this week i

stuck out my thumb and hitchhiked westward into kyrgyzstan.  or, as herman cain might call it, kyrgyzzy-gyzzy-gyzzy-gyzzy-stan-stan.

enjoyed the company of chinese truckers, wooly camels.

realized they travel in caravans for safety.  new silk, same road.

passed the occasional shadow.

got my kyrgyz passport welcome stamp as the sun set.

asked the border guard if his "town" had a place to sleep.  learned that a kyrgyz border guard's definition of "hotel" differs from mine.

entered the six room building.  a few surprised looks, but their conversation didn't grind to a halt.  one locked store room with surely-expired packaged goods, one freezing covered porch, two rooms packed with tipsy smokey kyrgyz truckers playing cards or dozing in cramped cots, one room for the family that seemed to run the joint, the boiler closet for me.

hunkered down for the night.  paid the matron six dollars for a "bed."  kept waking up to her coming into my "room" to either re-ignite the cauldron to keep us "warm," to prop a "table" against the "door" to keep the whining dog outside, or to have a cigarette where her family "wouldn't see her" smoking.  kyrgyzstan, i love you already.  no quotes there.

 snagged the first truck out of dodge..  after the teamster had his shot of vodka.

rode north.  morning out the passenger's side window.

shared the cab..

..shared the road.

changed trucks twice in the evening snow.  break-lights ahead of us, oncoming traffic to the left.

rolled into osh, new year's eve.

prepped with the best of them.

walk behind people who dress like they know what they're doing when the road is icy, the vehicular traffic is close and fast, and a sidewalk is a foreign concept.

suppose this counts as a city monument.  dear mayor: at least open the door so kids can play in the cockpit.

snapped a kyrgyzstani winter-appropriate version of that infamous rep. chris lee self-portrait.

risk being labeled a partisan, but there will be no anthony weiner edition.

get the point.  young kyrgyz males dislike photos with santa..

..well fuck everything.  we're going with two santas and a side of mickey.

sent off 2011 in style.  after all, what other night..

affords both shrek and mrs. shrek for your family photos?

is it legal, encouraged even, to shoot flaming projectiles at cars?

can you find fireworks rocketing out of dense strobe-filled human gatherings?

..and, when it's all over, what other night do the police lock arms and shove the crowd out of the square?


this week i

slept on a plane to istanbul, dropped off a suitcase, ate some shawarma, then slept on the christmas eve nonstop to urumqi.  turkish airlines might be higher quality, but china southern gave me three seats to myself and the untouristed company of uyghurs.

crossed the pamirs.

saw my first of many minarets..

..oh look there's another.

passed on the street food..

instead, a stately restaurant

..and just to be 100% hygenic, let's laminate everything.

hit the xinjiang regional museum for some..

mummies.  guess she's cold too.

torture devices disguised as musical instruments

..and bald propaganda.

shopped around.. moths to a flame.

walked the city park.  know how those roses are red in winter?  they're paper..

but the futility award belongs elsewhere

..if we're going to freeze to death, let's at least do so aesthetically pleasingly.

rang it like wall street at 9:29 a.m.

felt a symbolism between any moment on the ice rink ..and the greater human experience: some of us have fallen, some of us about to fall, others are picking ourselves up, while most of us just skate along.

was trying to be profound when hey are you serious come on this is a family affair.  good thing they don't speak english.

stamp urumqi as sufficiently weird.

flew once more, last plane till europe.. kashgar.  coldest place in the muslim world.

saw the first of many mosques aged at half a millenium..'s a tip: when you're taking the brochure glamour shot, go the extra mile and shoo the pidgeons first.  that one was free, but i'm going to start charging next time.

felt rich.  $31/night in the former british consulate.

♫ wish i were an oscar mayer uyghur. ♫ (pronounced wee-gur)

spotted various modes of transit.

loved the food, hated the book.

wonder if it's not that they can't pronounce l, but that they just really like r.

recognized rupert murdoch's doppelganger..

..oh and by the way, china, you name your stations cctv?  subtle.

secured destination-appropriate translations for my onward journey.

found consolation in the cold.

made friends with the police.  don't ask me how.

had one last decent meal..

..before setting out into the wilderness.