May 25, 2005

The trip home is never so easy...

The taxi was projected to take an hour. It did not. Mercifully short, I arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare. I'll need it. The ticketing goes with no problem. I have my boarding pass with directions to the de-tax office. This is how you get a tax refund for purchases within the continent... more specifically, France. Having bought an incredibly expensive pair of jeans and a shirt at a boutique, I was most interested in acquiring my refund. However the directions ultimately led me through customs. Then back through them (entering the country again) and back out again. Talk about a pain in my ass. Going through the airport security blows, even more so when you must accomplish the task twice. And re-entry of the country you just 'left' just the little tweak on your nose. Mis-directed by no less than 6 individuals, I finally find the tax refund office. Thankfully, I don't have to unpack my suitcase to demonstrate the goods I purchased as the law requires/mandates/allows for. The people in front of me did. Rebate on tax is deniable if the goods are not producible. God forbid you ship them. Finally, tax stamps acquired, I am free to re-enter the de-embarkation point. Through the bomb check with the cloth swipe is more severe the second time. I'm so beyond pissed at this point. I've gone through three levels of the airport looking for a path to the place I’m supposed to be, lugged my bags so much further than required, worked up a sweat in the process. Finally, I sink into a seat in the lounge. A glass of champagne, a chardonnay, a screwdriver and an armagnac (business class does have it's privileges after all) and I'm calm and relaxed for my flight. OK, the glasses are small, and it's past noon, I'm also well past the legal drinking age of 21. I board my flight on schedule and we launch into the air. I barely register the takeoff after my blood pressure has been so elevated. lol Dinner is served nearly immediately. The appetizer inedible after the meals I've consumed recently. The main course barely more so. The in-flight movie choices are Meet the Fokker’s (which I watch - and once in awhile laugh over the situations). And some Peter Pan flick with Johnny Depp... yes, I'm snoozing already.


I'm ready to begin something new. Is that just going home to my job? Perhaps. It might be something else entirely.


Sadly, I didn't snooze long enough. I still have to endure 2:40 hours of flight. I always wonder about the small things in our lives that cause us pleasure. How is a smile derived overnight from a particular source? Simply opening ones mind to these kinds of things doesn't seem quite enough, but I'm willing to accept it at this point. After a long time of not really smiling, it's the little things that seem to matter the most. The source of my smile shall remain private, but I'll acknowledge it nonetheless.

May 24, 2005

I have blood on my face?

OK, I spent two hours last night standing over 900 feet above Paris. Yes, I'm magic... lol Actually, I was on the third tier of the the Eiffel Tower. Not Eye Full tower, Eff Uhl... NO kidding. So, I was up there so long waiting for the sun to set. Now, the sun sets here late anyway. It's still easily light at 10 pm. Talk about daylight savings time. Holy crap. Anyway, I was waiting to see Paris at sunset and dark. (incidently, on a tour I took today, they said the best time to go up in the tower is an hour before sunset.) It was cold up there. And on three sides, quite windy. I camped out on the good side. lol I almost could have become a photographer... I was asked to take so many couple's and group photos. Strange, because when you shoot a portrait on the third level it's not like you can see any of the city behind you. Perhaps it's just the 'memory' factor of where you shot it. Beyond me. I know someone who thinks Paris should be experienced with the love of your life - to be honest, the place is a tourist trap. Perhaps not as bad as Venice 'the city of love', but honestly, if I see another sign that says souvenir shop, I'm going to puke. More on the sunset last night. At 11 pm, it was still daylight that high up, you can see for 67 km. Long ass way... lol. It was really cool to see the sun go down with a storm in the west. (See pix...) Then all the lights coming on in the city.


So, it's raining. I eat dinner at nearly 11 pm. Then, because I can't get a taxi, I have to walk back to my hotel. OK, it's only about 5 miles away. The rain stops and it's eerily quiet. Like the city just stopped moving. I get my bearings and walk... walk... walk...Where am I now...Shit. I'm freakin' lost. I have this little tourist map and not all the streets are on it. So, I go the direction I think it is... and nothing. I'm still in the middle of no-where. It's past midnight. I'm walking through the empty streets of Paris with nary a clue where I'm going. Amidst the walking, I realize that the call of nature is very strong. Several hours on the ET, dinner, water before, during and after... It's common for people to use the side of a building here... I think the one smell I will take away from Paris the the smell of urine. I think about using a building several times. Once I almost break and do it... I walk 20 feet further down the building and see a sign... It's the Egyptian Embassy. Now THAT would have been priceless. Finally, I get to a street I can find on my map and make a good guess on which way I should go from there. Finally, I end up on the street to my hotel and make my way there. Adventure... Definitely. haha


Today was my last real day in Paris. I had a good time - took a bus tour of the city. I went under the Louvre, but as I said, I didn't go inside. The building is absolutely immense. It would take a good week minimum to go through it. I don't see the sense in trying to do it in a day. I also didn't go into the grotto under the city where all the skulls are. Gotta save something for my trip with the love of my life. LMAO I get a kick out of talking to people who are like, I saw the Louvre, the effiel tower, the bastille, the..... on and fucking on... and they did it all today. OMG, how can you enjoy that, you are just rushing from one place to the next. Take your time and enjoy it. Goodness.


I did a simple dinner of baguette, brie, canard (duck) and plums and a little wine picnic tonight. Somehow, that seemed a fitting way to have my last meal in France. I realized today that I'm completely comfortable being alone now... At the beginning of my trip, it completely unnerved me to go somewhere and have to be alone and not be able to share the experience. Now, I'm like, it's perfect... nobody to worry about, what they want to see, and when, or be on a schedule. I sleep when I feel the need and explore when and how it suits my fancy.

Bad thing about today - When I got back to the hotel tonight, I went into the bathroom and realized why I had gotten some funny looks today. My face had bled. I didn't know it. The blood had coagulated without dripping off... how lovely to look at. I'm sooo getting skin cancer... I don't say that lightly, the idea terrifies me. I can't imagine why someone didn't say something though.


In some ways, I can't believe that I've been in Europe for the last two weeks. On the other hand looking back at the photos from Florence, it seems so long ago. I did this trip on my own terms, and I think I've gained a ton from the experience. I'd go back and do some of the trip differently (with added sunscreen for sure), but overall, I can't imagine a better trip to Europe.


A friend told me a few days ago that she didn't believe that I was actually in Europe for the first half of my trip. I asked why, she said, "It's something you would do... cuz only you could totally pull that off and no one would know. Your mind is just THAT good. Then one day, you'd say 'hey everyone, i was never there...look where your mind can take you'"

Part of me was sad that she would think I was capable of doing that, another side saw the merit of doing such a thing. It would be fun on a number of levels. Lastly, I am humbled by the compliment that I could fabricate such a trip in my mind and keep it going for as long as necessary. I am really in Europe though. Although it occurred to me that I don't have one single photo of me with the backdrop where I have been. That's a contrast to most travel photos... everyone wants to be in the picture... I just want to take cool pictures.

I'm sure I'll have a report of the trip home, but I wanted to thank everyone who has read this blog in the last couple weeks. And even more so, to thank those that sent me notes to support me on my solo adventure. It's been a blessing to travel this path. It's a time I will never forget. As always, hold your hands out in front of you... see where you can go...

May 23, 2005

Perfection Achieved?

Le Deauville - Lunch - Perfection

I ordered a farmers plate for my lunch. Little did I know just how perfect my meal would be. 3 kinds of ham, 2 kinds of sausage, pate, some kind of pork, cheese and baguette. Watching all the people go by is nothing short of astounding. Every shape and size obviously from many countries. The fashion ranges from Cotuure to laughable. I'm only one step from laughable, so I'm really not judging too harshly. I've had two sets people of ask what I ordered for lunch so they could duplicate my order. "We sat down because we saw your plate". I got the feeling when I ordered that the waiter was surprised. Like I had hidden knowledge. As I watch the plates they deliver to other tables, perhaps I did. lol Most trays are are piled with a variety of baguette sandwiches. As I've said before, my goal is to try new things - push my own boundaries if you will. Running to the easy choice on the menu leads you to the same experiences over & over. I can understand the attraction that trying the same thing again and again holds. I'm as guilty as anyone for establishing patterns in my own life. For example - one of the couples that ordered my lunch is finished eathing and done and gone. Unable to linger at the table just to do so as a european would. Perhaps we just have different goals. I guess if I had to write a mission statement for my time in Europe it would be: to realize a new paradigm for the way I engage life. So how does that manifest itself? Perhaps the biggest thing I see in myself is a drive to become fit. Healthy? Yes. I need a new wardrobe, I think it should be two sizes smaller.


The sky is increasingly dark. The sun has fled to another place. In it's stead are thicker clouds. With the sun's abscence, it's also grown windier and there is a definite chill in the air. It's not cold, but my cuppicino will be welcome. It will also allow me to reside at my ringside seat a little longer. As I shift in my seat, I realize my hip joints ache from my efforts walking yesterday. My suggestion to anyone contemplating visiting Europe... Train your walking muscles. You will walk more in the short time you are here than you have in the previous 6 months. I almost wish I had a pedometer to guage the distance I have walked.


On to fashion for men. Go be the first in your neighborhood to wear Puma shoes again. Be the first to wear a pinstripe sportcoat with slacks or jeans. (Or a step better a silkscreened graphic on top of the pinstripe sportcoat.)

May 22, 2005

184 Freakin' steps...

I haven't a clue where to start this entry. I slept about 10 hours last night. Got up and laid in bed typing an e-mail. Went back to sleep for another hour. The bed is sooo comfortable in this hotel. Not to mention it comes stocked with 4 pillows. Ah, the good life. haha I got up, showered, had lunch (unremarkable). Then, I walked for the next 7 HOURS!! I sat down at a little cafe out of sheer exhaustion to rest. I promptly declared Paris the biggest ripoff of all the cities I've visited when I got the check for my beer. $9,80. That's almost $14 for a beer. WTF? I saw every store for premiere watchmakers and jewelers that exist today - plus some I didn't know existed. Faconnable... so many clothes, so little of my body to put them on. Alas. There was a bomb threat that cleared a museum yesterday and everywhere I went there were police. This is not normal for Paris, but I don't know what is going on. Even on empty streets that I was walking on, there were police at every corner. The overtime must be staggering...

I paid the fee and went up into the Arc de Triomph (their spelling). For some reason I had it in my head that this was a post world war memorial. Seems Napolean had the freakin' thing built from 1806-1836. 184 steps is the thing you have to keep in mind as you climb the thing. About 3/4 of the way up, I wondered if the spiral staircase (less than 3 feet wide) would ever end. There is an identical staircase that goes down. I'll leave it up to you to figure out which one is actually harder to navigate...

I wanted a 'french' dinner, and I got one. When I ordered the poached eggs for an appetiser, I thought they would arrive warm. Imagine my surprise to find them cold - not rooom temperature. COLD! Served with a type of ham slice on top and diced vegatable soup/sauce... Adventure. Yes, isn't that what Bilbo Baggins went on when he went to lonely mountain with the dwarves? Should have had the escargot! LOL The table next to me ordered them and they smell marvelous. Damn.

OK, I'm totally blown away by the Fromage course at the end of the meal. 7 kinds of cheese. I worked in a wine and gourmet store for two years... we had over a hundred kinds of cheese at any one time... I've sampled a lot of cheese. lol I could only identify 2 of the 7 cheeses. They bring a large platter to the table and cut the cheese from the wheels right there in front of you. The waiter got yelled at by another waiter and the manager for giving me all 7 kinds of cheese. It was pretty comical. They were talking to him in french and he wouldn't tell me what they said. Then he said... "I never listen to them anyway..." so I know he was getting chewed out. lol

May 21, 2005

Where is the freakin' Eiffel Tower?

I've been on the move for 11 days. I'm very tired. I've been told by numerous people that coming to Europe for two weeks alone is very couragous. I'm not sure what to call it. At times I'm more lonely than I've felt in years. Others, I'm hoping to get further away from anyone who is from the US. I keep looking for the non-tourist spots. I don't care about souvenir from each city. Other than the experiences I've collected. The visual power of what I've seen. I fear I will need a vacation when I get home to recompose myself. I took the train from Amsterdam to Paris this afternoon. What I hoped would be a treat, turned into sheer boredom. We stopped at every town between Amsterdam and Brussels and never really got to speed in the train. I had my tickets checked no less than three times which started to get on my nerves. Yes, I am supposed to be in this seat! Damn. The mayhem in the Paris Nord train station was incredible. I've never seen so many people toting luggage and moving in so many directions. Meeting other trains, flying towards ticket booths, hurrying to get on the train, and trying to edge into the taxi stand line. Strangely, no one in my view collides with anyone else or anyones toted luggage. After standing in line for 20 minutes to get a taxi, I got the luck of the draw and got 'one of 3 or 4 taxi drivers in Paris that speaks english', he tells me. Sweet. He gave me the lowdown on eating times, how to catch a taxi and where, how to say a few key phrases in french. "Wanna suck face" wasn't one of them unfortunately. Will have to figure that one out on my own. lol I arrived in Paris at rush hour. So a short drive turned into a stop and go nightmare in traffic. Then we turn onto the Arc de Triumph (AdT) circle and I feel like Hell just broke loose in a big way. For those of you familiar with DuPont Cirlce in DC, think of a circle 10 times the size. No traffic lanes and no traffic signals. There is no right of way and the speeds range from a dead stop to 60-70 KPH. Diving through traffic into holes that simply didn't exist my driver appears to be a magician. (Later, I walk back as the sun sets on the AdT and watch traffic. I don't think pictures will do, I may have to figure how how to take a little movie of this circle and post it.)


Why do so many of my stories revolve around food (other than the fact that I spend a good part of each day searching for my next meal location)? It has become a game within my own mind to find something suitable. Questions like: Can I read the menu? Can I afford to eat here? Does the food I can see look appetizing? Am I dressed appropriately to eat here? Are just some of the things that go through my mind as I search for the perfect meal. Tonight, whether out of spite for being an American or just because they didn't have an english menu, I got to pick my dinner out by trying to remember little bits of french. OK, I SUCK at that. LOL My dinner turned out perfect though. I resisted the urge to run to the word hamburger on the menu just because I knew what it was. Instead, I selected Mozzorella and Tomato salad as a starter, something that turned out to be baked chicken over mashed potatoes and Creme Brule for dessert. OK, the first and last course were easy to pick out on the menu, but I honestly didn't know what I was going to eat for my main dinner. Talk about Adventure. Woo Hoo.


I still haven't gotten a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. That is very strange because from so many points in Paris, the tower dominates the skyscape. If I had more energy, I would walk over to see it in the night. It is now dark, but I just don't have it in me to walk over there. It's only 3 inches away on the map. lol I've walked from the Tower to the AdT (which is only two blocks from my hotel) before. It's only a couple of miles (perhaps 3 at the outside). Tomorrow night. I promise. I may even try to go up in it at night. I didn't climb the Tower the last time I was in Paris, so that is a goal.


Sunburn report. My face has peeled three times now. I don't think it's done yet. My nose is just one massive blister and sore. I'm waiting for the skin to peel off and leave a nice scab. Maybe in time for my trip home. LOL. I've been very careful to only touch it when I put on lotion or sunscreen. I live in fear that I will scratch it in my sleep and rip it open. OK, 'nuff said on that topic. What else shall we discuss? Oh, I talked to two girls while waiting for the train to Paris they are backpacking Europe for a month. They spent two days in Amsterdam and didn't see anything. "We got too stoned..." uh, yes, Good luck on your trip. lol

May 20, 2005

Everyone in the house make some noise...

Cafe Luxembourg - my choice for dinner this evening (and not a tourist place either). I had a beautiful walk from the hotel through streets I haven't yet explored. The romance of Amsterdams canals at twilight doesn't require a partner to enjoy. The fading light on the water creates a shimmer of reflections from the surrounding buildings and boats. Friends and couples meander through the streets on their way to dinner. It's 8:45 pm and the cafe's are just beginning to fill for the evening. This cafe is what I might call Modern Swing. The atmosphere is cheery and danceable even. I'm seated at the far back of the cafe in a corner facing the room. To my right is a row of 15 foot glass windows with a view of the cobblestone street and of course, a canal. Lined with burgundy velvet, the windows lend a sense of time and age to the cafe. Jazz plays through a distant yet comfortable sound system. Almost as though there were a live band with a throaty, blond seductive singer with in another room, yet without the overloud booming I associate with live music. The walls are seemingly patterned in gold leaf, but it is a carefully crafted illusion, with large soft lights creating a warm glow on the dark wood funiture. I sip a glass of young, fruity bordeaux as I survey the room and await my meal. After it arrives, I decandently dip my fries (an impossibly large 1/2 inch thick) into the garlic butter that is meant for my small steak. A wonderful spring green mixed salad awaits the end of my meal for consumption. In the waning light, pools of light from nearby buildings begin to flicker on the water of the canal. The wall opposite my seat is dominated by a six foot tall print of the vintage l'instant Taittinger poster of the woman in the black evening gown behind the glass of champagne. You know the one. Other vintage posters for Ballentine's - Finest Scotch Whiskey and Le COMTE de Luxembourg round out the images on the walls I can see. The chatter of the other patrons has created a comfortable backdrop to my dinner. I feel part of the cafe; part of the ambiance for the other guests/revelers with my glass of wine at the corner table. My wine glass is too small to properly swirl my wine which reminds me that we are far too pretentious in our approach to wine in America. Outside the window, on the far side of the cobble, a man rolls a joint. He pays rapt attention to his efforts and is rewarded with what appears to be a mini cigarette of near perfect proportion speaking to his long experience in the process. His friend begins the process himself and soon is finished creating his own smoke with a lesser degree of perfection. Soon, they will light them and their evening will commence. Joints complete, they light up and walk off into the night inhaling the smoke of their choice. I have a moment to contemplate how incongruous it is to see a man with nearly complete sleeve tatoos sitting in a cafe like this sipping a glass of red wine. Even in a city as tolerant as Amsterdam, this must seem strange, to compound it, I'm constantly scratching my thoughts in this notebook. A light mist from the gray skies has moistened the cobbles outside the window. The sheen adds a contrast to the moving glimmer on the water of the canal. Safe in the dry warmth, I turn back to the cafe before me. I realize a 5x15 stained glass that is backlit from above resides in the center of the ceiling by the long bar which sits to my right down the long side of the room. So unobtrusive I missed it in my earlier pan of the room. At 10 to 10, the cafe is completely packed. The din of conversation has mostly drowned out the music at this point. The comraderie of friends enjoying a night out surpassing the sound system in volume by sheer enthusiasm. Unlike an American cafe or dinner club, the lights have not dimmed. The faces across the room, although unknown, are still recognizable in the elctric lights and the candle on each table. The music makes a resurgence and for a while, the cafe is quiet except the croon of the soft piano and saxaphone on the speakers from afar. Perhaps the music is an aphrodisiac to be appreciated by each person. The street lights outside cast a creamy golden aura upon passerby and cobbles alike. The canal is now broken not only by the wind, but steady drops of rain. All the more reason to stay in the warmth of the cafe admist the cacaphony of sound and noise. As though a participant inside, the leaves of the trees sway in the growing breeze. Despite the fact that the language being spoken is different form my own, the buzz created by dozens of conversations is no different than were the conversations in english. The wine I'm drinking at EU - $3,50 a glass (about $5-6) would easily be $12-14 a glass at home. Just another representation of how different things are here. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I bought a paperback book to read it cost EU 15,40 or more than $20. I shall not complain about the cost of books when I get home. At 10 to 11 pm, I fear it's not going to quit raining anytime soon. I think I'm in for a long walk back to the hotel if I don't manage to catch a taxi. It's a contest between the bottle of water on my table and my bladder. I can't leave my table unattended with my camera, etc. in my coat pockets, so I must pay and leave to use the facilities. I desire to stay here and linger for a time, but I fear I will not last much longer. I guess I could settle this check and move to the bar, but it's just not the same as having a table in my mind. Being at the bar is so transient.


Got something for your Body, Mind and Soul...

Pulsing, pounding, blood pumping in your veins. The bass beat deep inside to your bones. Rythmic inside your body 'til you can't stand it. Grinding deep against another body. Saphic (sp?) delight fills your vision. The DJ brings us to crescendo after crescendo yet the beat continues on. Moving to the music, you are in a trance beyond your control. Smoke falls from the unseen depths of the ceiling of the dance floor, lasers pulse and fade away, your flesh vibrates from the soundwaves of unseen speakers around you. THe sick sweet smell of hash and pot makes your nostils flare of their own volition. Strobes create visual rythmes of unchoreographed beats. Your heart rages within your chest. 160 beats a minute. The visual eye candy moving with you in time to the strings the DJ controls from his board high above the dance floor.

What? You thought I was coming to Amsterdam and not hitting club Escape? Think again, the party marches on. Tomorrow I leave for Paris. Another unknown in my mind. A city I've walked before, yet don't feel comfort within. To be honest, I'd like to stay here for another couple of days. I finally have broken the bounds of the tourist traps of this beautiful city and I'd like to see what else it has to offer. Perhaps another time. TO be sure, each city I've visited has it's very own unique call on my heart and mind. None has been easy to leave, and the memories of each will lie in my mind like a pool of molten lava.

May 19, 2005

A Sobering Experience

Last night as I was returning from dinner, I had the opportunity to witness a guy try to pickpocket a guy who looked like a semi-reformed Hell's Angel. Why you would pick such a target, I have no idea, but suffice to say he botched the job and the guy almost kicked his ass down the street. The pickpocket tried to play it off, but the wallet was laying on the sidewalk. I don't think the tourist would have just dropped it there. lol I guess I've been lucky so far, but then I'm paranoid and take precautions when I go somewhere. Most of the time, my wallet lives in my front pocket along with the cash I'm carrying at the time.


This morning I went to the Anne Frank house. I haven't had a reaction to the holocaust like this since I was at Dachau in 1995. I saw The Diary of Anne Frank when I was a kid on TV. The rooms in the show were spacious. The real place is so small I felt clausterphobic almost immediately. I can't believe 8 people lived in these tiny rooms for more than two years. Pieces of the original walls were put back in the space behind glass - the ones with her photos and cards pasted to them. Even water damaged and 60 years later, they smack you just like falling flat into the water from a high diving board. The remaining walls are covered in replicant wallpaper to the original pattern. Drab, dank and closed in don't even come close to the feeling this place has. I was sweating profusely. I couldn't wait to get back outside. These people didn't leave for over two years until the Gestapo got an anonymous tip and they were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Just before the exit to the museum there is a coffee shop that serves light food. I can't imagine how someone could wish to eat after being in the Annex. It took me better than two hours to even think about eating. Well, I guess the reaction is different for everyone.


I went into one of 'those' coffee shops today... I don't partake, but I had to see it with my own eyes... The size of the spliffs these people roll is incredible. How they smoke an entire one and still function is beyond me. I also went into a seed shop. Sensi-seed. They sell seeds for over 100 kinds of hemp plants. They have this really cool catalog with pix and descriptions of the high and how easy the plants are to grow. Pretty wild.


BTW - for you folks that are reading this regularly, feel free to post comments...

The 70s revisited

The big wire mirror sunglasses from the 70's are back in vogue here. I noticed it in Italy as well. I wonder if they are actually in or if they are simply people that haven't caught up yet. I'm guessing they are in. 70's fashions, retro shows... oh yeah baby! Whatever!


People watching seems to be the ultimate art in Amsterdam. From where I sit, I can see at least 15 cafe's - they are all packed with people out in sidewalk tables and chairs. All faced toward the sidewalk and street so they can watch the people go by. THere aren't even chairs facing the cafe. It's like being seated in a theatre with a cast of many hundreds of people with no dialog. Only background noise like the buzz of traffic, the clink of glasses on the tables and the murmur of conversation.


I visited the piercing studio today... Very difficult to walk away a second time. I'm too worried about the 'aftercare' factor while I travel to do it though at this point. I need to figure out why I have this need to have more decoration on my body. In many cultures, there are rights of passage to adulthood and also visible symbols or age and experience whereas our culture has none. Perhaps it the desire to fill these blanks that engages me to practice body modification. What do people do when they are full canvases? I'll have to think to ask the next time I'm at a tattoo convention.

What day is it?

I can't count the number of times I was offered cocaine last night by african men as I walked around seeing the night sights in Amsterdam. That and E. It's subtle and no real pressure. The dealers walk around and they ask you quietly 'en passaunt' (In passing). I've been approached by drug dealers before in at home and it's still not something I'm comfortable with. Thankfully, I only needed to shake my head and they were gone off to the next prospect.

I debraded my forehead this morning. A very long and sometimes painful process. I'm just hoping to keep from getting an infection in the open skin. It's not like my flesh is open to the air, but you know how if you scraped yourself and a couple of days later you notice that you have a very light scab on the surface of your skin? Even though I've always felt I looked a little dorky in a hat, I'm seriously considering finding a hat shop to find something to wear during the rest of my trip. The sun is out in full force today which is going to limit me to careful walking down certain sides of the streets.


I went back to the book shop this morning. Not just a graphic design bookstore, but dedicated to art, architecture, design and photography. I think there was an interior design section as well, but I avoided looking too close. I did enough damage in the design section. I spent enough money to have over 10 Kilos of books. That's over 22 pounds. They had books by publishers I've never heard of. Amazing stuff. THe place is called Nijhof & Lee - International Booksellers


Food report. I had steak last night at a Argentinian Steakhouse. Under different names, there are tons of these in Amsterdam. I had to see about the Argentine method of cooking steak - over wood logs (open flame). Pretty good. Although the meat tasted a little gamey which was odd for beef. I keep forgetting that food is entirely ala carte here and that you have to order each course on your own. They don't sit and say - salad? main course? beverage? If you forget to order water, you don't get water. And you might end up short on your food quantity if you don't order each course. I'm not saying you have to order a 4 course meal, just that you have to remain aware as you order that the responsibility is entirely yours to get the proper meal.

I had a kebab for lunch at a little place just off the tourist lane. I didn't know when I ordered it that it was going to be loaded with curry. Tasted pretty good, but I'm sure I'm going to to regretting it in awhile. I'm not used to eating curry, and I've been careful on this trip to not eat foods that will upset my stomach. Oh, well, this is an adventure after all, right?


I'm watching the Giro de Italia on Eurosport while I type this, and it's strange to not have Phil Ligget and Bob Roll announcing the race. Well, that and the fact that the broadcast is in German. I realize how much I've forgotten. I'm thinking of enrolling in classes for Italian or French. I love Tuscany so much. I can see me going back there again. It would be nice to be able to speak to the people there in their own language. It makes all the difference when you want to make an impression.


I realized yesterday that I have no idea what day it is anymore. Without a structured work week and people that are regularly talking about what day it is, it's hard to keep track of the calendar. I think it's Wednesday, but it would take me a lot of day counting to figure out for sure. I'm also having trouble recalling how long I've been here. I have a 4 night stay in Amsterdam, and I think last night was only #2, I've done so much since I got here - you can get that effect with so much packed into one day of different stuff. When you are doing or seeing the same thing all day you just don't have that happen, I'll call it suspension of time. The definition is when you are so busy that you think something you did that morning was a day or two in the past rather than 12-14 hours. :-)

May 18, 2005

Go Grandma and Grandpa - lol

You ever have one of those moments when your gut tells you to do something contrary to the plan in your mind? You know, you are walking to destination A when suddenly you have this really bizarre urge to go in the opposite direction just because? This happened to me on the way back to the hotel from one of my little walking tours. I'm walking down the street next to a canal on the way back to the hotel (while Amsterdam is not quite the maze Venice was, I'm still thankful for my relatively good sense of direction and space) I started walking past a small stree that looks plain and devoid of interest. Suddenly I feel a jerk inside me somewhere. A little voice I hear sometimes pipes up with, "turn and walk down there... see what there is to see." OK - It's not like I'm on a schedule, I have no-one to meet and my little conversation companion (notebook) is safe and sound in my pocket. I'll walk down there and see what I see. I walk a couple of blocks and don't see much except a really cool sign for a mushroom shop. OK, I'll go back and photograph that and move on to the hotel. As I turn around, I see a really interesting poster in a shop window on yet another side street that is even smaller. The place was closed, but it's a graphic design bookstore. Every single thing I can see is devoted to print. They have multiple issues of Idea magazine in one window and printing posters in another... Ah, European design... I can see me spending a few hundred Euros in there tomorrow. LMAO


In my other walk abouts, I've discovered another piercing studio and two tattoo studios. I wouldn't get a tattoo in either studio, but I'm keeping my eyes open for other places. There is just something about being in a tattoo studio that makes me feel at home. The electric buzz of the tattoo machines, the flash on the walls, the smell of the A&D ointment. And perhaps there is a pheremone in the air I can't smell, something to do with all the endorphins that are released as people get tattooed. Something that lingers in the air and creates a warm sensation inside my mind that I can't explain.


Strangest sight on my trip yet: I forgot to mention this about my tour of the red-light district. I saw a grandma and grandpa, both easily in their 60s or early 70s, standing and gazing into an S&M Sex shop. They were in a discussion and pointing to various things in the shop windows. I don't mean like off to the side either, they were right in the doorway. I didn't linger to see if they went in to make a purchase, but the thought gives me a good chuckle even hours later. GO get some grandma... LOL Nice to know that even when we get old we can still think about being frisky. Something to look forward to I guess.

May 17, 2005

Roll a what?

This might sound strange, but I feel like I'm out of human contact. For a week, the longest conversation I've had has been with this notebook. Most of the talking I do consists of ordering dinner or telling the taxi driver where I'm going. Speaking of taxi's, the van that brought me from the airport had a stick shift mounted on the dashboard. Weirdest car thing I've seen. lol (Got a picture of it).
I'm normally an introvert, so I'm used to spending long periods of time in my own head. To make things even harder though, there are language barriers, and anti-american sentiments in many europeans - they love america, but don't like americans. In a week, I've noticed a very curious thing - backpacking around europe is commonplace. Many US students do it. Most backpackers have a flag patch sewn on the back of their pack. I have yet to see a US flag. I've seen tons of Canadian flags. I wonder how many people are using the maple leaf as camoflage to hide from the US label? It is that we can no longer have pride in being from America or simpy fear of reprisal that is making this happen. Either way, it's a sad state of affairs in our world when can't be proud of who we are.


I went into a shop today as astounded to discover an entire rack of rolling papers. Different flavors, shapes, colors, labels... I counted over 100 different types. Lined up like candy bars. I'll try to get a picture of this before I go. I haven't seen the actual shops that have menu's to select from and I'm sure I will, but it's funny to see just what kind of industry and marketing surround this activity. There are head shops everywhere. I've seen some of the most beautiful pipes made from blown glass or carved from wood or bone.


They serve coffee in most places in these little cups with tiny handles. I can hold the freakin' things - quite comical. To not drop the cup is a true challenge for me. About half the places I've had coffee serve it with a small chocolate. I've taken to dropping the bar into the coffee and making my own little mocha's. I try not to drink coffee everyday. THe last thing I need to bring home is a caffiene addiction. ON of the best things I've discovered in europe is there seem to be no Starbucks - I can't even begin to articulate how great this is no to see everyone running around with the little paper cups from starbucks getting their FIX!


I found a little Apothoke that had tiny tubes of SPF 60 sunscreen... I think I put half the tube on my face right there in the store. Dorky, I know, but I figured out how to post a picture to my blog, and even though the photo is washed out, you'll get an idea how burned I got in Vienna. It's not IF I get skin cancer, but when. I've been burned to badly too many times and they say each bad burn increases your chances 50%... I've well over 10,000 percent for my lifetime... I actually need to schedule an appt. when I get home to see a skin specialist and document some moles and other little bumps I have... I think they call it preventative medicine for a reason.

May 16, 2005

Alien Nation

My face is absolutely fried. How can I spend 3 days under the Tuscan sun and not get burned and then fry in 5-6 hours while walking around Vienna is beyond me. I'm still a little disconcerted with riding in taxi's that have the Mercedes emblem on the hood. Traveling down the road at 180 KMH is a little weird too - the math puts us going over 100 MPH. The windows are down and I can barely hear the wind. Gotta love German engineering.


My first view of the Netherlands is a small lake with a flock of tiny white sails on it. Each crisp triangle is uniform to the others in appearance, but going it's own direction. I can almost feel the gentle breeze that gives fuel to their travels. Within minutes, I'm on the ground and walking through the Amsterdam airport. My mood is easily conveyed through my bright smile and the spring in my step. Off to the hotel...


OK, the gray day turned into a cold rain. I'm soo glad I bought a coat from that con artist. tee hee I should send her a thank you note. lol I took one trek about a half mile from the hotel. Strangely, I sat down for a beer, still sampling those for your future visit, I'm not sure, but I think they are safe for your consumption - I'll keep trying them for you though. :-) It became too cold to sit outside and watch the cuties riding by on their bikes (do people walk here?). I finish the beer just to get up and move. I can see at least 7 outdoor seating areas for bars and food places. I'm the only idiot sitting outside under the awnings (a couple of people had been, but in the course of the time it took to drink one beer, they all abandoned their posts and sought refuge from the elements). Back to the 'strangely' part of the story. Out of the corner of my eye, I spy a piercing studio. Now, I'm not really the kind of person that gets holes punched in them at whim. (I usually give it great contemplation and do a lot of research first.) But, the urge to go see if they are open is overwhelming. Shocker. I'm in Europe traveling, the last thing I need to do is get a new piercing somewhere and have it get infected. That said, the collection of jewelry at this place is nothing short of stupendous... I think they have an even bigger collection of flesh insertable metal, wood, bone and ceramic (even glass) objects than than the studio I go to in Atlanta. With great difficulty, I forced myself to leave the shop. Images of a tiny laberet stud hidden in my goatee, an eyebrow piercing, a tongue piercing (not really), or a nose piercing fill my mind. I actually have thought about getting a tiny piercing done on the bridge of my nose... Where my glasses would hide it most of the time. Or even the septum (then I could hide it at work.)


If the weather improves, I'm planning on renting a bike and touring on that instead of walking. I realized tonight that my calves are tightening up like a (never mind). Anyway, I think I'm going to start doing a half hour of stretching before I go to bed just to get things moving in my legs again. I'm dying not being on my bike. Seems like this happens every May though. I have some trip that keeps me off my bike for 10-14 days. At least I'm getting lots of walking in though.

That brings me to food again. I had the 'original' club sandwich for a very late lunch. 3 pieces of toasted bread (quite thin), chicken, bacon (sure it was bacon), and a fried egg. Who ever heard of such a combination? Sure, you are thinking - hey, dumbass, why did you order it then? TO try something different. This whole trip is about refreshing my mind and bringing a new approach when I get home. If I eat the things I normally eat, drink the things I normally drink, I might well have just stayed home. Break the mold of your life. Even if it's with one little detail. I promise you'll find a new way to look at something if you just make one tiny change. Try honey on your toast instead of Jam, eat peanut butter off a spoon, be decadent and put the raw sugar in your coffee... whatever... just try something new. Part your hair on the other side of your head, take the chance on the cutie you met last week and ask them out.


In 1992 I got on a plane in South Dakota and flew to St. Louis. I had a 5 or 6 hour layover. It was a Tuesday in September. I don't recall which one, but I know it was a Tuesday because the Scorpions had released a new album called Pure Instinct that day. I tried to get my record store to sell it to me the night before, but they wouldn't do it. I even showed them my plane ticket... "Dude, I'm flying to Korea in the morning. Please..." 'NO.' Asshole. So, I'm sitting in St. Louis airport and decided to see if I can talk a shuttle driver into taking me to a nearby mall. After talking to some of the people that work around the airport, I find a guy who knows a guy who will do it. For a fee. lol, Hey, cheaper than a taxi. So I go buy the CD. I listened to that thing all the way to LA, then to Japan, then to Korea. The first track on that CD is called Alien Nation. I thought it incredibly ironic that I was going to be an alien in another country. I'd never even been to Canada, and here I was flying to Korea. (I think the total flight time was like 32 hours.) I arrived there and got onto a bus filled with other people getting there for the first time. As we drove through town, I cracked quite loudly... "Hey, how am I going to know which one is the chinese restaurant?" Everyone was rolling. We had no idea what the strange symbols on all the buildings meant, they sure weren't chinese.

It's funny, I'm in my fourth city and I'm looking at the same letters that comprise my own language, and I have no idea what they say. Amsterdam is a little different though. Most of the signs here for shops are in english. I dressed in my most european clothes today and still everyone speaks english to me. Oh, well, at least I'm not at home wondering what's on TV. I've also read a couple of interesting books (I'm going to have to look for a bookstore tomorrow though, I'm soon going to be out of reading material.)

Visual Nirvana

This morning in the shower, I remembered a story I forgot to tell in Florence. Ooops... So, I already talked about the scooters, but the other thing is a lot of people ride bikes. You know, the old three speed kind of bike with fat fenders and balding tires? Plastic handgrips. OK, now take the bike you are thinking of and age it about 15 years in your mind. You can do it. Remember, if you put your hands out, anything is possible... OK, now picture a woman that looks like she just walked off a runway spread in Vogue (or whatever fashion magazine is the in thing with women now) with 4 inch heels no less. Riding down the street! Talk about pedaling with your toes! By the time I remembered I had a camera, she was too far down the street. 4 inch heels. I'm not kidding. So ladies, next time you are all dolled up and have the urge to say, "But look what I'm wearing..." Think again. lol


As I went to climb into bed last night, I searched for the top sheet on the bed. They had come to turn it down for me earlier in the evening, and I expected to have a bottom and top sheet. Imagine my surprise to find the bed has only a bottom sheet and a duvet. Uh, I like the duvet in the morning, but I like to just sleep with a sheet at night... cruel joke played on the American or normal? You be the judge. Despite that, I slept pretty well considering the mattress felt like a board, but maybe stiffer. lol Seriously, I'm just too used to my own bed at home which has it's super soft liner that I sink into. It's also hard to be in the 3rd bed in less than a week. I don't recommend the kind of trip I'm on to anyone. I was exhausted last night and I didn't even really do much yesterday. Part of it is I'm finally getting over the last of my jetlag. Yippee... THe other is all the activity in Venice finally caught up with me. Walking this much has me aching in places I forgot. Yeah, I ride my bike a lot, but apparently, walking and riding are entirely different muscle groups. :-)

Today, I'm going sightseeing in Vienna and heading over to a festival for the 50 year anniversary of the Austria. Now, I'm thinking to myself: the country has been around longer than that. Apparently about 10 years after WWII they reconstituted the country and there is a celebration of some kind. I hear there will be bier. Hmm... Might have to sample some of this beverage... I'll let you know if it's safe for you to try it. lol Right now, I feel like I could eat a horse, I'm hoping there will be some kind of Wurst sausage and perhaps even a pretzel... I know that is a German thing, but I can hope... lol


I've never been in a city more beautiful than Vienna. If you never visit a city outside the US than Vienna, consider yourself blessed! I really have no words to express the amazing beauty of this city. Simply amazing. I won't even count the most amazing sunburn I've had in the last 10 years as part of the package. I'm fried beyond imagination. I wish I had a Pantone color book to compare the color of my face with. Without that, let's just say that red and white aren't just Christmas colors. lol

I have 9 days left in my trip, and I can't even imagine having that long to experience the rest of what is in store. Amazing is no longer a good enough word to cover what I'm experiencing. I was able to see a demonstration today - police vs. anarchists. No violence, but the potential was there. Police in full riot gear, punks in mohawks and green hair. Oh, yes. The potential was there. I couldn't decide which side I was on. lol

I also saw a near riot of European Futball fans. How odd, the most rabid fans on the planet really aren't the fans of a Pittsburg team, but rather (insert name of any Euro Soccer team here). Look, I'm not kidding, they were busting beer bottles, setting off flares, singing English spirit songs and creating human chains. What is an American to do, but sit patiently and wait for the festivities to be over? Afterward, I went to dinner at a tiny Italian place. Only 7 tables in the whole place. No menu, just a waiter giving two options for each course.

Did I mention the castle/royal grounds that I started my day on? Part of the celebration for the new (50 Year old) Austian state. Pretty amazing... See the pix for a more visual update.

May 14, 2005

Hold out your hands...

OK, way too much in my head today and didn't have a place or time to write it down. I'll try to reconstruct the best I can.

First of all, if you've ever taken a limo ride to the airport (well maybe just the first time) you know the feeling you get of being special and wondering what it's like to live that way. I left my hotel this morning to catch to a plane to Vienna. To catch a plane out of Venice, basically means taking a water taxi. Think of a private boat (about 20 ft?) lined with couch seating. It's all teak wood with a high gloss polish. You ride for a half an hour by yourself in the back with nothing but the water for company. I think I'm still trying to wipe the silly grin off my face.

Crap, I totally forgot to take a picture of the plane I flew in today... it was a prop jet. They still fly these things? Holy Crap. As we were coming in for landing, I bet even money the pilot was going to tip a wing right into the runway and all my thoughts about death would come to immediate certainty.

I'll explain the death thing in a minute, but first I wanted to tell a story that happened to me in 1993. I once stood for over an hour with may arms straght out in front of me for over an hour. Parallel to the floor. This isn't something I decided to do on whim (not mine anyway), but rather on the screamed demand of two very large, nasty drill instructors. I think we happened to finish our revolution eary and they needed some way to further instill in us that our asses (along with our arms) belonged to them. We were placed at attention and then told to put out our arms. THere may have been a demonstration, but they liked to train Pavlovian response, so I'm not certain. Pavlovian in their case would have been not to end up in the 'front leaning rest' (otherwise known as the pushup position.) So, we stand. Unmoving... try it for 5 minutes... OK, try it for 1. Hurts doesn't it. 15 minutes go by, people start dropping their arms... screaming Drill Sergeants are on them like rabid dogs on raw meat. Old Yell'r indeed. I didn't move. Nothing.The poor souls who moved, did so many pushups... I couldn't see this. I was focused on a spot about 6 to 8 inches over my hands. Or rather defocused is more appropriate? I literally went somewhere else. I shut my mind off from my body and visited somewhere else. Time ceased. The room of grunting sweating men ceased. There was only my mind. I don't recall now where I went. If I knew that, I'd probably still be there. (Along with a nice padded room - Hmmm...) Finally, it registered to me that one the Drills was talking about me. "Like a Rock"... I realized that he was staring into my eyes and trying to see how long it would be before I moved. That was the beginning of the end for me. The searing pain in my arms and shoulders moved to the forefront of my mind. There was no pushing it back out again. Instinct then takes over... you move to release the muscle. Of course, they caught me. Into the front leaning rest I went. Actually, a nce change of pace at that point. So what is my point? We endure things. Things you never thought you could. Things you would never imagine trying. At some point, you let go. It's not worth holding onto. I didn't want to be the last one standing, and I wasn't (there were three of us left, the other two cracked soon after.) The point was that in my own mind, I could change it. Make it something else (if even only for a short while.)

I spent a lot of time thinking about death today. Some my own, some just death in general. I realized that I don't have a will, a living will, a letter of intent (for what happens to after I die), or anything else to go with it. About 70% of the population dies intestate (without a will). It takes forever to sort that crap out. I'm not sure who would do the stuff anyway. I am single, no kids, out of contact with my family for the most part. But all this thought gave way to a question I need to know the answer to. What would people say? Other than it 'was unexpected'. It's always unexpected because we don't prepare. We don't talk about it until it's too late. Then you loved ones are rushing to decide if you get the grand pappy casket with a concrete liner around it or if you get the simple pine box.

Here's the thing, if I die, I want a carefully orchestrated event to occur. I want people to drink, laugh and remember something good. I want to be cremated. I want my ashes scattered over a small lake in my hometown. I'd like a bottle of wine poured in after to keep me lubricated. I'd want three people there to do it. But mostly I'd want to know that I'd made some kind of impact on the people around me. That maybe they were a little more... I don't know... something. Even to those I didn't get along with, I'd like to feel that I made an impact. I'm not an organ donor, and I don't know why. I would like my skin to help a burn vicitm in need. (But I've thought about this, I only want the tattooed skin to be used.) The art could continue to live. (The recipient would of course have to approve the skin.)

Morbid thoughts. Perhaps. But I've been smiling all day. I woke up with a smile and I'm pretty sure it's going to be there again tomorrow. I'm holding out my hands... there is this little spot 6 inches above my hands... anything can happen there. ANYTHING. Come on, try it...

Please, no starch in my boxers...

I woke this morning to ocean waves (well in my mind I did. In reality, I had to open the door to the balcony first.) After a short, but luxurious shower, I dressed and headed for the boat dock to catch the water shuttle over to Venice proper. (Not sure what counts for actual land in Venice since everywhere you turn there is water.) It doesn't smell so good in most areas either. lol I took a lot of pictures of a lot of amazing scenes. I couldn't always get to where the good picture would have been, but I think I got some amazing photos regardless. I got a quick tour of the Murano glass factory and afterwards, took a little more appreciation for the glass I saw for sale everywhere. (I think half of Venice must work in this factory to produce that much glass.) I saw pieces of glass/art today that cost $3-4k. I also talked to the artisan that created the masks for Eyes Wide Shut. Pretty cool stuff. I think I must have walked about 15 miles today. One street I went down was 5 feet wide. I couldn't even stretch my hands out without crashing into the sides. I'd love to see a recreation of how Venice came to be. Certainly, the biggest maze I've ever encountered. Also, only the second time in my life I've experienced sensory overload. So many people. So many shops full of eye candy. (Most of them don't allow pictures, so those will just have to live in my memory.) Honestly, haven't had a good meal since I got to this city. Neither of my meals today were that good. I think for food, you can't beat Tuscany. The gelato on the other hand... OMG I think I could live on that stuff. Not sure what is in it, but high grade crack for you taste buds. Something else I noticed in the course of my day. None of the bridges over the canals have straight steps. They are all slanted down. I can't imagine why this would be created on purpose, and can't think of why they would slant over time. Conundrum there.


OK, not that you probably care about this one, but LMAO - I just unpacked the laundry I had done. OMG - They ironed my boxers. GO Venice!! I was immediately worried they might have starched them, but to my satisfaction, no, just laundered and lovingly pressed... OK - how much do they have to pay someone for that job? I can't imagine...


Forgot this morning that lovely desk girl went out of her way to be able to talk to me today. She let me know that she was off at three, but there were other employees around again so I couldn't suggest we meet for a drink in the city. And I couldn't figure a way to do it. I need to be more sly next time and outwit the other employees. lol

May 13, 2005

Smelly Old People

I'd say I'm fresh out of commentary, but in truth, I just realized how hard it is to write on the train. Shaky. More later.


What is it that makes old people smell? OMG SOmeone just walked by me and it nearly overpowered me. I haven't smelled that since I was a little kid visiting on of my great aunts for a birthday or some other family affair. I wasn't afraid of her, but rather terrified of that odor. Is it the wrinkles or when you age, do you some people simply decide they will no longer bathe?


So I entered Venice on the train. Pulling into the 'city of love' alone really didn't do a lot for my mood. I need a Webster's Collegiate Dictionary word for sad that just isn't in my vocabulary tonight. Morose doesn't quite cover it sadly enough.

So as a contrast to last night's dinner, I went to the hotel restaurant. Big mistake, HUGE! Anyway, was seated right away. Their best table. The fact that I was the lone diner had nothing to do with it. Did I mention I was at one of the most exclusive hotels in Venice? Hmmm... Not sure how I managed that, but I'm here for two nights. My room has a 2o foot balcony overlooking the sea. 7th floor no less. "upgraded" was the reception desks only comment. Hey, she's really cute. If the other jackass would walk away, I could ask her out. Her smile says, "Yes." Damn.

So Unlike the last room that had a square toilet seat, this one is normal (again the Bidet right next door - lol). The room is huge though. Easily as large as my room at home... the bed is not like the concrete I slept on the last two nights either. Hmmm... might have to move in here... tee hee.

I arrived on the train at 1:30 pm this afternoon. I didn't get to my room until 4 pm. I'm on Lido island (as far east in Venice as you can get. If I walk out on the pier from the beach, I'll be as far east in Venice as you can possible go without a boat.

I'm off to bed. I have a long day tomorrow if the weather holds out for me.

May 12, 2005

A what in the bathroom?

This morning, I've already been through the all premiere shops from Hermes, Gucci, Prada, etc.. you get the idea. Plus names I've never heard of that are certainly Haute Cotoure. There are no clothes here for big people in this city. All the men are stick thin (the prada boy look). Of course, they have the most amazing shoes. If I already didn't have a shoe habit, I certainly after visiting here. Had I remembered Italy from past trips I'd have come barefoot and brought a lot more money. LOL I've fallen in love at least a dozen times. Speaking of love, the women here aren't bad either. haha I saw the most exquisite woman this morning and luckily was walking about 10 paces behind her for awhile. It was like watching a commercial. Every man she passed stopped and as soon as she was out of earshot made a comment on her beauty. What a tough life.


If heartburn doesn't come and eat me alive, I have to say the wood oven pizza I had for lunch is probably th ebest I've ever had. Spicy Salami, tomato, mozzorella all on a thin thin crust bigger than a dinner plate. I've taken the habit of ordering a ,75 L bottle of mineral water (natural) eith every meal so I don't get dehydrated like I did on my last trip to Italy. It's not hot here right now (from that perspective, I seem to have arrived at the perfect time. I'm sitting at a cafe called Tira... baralla. I've already broken my rule of not eating at the same place twice. I had dinner here last night as well. I couldn't resist returning after I saw their pizza's on other tables during my meal. I'm actually sitting in the street - the sidewalks are too small to allow tables. IT's strange to see a scooter whiz by a foot away. Oh, and the scooters are everywhere here... I don't know if the picures will show this, but OMG everyone rides a scooter. And talk about fearless. Scooters actually go faster than cars in the traffic here. Smart cars are also very prevelant. It's hard to get used to the taxi's being Mecedes Benz's as well. (Sidenote - I passed a Mercedes store today... no cars, just Mercedes products, glasses, clothing, bags... you name it.)


I came to the realization this afternoon that a good salesman is nothing but a legal con artist. The job of a salesman is to make you feel good about yourself. If they accomplish that, basically, they own you. I say this after I got into the clutches of a particularly skilled con artist who made me feel very good about myself. lol So I needed a new leather jacket... It's the softest lambskin. Perhaps not 'perfect' grade, but it was the best of the three qualities they sold. I found it interesting to see the street vendors selling 'real' leather for cheap until I felt it. I kept trying to figure out how you make a leather so stiff and with so many flaws... and had an even harder time figuring out why people were buying it. People... cheap isn't always good. Sometimes it's worth going somewhere more expensive and buying the thing you desire. I looked at knockoff bags with everything the same as the store 4 blocks away... EVERYTHING. Except these lacked the designer label. Price - 800% less. Gucci... made in the same factory I think. I like to think the jacket I bought would be the same. The quality is equal to 1200 dollar designer jackets I've looked at in Saks and Neiman Marcus. Perhaps it's the same... lol


I went to Michaelangelo Park today. No-one even looked at the David. Everyone was yammering and pointing to the cityscape on the other side of the river. Florence is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the world from above. From close up, it's like other cities in Italy. Dirty. Not trash on the side of the road dirty, but dirty from pollution, dirty from lack of care in the beauty. There are sculptures on the buildings that in the states you would have to visit a museum to see.Yet here, they sit out for all to see (or to ignore as is probably more the truth.)

After I visited the park, I had to lie down. I didn't think I was tired until I woke from a two hour nap. I kind of could used to the way things are here. Things close down from 1-3 for an afternoon nap. I must not become accustomed to this. I'd be in so much trouble...


So, my room has a bidet in it... My comment on a bidet is simply this... the idea of a mini-shower for your behind does have merit... it's the execution that seems strange. 'nuff said.

May 11, 2005

Ugly Americans

After waiting over an hour while multiple other parties were seated that arrived after me, I was finally given a seat at the end of a table full of 'ugly' Americans. I cringe at the thought of how so many of us are rude to our hosts when we travel. Despite my anger at being placed less important than tables of two, I'm more angry at the obvious rudeness of the people at my table. "Where is our food?" they yell at a waiter who is servicing another table. SO Sad. They feel they are at home where speed is of an essence. Not realizing that they are not. Why? You are in Europe - eat late, and enjoy the process and your companions - if you have them. My only only companion seems to be this little notebook. A slow talker if I ever heard one... When the waiter decanted my wine (note: my service improved greatly with my wine order) one of the rude bastards down the table cried out - 'Do we get a taste? Everyone at the table was in rapt attention when the decanter arrived and the waiter took his sweet time in pouring the wine into it... very nice indeed. My response? Pause for effect. 'Sorry - NO', said very softly. I might have well slapped his face. TO be honest, it would have been a joy!

I Tredici Gobbi - obviously one of the tourist attractions in the city of Florence (if you can find it). Great wine list (certainly much better than I can afford - I picked a nice lower end wine but think I surprised the waiter none-the-less).

I rejoice - the UGs have asked for the check instead of dessert or coffee. I may dance a jig. haha

There is an ancient register next to my seat. It's amazing to reach out and touch a piece of equipment that served as a utility but looks like art.

My wine which decanted about an hour and a half ago is just coming into its own. Exquisite. I wish my dinner had taken longer to arrive. I guess I should document the wine I have so raved over. Anfiteatro Vendemnia - Vecchie Terr di Montefili 2000. Tipica Tuscany? Sangiovese for certain... other grapes added? Unknown.

It is 11:15 - All the Americans have gone. I'm left with tables of Italian men enjoying an evening out. A few ladies - but mostly men. I feel priveleged - my waiter brought me a dessert cordial of liquor that I only saw offered to one other table tonight. A lovely pear flavor to compliment the chocolate pear cake I had for dessert. Then, rather tan bringing me the check, offered me coffee or cuppicino. There are only four tables left that have people sitting at them. I don't want this night to end, but I know it must. Can I really have 13 days left on this adventure? It doesn't seem possible. Anytime you have 5 empty glasses, a empty carafe, and two empty bottles on your table, the evening must be considered a success. lol

May 10, 2005

Airplane hell

Airplane hell - Bwahhahaha

Missed my connection at DeGaulle. The flight never took off though. Instead of 7:20, we left the terminal iin a sardine bus - I swear we drove off the airport gorunds to get to our plane. Despite the rural appearance and age of this 'jet', I feel confidnet that I will arrive in FLorence Today - in one piece. I should have already landed there and be sucking down a cuppicino right now. Jet lag is killing me. I feel travel sick. As appealing as a shower would be, I just want to lie down. I doubt I could sleep, but flat would sure beat verticle. Also i'ts quite cold here - I should have brought a coat. The flight attendent is wearing a scarf. I certainly hope I'm not on my way to Oslo. LOL I can only imagine how the peoplewho flew coach over the ocean feel.


Walking around Florence is like walking through a fairy tale of fashion. ANy fashionista would be enamored of the whole experience. I also realized that they make very little in my size. All for slim Prada kinda boys..


I'm jet lagged and tired from walking around all day. Got some great pix (though a lot of them are over exposed - at least from looking at least looking at the thumnails...)

Sweet Dessert

At what point in the path of our lives do we become concerned with others - their needs, their hopes, their desires - and the fulfillment that goes hand in hand within those things? Do we fulfill the needs of others before our own? Do we even notice others around us have needs we can meet? What do the people mean to us when we would sacrifice ourselves - even to our core to make someone else happy?

Curiously, two people have sat next to my seat - both have been moved to other seats even before the doors are closed. Not that I mind, but who will wake me when I begin to snore? The death rattle waking half the plane? I'm on my way to Paris, and from there,I'm off to Florence. The biggining of a two week adventure that is sure to change the way I view things. Welcome along on the journey... such that it is. If you make it through my mental detrius, then you are more than welcome.


It wasn't until dessert on the plane that I realized what an exquisite adventure I'm on.

May 09, 2005

The Reason

I've been obsessed with listening to The Reason by Hoobastank lately. Starting over new... yes, I think that's just what the Dr. ordered.

We do this thing in our heads. We make up reality or we bend it 'til it suits our frame of mind. We find this vision of how things are. The shattered illusion can be a benefit in disguise. It's a chance to remake your reality. So, the one in your head isn't always right? Reform what is there until it does fit. We can become whatever we desire. Share yourself with others, ask them to be a part of your reality. Or don't. Just don't wonder why you aren't satisfied if you don't share yourself with others.

As children, we all have the ability to suspend disbelief for nearly anything. It's not just naivity, it's hope. We have this feeling as kids that anything is possible. As we age, we add more things to our list of 'impossible'. Take something out of your impossible list today and start working on making it a reality. You never know. It might be easier than you think. Everyday, around us people accomplish the impossible. Isn't it your turn?

May 01, 2005

My Memory

The horrible things in my memory are part of what make me who I am. I neither relish them nor despise them for their very nature allow me to be who I am.

Never Ceasing...

Some people never cease to amaze me with their spirit, their generosity, their verve... How does the human spirit evolve into it's individualism? When you reach out and try to touch it... elusive, graceful and dancing just out of reach. We endure so much, we focus on the things that hurt us. Then we see true spirit embodied by others... we become small in comparison... reaching for a perfection we can't achieve because we have not that thing within us that we crave from others.