so happened to include St. Stephen’s Cathedral. I don’t care what you say about roofs – “a roof is a roof,” “roofs suck,” “boring!” – St. Stephen has a fine-looking roof. It’s a shame they dared cover it up, and for what? Renovation? Restoration? Ugh, can you believe that? How selfish!

Finally, after a bit of schnitzel, we called it a night. Then, before we knew it, morning had come and we were off on a few rented bikes from our Hostel Ruthensteiner (great place with a great staff, including one guy who looked like Brazilian Jesus). As I said, it’s certainly worth renting a bike. During the day we stumbled upon places we never thought to visit like the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Parliament Building, Rathaus Park, and whatever that gold thing is.

Although such places were worth a stop, they were nothing compared to our real destinations in mind. For example, the Votive Church. Of course, when I went, the church was undergoing construction. Someone even had the bold idea to put an ad there. Even so, you must admit that the church is a stunning sight to behold, especially if you imagine the facade completely clean.

Not impressed? Well, let me introduce you to Belvedere Palace. The grounds were so lovely. It’s no surprise a wedding reception was being set up in the background. Also, yes, that is a snowman carved out of marble.

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I should also mention that there is another palace farther down, along with an art gallery. Of course, I was too short for time to check them out…also, I didn’t know they were there. Would I have gone, I might’ve shown you pictures like this:

Palais Schwarzenberg (top) and Unteres Belvedere Art Gallery (bottom)

Point is. Go to Vienna.

I Belong

I sit under the eyes
Of striped birch trees
Whose roots raise the earth
Around me like a mossy bed.
The grass prickles
The bristles along my skin,
And the ants march
Over me as though
Right there,
In the damp, musty soil,

I belong.
Yet, the sun drips down
The cloudy blue walls
And the dark is long overdue.
I must go.
I must leave this place
Where the forest molds
Itself around me,
Bidding me to stay
No doubt. But

Life is not a home
To lay down your burdens
And settle into the embrace
Of boughs and leaves
As you rest and rest.

You don’t belong there.
Your life is on the road
Amidst the bellows
Of the churning storms
Of white-lined asphalt. Onward
From house to house,
Homeless. And you’ll lose
A chunk of yourself
And gain another,
And lose and gain
And lose and gain
On and
On and
On, wrapped in memories.

Breakfast in Bratislava

So I obviously didn’t come to Bratislava for just breakfast. In fact, I arrived in the late afternoon and headed straight to the Hostel Blues where the friendly staff told us all the sites to see. Although I knew of Bratislava, I knew nothing of its sites.

Turns out Bratislava is a small, cute city with very few sites to see. You could absorb all of this little Slovak capital in a day or two. Even so, it’s a city worth seeing. I joked that if ever I was wanted by the government, I wouldn’t mind coming to Bratislava to start a new, quiet life. After all, Slovak is similar to Russian. I’m sure I could learn the language within time.

Since I arrived late, I took a brochure and just walked to all the tourist spots I could reach before nightfall.

As you can see, Bratislava has some lovely churches. Much like the city itself, they are stunning in a humble sort of way. Unlike much of the baroque, extraordinarily gaudy architecture I’ve seen in Russia, the churches here were grand, but not in an excessive manner.


During my walk, I found an outdoor mall with a long, cobblestone path split by a tram line. While you shop, you get to see the Bratislava Castle in the background perched on its hill. It’s an odd feeling to have a castle hundreds of years old share your line of sight with an H&M.

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I continued onward. While lost in an alley, I found this cool graffiti. What is it? I don’t know. Ask Patrik P. Still looks cool.

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Speaking of which, here is an upside down pyramid. Cool, right? A bit more industrial than in Cairo, but I doubt the Slovaks bury anyone in there.

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I made my way past parks with fragrant lilacs  and blooming trees. Kids played on the grass and couples sat and cuddled. But along the street, there was no. Even when I made it to the Parliament building, I still so few people. Strange.


Later, I found the president’s home by accident. His gated house sat on a square between the main roads of the city. People casually strolled by, apparently apathetic to the regal home in front of them.

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I woke early the next morning, not by my own choice, but at least I got to see a few more churches; one of which was located in a cute square alongside the French embassy and several eccentric statues.


My main stop of the day was the Budapest Castle. I found a nice courtyard while on my trek. It’s not related, but look how peaceful.

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After trudging up and up and up, I at last came to the castle. You can see the interior of the castle. Though, honestly, the view from the castle was more interesting than the castle itself. If not for a Chinese tourist screaming “WOW!!!” I could have fallen asleep up there. You could see the UFO bridge and the foggy hills with red-roofed houses tucked under the trees. Ahhhh

Oh yeah. Then I had breakfast at a cafe at the outdoor mall. But that’s not so interesting unless you’re interested in tea and croissants.

A Taste of Moscow

Two weeks ago I took a trip with the other Americans in my study abroad program to Moscow, the capital of Russia, and the home of my buddy Putin. I would have written sooner about my travels, but I was busy preparing for a trip the next week to Bratislava, Vienna, and Budapest. Stay tuned for my posts about those wonderful cities.

After a calm night train from Petersburg to Moscow, we dropped our luggage off at Godzilla’s Hostel, a cute set of rooms with a friendly staff and a location not far from the circus. We then headed to the Tretyakov Gallery, an art museum with displays of Russian artists only. For many, including myself, solely Russian artists doesn’t seem like a big selling point. However, just because you can’t name many famous Russian artists like Shishkin, Aivazovsky, and Repin, doesn’t mean you won’t greatly enjoy yourself. The Tretyakov gives you the best Russia has to offer. Much of the art depicts Russian landscapes, vibrant waves on the sea, and religious events and portraits much like western art in the Renaissance. However, there are more modern pieces to catch your eye. If you’re in Moscow, the Tretyakov is a must see.

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With the rest of the day free, I took the opportunity to see Gorki Park, well, part of it anyways. I wandered through a display of statues depicting famous Russian authors until I got distracted by a giant monument dedicated to the Russian navy. I enjoyed my short time in the park, though I wish I’d seen more of it.

From there, I couldn’t resist the urge to see Red Square. After all, it is the main tourist attraction in Moscow. The square itself is nothing more than an expanse of cobblestones, but everything that surrounds the cobblestones is utterly breathtaking. On one edge stands the Kremlin, the center of Russian government enclosed by tall, red walls and towers. I’ll come back to this one.

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Across from the Kremlin, lay GUM (Not gum. Don’t you dare so gum. GUM rhymes with zoom), one of the biggest malls you will ever have the honor to enter. I’m notoriously cheap, so I didn’t go in, but for a shopper at heart, it’s paradise. You’ll have to trust me.

On another edge is the Russian History Museum. The exterior is quite impressive, but I also didn’t go in because…excuses. Lenin’s Mausoleum is also on Red Square, but the exhibit was under renovation. Yes. Renovation. Of what? I don’t know. Lenin’s corpse? Maybe.

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And how could we forget Saint Basil’s Cathedral? She is the vibrant, onion-domed treasure of Russia. You can’t walk five feet without finding a souvenir clad with her beautiful facade. Made under the rule of Ivan the Terrible, St. Basil’s is the least terrible part of his rule – that is unless you consider the rumors about Ivan blinding the architect, so he couldn’t make another masterpiece like that again, part of the history of the cathedral.

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The next day our group went to Kolomenskoe, a sprawling, suburban park situated on former royal land. Although the wooden palace is a stunning example of architecture, I find the park itself more enjoyable with its long rows of trees and quaint, quiet churches lost in the woods. Just look how peaceful this place is. What a view! So romantic. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking for me.

Soon after Kolomenskoe, I took a trip to Moscow City, a city within a city decorated with sparkling skyscrapers. Since I study in New York City, I’m a bit over the cold glass and steel look. Even so, I must agree the twist (hehe puns) they put on skyscrapers is pretty cool.

Now back to the Kremlin. To my delight, my study abroad program provided us with a free tour through its grounds. Every now and then, you’d see a black car drive by, carrying some important official, and not so far away, an armed soldier in uniform made sure you don’t try anything funny. Anything! Even J-walking (ahem, not that I did that and got yelled at or something of the sort). Besides the official atmosphere, you obviously have your government buildings and your churches, including the Assumption Church, where all the tsars were crowned and Ivan the Terrible is supposedly buried. You’re not supposed to take pictures inside the church, but I didn’t know that. So, as you might guess, I got yelled at again. Regardless, I took the pictures and there’s no sense in deleting them. You deserve to have a look inside anyways.

It’s worth noting that the Kremlin also has the world’s biggest cannon and the world’s biggest bell, named the Tsar Cannon and the Tsar Bell. Yet, neither of them work, so I wasn’t too impressed.

Later that day, I headed to the Memorial Museum of Cosmonauts and then to VDNKH, a general purpose trade show and amusement park with a large display of fountains and pavilions representing the other Soviet states. The museum has a bunch of great exhibits inside pertaining to space technology and achievements and the like. However, I wanted to make the most of time and so I simply looked at the fabulous monument and carried on. Surely I didn’t give the memorial the time it deserved. Just look at the monument. Such a gorgeous structure must hint at wonderful exhibits inside the museum.

And VDNKH offered such a great view, no matter where you turned. No wonder why I saw so many couples and families there. I could’ve spent much more time circling the grounds again and again, perhaps sitting in front of the Ukrainian pavilion, about which my Ukrainian friend couldn’t stop praising. Sadly, my time was short in Moscow, and the very next day I was back in Petersburg.

Mine is the Fairest

All the bards before me
Wove words into phrases
Embroidered gold
With wit and romance.

Their brazen basses
And tenors tuned
To tingle and quiver
All the fibers
Of the hearts
Of their lovers.

“Mine is the fairest.”
So say they all.
“Her eyes are down.
Her lips are liquor
And I’m drunk,
And I’ll drink,
And I’ll drink.”

Yet how perfect is perfect
When all the fair are fairest?
I know these bards
Are just fools
Lost in love.

Yes. Fools. Fools.
All of them fools,
For mine is the fairest
Of them all.

My Fingers Sleep Alone

The calloused tips
Of my fingers
Have collapsed into a numb
Sleep after years crumpled
Into a fist. Cold
As the bones beneath,
They fumble
Like a child blind
In the dark,
Reaching for a familiar touch.
They find

Nothing. Senseless,
Even to each other,
They shiver
In a row
In the sun.
The pen I clasp
Tells them

Nothing. Another hand
Might help
Shed the stupor
From their pale bodies.
But until then,
My fingers sleep alone.