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July 2006 Archives

July 3, 2006

So many band aids

June 30

My parents took me to the airport and we had two 22oz Bass Ales at the sports bar there. I got a bit tipsy. We said goodbye and I sat next to Tommy Hakim on the plane. I've never met him. I know he lived in Niemeyer my freshman year and I saw his name plastered all over running for community council or something. And Justin told me his name was pronounced 'Hock-im'. I thought this was ridiculous and was later told the truth by others (Huh-keem). I sat a couple seats over and he seemed slightly anxious. He was wearing a Detroit Tigers hat and some other Detroit shirt and I wondered if he was just getting off at Detroit and not connecting. I slept for nearly the whole flight, save a bathroom trip. And felt sober when I woke up.

In Detroit I exchanged my money and tried to get food, but was too lazy. I got on the plane and moved from one seat in the middle to a window seat so a family could sit next to each other. I sat next to an old Polish woman doing Sudoku. I put on the Kleptones album Seth posted/told me about and started grinning like an idiot at the thought of going to Germany.

The flight attendant was this short French woman with big teeth and a pendant with Arabic on it. She called everyone sweetheart and revealed to a passenger that she didn't drink. In front of me was a Canadian woman of about 40 and an 18-year-old boy. On first glance I assumed they were a mother and a son. But the woman ordered wine and the boy tried to as well but was told he couldn't by the flight attendant. The woman really tried to get him wine but she couldn't. Later in the flight the woman was giggling really loud at something the boy said. She was giggling like his lover! I assumed they were flying away to live where their love wouldn't be frowned upon.

Thoughts:
· Why don't they constantly serve water on a plane? I was thirsty as fuck the whole time.
· Charles De Gaulle airport is a clusterfuck. I almost couldn't find my flight to Munich. And I thought, "I bet people liked the guy because of his last name. It basically means 'Charles of France'.
· I watched V for Vendetta on the plane and liked it quite a bit.
· I didn't get up from my seat on the flight to Paris once. Holy shit. I just slept awkwardly and watched the movie.
· I look very non-Euro. The English, Australians and Americans are easy to pick out with their either longer or buzzcut hair and baggy clothes. God, foreigners are so hot.
· I considered talking to girl reading Kant in French who sat next to me on the flight to Munich. Instead we just smiled at each other when there were weird noises on the plane. I'm a coward.

July 1 (steps walked: 11224- 5.3 miles) (I brought my pedometer because I want to see how much I walk and I hope it will encourage me to get healthy)

When we landed in Paris a lot of people applauded. Who does this? Are they so grateful we didn't get hijacked? Are they excited about flying? Do they feel the need to congratulate the pilot on a good job? Should they leave him a tip or something?

When we landed in Munich it was very quiet and clean. It took me a while to find the train into the city. I did and felt compelled to photograph everything but I was too lazy. A couple of girls got on and sat behind me and it felt really good hearing something I couldn't understand...just being an outsider. I think they eventually laughed when I got off with my huge bag. I also suspect a child asked his sister why I was allowed to have my feet on the seat in front of me. I immediately took them down.

(I almost started another paragraph with 'when') I walked around for a bit, unable to find my hostel and was actually stopped by a German tourist asking for directions. I let him look at the shitty map I bought but I couldn't help him.

I eventually found the hostel, found Anna (from Colac, Australia) and we watched the England v. Portugal match. The hostel is filled with Australians (it's called Wombat's) and with Australia out, they were a bit upset at England's loss. After the game I showered and continued drinking with Anna and people at the bar (IN THE HOSTEL!). Anna and I went out and bought some snacks and I got some Absolut and Fanta, hoping to recreate the Absolut/Orangina concoction. I failed miserably. It tasted awful and...I blacked out. I was really tired from the flight and (yeah, laugh at me you fucks. I fell asleep) I kept nodding off. I'm told I was asleep under a tree in the courtyard and lots of people took pictures. Anna spent 2 hours trying to coax me into my room. I kept asking to sit down for just a minute.

Thoughts:
· I fit right in wearing shorts and sandals. Yeah, eat it Matty. It feels good. I can wear my ugly t-shirt/shorts/sandals combination and not have a care in the world.


July 2 (Steps walked: 29347, 13.86 miles!)

I woke up at 8am on the top bunk completely confused. Someone was pounding on the door and encouraging people to wake up, the bus was leaving. Most of the room scurried out. I didn't remember much of the night before. And I was worried I'd acted like an idiot. I showered and went down for the free breakfast. I was about to pay and reached for some money in my pocket but pulled out a beer coaster with a note from Anna saying, "Kevin, I took care of you last night because you kept falling asleep. I'm not mad." I went back to my room and watched the Root of All Evil? videos Adam posted about. That's another story.

I went back down to the bar/dining area and found Anna. Every couple of minutes I'd meet someone who'd ask, "Feeling okay today?" I felt fine. Anna and I walked around the city trying to find a museum. We went to a huge park with a Chinese beer garden and I nearly smacked a kid who put his head under the sneeze guard when trying to find the perfect pretzel. We then went to an art museum and walked around some more.

We then went on a pub crawl filled with these American kids who talked about rating women and were afraid of becoming alcoholics. I had some good conversations with two French kids. They spoke in English and I spoke in French, so we all could practice. On the crawl we went to the world's first beer garden and when I couldn't find the bathroom, I pissed behind the building where I could hear people washing dishes. The last stop was a hostel right next to ours and that was too lame, so Anna, a Canadian named Glyn and I went back to our hostel and drank until we got sleepy.

Today I'm going on a bike tour of the city and I plan on going to Dachau and the Neuschwanstein castle that Disney based theirs on. (yeah, disney has a castle) I'll be watching the semifinal in Munich outside the stadium tomorrow (no 4th of july celebration here) and then I'll be off to Prague on Wednesday.

Thoughts:
· The new shoes I bought last week for the trip have been killing my Achilles tendon area. I brought a bunch of Band Aids to cover them, but I'm wearing sandals now anyway. But now I have sore spots from those. And my throat is all tickly and I wake up with so much phlegm! But none of it matters. As Anna said, I'm "wingeing" too much.
· I love hearing the European siren sound and ringtones I recognize from British TV shows.
· I'm pretty sure I saw a prostitute yesterday. The city's really nice and clean though. This woman was speaking English with a thick African accent to this nerdy, weird tourist guy. And he was pulling the front of her blouse out so he could look down her shirt. As I walked away, I heard her say, "Let's go then."

July 4, 2006

Bend it like what's his name

July 3 (25,689 steps - 12.13 miles)

I missed the bike tour and instead walked around with Anna and some Canadians. When they did their bike tour they saw this thing at a park where all these surfers were taking turns riding this artificial wave. We didn't have much of an agenda, so we walked around for 10 hours and eventually found it. I also saw the American embassy and was told that I'd be allowed to party there today. I'll pass.

While in the Englischer Garten, which is larger than Central Park, we talked about the Canadians and Australians using Busabout. They hide this from Americans! You pay to ride a bus between all these cities for cheap cheap cheap! I got a little disheartened at how little I planned this trip and how I only got two weeks off.

Not to get deep or anything, but...goddamn. Everyone else in the world has this completely different mindset- and I've mainly only talked to Canadians and Australians. Their plane tickets to Europe were far cheaper than what I paid. I think that's the tip of the iceberg in regards to how Americans feel about travel and trying new things. Others take so much time off and travel often. I could only get two weeks off! Most people are traveling for 3 months.

And I hate that. I hate that everything is about work. Alexis compared capitalism to socialism as moneyism and peopleism. It's all about money in the US. I don't like it at all and I haven't liked it for a long time. I don't like what I live in...sorry. In the fall I'll be teaching English in France. Next summer I'd like to travel around Europe as much as possible and after that...I'd like to stay there. I know this just sounds like a 'grass is always greener on the other side/look at me, I don't have to work and I'm on vacation in Europe' type of thing...and maybe it is, partially. But, I need out.

Ahem. So, instead of walking around Munich every day and forgetting when the match is (tomorrow, not today...oops), I'm getting organized today. Anna and I are going to Berlin either tomorrow night after the game or Thursday morning. Then I'm signing up for some flexistops on the Busabout so I can visit Prague, Vienna and a couple others. I really should have planned this out better, but I didn't know where to start. I think I've got things figured out now, though.

Thoughts:
· There is a deposit on water bottles here! Genius!
· I've basically only had the free breakfast, beer and pretzels for nourishment every day. My walking means nothing.
· I heard a really good discussion between an Englishman, American and German about race/racism and European Union politics.
· I had a dream that planes were shot down around Grand Rapids and I had to take one to get to work but chickened out at the last minute...understandably. Then the landscape was like Road Warrior. My brain has no tact.
· I'm probably an idiot for wearing my Michigan: America's High Five shirt, but I like it. And I met two people from Grand Rapids with it.
· ::stereotypical remark about confusion from German keyboards::

I found this postcard while in the park yesterday. I saw it on the ground and instinctually picked it up. I looked at it and started laughing like a maniac. If it's genuine, I have the autographs of David Beckham and some other star players from the English team. I'm keeping it, but I do plan on sending a copy to Emma Hidster. Update: Josh Kahn has informed me that this is indeed fake, but still worth keeping.


July 7, 2006

American abroad: lonely, ugly

July 5 (1626 steps- 7.68 miles)

I missed my bike tour on the 4th, ended up drinking and eating cookies with Australians in the hostel in Munich and watching the Germany v. Italy game. We were all really angry and the Italians, who are everywhere were rubbing it in.\

While walking around for my tour on the 5th I saw Christian breakdancers and a dude wearing these awesome hotpants (pictures/video when I return!!!). I eventually got my tour and saw the same things I already saw, but was directed by a cool Englishman and heard history. At our stop at a beer garden I met a couple from California. The woman is an HS English teacher and mentioned how she partied quite hard in Amsterdam and says her students probably know. The husband is of Iranian descent and I pretended to know about Iran, but he came correct. I drank the Starkbier or whatever and really enjoyed riding back. On the tour we missed "Robocock" and "Tripod" at the nude beach, but I did see "Tarzan".

The other tour leader was this American guy who was nice, but was too boisterous/trying too hard/too jokey and it made me mad. You see, a big, deep secret of mine has always been to be a tour guide in Europe or somewhere. Seriously. I've always wanted to do one city a year or something and then move. But I don't want to be 'the American tour guide' asshole. I know, as an American, I prefer a non-US tourguide. So who'll want me???

Then Anna and I went to Fan Fest at the Olympic Stadium (see Munich) to watch the France v. Portugal game. By the end of the night there were probably 20,000 people there- mostly French fans. I have some really great videos of the awesome language confusion the German presenter had when speaking just fine to the French fans but struggling in English to the Portuguese fans. They kept looking for a Portuguese fan who could also speak English or German so they could ask what they say when they score a goal. They failed miserably. Then "Die MasterCard Feveretttes" performed some cheer/pom moves to the song "You Give Me Fever".

While waiting for the game to start there was also a karaoke battle in which a French woman won singing Abba (they all sang in English!). And this was just really weird to me...this idea that English is the new lingua franca. I mean, it makes sense and I sure as hell am grateful for it, but it's not fair that I, and most Americans, can't speak another language worth a damn. Sure I know a bit of French, but I'm truly not ready (yet!) to hold a real conversation in French. I think it is the duty of all Americans to learn Spanish and those who plan to go to Europe to learn at least French or German as well. This is unfair. We're awful!

July 6 (20681 steps - 9.77 miles)

There's this train system honor code here that is nice, but scary. Rather than put money in a turnstyle and then get on a train, you buy a ticket, punch it in this thing (if you like) and then get on the train. Then you get off. There's a chance someone will come and ask you for a ticket. If you don't have one, you get a 40 euro fine. I never took the chance, but what's the deal? I'll give you more about train system honor code in a minute...

I went to the Dachau concentration camp. I didn't want to, to be honest, but knew that I had to and really did 'want' to. I got off the train and then got on a bus that leads to the camp and it was quickly filled with different tour groups (US, Aus., Japan). At one point a Japanese man got on the bus with his two children and crowded back to make room (possibly because he's used to that sort of thing on the Japan trains...anyone? anyone?) and the American dude, who's wearing a polo with collar popped, said, "Whoa, watch the kicks! No, I'm just kidding dude." And he patted the guy on the back. I wanted to jump out of my seat and strangle the guy. Ugh.

The bus was also a regular bus that stopped at regular stops...it just happened to go to the concentration camp. What I found interesting was the "Nachster Halt" (next stop) announcements were really solemn compared to the ones on the train. So, I got to the camp, walk to the building to get the audio guide and start to walk closer to the entrance and started to cry. I didn't want to go in. I just didn't feel like it. I took a minute then finally got in and was fine for the rest of the visit. I was actually kind of bored by it all. I mean, the immensity and the tragedy of it all got to me, sure, but there was so much reading involved and the audio tour was too long, the German tour groups were filled with disrespectful kids laughing, there were people taking pictures of everything (why? i took like two pictures! i don't want to photograph the place and share it with people. "hey! look at all that death!") and i wasn't in the mood.

But I learned a lot and am "glad" that I went. I was running out of time (since I had a train to Prague!) so I rushed through the museum, as I'd taken a stupid path around the camp, and found myself sickly interested in what evil experiments the SS performed there that others told me about. I was glad to find myself feeling sick again when reading about the experiments and promptly left.

I got back into Munich and headed to the train station with Anna where we got on just in time, but didn't have much space. As we were looking for seats a 45ish German woman approached me and asked if we had a certain kind of ticket that gave admittance to anywhere in Bavaria and allowed up to 5 people on the ticket. I knew what she was talking about and we did. She asked if she could join it for 5 euros so she could get off somewhere before we reach Prague. I owed Anna 5 euros so I took it, knowing we could get in trouble. Anna and I eventually found seats and the woman found hers telling us where.

Twenty minutes into the ride we get asked for tickets, with the woman behind the ticket agent, and we're asked if she's with us...or something. I say yes and really play up "my dumb American I don't know German attitude". I could tell the ticketer was pissed but couldn't do anything about it. I had an excuse ready, too. The train ride was 6 hours and we arrived exactly when they said we would. It was dark out and Prague looked dirty, scary and quiet. It wasn't really...it just was by the train station. We dropped off our stuff at our hostel then walked around. Not much was open for food so we broke down and got fucking fries at McDonald's. I felt so bad, but I was hungry. We were approached by the same hobo twice and I kept pretending not to speak English or understand that he wanted money. He was pissed. And I was rich!

We met up with Anna's friend Jane who kept burping and coughing the strongest beer smell. She was nice and (not but!) when she coughed she'd cover her mouth and stick her tongue to her inner cheek so it looked like she kept making the blowjob hand gesture. We eventually left and I slept as much as I could with constant construction outside my window.

July 7 (not done yet!)

This morning I woke up to rocks being poured for a new street or something and took an open shower... I don't know what it's called. Well, it's called my nightmare- like a locker room shower. Thankfully there were no other people in it.

Continue reading "American abroad: lonely, ugly" »

July 11, 2006

No green fairy, but...

I didn't see a green fairy, but...
July 7 continued I think...

We went to the Metronome in the city park and it was amusingly lame. It used to be a monument to Stalin built just before Kruschev revealed Stalin's crimes. There's apparently a skateboarding competition in Prague right now and there were lots of skateboarders at this park. I fell asleep to the white noise of the boarding. It's like whales moaning.

There was another pub crawl filled with annoying American kids (like myself)...probably because other cultures don't need pub crawls. But there was also an Irishman who's been teaching English in Kuwait for 20 years. He came to Prague for the weekend strictly for the beers and whores. A trio of loud, annoying English girls were also there and I later told one, Anna referred to her as "Tits McGee", that I'd be teaching English in France and she said I shouldn't since I'd teach them "gonna" and "y'all". We went to a really cool bar with all these underground tunnels. I tried Absinthe while already drunk and it was awful.

This is the best part of my whole trip...almost. I got the hiccups after the crawl. For the first time in more than 10 years! I was hiccuping the whole walk home and laughing at how I've missed it and how much they hurt. It was beautiful, and annoying to Anna.

July 8 (36,960 steps - 17.64 miles)

I keep wishing someone would steal my big and all my clothes so I wouldn't have to carry it around (how "ironic").

Anna and I met up with this guy and girl from America who'd been living in London for a while whom we met on the pub crawl. They were really weird and I didn't want to see them again. The guy had this 1000 yard stare and creeped me the fuck out. The woman was annoying and over explained things...and had stupid tattoos. We ate somewhere and they were really pissed we were charged $1 extra for bread without warning. But we had such great absinthe. It was disgusting- it burned and tasted like kerosene/mouthwash but it gave me the best drunk ever. We walked across the Charles bridge and I felt really trippy and thought the wall I was leaning on was moving. I guess no absinthe makes you hallucinate anymore. Pity. On the bridge is this statue that you rub to make a wish- limit one per lifetime. I think I made a good/non selfish wish. Other people rubbed the wrong part and apparently you die if you do that...

At night we went back to the same restaurant and got more absinthe. I'd bought an ocarina earlier and was playing it all day. I was playing it, doing pretty well on the absinthe and mentioned to Anna how I felt like Willy Wonka. One minute later a dwarf walked up to me and asked for money, in Czech. I thought I was hallucinating for a minute.

I feel like I'm not doing a proper vacation. I'm not visiting the right museums, learning the right things, trying the right food, visiting the out of the way places. But I don't care. I love walking around and know that I'll probably tour Europe again next summer.

I saw the Museum of Communism. It has terrific postcards.

When I get back I'm detoxing for a few days, giving up cheese and beer for a while, getting a haircut, playing soccer/kickball (more to come...).

July when? What? I have more steps. Oops. 30,272 steps - 14.3 miles

Idea! Take vacation without a camera. Ask others to take pictures of you then e-mail them to you and you can paypal them. (How ominous!)

Beggars in Prague lay on their stomachs with their hands out like they're praying. This way they can sleep and earn money. Good vacation for them! They're in Prague!

I feel rude for not knowing any Czech and not saying any polite words...not even in English as I feel bad for defaulting to that. Update: I learned thank you.

Anna keeps calling me Kevian. Ha.

I keep hearing only old songs and covers of old songs. Silly Eastern Europe.

July 9 (36,801 steps - 17.38 miles)

We went on a shitty bike tour where the Dutch tour guide didn't know anything. We kept going where bikes weren't allowed and at one point Anna and I almost blocked in a guy walking. He was motioning me to move to my right but I was fumbling and went to the left. As he walked by he fucking SLAPPED me in my arm really hard. I was going to punch him (probably not) but I felt like it was my fault and felt bad for being a tourist.

I had a good chat with some kids from Slovenia. They're all so young and traveling without parents. I kept trying to get them to go to the night club with us but they were too tired.

To prepare for the game I went to a grocery store and bought a bottle of champagne. I carried it around for a while and then decided to put it back and get a colder one. I pulled one out and it fell a little ways and then to the ground. It was loud, but didn't break. I put it back and grabbed another one. I went to check out and as I tried to leave a security guard was talking to me in Czech. He motioned toward the bottle and I assumed I was supposed to have it wrapped up. Then he told me to follow him. We went to the champagne and he said some things and motioned about a bottle falling. I showed him the one I dropped and then he said, "Okay! No problem!" And did a thumbs up.

We watched, barely- we could hardly see it, the World Cup final match between France and Italy and I was pissed. You know that Italian made some comment about Zidane being Algerian to anger him and get him the red card.

We went to what's supposed to be the biggest night club in Europe with 5 floors. I got a lot of sympathy drinks (including absinthe) from people since I was wearing my French jersey. I got incredibly drunk and a small group of us went to the Charles bridge to watch the sun rise. At some point I lost my camera. Fuck. Good news: I just changed memory cards and should be "okay". I'll use...a disposable now.

Am I getting varicose veins near my ankles? Fucking gross. What do I do?

I love how people are still friendly though they support different teams. I had several people playfully chant "Italia!" before and after the match and I returned with "Allez les bleus!" I think the UN should be replaced with FIFA.

We left Prague this morning and are now in Cesky Krumlov. A beautiful, small town on an island filled with hostels and antique shops. It smells of all these spices and I keep seeing bikers.

I keep seeing people wearing braces. Are they braces? They're like crutches but not really. Do they still have polio widely spread over here? Are they just being cautious? What's going on?

Continue reading "No green fairy, but..." »

July 13, 2006

'This is our Alcohol Favorite Song'

I´m going to let things just break down now. The dates are getting messed up and I´ve lost my pedometer.

July 11th, I think. 14,936 steps - 7.05 miles

Cesky Krumlov is a beautiful little town on an island. Like most European cities, there is a museum of torture and it's not that great. I watched a lot of German satellite TV and feel bad that MTV's "Dismissed" and "Room Raiders" is being shown there.

Our first day there we just walked around a lot, a common theme, and I found a Drogerie that had Mr. Clean...but he's called "Mr. Proper". Later we went to a Chinese restaurant and after eating few vegetables in our fried vegetables dish, we paid for the 350 crown meal with two 200 crown notes. Our change: approximately 700 crowns. I said nothing and Anna and I got the fuck out. We spent some of the money on absinthe, vodka-cokes and beer at a small bar.

Thoughts:

· I keep forgetting to mention this: there are so few SUVs. Incredible!
· I looked at the sky for a while today realizing that I've hardly done so while here. There's so much else to look at. At home the sky is more interesting and changing than the landscape so I tend to look up more there.
· There are so many buildings with bricks painted on the side instead of real bricks used
· If this isn't a word yet, it's mine: Absinthusiast
· European light switches are huge, and cool.
· I need to stop worrying about life after death.

July 12th - 22695 steps - 10.72 miles

We went for lunch at a vegetarian restaurant on the river around the town. The hummos was bad but the guacamole was terrific. There was this real amateur but enduring quality about the place. We had to seat ourselves and go up to order our food. And the hostess who told us what to do was later seen floating on an innertube on the river. She passed us, then came up on land wrapped in a towel and continued to take orders and bring out food.

There was also an odd couple there; these two Englishmen. One was around 60 and white. The other was about 40 and black, he was wearing this weird red ribbon or something around his neck almost like a bowtie but not quite and had a really blank expression on his face. I wondered what the fuck was going on.

I sat in this park overlooking the city and a group of around 30 Chinese tourists were gathered there, all dressed in Medieval period clothing. I wanted a picture with them so, so badly but wondered if it would be creepy. Or exploitative like, "I want a picture of a group of people from one culture/ethnicity dressed up like another." But I think it would have been okay. They gathered for a group photo and these Spanish girls had all the tourists' cameras and was taking the pictures. I offered to help but the girls said they were fine. I was going to parlay that into jumping in with them. I need to get over my shyness.

We went back to the vegetarian place for dinner and had terrific dhal and curry. The two Englishmen were there again too! Afterwards we went back to our favorite bar, drank more and talked with these Canadian guys. Everytime I drink/talk to Canadians I mention how much I love Broken Social Scene, their comedians, their healthcare system and then I rattle off all the provinces I know. I must be annoying.

Thoughts:

· I keep seeing these shirts that say "Boys come, boys go". Worn by Czech people. Whaa?
· The now leaving a city signs are just a sign with the name of the city and a red line through it.
· A few nights before I had a good talk with some guys from Phoenix and we rambled on about immigration.

I have the dates screwed up.... I think this should be July 12th. I lost my pedometer at this point.

We left Cesky Krumlov on a bus then caught a train to Vienna. On the ride we met some Australians and their Czech friends who all missed a train and hitchhiked to there. The Czechs were playing drinking songs on a guitar and ukulele and introduced the 20 minute favorite drinking song with 'This is our Alcohol Favorite Song'.

I went to the bathroom on this train and when I "flushed" the pedal released my urine to the tracks below. I know this because I saw my urine fall to the ground below us.

On the next train we sat near some Austrian girls who got on in Linz. They started talking to us invited us/me to come to Neusiedl am See with them. It's wine country and has a beautiful lake that's no more than 2 meters deep. On the other side you can see Hungary. I eventually decided that to avenge myself for not asking to get a picture with the Chinese tourists I needed to do this. I said goodbye to Anna, whom I'll see again in Vienna on Friday, and hopped off the train. We switched to another and was scared about not having a ticket. They never checked. We frantically bought my ticket for the next one and caught it just in time.

An hour later we were at the town and wondering how we'd get to the lake itself. The girls started trying to hitchhike but we found a bus that took us there. I learned how friendly Austrians are when we got near the lake. The girls were talking to nearly every stranger and having fun conversations with them all. Everyone was willing to help and try to find us a grocery store or hostel that was still open.

We had dinner in Wine garden and then had lots of wine at a restaurant where we met a drunk old man trying to ride his bike but who kept falling over and a hairdresser who offered to cut my hair and give me a palm reading. I got approximately 50 mosquito bites on my legs and feet and it is, well, annoying. Eventually one of the girls' brother and his friend came and when the restaurant closed we went to the night club next door.

Continue reading "'This is our Alcohol Favorite Song'" »

July 16, 2006

This is the end!

July 13 continued

I hobbled around Vienna and my ankle felt a bit better by putting pressure on it. I took a rest every hour or so and sat in parks named after musicians and Sigmund Freud. In the Freud park I saw this drunk doorman throw four bottles of beer to the ground. Upon hearing the breaking a small, sleeping group of bums ran to the other side of the park and a shirtless Austrian man began shouting at the doorman. And I saw a parade of Hare Krishna guys singing. It reminded me of Airplane slightly.

Eventually I got hungry and went to a grocery store to buy bananas, bread and disgusting bear-shaped potato chips that taste and are as thin as Munchos. I didn't know that when you buy bananas in Vienna you first weigh them on a machine and print out the price tag then attach it to the bag of bananas. The woman rang up the purchases and then looked at the banana bag and stared at me. And kept staring. Then rolled her eyes, but then stared again. More. Finally I said, "'Tschuldingung?" She then got up and went to the machine with the bananas and printed off the appropriate tag and rang it up, all while smirking with this, "Ha, you're stupid but I don't hate you" look that reminded me of when I accidentally gave the train controller my receipt instead of the ticket while going to that lake.

I eventually found a hostel at 8:30 and went to bed tired/sweaty/early.

Thoughts:
· I wish I brought a compass!
· I feel like this is an expensive trip just to sit around in parks, but my god does it feel great.
· Time has dragged. It's been hard remembering things before the trip with normal clarity. I think I just have really bad short term memory. I've always suspected it but this is definitely proving it. I feel like a goldfish. A happy one.

July 14 Bastille Day! (but no one cared!)

I put on my unwashed France jersey and met Hannah, who was sound asleep in the hostel when I came in the night before. I saw a koala with an Australian flag and asked if she was from Australia. She told me she was from Scotland but she sounded Canadian. She said it's probably from the Americanization of Britain. We decided to walk around Vienna together, as getting to speak English with someone would be nice. I kind of got us lost, but we saw all the buildings and talked about all the usual religion, politics, sex, America stuff.

We then saw a nice photo exhibit at the Museum Moderner Kunst. I liked it a lot. Particularly the basement level with exhibits featuring lots of genitalia and blood. Now, I don't know anything about art. So I'll keep this in simple terms that are only based on my opinions. I like photography/film/video art more than traditional paintings, etc. I think it's because I'm a simpleton who doesn't appreciate all art, but it's just my opinion.

After getting drinks with Anna and meeting charming 4 year-old Timo who kept playing with our hair and shouting about the rain, Hannah and I went out with the guys from Mexico City in our room. When we came back these 15 year-oldish Austrian boys were drinking, talking on the phone and shouting at us. When we made them go to bed they kept making fart noises and speaking random English swear words.

Thoughts:
· Vienna is a pretty city but I don't like it nearly as much as Munich or Prague.
· I think the Brits are right in their pronouncing of [al yu MIN i um]

July 15

After seeing Hannah off at the train station I walked around the city again, doing basically nothing. I didn't feel like going into museums. I stumbled onto a huge street market and bought some great postcards of people from the early 1900s.

I also, finally, conceded to the fact that you are never cool as a tourist. I look like the most ridiculous I've ever been. My face is tanned and greasy, my hair is long and ugly, my feet are covered in mosquito bites making me look like a leper, I'm carrying a massive backpack, I'm sweating, I can't speak the language. I should just give in. Giving in made me feel better about being shy on this trip.

In my head I've been comparing this to my former approach to video games in the past: If you play it on the hardest setting, then you can do the easy levels without a problem. When I get back to America (for 2 months) I'll feel more at ease. It's also worth noting that I always got frustrated when I tried this with video games and returned to easy mode, then got bored and stopped playing.

Aside from walking I bought pesto snacks, a Sudoku book in German (like it matters) and saw some people playing the shell game. I saw a guy lose 50 euros and another woman win 100. I was following the ball so easily and thought, "Jesus, they're idiots. I can make a killing here." But then remembered that that's the point: it's a short con. The guy kept asking if I wanted to play but I walked away.

I bought one more falafel, got on my train for Munich and spilled it all over myself- looking like a fat, American tourist who's so hungry he can't put the food in his mouth fast enough. I also smelled bad.

When I got to Munich I tried staying at the hostel I was at before but they were booked. They directed me to one quite a ways away. I showered and went out to go to the Hofbräuhaus. I got on the tram with a family from Mexico City and we realized we were going to the same place. Unfortunately, I took them to the completely wrong side of town. After apologizing and trying to help them get to where they needed, we parted and I finally made it.

I walked in, thinking I'd get a drink and pretzel but felt really weird being alone in there on a Saturday night. My timing was way off. I walked around some and watched 5 minutes of a surfer movie being played at the Munich Film Festival but then returned to the hostel, thinking I could meet people there and drink. Nope. I went to bed.

Thoughts:
· They have a total boner for Mozart here! Understandably so, but geez. All these guys are walking around dressed as him trying to get you to go on a tour and everything.
· In Austria Aldi is "Hofer"
· I keep seeing "Handy". I think it means Mobile Phone. I have an exciting picture for you all when I get back.
· I forgot to write down who he looked like, but I saw this terrifying man who looked like (as far as I wrote) "An Austro-Asian _____". I think it was Matthew Perry.
· Holy shit do they love Che here. I see Che shirts everywhere. In Prague there was an Irish pub called O'Che's.
· I've seen vanity license plates that play with the City code used in the beginning of the plate. I saw W ILLY 221, for example. It's like people who use the M from their U of M plates for a phrase.

July 16

My toothbrush won't charge still! I've been brushing at half the time it runs and chewing gum to try to stay clean. Meh. I'm now killing time before my flight to Amsterdam and then home. I may try to find some stupid beer stein souvenir or something. Then I spend the night in Amsterdam. Hopefully the Anne Frank house is open.

July 19, 2006

Amstergoddamn!

So there's been a bit of a storm since I got home yesterday and while many are without power, I was without internet for a whole day. Woe is me.

July 16 continued

So after going back to that beer house in Munich and getting drunk on a liter of Dunkel (I don't know what that means either, but it was dark), I walked around town and found a science fair of sorts. And what did I see? ROBOTS PLAYING SOCCER! I saw Paul and Gerd against Jupp and Jan. Then they brought out the massive Robotinho to walk around and...I don't know what. While walking around the nearly dead city I made a few realizations: Sunday is Accordion Day and that I still hate street performers who paint themselves in either all gold or silver.

Then I went to the airport and from there to Amsterdam. While flying into over the Netherlands I saw windmills, the newer ones, everywhere. And houses on every sliver of land up against the water. Why are they living there? Why haven't they been flooded yet? Oh, and lots of greenhouses. God, they love flowers. (Tulips, perhaps?) At the Amsterdam airport I found a locker to store my stuff and thinned out my personal effects: pen, disposable camera, wallet in front pocket, gum, sheets of paper torn from other notebook to write thoughts on. I changed into jeans and my shoes and practically skipped to the trains. I got out of the station and it was starting to get dark. I didn't have the map I wanted to tear out of the magazine on the airplane, so I couldn't find Anne Frank's house, the Van Gogh museum, etc. It was all closed with it being a Sunday night anyway.

I followed a group of people around and it looked like a giant parade through the small streets beside the canals. It honestly had a Disney World for sex/drug-craving kids feeling. I saw several "coffeshop"s - places where marijuana is tolerated- with rasta/Ethiopian flags and murals to advertise their wares. And I swear I saw Jay from Degrassi. Then I remembered that I thought I saws Craig froM Degrassi on a boat in Austria.

I walked around and eventually found myself in the red light district and it was so abrupt I was shocked. I got tired of the pros and decided to walk around further and try to find the Anne Frank house or Van Gogh museum, though they were closed. But I ended up getting lost in Amsterdam suburbia. Eventually I heard music and started walking towards it. I kept walking toward the music and started to see crowds of people both heading towards it and away from it. Then I realized I was approaching a concert. I realized I heard "We Be Burnin'" by Sean Paul and thought I was at a DJ hip hop show. 'Fuck it', I thought. I got closer and tried to get a ticket. It was open-air and the guy at the gate told me, "No more tickets!" like I was the millionth to ask.

So I started to walk away but then heard "Get Busy" with Sean Paul singing live. I started to laugh and was so incredibly amused by the fact that I was near where the guy was performing that song that I love and all my friends hate...in Amsterdam. I held up my camera toward what looked like the stage/tent and kept walking/giggling to myself.

I eventually got a taxi back to the city center and found myself near the prostitutes again. I soon found myself walking in front of homes even and thought how funny it must be for a family to have people looking into their window hoping to find sex, but instead finding them watching tv or eating dinner. I later realized this probably never happens because people aren't as dumb as me to realize the only places with women in windows have red lights around them. There were so many ladies in the windows though... in so many varieties. Lots of transexuals- I overheard a girl explaining to someone that transexuals are denoted by the blue light that also appears in the window. Many will open the door and start talking to passersby. Most will be on their phone or yawning, and quickly look interested when someone comes by. It was all really bizarre. Especially seeing a window closed with the curtain over it, then a guy emerging.

But then the Disney World of sex and drugs thoughts kicked in again. I was seeing families walking around. I saw older couples and people across the spectrum- again like it was Disney World. I didn't get it. Throughout the trip I'd been thinking about some places that have almost only tourism as their industry and how tourists may be annoying, but chances are they wouldn't have moved their without their town's fame and wouldn't survive without our business. I understand Amsterdam is an old city with an artistic history (I kept seeing Rembrandt stuff...) and ties to Judaism. But c'mon, most people come for the legal prostitution and "legal" pot. I know it seems like utopia (ha), but having all this concentrated in one area doesn't seem as much of a good idea as having a little bit everywhere. If I were Amsterdam I'd welcome the sex/drugs tourism, but I'd prefer that not to be my main draw.

I eventually found a bar and drank. I tried to make nice with a group near me and the bartender but people were kind of cold. So I decided to head back to the airport. I took off to try to find the train station and saw people sleeping outside, but found a way in. I showed my ticket to a guy at the door and he pointed me to my train. I got on and started to nod off, trying not to. I woke up at one point and were stopped in the city. There was some construction or something. I fell asleep again. At one point I mumbled to the guy near me, "I'm going to the airport, is this going there?" He confirmed it and I fell asleep. I woke up again to the train stopped again. It was getting light out and I was getting nervous. Did this really need to take two hours? Why did I see a sign for The Hague? Where the fuck was I?

I asked the guy if we'd passed Schiphol (Amsterdam) Airport and he looked at me stunned. "I thought you meant Rotterdam Airport! We passed that a long time ago. We're almost at the Rotterdam station though. As soon as they figure out what the fuck is going on." I woke up and got focused. It was around 5:40 by this point. I had another 2 hours. I asked the guy what to do, he said trains were frequent so I'd be fine to catch one back. When we got to the station at 6 I saw that the next train wouldn't leave until 7. I found a cab and he told me it'd be 100 euros and that I'd have time. I bit the bullet and ran to an ATM. I enjoyed my little tour (about 40 miles) of the Netherlands but felt like puking (because of my stupidity) the whole time.

I made it to the airport, got my bag, didn't have time for food/didn't feel hungry, checked in, got on the plane and didn't move for the 8 hour flight. I slept for 20 minutes every so often, constantly hitting next on the random playlist on my iPod. When I got off in Detroit I went through about 5 security checkpoints. They'd ask about the Netherlands, but nothing about Amsterdam since they noticed it was only a layover. I went inside this machine that looked like something from Total Recall and it blew this air at me and checked something else. Finally I was grilled on my business overseas, "The World Cup ended a week ago, though..." and my bag was barely searched. They didn't find the mini absinthe bottle. Makes me think I could've brought back so much more...

July 27, 2006

Pictures from Germany

Too many pictures. I like Flickr, but I like having my own pictures on my own server.

Continue reading "Pictures from Germany" »

July 31, 2006

Secrets!

· One of my longest used passwords is officially dead. My amazon account was the last to use it and I just changed it, after revealing it to some people this weekend. It was sartregetsqvc. Sartre gets QVC. sartregertsqvc joins his all-left-hand-password brethren bastardwafersex, qatarwasretarded, starwarsbeer, craftsaresad and freesexcafe. So long, old friend.

· I enjoy eating uncooked corn on the cob.

· I smell bad. The jersey I bought in Germany and wore while playing soccer (terribly) with Anthony last week smells awful. I washed it too.

· While flipping through political radio stations on XM I heard "All we are sayyyyying. Is give WAR a chaaaaance." Motherfuckers. How can people who crave war not be EVIL?

· After NBC Nightly News, Inside Edition came on and promoted the stories of the show as usual. It ended with, "Star Wars Kid gets revenge!" with a short cllip of the Star Wars kid waving his broomstick around. Then, "And... MAN ON FIRE!" accompanied by a clip of a stuntman on fire waving his hands, about to jump into a lake. Sensational(ism)!

· I want everyone to go to New York for New Year's.

· It's been fun, Mel. See ya!

About July 2006

This page contains all entries posted to spacebase in July 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2006 is the previous archive.

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