If you’re reading this, it means i’m currently on the road.
Somewhere, out there, rummaging through the idiosyncrasies of our world to bring back and share with you.
This week, it’s a road trip to the city of High Point, NC where i’m following Jaclyn to the furniture market. While her mission is that of business, mine is to explore a region unfamiliar to me. To sample the local eats, camp among black bears under a blaze of autumnal colors in Appalachia, and get to know my fellow Americans to the East.
I’d love to have you tag along by following me on Twitter or Instagram, as i’m sure to be hyperactive on either account.
For several months the hookah served as an icebreaker as I worked my way around the Middle East. Embracing the culture, I learned to appreciate the traditions and social norms attached to this symbol of community.
While the beginnings of this exotic device are unclear, several sources from the 16th century mention a “water pipe” being used in Persia and India. I assume the new pastime caught on quickly considering the popular hookah bars and countless smokers you come across anywhere in the region. I’d see whole families park their car, break out their hookah, sometimes alongside a portable grill, and whip up a kebab while smoking away, right on the side of the road. How damn cool is that!
In the States we have a habit to associate ALL smoking devices with marijuana or some paraphernalia. To tack taboo on the alien. It’s a shame as the hookah serves, more than anything else, as a way for people to congregate in a respectable setting, over civil discourse and a glass of tea, a game of backgammon or simply to gossip. I try to liken the experience to going out for a drink, but that usually leads to drunken debauchery… at least in my case (not really)… Moving forward!
In the image below we have the deconstructed skeletal remains of one hookah. On the left you see the hose. This specimen was a gift I collected in Jordan, Bedouin in style of red velvet and gold ornamentation. On the right side we have the stem, which consists of an air valve, a port for the hose and at the top, a tray for ash and the port for the bowl, which you see at the bottom of the image where the “sheesha” or tobacco is placed. Finally we have the vase, basically a reservoir for water in which the smoke, after passing through the stem, bubbles through the water and passes to the hose.
Aside from the body all that’s needed for a good time… is a piece of charcoal and a dollop of molasses soaked tobacco.
I’m not terribly familiar with the various heat sources you can apply as charcoal has always been available to me. Apparently there are other materials you can use which produce a carbon free smoke and cut out any toxins, such as coconut based coal.
Widely known as sheesha or “mu’assel” in Arabic, the tobacco used in smoking hookah is a product of sweet alchemy. Two vastly unique ingredients coming together in perfect unison. Dried tobacco forms the base ingredient which is flavored with a small amount of dried herbs or fruit. The mixture is then covered in honey or molasses before being macerated with a low amount of glycerol to maintain the needed moisture.
“Nakhla” seems to be the preferred brand of sheesha, smoked across the globe. Translating to “Palm”, they supply an army of 50+ flavors. Here I’m sticking with the old standby “Double Apple”.
The bowl, sitting snug atop the stem, is packed with sheesha then covered in foil, which acts as a medium between the wet tobacco and the hot coal.
With a setup like this a typical “session” can run about an hour. In 60 minutes traditions and language barriers become a thing of the past.
Not ready to give up my new pastime i’ve been seeking out hookah bars across Kansas City, finding authentic experiences here and unsavory there. I’m happy with the trend thats caught fire as Middle Eastern cafes pop up and the hookah emerges from the East.
If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend paying a visit to these flagships of sheesha culture in the States.
Aladdin Cafe– Exquisite Mediterranean fare and hookah on demand
Hookah Haven– Open late into the night H.Haven serves as more of a club. A lounge for watching the game over hookah, rather than the typical PBR.
Istanbul, Turkey- My 22nd birthday. Breezing through a lemon/mint concoction. Here you see me with the self proclaimed “Hookah King”.
Aqaba, Jordan- This has to be one of my favorite pictures from the Middle East. On a beach in Aqaba I befriended a gang of hookah enthusiasts who, after passing the initiation, let me join them in the rounds.
As you see below, not much has changed!
Whether in NYC or Istanbul, I would love to hear about your experiences smoking sheesha!
I’m always happy to return home after a vacation. Whether months abroad or a week in South Texas, i’m forever eager to return to my adopted homeland of Kansas City, Missouri. Don’t get me wrong I thrive in alien lands and obsess over travel. But it doesn’t get much better than being in my tiny apartment with my girlfriend, our dog, and a deep bowl of cornflakes… that’s just me!
Over the last two weeks I roamed between Hot Springs, Arkansas and San Antonio/Austin, Texas. Nothing too crazy, outside much needed time with family. And despite the fact that I had more free time than usual, I decided to keep my fingers away from the keyboard.
So here’s a collection of photographs I took while away. It’s kind of a way to apologize for my absence! The majority of the contents mean a lot to me personally so I hope you enjoy the show.
San Antonio- At the Mercado. A lively Mexican bazaar bursting with culture.
Dia de Muertos. Day of the Dead will be here before we know it. Are you ready?
The red brick pedestrian streets are silent as a storm is about to roll in (never mind the blue skies!). Typically the streets are booming. Shoulder to shoulder you merge between empanada vendors and Peruvian flute bands.
The following photos were taken at my parents in Canyon Lake, Texas–
Agave americana. I planted this beast in 2008. In that short span of time it’s reached nearly 6 feet in height! I’m hoping one day to try my hand at a little agave-mezcal alchemy.
On a hike in Canyon Lake
The sexy prickly pear. A personal favorite.
Here’s a photo of my parents and the family business. Excuse the Instagram filter…
A new piece by the artist Bryan Hauteman (better known as my brother). This cat is worth keeping your eyes on.
Leontopodium alpinum. The Edelweiss- Growing between 6,000 and 10,000 feet this beauty is known as the “Ultimate love charm of the alps”. My Oma brought this specimen from Germany when she migrated to the States.
On the side of Jo’s Coffee Shop, the famed graffiti…
Not much, but it will have to do.
How was your Labor Day weekend?
Nicholas Andriani will return in Oh, Hookah of the Magic Bowl. Premiering this Monday.
There are times throughout the week when I can use a little inspiration. This is often when I turn to the Sufi master Jalal ud-din Rumi, better known as Rumi. His unique vision of Islam really speaks to me.
I’ve recently picked up water coloring and felt the urge to render this portrait, to capture the Persian mystic a I see him.
So here’s to you Rumi, happy Labor Day.
Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like somebody suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You’re covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side.
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you’ve died.
Your old life was a frantic running
The speechless full moon
comes out now.
– Jelaluddin Rumi
I don’t come across many poets that move me in such ways, but like I said, In Rumi I’ve found an exception.
Who or what do you turn to for a little mid-week pick me up or influence when your creative juices are running low?
So I’m off to a weekend of leisure in the woodland forests of Arkansas with Jaclyn. An overdue road trip which may, or may not, involve drinking and poolside antics.
Whatever you’re up to this weekend make sure to take the time to be thankful for the laborers of the world, including yourself! Without whom this planet would be much less hospitable.