I recently had the good fortune of

1) Helping plan and execute a bachelor party in Bogota for my old friend Daniel.
2) Attending the subsequent wedding in Italy 10 days later.


My boys and I have established a rich tradition of one-upping the last bachelor party as each man ties the knot. The first was very low rent (sorry Andreas), consisting of an old run-down party bus with a tranny midget aboard (you read that right) and a VIP room at Sue’s Rendezvous in Mt Vernon. I was next, with a 3-day duplex suite in South Beach & a freakin’ yacht. To top Miami, we decided we had to leave the country, so the next BP was in Jamaica. That trip also included a (frightfully well-endowed) midget, the memory of whom still gives me nightmares to this day.

This time around, with Iceland, Latvia, and Cuba all in the mix, we settled on Bogota. It was affordable, nobody but me had been there before, and it was close enough that we could leave mid-day on a Friday from NYC and still have a real night out just off the plane. I also had a friend in NY and a friend in Bogota who could advise us on where to stay, where to eat, and how not to get kidnapped. All good things.

Sadly, this being a bachelor party, I have almost zero photos to share. I left the camera at home. Rules are rules. So I’ll be brief.


In short, our first night in Bogota was a helluva lot like that scene from Boogie Nights, towards the end, where they go to Alfred Molina’s house and he’s wearing a bathrobe and yelling “listen to my mixtape” or whatever – without all of the firecrackers and the shooting, mind you. Allow me to elaborate: Despite our flight delays and not landing until well after midnight, we ended up dropping in on a friend of a friend, who welcomed us in to his house at 2am with open arms, despite having never met us. Thankfully, we had been waved through by the armed guard posted on his block, who was in full fatigues, ski mask, and toting an M16.

After a quick meet n greet, our gracious host proceeded to call for a liquor delivery, food delivery, and other local delicacies, and the weekend was off to a smashing start. We basically had an impromptu party with total strangers at this weird abandoned mansion that started at 3am and lasted until sunrise.

Our host was some sort of dulce de lece magnate. I kid you not. I guess he exported the stuff. Apparently there is a whole lot of money in desserts. What I mostly remember is the amazing rum, some local trees they called “creepy”, the cavernous, indoor, near-olympic-size pool, and the fact that any place in Bogota that I mentioned, our host would say:

“THAT place? FUCK that place! THREE TIMES!”.

Everything and everyone he didn’t like got fucked exactly three times.

We stayed at The Charleston Hotel. Very swanky. It’s one of those places that makes your bed like 4 times a day. Any time you leave the room, they sneak back in and make it all perfect again. This is me on some Risky Business type shit. Just take those old records off the shelf!

If you’ve ever been to Bogota, then you’ve been to Andres Carne De Res. In ingles: “Andres: King of Meat”. I was there once before about 10 years ago. It’s a sprawling carnival of a restaurant – way out in the country, about 40 minutes from Bogota. The interior of the place is almost indescribable. Like Terry Gilliam and Pee Wee Herman took acid and raided every cool antique store on planet earth and had Salvador Dali install it all in to one big living / blinking / beaming sculpture. That, and that scene in Apocalypse Now at the Do Lung bridge with all of the christmas lights.

*disclaimer: some of these beautiful Andres photos I stole off of ze web. My camera takes horrible photos in low light.


It’s like being in some crazy funhouse. In one room there’s a DJ and dancefloor. In another, an Andean band following some mock wedding (see pic above). In another, some kind of Latin Cirque D Soleil type shit. In other rooms, who knows what? All while people are eating and drinking. The later you stay, the bigger and louder the party gets. We had an amazing steak dinner that night. Other Bogota recommends would be the amazing goat at Bandida and the incredible Peruvian ceviche at La Mar.



The rest of the weekend was super fun. New rule: Never accept a challenge to play 8-ball with 3 strippers who carry their own chalk. Despite that costly mistake, nobody slept, nobody got kidnapped, and everybody got very good at using Google translate. Good times.


Ten days later I left for Italy for the glorious union of Daniel & Hana. An Italian destination wedding has always been a very recent dream of Daniel “marriage is for suckers” Fries, so we were all happy to see it finally come to fruition. He found a place in Umbria that had enough villas for rent on one mountain to accommodate 50 people. No easy task from what I gather. Guests were coming from NY, Tokyo, Hong Kong, LA, Cincinnati, San Francisco, and Jeruselem.

They sent out the invite in the middle of last year, informing us all that they would secure these villas for the entire week prior to the wedding, so we could all show up early and hang out in Umbria if we so desired. After seeing pictures of the place, I knew this was a once in a lifetime chance for me, so I put all other plans aside and made this my goal. About 12 of my closest friends made the same plan. We agreed to meet in Rome for a few days, then rent cars and drive up to Umbria for a week, then back to Rome after the wedding. I had only been to Italy once before, and had basically just passed through Rome going to Tuscany, so I was very excited to explore the city on my own at both the front and back end of the trip.



Close friends Ben & Patty rented an apartment for the 3 of us. Two nights in Campo Di Fiori, right in the heart of the city. They offered the extra bed so I took it. They found it through AirBnB, and it was a steal.



Campo Di Fiori piazza was a farmers’ market by day and a loud, bustling, party hangout at night.



I spent most of my time in Rome just wandering the streets alone, ducking in to a church or museum from time to time. I’d meet up with the crew for lunch or dinner or an afternoon stroll. I also managed to eat chocolate gelato at least twice a day in the interest of science. The best one by far was a dark Venezuelan sorbeto in Perugia called Dark Noir.

Why we Americans shun the courtyard I’ll never know. There is just something magical about indirect sunlight. You find them within so many buildings in Rome, often with a driveway leading to the street, like this one.


Sculptures as grand as the one above (right) can be found at the corners of countless apartment buildings, right next to the clothesline. It boggles the mind.




Being a student of typography, old cities like Rome are a joy.




I came across these three spooky portraits in a flea market in Trastavere. I immediately thought of Robin Gibb (R.I.P.).


I woke up at 6am on Sunday to catch the sunrise on St Peter’s Square, Bernini’s masterpiece of civic architecture and symmetry. I didn’t really have time for the whole Vatican tour, but St Peter’s Basilica is free, and you can get in and out quickly if you show up before the throngs. This is the Ponte Dant’Angelo bridge over the Tiber that takes you towards St Peter’s and the Vatican. It was built by Hadrian in 134 AD. The castle in the background is actually Hadrian’s mausoleum.


St Peter’s is the tallest building in Rome. They won’t let you build any taller. This seems silly (to me), but it does remain a very dramatic presence in the city skyline, as it is the first to catch the sun. The boulevard that approaches it, via del concilliazone, is usually jam packed with taxis and tourist busses. At 6:30am, I was practically the only person in sight, so I walked down the middle of the street like a gangster. Felt pretty fucking cool.



The interior is just bananas. The scale, breathtaking. The opulence, unbelievable. While I have a lot of personal issues with the Catholic Church sort of missing the entire gist of Jesus’ socialist philosophy LOL, I put that aside this day, to just admire the fucking grandeur of it all.

I was one of the first people in the door, so it was near empty. The emotional impact it had on many fellow tourists was impossible to ignore. Some wept just waiting to go inside. A gang of pilgrims rushed in as the gates opened, to kneel for the very first mass at 7am. Below, Bianchi’s glorious Altar of The Immaculate Conception.


There’s a European tradition of placing a small padlock near famous sites, for good fortune in love. Couples write their names and date on the lock, then attach it to others in big clusters.



Old woman near the Capitoline Museum. They had a great exhibit inside of documents from the Papal archives. I got a glimpse of Galileo’s confession of heresy in 1633 (for preaching that the earth revolved around the sun, silly man), as well as Henry VIII’s petition for divorce and many other historical gems.


2am at the fountain just outside the Pantheon. They built the Pantheon in 126 AD and it’s still standing. Think about that for a second.


Had my first amazing meal at a place called Roscioli just south of Campo Di Fiori. There’s a busy cheese and meat shop in the front, and restaurant in the back.

We had several delicious pasta dishes and the best meatballs I’ve ever eaten. We started with white – a 2009 grechetto from Latium, then moved on to a Barbera whose name I forget. Luckily, Serge is a wine freak and always orders the good stuff. I know almost nothing but I am excellent at drinking.


A tiny, absolutely stunning church in Trastavere – Santa Maria Dell’Orto.



Romans don’t understand coffee to-go. You stand on the street and drink it, return the cup, then you’re on your way.


Trevi Fountain at 3am. It’s a complete tourist shit-show during the day, but rather romantic at night.


Kept seeing these street paintings. Not sure if they were oil paint or what, but the dude has skills.



Speaking of street art, the Pigneto neighborhood, which is a bit outside of the city to the East, was the bomb. Found a lot of cool street art there. They also have a great restaurant named Primo Al Pigneto, which I would recommend. Particularly the desserts.


I kept seeing these in the center of the city, which got me searching for more. He/she just puts stickers on street signs. Simple, subtle, cool.





“You are not responsible for what you are, but you are responsible for what you do with what you are”
“There is something more important than logic: the imagination”
“Men get along best with women who can get along best without them”


Sunset at The Spanish Steps. Arrivederci Roma!



Ben & I left for Rome in a rental car early Sunday morning, heading for the wedding villa in Umbria. If you think gas is expensive in the U.S., try paying $130 U.S. to fill up your tank. No joke.


The Umbrian countryside at this time of year is breathtaking. So lush and green. And the best part of it is, it’s unspoiled. You never round a corner and find a hideous strip mall or some gargantuan hotel on a hill. It’s seemingly nothing but picturesque little villas and castles and churches and hill towns plucked right out of a fairy tale. This is a restraint that is foreign to Americans IMO.



The final road up to the villa, lined with Cypress trees.



The villa itself, where I stayed for about six days. There was about four or five separate buildings. Other guests stayed nearby, just down the hill in similar digs.






There was a bit of drama the night before the wedding. We were robbed by a crew of 3 guys at about 5:30 in the morning. They managed to get the gate open and drove their car right up to the front door. They went through several villas, taking laptops, ipads, cameras, and freshly purchased Prada Outlet suits, right under the nose of sleeping guests. Lucky for us, they skipped our villa.

Finally, this Pixar-animator by day and caped-crusader by night dude named Royce wakes up while the thieves are in his room. He jumps up and chases them out the door in his underwear. He even jumped on their hood of the getaway car and tried to punch in the window. They shook him loose and sped off down the hill. Thankfully nobody was hurt, and only material stuff was taken (Prada suits… :tear:). Royce was everyone’s hero after that. We later found out they robbed another villa in the valley earlier that same night. Crazy.


Way back in 1997 my father took me to the the Festa Dei Ceri in Gubbio – The Festival of the Candles, where these ancient half-ton candles with tiny little saints on top get hoisted up on big wooden supports and raced all over town and up to the top of a mountain. They’ve been doing this every May 15th for almost a thousand years. It was one of my fondest memories of Italy and I was thrilled that this current trip happened to coincide with the festival once again.


The town also kinda reminded me of the village from that 60s TV show, The Prisoner.


It began as an impromptu candlelight vigil for the Bishop Ubaldo upon the eve of his death in 1160. Now they have a yearly race, where the entire town dresses up in the color of their favorite saint (St. Ubaldo, St. Antoni, or St. George). They hang banners from every window. And they get down for theirs.


Different marching bands parade up and down the streets before the race, causing impromptu dance parties and much drunken revelry.


Yellow and red for St. Ubaldo. Blue & red for St. George. Black & red for St. Antoni.



The brass bands play what sounds a lot like polka music to me. Not sure what the locals call it, but they do like to hop around when it kicks in.



Here you can see one of the big candles being hoisted up. This is St. Ubaldo himself. They seem to take about 16 men or more to hold up.


You can see the support structure in this picture. They manage to get a full gallop going down these narrow medieval streets, and when they do, those who aren’t running alongside or in front get the fuck out of the way with the quickness.


Ubaldo. George. Antoni.


These nuns were especially excited.


At 6pm, 3 guys come through on horses blowing trumpets, then the race begins and the whole town goes apeshit. You’d be amazed at how fast these get going. They stampede through the whole town, then down through the open plaza, then up the giant mountain to the church that overlooks Gubbio. Tons of people run along with them, to cheer them on and/or replace those who get tired.


This isn’t my video, but it gives you a sense of what it’s like when they run past.


During the daytime we’d take little excursions to various hill-towns, like Monte Falco, or Montone, below.







The views of the surrounding countryside from every corner of this town were nothing short of breathtaking. To make things even sweeter, I met a cool chick from Tulsa who was studying art in Montone for a month. We had lunch and compared notes on Italy. It was a good day.





My friends and I were asked to do a big BBQ for all of the wedding guests the night before the event. Andreas and I drove to Perugia to procure some raw meat and explore a little bit. It’s a pretty big city for Umbria, with a beautiful old hill town and a fairly sprawling suburb below. It’s also a college town, so there are hot chicks everywhere. Mama Mia! We met up with Serge, Mel & Rio for a wonderful lunch. Afterwards, we set out finding the elusive butcher.






I found a big record store in this old stone cavern-like building. As cool as it looked, there was better vinyl in Rome flea markets. Joe Bataan for €18? No thanks.


We bought a big ass bag of steak, sausage, and ribs at the local butcher. One thing you quickly learn in Italy is that nobody likes to work. Many shops open from 9am-1pm, close 1-4pm (for a 3-hour 4-course lunch break and nap. HA!), then open for another hour or so at the end of the day. We asked this butcher when she was closing. She said they were closing in 5 minutes at 1pm but we could come back later. Then she remembered was Thursday and on Thursday they don’t bother re-opening at all, simply because it’s Thursday. So we had to buy everything right away. They’re also closed on Sundays and Mondays. Nice life.



The BBQ at the villa was a lot of fun. They had an old grill where you burn logs in the front, then rake the coals in to a shallow concave grill. Serge is from Uruguay, so he’s very controlling of any grilling situation. He and the Andreas got in to it a bit. Ben focused on the ribs.


Hana’s father joined us in the kitchen to prep his own pork roast.


Just about all of my crew pitched in with the cooking.


Drinks are my thing, so I made a classic Aperol/Prosecco blend with a splash of club soda and dash of lemon juice. I also learned you cannot buy bags of ice at the grocery store. They simply don’t exist, as most Italians don’t really drink anything that cold from what I can tell. Heathens.



The boys cooked late in to the night, and the BBQ was well received by both Japanese & Americans alike.




The wedding was on Friday. It seemed like it might rain all day, but it held off, and the sun even came out right at the end. Daniel walked out to The George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag”, to much LULZ. The ceremony was pretty damn moving. Hana looked incredible, and her vows were devastating. Not a dry eye in the olive grove. Daniel’s boy Sergio officiated for some comic relief.

They had a ridiculous meat & cheese spread that Heidi quickly dubbed “the infinity buffet” due to its picturesque placement overlooking the valley. This dude in the picture below stood there and carved hundreds of wafer-thin, perfectly cut slices of prosciutto. It was a serious wonder to behold. He was a human slicing machine. Maybe he was a machine!




I stole this photo below from Kevin Flowers’ FB page cuz he lives in Beirut or some place and thus has much bigger problems than tracking me down.


Post ceremony with big papa Shimizu.


I gave the best wedding speech of my life. Brought many to tears, including myself, but I managed to get through it. I took a pic on my phone to show the girl I met in Montone how I roll n shit.


By the end of it all, I can say with confidence that we were quite thankful that Daniel & Hana created this amazing experience for us. There was more than a few times when each of us looked around and said “Just look at this place… it’s just ridiculous!“. And it was. The wedding. The villa. The countryside – it was all too much. Who gets to be lucky? Me, occasionally, it would seem. I count my blessings, for real. Such a great week – hanging with old friends, meeting new ones, and exploring Italy on my own.

I had two more nights in Rome on the backend, then headed back to NYC. No more god damn pasta until labor day. Thanks for reading all of this. Peace.

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