The World Is Changing Towards A Better Place

Photo by Michael Competielle

Wandering through New York City yesterday you can’t help but become immersed in excessive consumerism. Everywhere you look in NYC you are being sold to. If you can fit an advertisement certainly it’s there. 

Songs have been made about the lights on Broadway in Times Square. The hub of the tourist trap. Certainly, without the constant bombardment of advertising and high pressured sales would this Mecca survive? Corporate profits pay huge costs for billboard space on pricey real estate. Another age of decadence. 

Photo by Michael Competielle

But when you briskly walk past the nonsense and look for a bit of normalcy you can find whatever you are looking for in the greatest city in the world. 

Priorities 

Food is my favorite daily priority. As I’m now on a plant-based diet for well over a year now I’ll always search a neighborhood for what vegan options are available. I favor restaurants that have made the decision to only be vegan and vegetarian over restaurants that cross-pollinate plant-based food with animal products. 

I’m not sure I would say a food snob as it’s a doubt that’s the proper definition however I will say I’m becoming an educated consumer. Businesses that commit themselves to not offer animal-based products are increasing. The options available are growing exponentially as consumers are learning about the environmental and health issues of animal-based diets.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Passion In Philosophy 

Walking into P.S. Kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen we were warmly greeted and quickly seated in the chic bar area. We were a bit early for dinner and so it was the perfect time to sneak in before the dinner rush that would soon follow. 

Seated at a high top we ordered a few cocktails and an appetizer. The ambiance of the room was warm and inviting and the staff was cheerful and helpful. As we sipped our drinks we began to see the diner crowd lining up and decided to have our meal in the bar area which is my favored placed to eat due to the ease of interaction with others. 

Reading over the menu I was overwhelmed with the depth of the menu which offered well designed vegan creations of favored dishes. As I read the menu I couldn’t help but look at the reverse side and instantly fell in love with the restaurants’ philosophy. 

Photo by Michael Competielle

Our world is changing. We are on a rapid trajectory towards destruction as prices of goods and services are rising along with the Dow Jones. The separation of wealth continues to cripple families as welfare and social services have diminished along with living wages in favor of corporate wealth and excessive profits.

When a company decides to turn itself upon the crowd and walk fearlessly in the opposite direction, caring not only about their customers by offering carefully chosen ingredients to answer the concerns of the vegan demographic, but to also focus on gifting away their profits we must embrace these trailblazers. 

Focusing foremost on animal welfare by operating a vegan restaurant followed by donating the profits to help Haitian women with employment, healthcare, and education the humanitarian loop is fulfilled. By taking profits from patrons dining in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and sharing with one of the poorest helps to define the future we need to build. 

Ready or Not the excessive abuse of the planet’s resources from people to the soil needs to be improved upon. We need to educate ourselves and understand the impacts of the damage we are doing. The future is now and thankfully there are those that are paving the pathway.

“The future depends on what you do today.” 

― Mahatma Gandhi

Finding Creativity By Associating With Creatives In Creative Places

Photo by Michael Competielle

Chelsea is a neighborhood in New York City which is home to a vibrant community of creatives. With a huge stock of art galleries, brownstones, and old industrial buildings Chelsea has been a destination for artists, writers, and musicians for over 100 years.

One of the most prominent buildings in Chelsea’s creative enclave is the Chelsea Hotel. Built-in 1885 on New York’s 23rd Street is the red brick 250 unit hotel building which stands 12 stories tall and was one of the first buildings constructed to become private Co-op apartments in New York City. A utopia for creatives and work class alike the co-op would share in utilities and amenities to conserve costs.

Photo by Michael Competielle

In 1905 the co-op went bankrupt and the building was converted into a luxury hotel that attracted many famous guests. In the post-war ’40s into the ’50s the hotel was showing its age and room rates dropped. The hotel continued to attract the likes of Jackson Pollack and Dylan Thomas who spent his final days living in room #205 of the Chelsea while sickly and on a drinking binge. He died while in a coma in the local St. Vincent’s hospital.

The Chelsea Hotel describes itself as “a rest stop for rare individuals,” a euphemism that still manages to pass the truth-in-advertising test if you take “rare individuals” to mean artists and addicts, and rest stop to mean possible death. Legends of The Chelsea Hotel

Photo by Michael Competielle

Apartments Available

Pulitzer Prize-winning Arthur Miller moved into apartment #614 after his divorce with Marilyn Monroe.

Leonard Cohen wrote “Chelsea Hotel #2” after his romantic encounters with Janis Joplin in room #415. He lived in room #424.

Bob Dylan stayed in room #211 while he wrote the song “Sara” for his first wife.

Sex Pistols Sid Vicious stabbed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen in room #100.

Club Kid Christina lived and died in room #323. Her body was discovered 5 days after her death.

Andy Warhol film The Chelsea Girls in room #442

Photo by Michael Competielle
Andy Warhol’s Auricon 16mm sound-on-film camera with 1200′ film magazine

Jon Bon Jovi wrote the song and filmed the music video for “Midnight at the Chelsea” in room #515

Madonna took the photographs for her book “Sex” in room #822

Writer Thomas Wolfe spent the last few years of his life in room #829

Patti Smith lived in room #1017 with Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe

Brilliant Works

Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey

William Burroughs wrote The Third Mind and Naked Lunch

Arthur Miller wrote After the Fall 

Dylan Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood 

Yves Klein wrote his Chelsea Hotel Manifesto

Joseph O’Neill wrote Netherland

Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can’t Go Home Again

If Walls Could Talk

The walls of the Chelsea Hotel were adorned with original photographs and paintings by many famous artists. In the later years, the hotel functioned as an artist flophouse as the rent was often paid with artworks. Stanley Bard was the hotel’s manager known to be lax on rents allowed artists to live and create often for years.

Drunk or high Chelsea’s occupants would stumble through her hallways, hiding from their own realities. The walls having witnessed brilliant talents and agonizing pain.

Photo by Michael Competielle

A Renewed Life

The Chelsea Hotel was purchased in 2011 for $80 million by the real-estate developer  Joseph Chetrit and stopped taking room reservations on August 1, 2011. Long term residents were allowed to stay during the renovations as many were protected by rent control laws, however, the construction made the building a health hazard and many residents were forced to move out.

Photo by Michael Competielle

While protected by Landmarks of New York one would hope the fabric and spirit of the Chelsea will remain. Sadly the juxtaposition of the arts and environment has sadly died with the closure of the building and the redevelopment is certain to keep out the artists and writers that made her famous.

Finding Peace And Connections Within The Sounds of Our World’s Typography

Photo by Michael Competielle

Letters and symbols of nine various languages meticulously connected together to form 19 floating cloud-like stainless steel orbs. The creation of the world’s most well-known sculptors Jaume Plensa in an installation he calls Talking Continents.

Each unique individual letter is fused together to form words without any true meaning and function as an example of the breakdown of communication.

However, as we look at each unique form as they represent humans sitting on top of these floating orbs we begin to understand Plensa’s title of Talking Continents.

The Sounds of Continents

As I’m preparing for my next large scale project of 100 days of unique sound recordings I find inspiration and connection to Plensa’s works. What would be the unique sounds of these nine different and unique letters or words as they were formulated into a connection of sentences or statements? Are we all saying the same things albeit in a different tongue?

In our study of text and more elegantly typography, we see how the combinations of only a few letters can create words of beauty. The beauty of our every language articulates our feelings and emotions that resonate from island to island, continent to continent.

Photo by Michael Competielle

The Beauty In Plensa’s Silence

As I quietly walked amongst each orb I recognized letters that highlighted the diversity in distance Plensa was recognizing. It was here in the silence circling each island that I began to question our differences as we were all connected and unified, fused together as one.

Is each unique letter chosen by Plensa to make connections to our similarities while appearing to be different? What was the connection that made each sculpture unified? Are we as humans actually unified and we are saying the same thing maybe just a bit differently?

Photo by Micahel Competielle

Upon closer inspection, I noticed all of the orbs seemed to be facing the same direction. Was this intentional? Are we collectively moving along together while seemingly drifting apart?

On this day I don’t have any insightful answers however I’m certain my explorations of typography, sound, and languages will have a new and enrichening perspective.

Spending Time Apart Enriches Your Time Together

Photo by Michael Competielle

As humans, our greatest ability over any other being is our ability to communicate. Everything from facial expressions to dialogue to writing we have many ways to articulate our thoughts and emotions. Yet most people haven’t anything to say. 

Talks of the weather or last night’s game are conversation devoid of creativity and honesty. Place saving for true self-expression and thought. Ask the person “how did you feel when your team lost” or “how did you feel that it rained all day” and possibly you’ll be on to an actual form of emotion.

With our busy lives filled basically of doing nothing, traffic, the morning news, work issues and the long line at the grocery isn’t actually conversation, it’s a data dump of words that fill the narrative. Fluff to get the report to look through or detailed. If you economize and minimize the dialogue to one’s emotions the conversations become more honest and engaging because they create inclusion to the listener. 

A filmmaker friend I speak to daily returned yesterday from a 17 day trip to Europe. We talked for over an hour about his trip. He loved the premium class seating on the flight due to the added legroom however not having a direct flight he would never do again. 

The coffee in his hotel in Budapest wasn’t great and so he went to McDonald’s for a cup to go and he was surprised it was served in a ceramic cup with a stainless steel spoon and a fabric napkin. There isn’t any coffee cup to go. You don’t go anywhere with your coffee. You sit there and enjoy it. 

He spoke of the energy he had immersed in the architecture and culture of the century-old cities and how he felt relieved on rainy days because he could spend hours inside museums without missing the outdoors. 

At the end of the hour, we had little filler or fluff. An honest close conversation on how he felt being away and how great it felt to be back. We scheduled a date for next week to spend two hours discussing a new film project and to look at some of the hours of video footage he had captured during the 17 days trek. 

Distance brings us closer as it gives us space and time apart to reconnect with our emotions. The passing of time is real and actual. And the longer the duration apart the more abridged our engagements become as we will expedite the narrative to express ourselves. 

We may not always get out our truest feelings yet if we know we may be again distanced we should be honest in our expression. I missed my friend over the 17 days, I feel reconnected with him as we squeezed 17 days into 1 hour. However, it’s that one hour we shared how we felt more so than what we did. And how we felt during our separation and how we now feel together again. 

Packing My Life Into A Backpack

Photo by Michael Competielle

The Past

When the Communists entered my grandparent’s Austrian homestead, they were forced to pack up and leave. They were only allowed one truck amongst the family and were required to pack within the hour and head out onto the road. 

Often I try to imagine the feeling of being forced to pack within one hour everything that matters to me into a trunk and carry it away. The remainder of my belongings never to be seen again. 

What would I deem important? Are some of my worldly possessions not going to fit, easily replaceable or nonessential? For the most part yes. 

With the false sense of security feeling, this will never happen to me I can simply disregard the notion and not worry. But history has a tendency to repeat itself, and even if it will never happen, what do I really possess that could fill that trunk?

In war-torn 1940’s Europe, I’d say clothing, food, blankets and some photographs. Not much more would really matter. Discarded and left behind as I’m certain many felt lucky they were escaping with their lives.

Stuffing Your Life in a Backpack

So my experiment is what items are of essential importance to my daily needs? The backpack concept comes from a desire to travel to more remote destinations where I would need to minimize my packs. 

My passion to travel has never been stronger and my quest to document these experiences is the single most important objective. 

My pack will include a camera to capture the scenery and experience as I attempt to seize the moment and freeze it in time. 

The sound of environments has become my latest experiment and therefore I must bring along my audio recording gear. 

Recently I’ve come to the realization that I’m also a writer. Pen to paper not so much as I write on an iPad or laptop. Seems that also needs to go into the pack.

I’m looking into a lightweight Buddhist prayer rug so I can sit close to the earth and become connected to my environment.

Clothing, some snacks, and water I’m thinking the pack is full and going to be heavy.

Lightening the Load

My iPhone can actually handle most of the tasks mentioned above, photography and video, sound recording, writing, and even a few ebooks I would feel relatively complete. 

Any of the other equipment would need to improve the capabilities of my cellphone or else their value begins to fade after hours of humping the heavy pack through the paths of travel.

What about all we left behind

So now I begin to question everything I’ve left behind. Is anything essential? As a collective of physical content much of the things I own I’d say yes. However if I was forced to pack them into a trunk, never to see the items left behind could I survive? Am I willing to walk away from the clutter of life and feel complete and whole? 

One day I’m certain to find out. Be it my quest for enlightened travel or my placement into my eternal place of rest. 

Finding Myself By Becoming Nomadic

Photo by Michael Competielle

Every morning I awaken with energy to make a change. I’ll try to make a difference in the world by questioning the status quo and attempting to make minor adjustments to my lifestyle to help save our planet.

My short drive to work I pass through small suburban developments of semi-manicured lawns and sidewalks. Some people will walk their dogs or go for a jog however just like me most everyone jumps into their cars and drives to work.

Very few homes including mine are even close to being carbon neutral. Our lawns and home designs don’t benefit our environment nor our needs beyond basic shelter. Gone are the agrarian days where our homes were also small farms where we would grow some fruits, vegetables and raise animals for food.

Prior to agrarian times, we lived a nomadic life. Traveling and foraging for foods to survive. For centuries various cultures survived living off the fruits of the land and their diets were based on the proximity to the foods available.

My favorite foods seem to come from warmer climates closer to the equator. Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese, Peruvian foods and most importantly being a vegan all of those cultures have options.

My quest is to experience and witness how other cultures live and prosper. Can I witness and learn from the ambassadors of our land? Can I learn how the foods I love and enjoy are grown? Will I understand the supply chain of how those foods are transported to me in New Jersey?

Obtaining Enlightenment

I’m hoping that my travels will bring me to obscure places, guided by opportunities and happenstance. I’m hoping to learn new traditions and break bread with others after a day of wholesome hard work.

Would my soul become cleansed as I purify my mind? Will religious differences make more sense as I experience them in the environment? Can I expand my mindful meditation and enrich my existence?

As a nomad, you’d need to limit the number of personal possessions you travel with. What would my priorities actually be? Clothing, ways to document my travels, and ways to make a living.

How long would it take to obtain enlightenment is hard to guess however I visualize the process will begin the moment I leave to get on the plane. My nomadic travels are my goal and the narrative of my future.

Reimagining The Perfect Life

Taking your favorite aspects of your life and making them better

Photo by Michael Competielle

Just to be perfectly clear I’m not complaining by any stretch of the imagination about my current life. For all intent and purposes, it’s a perfect life. I have an amazing wife, great kids, wonderful dogs, a brilliant career, inspirational side hustles, and good health.

So why reimagine the perfect life?

What exactly is our actual purpose? To survive? To work, save and die?

Not long ago I reread the obituary of a visionary designer, restaurateur, and community leader. His style and visions have molded the inspiration of how and what I do daily.

Every day I awaken and ensure that I create something. Often my creations are as simple as breakfast or determining details on an architectural project. But often they are larger such as finishing films, inspiring photography or recording unique sounds.

My current carbon footprint is relatively small in comparison to many others yet I’m always thinking of ways to reduce my waste and stop the purchasing of frivolous non-necessities. My impact on the environment and my use of the Earth’s precious resources has moved to the head of the line of self-importance.

Every morning I’m working on Living My Legacy as I have less fear of dying than I do not living.

Michael Competielle

My perfect life consists of detachment as I want to detach myself from material things and nurture my relationships with loved ones and the Earth. I want to travel to the places that create my food to experience the challenges of growing these crops.

Photo by Michael Competielle

I want to pick bananas and avocados and work on a coffee plantation. I want to taste the sweat and feel the pain in my body after a hard day’s work. I want to sit by a warm fire and listen to stories about the lives of the people that really matter, the stewards of the land.

I want to listen to the sounds of animals in their natural habitat and recognize we are in this world together. I want to sleep on a beach and listen to the waves roll in as I watch the sunset.

I want to climb the highest mountains as a sherpa and learn how to breathe with limited oxygen. I want to know that on my descent from the mountain’s summit I’ll respect and cherish every new fresh breath.

I want to rebuild damaged lands and become a steward to our Mother Earth. I want to learn how to recreate biodiversity and sustainability and be a part of the rebirth of our depleted natural resources.

I want to listen to the birdsong and recognize their tunes as I watch our precious bees pollinate our lifeblood… Our food.

I want to taste the earth and hear her song. From the highest mountains to the calmest oceans. I envision myself a shepherd to our planet and become her faithful servant.

I don’t want to care about money, politics or world peace. For in my reimagined world we all nurture and cherish each other and our Mother Earth.

Costa Rica’s Biodiversity My Introduction Into a Vegan Lifestyle

photo by Michael Competielle

A few years ago good friends of my wife and I invited us to accompany them on a trip to Costa Rica. Having never been there before, we certainly were up for the trip and quickly agreed, excited to explore the known to be lovely Central American country. La Costa Rica means “rich coast” with a long and skinny landmass flanked on either side by the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. With over 800 miles of coastline and a northern border with Nicaragua and Panama to the south Costa Rica is Tropical paradise known for its biodiversity.

According to the Happy Planet Index Costa Rica is the happiest and most sustainable country on the planet. With the coastal plains separated by rugged mountainous regions the country is home to over half a million species of which 70% are insects. According to INBio Costa Rica consists of 4.5% of the worlds biodiversity with 12,119 species of plants of which 950 are endemic.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Landing in San Jose we headed to the rental car agent and procured our necessary 4 wheel drive SUV to climb the dirt road to our villa in the mountains above the Southern Pacific coast.

With our GPS plugged in and programmed we started our 2 hour trek down to Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast. With surprisingly well build and smooth roads we headed through the lush mountains to to the Pacific coast and headed south towards Quepos and followed the Pacific coast. We passed through the town of Dominical a surfers hamlet known for year round waves.

We eventually arrived into the Village of Uvita known for the Envision Festival as well as wildlife and nature. Our friends received the keys for our villa named Casa Aracari located 400 feet above the stunning whales tail in the Marino Bellana National Park.

The mountainous dirt road was heavily rutted from the recent rainy season. In four wheel low we slowly climbed the rugged terrain passing the poshKura Resort and for one week our next door neighbor. Opening our private gates we pulled up to the breathtaking property.

With a mixture of tropical plants and hardscaping we followed the gravel driveway to the charming yellow masonry home. Accented with thick beams and slabs of local teak, Saltillo tiles floors lead out to the patio and private infinity pool overlooking the Pacific coastline below.

Ceiling fans cooled the space while the topmost wall areas had screened in pillars to exhaust the days heat. Sounds of birds, insects and monkeys could be heard during the warm quiet evenings.

Photo by Michael Competielle

After unpacking we decided to head back down the arduous mountain into the quaint village below. On a local corner we met Emmanuel a produce merchant that loaded the entire rear of our SUV with fresh watermelon, mangoes, papaya, oranges, pineapples and bananas.

The local grocery provided the essential coconut water, rice, coffee, eggs and bread. Surprisingly the markets fish and meats were less than desirable.

Over the next few days we traveled the beautiful countries jungles, oceans and villages. Examining much of Costa Rica’s lovely flora and animal life we never knew what to expect.

Photo by Michael Competielle

As always I researched before we had left for the trip understanding the Tico way of life, Pura Vida. We made fresh mango salsas with yellow rice and lime soaked plantains from our properties trees and fresh tropical drinks from coconuts that had fallen by the pool and papaya cocktails…we were in heaven.

We ventured into Dominical the surfers enclave for local art pieces, food and bath products in Mama Toucan’s organic health food store. We also were in search of fresh fish which we ultimately purchased from a local fish monger I ordered in my broken Spanish “se vende pescado?” Which he replied “si” with a large cleaver in hand. We purchased two large fresh red snappers that created the evenings rice, beans and fish dish.

Traveling the lovely coastal country we came upon large palm oil farmsalong with black smokey palm oil polluting the air from the palm oil extraction process. The palm trees planted near Quepos and Jaco were know to have been responsible for ruining the areas biodiversity by killimg off what once was the once jungles lower canopy. Small shanty homes cropped up around the plantations roads provided housing for the local farm hands.

In our adventures we saw the countries native born Tico way of life. Pleasant and respectful people that cherished the land and the maintenance of the large abundance of plant and animal life.

My friend a bit more of a meat lover than I was hoping we could find him some decent steaks. In our ventures we would see the Brahman cows known to survive well in arid terrain but looks less than desirable than the New York strip steaks we were accustomed to, we passed living almost entirely on fruits, vegetables and some fish.

Photo by Michael Competielle

One afternoon we headed to a local artists home/ studio. Mel and Misha living in a cute home less than a quarter mile from the Marino Bellena beach. We talked art, Costa Rica’s culture, local living, and Misha’s computer business. They offered some homemade ice creams they made from coconut they collected on the beaches and laughed how we’d paid for fruits we could’ve collected freely in the nearby jungles.

We talked about Costa Rica’s beef which Misha informed us wasn’t like our Jersey cows however some Tico farmers were now raising them. He mentioned a meat market in town that imported the ever coveted NY strip steaks where we headed off and purchased.

To be honest the meat wasn’t the same and seemed almost unnecessary after the bulk of the weeks delicious plant and fish based offerings. We loved our travels to Costa Rica certain we would certainly return.

Heading back to the States my wife and I made a conscious decision to attempt to maintain our Costa Rican diet once home. Upon entering the local New Jersey markets we laughed at the inadequate offerings of tropical fruits and vegetables in November compared to the quality. And quantity eaten on our recent journey.

We continued on a with a Pescatarian lifestyle for the next few years and very infrequently eating meats. Since that time we’ve become Vegan, examined biodiverse farming and Costa Rican life. Once again to return as Vegans living on the fruits of paradise.

Michael Competielle

https://medium.com/@mcompetielle/costa-ricas-biodiversity-my-introduction-into-a-vegan-lifestyle-a89ae6ca8c9?source=friends_link&sk=4506e61bf46796e67183eff94c84adbf

Experiment As If You Were Thomas Edison

Photo by Michael Competielle

Recently I traveled to visit family in Ft. Myers Florida under the threat of Hurricane Dorian. Far from ever having experienced a Hurricane or even a tropical storm I was excited to make the journey from my Home in New Jersey.

As a family we decided that the impending category 5 storm was far from a risk we continued to explore and enjoy our extended weekend as we had planned. Top of the list was a trip to the 21 acre botanical garden Edison/Ford Winter Estates in Ft. Myers.

Knowing my mothers love for botanical gardens and passion for exploring we headed over to scope it out. Originally built by Thomas Edison as a winter home to get away for a month or so from the New Jersey winters and function as an experimental laboratory to find a suitable rubber plant replacement. Edison built the main house, guest house, study, caretakers house, swimming pools and gardens on the Caloosahatchee River side of McGregor Estates Blvd. A winding palm tree lined road tastefully adorned with stunning waterfront estates.

Edison had named his tropical property “Seminole Lodge” which he had planted over 1,000 plant varieties from around the world. During World War I Edison grew concerned with America’s reliance on foreign rubber trees and decided to experiment with over 17,000 exotic species of plants to find a suitable replacement. Edison settles on Leavenworth’s Goldenrod which is native to the southeastern United States.

Edison found a growing need in finding a suitable rubber replacement. His tenacious character as an experimenter and inventor led him to develop over a thousand specialized inventions of products necessary for the advancement of modern life and technologies.

Edison’s quest to find solutions to develop new and innovative products came along with substantial failures. Of the 17,000 plant species tested to obtain a suitable rubber replacement how many of those experiments were failures? None.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas Alva Edison

Find that void in your world and continue to find solutions to the problems. Many efforts you will experiment with won’t work. The key is to realize what doesn’t work, move on to the next until you find a solution.

https://medium.com/@mcompetielle/experiment-as-if-you-are-thomas-edison-b06e51d72859?source=friends_link&sk=0cb1b9af9d1b4642d9cd3f3aaa7c1b31