Redneck High European Chapter checking in. Current status: London, trouble at customs, day in a holding cell, finally got out, staying in hostel.
Plans for the next 24 hours: Rome, hostel, fuckwhoknowswhatelse?!
I should be your hero. I just watched the end of "The Godfather." IN ROME!
That's right, "Il Padrino" en Italia, motherfucker!
Good to see that there are still rednecks willing to watch a redneck classic — even all the way over here in Roma.
Customs in London was bullshit. I'm pretty sure it was because I had a short-sleeved shirt on and the immigration cop wanted to fuck with me. Nothing came of it except a wasted day for both of us. I thought an American could breeze through that shit in the UK — I believe GW said we had no better friend. Not even close. They fuck with everybody. Bad. I was in a holding cell with about a dozen brown people — mostly Pakistani. It was them... and me.
I couldn't get an Italian immigration officer to glance sideways at my passport. They couldn't have ignored me more. It would be physically impossible. Short of lighting myself on fire, Italian immigration couldn't have shown less concern for me.
Of course, I wore a long-sleeved shirt entering Italy.
I'm here for three days. Don't know where I'm going next. I want to get to Romania, where Lonely Planet said a bottle of red wine could be bought for a buck fiddy. To hell with these advanced First-World countries.
Budapest is awesome.
Budapest is cool, but I still feel there are better exchange rates and cheaper living to be had. Romania, here I come.
My first night here I decided to do a Pub Crawl. Which would've been cool had I not had to share the experience with some dipshit lawyers from the States. One asswipe was laying it on thick to our tour guide — a cutie from Australia, living here in Budapest. The dumbass just couldn't understand that the girl was giving us the tour because she got paid to do it. She really didn't think he was fascinating, but the illusion was apparently realistic enough for the reetard to continually hit on her shamelessly. At one point I almost said, "Dude, you just don't get it, do you?"
We later decided to sample the local Strippersbörg. 50 bucks American and a misunderstanding — one that I thought was going to leave us minus thumbs and the Hungarian mafia plus a couple digits — led me back to my stinking bunk in my stinking hostel.
A pretty good night, overall.
Off to Prague. I've just heard too damn many "chick just got up on the bar and started strippin'" stories to ignore any longer. Let's see... a 70-dollar train ticket. It's an overnighter so I don't have to pay for a hostel tonight. Let's say I'm saving about 12 bucks on that deal. So, for about 58 USD I'll be knee-deep in panty-droppers by tomorrow morning.
Prague seems pretty cheap too, so it's a win for my wallet as well as for Captain Mushroom Cap.
See you in Praha, Czech Republic.
I'm proud to say I have not visited a Czech whorehouse. With as many amazing women who have taken up the oldest profession in this town, I'm surprised at my self-control. Apparently I'm cheaper than I am horny. Today I did my laundry in a sink and dried it on a radiator. I've eaten peanut butter and honey for the last four days, at least.
But I've found my things to blow money on. Of course, beer isn't one of them. In the C.R., beer, or "pivo," is about 50 cents American. That's for half a liter.
I'm off to Poland in the next few days. I'm fixin' to visit Auschwitz and then make my way to "the wall," in Germany.
My New Year's plans may shift from Amsterdam to Barcelona, but things are obviously shaky and unsure.
By the way, I'm drunk as a monk right now.
I wasn't impressed with Prague. So far, I've noticed it's the "in" destination with American tourists. It was OK. The castle was very cool, and there were some impressive gothic towers around town. But, there was also a TGIFriday's and about seven McDonald's. So, you take the good with the bad.
And we here at EuroRedneckHigh like to bitch about the bad much more than praise the good, so pardon me as I carry-the-hell-on.
The whole town is covered in an inch-thick layer of dog shit. This is worse than OB in San Diego. I watched the owner of a Great Dane beam proudly at the, apparently, post-feast deposit left by his teacup mule. A GREAT DANE! GOOD LORD, PICK THAT UP. SOMEONE COULD GET HURT!
A good portion of the townsfolk and shopkeepers were brazen assholes. Refusal of service, short-changing and a special "foreigner's menu" with prices about 30 percent higher were just a few of the minor annoyances. Taxi drivers would take us on long zig-zagging rides and run the meter up — what took us 10 minutes to walk, took us 15 minutes to drive. If you called anyone on their assholishness, they'd play the dumb, "I don't understand. I am just a meek shyster who makes a modest wage bilking the very same tourists who built my city up from a ditchwater shithole to the sprawling mega-mall metropolis you see before you."
Prague reminded me very much of Tijuana. The youngsters — yes I'm considering myself a youngster still — are heavy into drinking and partying and the locals resent it. With big tourism came the big tourism scams and the hyper-present chain stores.
Still, there's a cool castle. And beer is cheap. Just remember, Junior Campers, when you're wandering around looking up at the statues, to occasionally check for sidewalk mines left by the Prague pooches.
And, now that I've purged I'm going to enjoy Krakow. The here and now.
Krakow seems nice. I wasn't jiving on the hostels recommended in my Lonely Planet guide, so I up-traded to a pension. The pension is just under 13 bucks American and has much better facilities and rules.
The hostels had curfews, specific check-in times and catered to teenagers and young kids with chaperones. I wasn't havin' that shit. If I'm gettin' my gin and juice on, I ain't cuttin' it short for a midnight curfew to hang with the li'l shavers.
I've gotta go pick up my photos. I bought a sweet old Minolta (looks to be late-'60s to mid-'70s style) that takes impressive pictures. I've been experimenting with it and I'm eager to see how these rolls came out and what I can expect with different speeds and focus ranges.
I haven't found an Internet cafe yet that doesn't have its computers in some sort of a hamster cage thing. I can't see how I can upload digital images without a red light going off and a group of ex-KGB Policeskis shooting me in the face. So, I'm staying analog on this trip and I'll maybe make an online album when I'm back home in the US of God-blessed A.
Say it with me: "Damn, he's got taste!"
"Intrepid." That's me to a tee.
Let's give a hand to Steve The Texan for the intro story on this page. What a nice write-up, huh?
Yeah, I'm drunk and in Krakow, Poland.
I wish one of these dumb Pollacks* would invent a stop sign. I'm tired of squirting myself from curb to curb in a frenzy of tears, sweat and ass, to the sound of screeching tires.(* The term "dumb Pollacks" should be read in your father's voice, circa 1985. We here at EuroRedneckHigh are dedicated to "Quality of Experience," or QOE. Thank you.)
I missed my friends. I found them this morning. They had just come in from Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, and I actually saw them walking down the street.
Then we got drunk and watched the rugby World Cup — or whatever the hell they call it. I went back to my pension and slept. I missed our meeting time by about 45 minutes. I hope I run into them again before they leave Krakow.
The rugby championship was a lot of fun. I was in an Irish Pub watching the game between England and Australia with friends from Australia, Canada and Scotland. In Krakow, Poland. Doesn't get much more varied than that.
The English in the pub were gracious winners. One fellow bought a small round of champagne for the bar, and quite a few others came over to the Aussie camp and shook hands.
One gentlemen remarked to me, "You did well. You did very well."
"Um… I'm sorry. I'm American. This was the first rugby match I've ever seen."
"Well. It's a start."
So far everyone in Krakow — English, Scottish, Australian, Polish and American — have been warm and friendly. The cost of living is relatively inexpensive and the city is beautiful. So far it's keeping all the promises that Prague makes, but doesn't fulfill.
See you soon.
One of the receptionists at the pension where I'm staying makes the most amazing effort to communicate with me on the smallest English vocabulary I've come across.
"You. Agree. Yes? Room. Yes? 50. OK?"
"Yes, that's fine. I understand. That's a good price."
Her way of saying "cool" is to use the English word "extra."
Her way of saying my tattoos were cool was to point to my arms and say, "Extra. Extra. Tattoo. Extra. One. Two. One. Scorpion. Other... um... can't say. Can't describe. Your tattoo. Extra."
Thanks, sweetheart. That's the nicest thing anybody's said to me in a long time.
There are two devastating events that Europe must commemorate: the plague and World War II. Both were probably the most devastating events to human population in recorded history. At any one time while traveling Europe I've been standing on either burial grounds for the plague or for fallen WWII soldiers and civilian victims.
Outside Prague is a place called Kutna Hura. There they have a church decorated in the bones of 40,000 plague victims. Today I was in Auschwitz.
While there, I calculated that they were probably burning around 30 people an hour. Look around you right now. Are there 30 people in the room? Probably not. And that was just the number killed and burned in an hour. Figure around 10 hours a day, for 3-5 years, people were marched into chambers and ovens. It's a rugged tour, and at one point I nearly collapsed at the enormity of it all.
So far Krakow is an amazing place that captures the essence of European life in the last 1,000 years.
Gothic castles and churches. Check.
Warm and inviting people. Check.
Low exchange rates good for travelers. Check.
Memorials to more than 1.5 million Poles — MORE than 1.5 million — killed by German SS forces...
Moving on to Berlin. Krakow was amazing. I'm just going to tie up some loose ends around town, maybe get a haircut and a pair of shoes. Then I catch the night train to Berlin.
I visited Auschwitz twice while here — it's about an hour away. Buses leave nearly every hour from Krakow to Oswiecim (Auschwitz) and back.
The first day I walked around and breathed in the history and horror. I shot some pictures. When I got out to the bus to come back to Krakow I mindlessly opened my camera without winding the film back in. Lost that roll. I cursed myself and I debated whether to make another trip out just for the pictures.
I decided to go back out. My friends were going because they hadn't gone when I did, and I figured I'd just get some pictures and take off.
I dropped by the developer's yesterday to pick up my film.
"Yes, we're sorry. It was a mistake. Our colleague didn't read this film's label and put it into the wrong machine. Your pictures were destroyed. Of course, you'll get a free roll of film. We are deeply sorry."
OK. Message received. My documentation of Auschwitz will be in the moment and memory.
Well, off to Berlin.
I got a haircut in a Polish train station… Wouldn't recommend it.
That was my last day in beloved Poland. The night before, while out "having a big piss up" with an Australian friend, we were inexplicably invited out to go dancing with three Polish women who'd put any California stripper to shame with their good looks and sexy dance moves.
That last day I bought an ice cream on a stick. I was pleasantly surprised by a hint of whiskey — a mysterious syrup center. I wondered how many kids ate those. I also wondered when it would be that a young enterprising Italian invents the first ice cream on a stick with a satisfying cigarette center. Or a bright inventor in the Netherlands would concoct the first moon pie with a liquid hashish inner layer.
Speaking of cigarettes — and we were — I've smoked quite a bit on this trip. People have offered me smokes while I've been drunk and I've taken them.
Let me rephrase that: Women have offered me smokes while drinking and I've taken them. Men can't get a cigarette near me.
"Ollie, do you smoke? Would you like to go outside and have one with me?" asks Erin, or Cassandra, or Virginia.
"Sure. You only live once, right?"
Peter, a Canadian in Prague, begged me to smoke with him. He couldn't bear being the only person in our group smoking.
"Are you shitting me? Get that stinking thing away from me. No, I won't smoke if you buy the next round. Beer's only 50 cents anyway, bastard!"
He was pissed to later find Shauna and me on the porch, a cigarette in each of our mouths.
OK, kiddies. I'll be around Berlin for a couple days, then off to Amsterdam. Wish me luck.
Young and alive.
Eating Amsterdam space cake.
Drinkin' Heineken brew.
My favorite pastime so far is to walk past the little glass houses the half-naked hookers hang out in. They're like a little pornography aquarium. I want to tap on the glass to see if the little lingerie-clad lasses instinctively move to the window making fishy faces.
I have half-heartedly wandered away from the Red Light District, which my hostel is surprisingly located in the center of. I have meandered over bridges and past canals. I have in horror looked around me and said, "Oh no. The little hooker aquariums and hash bars are gone. I'm in the tourist section. Shit, Kentucky Fried Chicken! Gotta get out."
With haste I made it back home and to the seedy streets I love. I see couples on vacation from Georgia gazing around in disbelief, "Let's get some KFC, Sugarplum. Oh no. Hooker aquariums and hash bars. We've wandered out of the tourist section! Quick, let's get out of here."
I've been surprisingly tolerant of the Europeans' public urination habit. Upon hearing my lecture about public decency, some have offered me a drink in the nearby pub. To show there are no hard feelings, I usually stumble from the pub four hours later and unleash a roiling, steaming rope of piss on the nearest street corner.
Well, there's no night train from Amsterdam to Paris. I'll have to book another night here. Damn, that means spending Friday night in Amsterdam. I was so looking forward to eating baguettes and rank cheese. I guess mushrooms and space cake will have to do.
I must look Hungarian. Throughout Europe, Hungarians must be thought off as a short, chubby, angry people, because everywhere I go:
"Magyar?" Which I've come to find out means — no surprise — "Hungarian?"
"Everywhere, the people have asked me this. Except Hungary.
In Hungary, people ask me for directions.
My second favorite pastime — right behind getting the hookers to make fishy faces in their pornquariums — is to walk around the Red Light District whistling "Ode to Joy" as loudly as I can. It only takes about 10 minutes for it to spread. Then on some random bridge overlooking a sex shop or cannabis coffeehouse I'll hear someone else whistling it.
So far the most surreal thing I've seen here is a guy in a public works jacket — like a road worker or sewage worker — wearing a flower pot, complete with flower, as a hat. He had set a little broomstick across a street and was charging people a toll to pass while balancing said flower pot.
He wasn't with the local government. He was a young junkie who had lost his way, but had found the orange and white jacket of a local road worker.
I later saw him try to hold up a group of three or four big Australian guys with a hash pipe pointed at them like a gun. Of course, two minutes later the little junkie was on the ground having his throat stepped on by one of the Aussies.By this time he had lost his flower pot hat.
I've also stumbled onto a group of old Amsterdam queens on their bikes. All wearing flowery hats, bright scarves, white Jackie O. sunglasses and all of them needing a shave and looking like men stuffed into women's clothes. I guess the "old fag" look is universal because they would've been right at home in San Diego's Hillcrest.
So far, two junkies have told me to "fuck off" because I wouldn't give them money. That makes me feel bad for them. It makes me angry and makes me want to leave. But it's Friday night.
I've found a cheap Internet connection as you can tell.
So far, my favorite street name is "Roken" — pronounced "like Dokken."
Blach. Eesh. Blech. While I was sleeping an interior decoration firm walked into my mouth and put down wall-to-wall carpeting. Shag. Still damp.
I need water and a Certs.
I stayed in Amsterdam one more day than planned, partly because I couldn't get a night train, partly because I wanted to spend a Friday night in A'dam. But mostly because I was looking for that traveler's experience I've found in other cities. I've been waiting in all the right places to meet others and hang out for real conversation, humor and intoxication.
Just following a whim, I jumped into a crowded pub and bumped into some Irish fellas. I was giving it my all. I was funny as hell, and they were too.
The mood of the pub changed after a few pints. About two dozen middle-aged women came in wearing t-shirts reading, "Pink Ladies" and had their name on the back. The Irish boys in unison said, "hen party."
We had a few more while watching the hens get drunk and sloppy. We watched them spill their drinks and themselves all over the bar. There wasn't a three-minute span where one of them wasn't on her ass, and the others were snapping shots with disposable cameras and clucking like mad.
Of course, we sat there and made the most of it. We laughed and joked about them. An Irish said, "You know, I think we ought to hit a club or something because ol' 'Erica' there is starting to look good," referring to a lovely English lass of some 54 winters.
"Erica's hot. Don't discount Erica there. She could teach you a thing or two," I replied.
"Erica is a woman of considerable experience, that's to be taken into account," said Colin — a fine Irish name I'll arbitrarily give to Irishman No. 1.
Irishman No. 2 — whom we'll call Pat — agreed, but offered that we take in a show. We ditched into the street and I was leading them around. I was an old pro at A'dam by now and I was walking them to ATMs, showing them the city center square and then I was guide to the Red Light District.
We watched a show at "The Bananenbar." You can only guess what goes on in there. After seeing fruit and vegetables of all kinds disappear into parts unknown, and watching one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen do her own salad shooter bit — then sign a postcard to Pat... umm... "hands free" — we were back out into the street.
The show had gotten to Pat. This was apparently their first time in Amsterdam and they hadn't quite come to terms with how seedy it was going to get. So it was a little bit of a shocker when Pat said, "I'm going to jump into one of these windows," referring of course to the numerous hooker aquariums in the immediate area.
"That's how it is, then?" asked Colin coming to grips with this new twist in the plot, "That's how it is. You're jumping into a window and that's just how it is."
Pat nodded and smiled.
No quicker than the first window we passed — the very first! — and Pat wasn't with us, but on his own journey. I told Colin I'd walk around with him and have a few pints until he found a girl he liked. He was looking for an Asian girl, and I couldn't remember where the Asian section of the District was so we were wondering for a while.
Colin's interest turned from women to drugs after a little while. Some guys were offering to sell coke and E and Colin was taking them up on it. He was a vicious haggler. "I've never paid full price for anything." Wheeling and dealing like this I've never seen. The kid was a genius. In the way Muhammad Ali was a genius in his way, and Mother Teresa was a genius in hers, haggling is Colin's talent.
We stopped into quite a few pubs and had quite a few pints, and decided that Pat was probably back at their hotel. We figured we could wake him up with a tab and some blow. And we did.
Once again, reunited, and walking the Red Light the three of us made our way around. Coked and keyed, drunk and E'ed, we were on the prowl once more.
Not satisfied with the truckload of drugs we were carrying around, Pat decided to make a little deal himself in an alleyway off of Damrak Street. It got spooky. The dealers were aggressive and overly friendly. I got scared and threw my jacket off with only a t-shirt on underneath. Like a cobra puffing up, I flew the full-colored freak flag.
It wasn't enough. Soon Pat was tussling with one of the junkie dealers. I jumped in, but couldn't get a shot off without pushing Pat's head through a brick wall.
The junkie was off and so were we. My fat, smoking ass hung with the junkie for what seemed like 10 feet, then he was half a block down the road. I think it was the venerable Ice Cube who once quipped, "Oh, you ain't catchin' no crackhead." And, in this case he was right. Even the thin and rugged Irish kids couldn't keep up with the wiry junkie.
The dealer thief dropped a good amount of papers and that stopped us all. Looking for the credit cards, debit cards, and cash. All we found were business cards and receipts from Pat's wallet. The goods were gone.
The money was gone from both of their pockets. We hadn't even seen Colin get robbed.
After the incident we hit the hotel and did some more coke and talked the politics that are inherit to any three guys, a bag of dope and small hotel room. The war. The economy. The EU and the States.
We went over and over again the robbery scene as we each remembered another piece and brought it up for consideration.
By the end of the night — hell, morning — I walked from their hotel to my hostel, a couple of e-mail addresses and my "real experience" in my pocket. I promised to make it to Ireland in the next few weeks and give them a call. I probably will, too.
I only wish I'd found Colin that Asian girl.
I'm off to Paris. Amsterdam is tiring and I want to relax in a park beneath the Eiffel Tower.
Forget about relaxing in a park somewhere. It is butt cold. Who knew Paris got so damn chilly?
Yesterday, however, was a "young and alive" moment. I accidentally got to the top of the Eiffel Tower about 10 minutes before sunset. At sunset a thousand tiny lights sparkle across it, and then when it gets a little darker the flood lights hit it from below and give it that postcard orange color against the purple sky that we've all seen in the picture books.
Today the Louvre was closed so I spent most of the day in the Musee d'Orsay. It was amazing, and I can't wait to hit the Louvre.
I'm off to Ireland in the next couple days. A flight to Dublin cost me 25 bucks.
My thoughts today:
Holy shit! That's the Mona Lisa.
THE Mona Lisa.
The Mona fuckin' Lisa.
THE MONA LISA!
The most popular painting in the world. Recognizable in any country, by any person. The Mona Lisa.
More popular than Dogs Playing Pool!
THE Mona Lisa.
I then stumbled around the Louvre until I thought this:
Holy shit! Venus de Milo…
And on and on.
Paris was beautiful. The people were surprisingly warm and friendly. Not at all like what you've heard. The sites were amazing, but… it's just not my town.
Dublin, however, seems to be a fantastic place. The city center reminds me of Krakow: old, friendly, the bars are wood and brick. Guinness tastes of creamy goodness.
And I'm leaving in a couple days. I'm going to see "the boys" out on the west coast of Ireland. The same dodgy bastards from Amsterdam.
I'm sure there'll be some uneasiness about visiting them. The night we met and hung out we were all good and drunk. But I'll promise them that what goes on in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam. I'm sure we'll be right back to smokin' and jokin' after a couple of pints.
Then I think its off to Edinburgh, Scotland. I'd like to see a real old middle ages castle. The gothic castles of Eastern Europe are beautiful and impressive and all, but I want to see one of those old-fashioned stone mamajamas like in "Braveheart."
Maybe I'll get down to Stonehenge, but I'd like to be in Barcelona for the New Year.
Just rambling tonight, folks. See you soon.
Oh you lucky bastards who have the means to trim your body hair. You sit coolly in your chair, your clothes flowing effortlessly against your shorn skin. And, I, I sit here growing hairier and swampier by the hour.
Today I actually said out loud, "Thank God I can't smell my crotch."
As my goonch hair gets longer it's harder to fend off the Dublin humidity. Dublin, hell. The European humidity. I've left a river, distinctly shaped like my butt crack, on every pleather seat between Budapest and Ireland. Four of every six adults test positive for swamp ass, and it's nothing to joke about.
A shower and freshly laundered clothes do nothing to fight this hidden affliction. The poor French. How much crack sweat did I leave thee?
My taint stinks like frying boloney. It is my wholly most embarrassing detail, and I've laid it out here today. For you, my loyal readers.
I was in Seventh Heaven when I hit Dublin. I checked into my room and noticed I was the only one occupying it. I also noticed there was a bathroom, complete with shower and toilet.
I had just come from the 3 Ducks Hostel in Paris where the toilet, shower and beds were all on different levels — with the toilets in a sort of courtyard.
The two times I sneaked down to crap while staying in this hostel, someone was knocking at the door. Not just knocking, but banging and pulling on the handle relentlessly.
I sat there in disbelief watching the hinges and door jamb strain against the onslaught from outside. My mind raced. I grabbed the handle with both hands and put a foot against the wall. I imagined the barbarian at the gate also had a foot up against the wall and both hands on the knob, pulling with all her might in the other direction. I did "the foot tap" and "the cough," but the attack was unceasing.
Part of me wanted to let go. Let the bolt bust through the giving wooden eve. I'd release my swarm of hornets. "Yeah. Smell that? Not pleasant is it? You motherfucker!" Let her see me sitting there on the throne with my shirt pulled up over my love handles and my pants to my ankles. "See those thighs? Pale and plucked-chicken complected aren't they? And down below the knee, hairy as a forest. You wanted it. Go ahead and look. That ought to cure you of your aggressive bathroom invasions, shouldn't it?"
Fuckin' Asshole. Smell my rotting crap.
I like to take "Walking Tours" of the cities I visit. Although, more appropriately, I call them "Chafing Tours." By the end of the four-, five-, seven-hour walk my goonch is in flames. My heels are burning in my brand new Adidas. But I've fulfilled my duties as a traveler and have learned the history of the city or country in which I'm staying.
I took the Mother of All Chafing Tours in Berlin. We started at 9:30am and held a breakneck pace until 7:30 that night. It's called Brewer's Best of Berlin, for reasons which were never quite clear. We didn't hit one brewery, but the tour guide was funny and amazingly informed on German history. He was a good 6-foot-4 and a leisurely pace to him meant a full-out sprint for me.
When we were done with the tour — consisting of Hitler's Berlin, Prussian Berlin, Medieval Berlin and others — I asked him how he knew so much about Germany.
"I have a bachelor's in German history and I'm currently working on my masters."
"What can you do with a master's in German History?" I bluntly asked.
"Did I mention I'm a tour guide?"
He was good and funny. And that's all you need.
A Japanese tourist at the Louvre (pronounced Loo-v-hrhrhrhaaah) got my panties in a bunch.
I waited patiently for the crowd around Venus de Milo to clear out. The tourists relentless in their pursuit of documentation, posed in front of the statue for hours.
I finally saw my break. I jumped to the head of the crowd and aimed my trusty Minolta. Tap tap.
Aiming. Adjusting. Getting the right light. Tap tap tap.
Someone was tapping my shoulder, none too discreetly. I looked over to see an Asian tourist mugging for his picture in front of the masterpiece.
"Hang on a sec. Lemme just..." he wasn't even looking at me. He just kept hitting me on the shoulder.
I ignored and tried to aim again. Smack smack smack. The tapping had turned to full bore slapping of my shoulder.
"FUCK OFF OR I'LL BREAK YOUR FUCKING NECK!" apparently needs no translation. It is universal.
I'm afraid my father would hate Europe. He's extremely paranoid about fire. I remember when we were kids he wouldn't hang Christmas lights along the windows or outside the house for fear they'd ignite the wood. He finally relented at my mom's behest to put lights on our Christmas tree with the provisions that it was never to be left on when nobody was home and that while lighted either my brother or I was to be stationed in front of it with a CO2 extinguisher and a little red helmet.
I think of this, and how he would not make it over here as I wander around hostel after hostel. I see wet lint on opened sockets pulled out of walls. Frayed cords and wires lying in standing pools of water beneath refrigerators, and clothes drying to a crisp on hot radiators. Curtains and candles. Stacks of yellowing newspapers and cigarettes haunt me on this trip. I eye them with conspiratorial accusation before drifting to fitful sleep.
I often feel a twinge of panic while I'm in a pub or museum across town from my hostel and have to run back to see that the whole thing didn't burn to the ground.
I wish I had a little travel CO2 canister with me.
DAMN! I dropped my notebook somewhere. My notebook with all my names and addresses. So, no postcards or souvenirs unless you e-mail me with your name, number and address.
I hate losing my writing the most. Of course it was only shorthand notes, but reminders for me to write something here online.
I feel sorry for the poor Dubliner who comes across it and finds, "swamp ass; Japanese tourist - Louvre; Dublin; Edinburgh; Dodgy Irish Bastards" written in a very organized list.
I have to get a new notebook before I head out, and I'll have to reconstruct it from memory on the bus ride out to the country today.
Speaking of museums, and I have been for the last few days, the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin is a good place to take a dump. Other than that…
It's also called the Hugh Lane Gallery. Beside every painting is a little plaque of when Hugh Lane donated it to the Gallery. Whoever the fuck Hugh Lane is, he liked impressionist and contemporary art.
Maybe I've just been spoiled by the Musee D'Orsay in Paris — a 19th century train station filled to the brim with the best collection of impressionist paintings in the world. But, the best thing I saw in the Hugh Lane was written beside the toilet. Someone scrawled some bathroom graffiti which read, "Marcel Duchamp: Bequest of Hugh Lane."
Look up R. Mutt, Fountain or Marcel Duchamp Readymades if you don't get it.
My favorite cigarette warning so far is Dutch: "Roken es Dodeljik." Smoking is deadly.
And my new favorite airline name: Aer Lingus. Ireland.
See you folks. Don't know if the boys have an Internet connection or not.
I just left the Irish boys, and I'll probably go back for New Year's. They are as funny as anyone I've ever known. They are heavyweights of humor, and that means everything to me. You can be black, white, red or one of those damn dirty Jews or whatever. It doesn't matter to me, I'll hang out with anyone — provided they're funny. Sitting and talking with someone who isn't funny is torture. The day drags and every minute is agony. I've met a couple of unfunny people on my trip and those days are horrible to me.
One of the Irish fellas was driving me around last week. And, when we got to a long stretch of the road that was overgrown with shrubbery he got a little anxious. A LOT of western Ireland is overgrown with shrubbery to the point where you can't see anything else. Ivy has even grown up the power and telephone poles in the wet nourishing climate on the island.
He, of course, wanted to make a good impression and show me as much of Ireland as he could, but that part of the road was like driving through a tunnel. I tried to bring some levity to the situation by saying, "So these are the sites, huh?"
He came back with, "Beautiful isn't it? Hedges and… um… hedges. Oh, there are some stones. And some more hedges."
That night when we were rounding people up for a pint, we went from house to house. We got Pat first, then went over to these two brothers' house. When we got inside, Pat said, "Where's Ryan? Is he having a shower? That's not like him," and hid his embarrassed face. These were, um, fairly poor farmers who heated their water with an oil heater they had to turn on well in advance. You can imagine they probably skipped a day or two here and there.
My first impression of the beautiful Scottish people is this: "I'm sorry what? No, I'm sorry. I don't understand. It sounds like you're saying something to me, but I can't quite make it out. No. No. I don't know what a 'booreeejoor kink' is. I just want to know where the bus station… yes… go ahead. Write it down for me. Why, yes, I am from California, it's a lovely… please don't roll your eyes at me like that. I'd just like to know where the bus… oh, 'Burger King.' Just past the Burger King. OK. Thank you."
I've been remarkably tolerant of these foreigners in these different countries speaking improper English, but this has gone a bit too far. How come I can understand German better than Scot-lish?
The hair on the back of neck stood up when the stewardess — excuse me, "flight attendant" — announced the name of the Captain for my flight from Dublin to Edinburgh.
"Your Captain today is Captain O'Connell. She's ably assisted by her co-pilot, Captain Joe Branigan."
Folks, it may pain you to know — and I do realize some of you must be from America's heartland or the south, so this might shock you a bit — I am not a religious man. I am a man without a single belief, but rather thousands of bad ideas. I don't believe in the God most of you do. But when I heard the words, "Your Captain… SHE… by HER," I figured, why not? Let's give this prayer thing a shot, huh?
In my new favorite Scottish pub, Filthy McNasty's, over the bar it's painted:
Thank God for the English/Irish/Scottish breakfast.
The English breakfast, or "Full English Fry Up," is eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, beans, mushrooms and tomatoes.
The Irish get rid of the sissy fried vegetable crap and replace it with blood. When I asked the Irish boys what "blood" really was they replied, "blood." Super. Here's the list: eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, beans and blood. Blood being a black crumbly sausage that looks like it has some oats or something in it… in addition to the actual blood.
The Full Scottish It'll-Put-Hair-Under-Your-Kilt fry up breakfast special is Eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, beans, blood, haggis, roll and a large tea.
These dishes are in stark contrast to the rest of Europe's idea of breakfast: toast and jam.
If it weren't for these fine concoctions my petite 5-7 frame might wither to a scant 250 pounds.
My first night here I went into the hostel bar and found "Coyote Ugly" on the big screen. I have to say, it was strangely alluring. I always pooh-poohed big Hollywood crapfests like that, but dammit if I could pull myself away.
It's amazing how close the Irish and Jamaican accents are. Not as close as UB40 would have us believe, but there's a precision to the speech I noticed in the hundreds of Jamaicans who live in Amsterdam and in the Irish I've traveled with or visited.
On my bus out to western Ireland, I sat in front of a girl who was just babbling on the phone to her Mom about her baby niece. It was beautiful. It was pure and it was poetry. I could've listened to her all day.
"No. She's got two teeth. Yeah. Two on the bottom. She's still very light. Like when she was tiny. Yeah."
Which sounds like, "Noo. Shea's goot too teet. Yeah. Tooo on da buttoom. Shea's vary loit. Like when shea wooz toiny. Yeah."
A city bus I was on in Dublin hit an old lady. I was in the top part of a double-decker, we were flying through traffic and the driver was punching his horn to equal the accelerator. People were still jumping off the curb and racing fate to the other side.
One, must've been a hardy old Irish girl, got blasted. She hopped up, dusted herself off, flipped the driver the bird, grabbed her shopping bags and walked off.
The more time I spend in an English-speaking country, the more I realize people are just talking bullshit most of the time. When I walked into a museum or bar in Eastern Europe or France I always wondered if they were talking about me, ridiculing me for being American, or if they were perhaps discussing something exotic — poetry or art or something.
Walking into a pub in Ireland quelled any of those thoughts.
"Did we get new chairs?" asked a waitress.
"No, I don't think so," replied the bartender.
"No. Over there. Those are new."
"No, I don't think so. I think those are the old ones they just brought out."
I sat down to have lunch and overheard an approaching group of ladies with their lunches.
"Did they get new chairs?"
"No, I don't think so."
"No, these here."
"No, I think those are just the old ones they brought back out."
GOOD LORD! Get me to a backwards non-English speaking country so I don't have to endure this intelligible drivel.
It's amazing how often my travels across a city are diverted by the sight of a nice ass.
"Now, where is that gallery? I think I'm a block south… Holy Cow! Forget the gallery, where's that little monster with the sweet can heading off to?"
Also, someone has replaced the standard European dog shit piles with puke here in Dublin. I was a little taken aback by how feces-free the streets are, then I woke up on a Saturday morning to find the upchuck of quite a few revelers, where pooch crap normally resides.
The Dutch version of Santa Claus has a black, um, "helper." I don't know what kind of wages this fellow gets, but I'm guessing it's meted out in bowls of porridge and lashes across his ass.
This can be a little disconcerting. Around December white people start roaming the streets in full blackface and gothic elf costumes. The only thing I could think when I saw one was, "How is it that no one's shooting at that person? Oh! That's right. I'm in Holland. Not America."
You don't think so? Put on blackface and walk around your city. See where it gets ya.
Also, the song "Informer" by the venerable Snow is pretty popular in Amsterdam. Which brings to mind two questions:
1) What the fuck are the Dutch thinking?
2) Why did Snow want to lick my Boom Boom down?
Elvis is pretty popular in Ireland. Which also raises a question: Why was Jerry Lee Lewis blackballed for marrying his cousin when nary an eyelash was batted when Elvis was pumped by the cutest jailbird he ever did see? I think there was even talk of a wooden chair.
Speaking of top 40 hits around the globe. In Hungary, Dido's new hit, "White Flag" has replaced the old national anthem. I'm not sure how it goes. Something about a ship. I'll listen for it and on the 7,477th time I hear it I'll be sure to memorize the words for you.
If anyone knows any European radio programmers, could you ask them to pound a different song into the dirt. And if anyone knows Dido, could you give her this message: "Stop singing those hauntingly beautiful crossover, play-on-every-station songs. GET OUT OF MY HEAD, YOU FUCKING HARPY!"
They caught him!
They caught him!
They caught Santa Claus! He was in that weird Middle Eastern chimney, but that's him. I'd recognize that shady beard anywhere.
I say, let the people of Iraq try him. And tell that fat bitch to give me my motherfuckin' fire truck!
My border crossings in Western Europe are non-eventful. Going to one EU country from the next is like crossing state lines. When I left Amsterdam I got on a train, fell asleep and woke up in France — no passport check, no customs agents or anything. Which is weird because I was coming from the pot capital of Europe.
In Eastern Europe, however, things are a little frightening. In the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere an ex-KGB agent wakes you up and starts asking questions about where you're going and what you're doing. He then looks up your passport and stamps it.
Every time. Every single time. I'd look out the windows at the iron-cold forest surrounding the train and think, "This is it. This is where they shoot me in the back of the head and take all my shit."
The other day I got a breakfast sandwich from a woman with the thickest accent I've heard yet.
"Sauces?" she asked me when I ordered.
"Um, what kind of sauces?"
"Ketchup or Brrrown."
"Ketchup or what? Excuse me…"
"Brown sauce i'tis," and she drenched my sandwich in a sauce that was unsurprisingly brown. What else was in it besides "brown" I'm unsure.
So far some of my favorite things about Europe are the different languages and cultures. More precisely, Asians and blacks with Scottish or British accents, or speaking a different language altogether. This fascinates me to no end. Call me racist, blame it on my isolated American upbringing or just too much TV, but this is weird as hell to me. The best so far was a tiny Asian women speaking Italian, with the remarkable use of pantomime and everything.
Last night a blanket of snow fell over Edinburgh. Tonight I expect a pillow's worth, or possibly a mattress.
Why do we measure snowfall in bedding?
I was thinking of the borders I've crossed. The other day I posted that I couldn't help but feel at each Eastern European border a guard was going to march me out and blast me for all my hidden riches.
There was an exception. At one border crossing a mega-hot blonde woke me up to check my passport.
I thought, "I've seen this movie. This is where she comes into the cabin, closes the curtain, shuts off the light and we begin a night of Glasnost."
After checking my passport she went from cabin to cabin with me following her, "Isn't that shirt hot? Don't you want to take it off? Aren't those pants chafing?"
Every line I've ever heard in those GOOD movies, but all was for naught. Maybe she hadn't read the script.
Stopping off in London again before heading to Ireland for New Year's. I lost my notebook again in a mad rush to get out of my hostel and to a bus station by 10am. I went to bed at 5:30am and got up at 8:30am.
Needless to say, I partied like a retard at the circus in Edinburgh. I'm paying for it now.
Wow, it's been a couple of week. Let me see if I can recap.
In the first couple of days I was there, I ran into two Spanish fellas. Of course we got drunk in the hostel bar and made fast friends. I would buy drinks, they'd buy drinks, and we dropped the 8 ball on two Pennsylvania assholes who took a friendly game of pool a little too seriously. I almost dropped more than that on one of the scrawny college boys. After making some decent shots, setting up some good defense and conferring with my Spanish buddies, one piped up, "Hey, fuck off. Comprendo 'fuck off'?"
My father's words, "There's no such thing as a good European jail or hospital," were louder than this twit so I just laughed and walked away.
The next day I was in the hostel and decided to check my bank account. It was low. Not empty, but about where I want to be financially when it's time to head back to California. I actually started to panic a little. I'm a good month from leaving, but my account is ready to go home.
I thought. Credit cards. Debit cards. Checks coming in. Money going out. Plans. SHIT! I need to make it to Ireland for New Year and Barcelona after that. That's the track I've been following for so long.
I sat and thought. OK. It's not as bad as I first thought. I can stay put in Edinburgh for a couple of weeks. Take a cheap bus to London, see Stonehenge one day, then get some cheap transport to Galway, Ireland, for New Year's Eve and book a ticket to Barcelona around the 6th. I can shift some funds, charge a credit card and it would work out.
I got online. Went to the Eurolines bus company website and started planning the trip. When it came time to enter my credit card number I reached into my pocket where I always keep my card and pulled out fuzz. I checked my other pockets. Gone. I checked my bag. Gone. I checked the amount of Internet time I had left. 50 minutes.
I raced upstairs and looked around my bed. It was dark, someone was sleeping and I could see, but I scratched around under the bunk and in my other bags. Nothing. I ran back downstairs. Checked my notebook. Nothing. Checked the Internet time. 45 minutes. I ran down to reception and asked if anyone had turned in any credit cards. When the receptionist said no I almost burst into tears. Checked the bar. Nothing. Where were they? Did I lose them when I was drunk? Did someone take them? How much money did I have in my pocket? £10. How much did it cost to stay in this hostel? £8 a night. How long would I need to get new cards? Two weeks minimum. Would the hostel let me stay for that long with only a promise of money? Fuck no! They weren't running a shelter. Jesus! I was going to be homeless. I was going to be one of those backpackers on the streets with a sign and a cup. I sneer at them; I don't want to be one of them. Checked Internet time left: 40 minutes.
I ran back upstairs to check around my bed again. To hell with the person sleeping. I switched on the light and climbed up onto my bunk. I dug around the sheets and blankets, and when I saw my credit cards lying in the center of my bunk I sucked the tears back into my eyes and swallowed a good-sized mouthful of puke and tore ass back downstairs to the computer. 35 minutes. 35 minutes to plan and book my trip for the next three weeks. Buses. Hostels. E-mail the Irish lads. Book a flight to Barcelona.
I did it with about five minutes remaining. I laughed at myself and was embarrassed at how panicked I had been just minutes earlier.
I felt better and ran into my Spanish friends. They are named Eloy and Marcos. Marcos speaks exactly zero English and Eloy speaks conversationally. After the first couple of days of hanging out, I realized they had no money and were in Edinburgh for the burgeoning job market. The Spanish are pretty much the Mexicans of Europe right now. Not much in the way of work or money in Spain, so they're heading out to make a living. One night while Eloy was talking to his friends on an instant messenger, he said he had come to Edinburgh with 600 Euros and now had 100. That's roughly 100 bucks American.
Here I was freaking out because my account had dropped to 2,000 American. I had my reasons. I don't want to go back with nothing, and I still need to change flights and live out here for a while. But, I realized I was being silly. I can easily make it back with 1,500 or even 1,000 American, and be way ahead of the game. Way better off than Eloy and Marcos.
Christmas was coming. The Spaniards invited me to Christmas dinner with them. They said they'd get meat and salad and whatever we wanted. These guys have exactly shit for money and were going to split the cost of Christmas dinner with me three ways. C'mon. I couldn't let that happen.
We had a nice Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. Steaks, salad, wine and Strongbow cider all around that night and we had a blast. Laughing and drinking and trying to break through a huge communication barrier. There was lots of pantomime and wild gesticulation which made us look a little goofy, I'm sure.
Christmas Eve was also the first night some new friends arrived at the hostel. Peter's an Australian fella teaching English in a small town outside of Prague, and his friend Elizabeth works for a big London newspaper. I divided my time between getting drunk with the Spaniards and meeting the friendly new arrivals.
The next day the hostel made Christmas dinner for everybody. Everybody. There must have been a hundred people in the bar all eating turkey, ham and salads. Of course we were getting drunk and flushing cash through the bar, but still, that's a lot of food and a lot of people and it was very nice of them. Peter and I were talking about how cool it was they actually did that.
"You know most hostels are so fucking rude they make you feel bad for being in their place," he started out.
"I know. This is awesome."
"The worst one is easily the Clown and Bard in Prague," Pete volleyed.
"I stayed there! They were so rude, it was right up to the point of hostility."
"Yeah, they'd never do anything remotely like this at that shithole. I doubt the skinny junkie receptionists could pull themselves away from their needles and cigarettes long enough to even realize it's Christmas," he said with perfect Australian contempt.
I concurred and laughed my ass off. I'm sure I had the same rude receptionist as he had.
We talked for a little more. I poured on the charm once again and went for all my good stories. My ex-step-brothers Robbie and Bobbie, the Irish boys and me in Amsterdam, and how much I loved Krakow. I was talking with Elizabeth between shooting pool with Peter and translating into pidgin English for the Spanish fellas. They were falling behind the conversation, and I felt bad for it, but it was nice to hear some rapid-fire English and I poured on some more.
I don't know how it happens. I have no idea how it works. But there I was talking with this proper British chick whom I was teasing about looking like a librarian, when she said to me, "Would you like some drugs?"
"Don't you want to know what kind?"
I must look like a black hole for drugs. My intense gravity not only traps light, but also narcotics from all points of the globe.
And we were off!
Peter, Elizabeth, a young Japanese traveler named Yosh and I were stomping around the hostel wearing funny paper Christmas crowns and shining like moonlight. Running from room to room looking at pictures, looking for good music, looking for other people who were high and giggly like us.
Elizabeth especially liked my story of how everything in Polish ends in "ski". I told her about looking for the post office and suggesting the word, "Postja" (post-ya) to the locals in hopes of finding one nearby. I said I couldn't help but laugh when I finally resorted to drawing an envelope in my notebook and a hot dog vendor cried, "Ahhh! Postski!" I also told her of my favorite restaurant sign in Krakow, "The Green Onion. Restauracja Wegetarianski." She and I kept laughing and repeating "Wegetarianski!" It sounded like a Saturday Night Live skit about a Polish vegetarian and his plight.
Pretty soon we were tacking on, "ski" to the end of everything. It was good that the Spanish boys weren't around because how the fuck would I explain that we were making jokes about Polish in English? How would I explain why we were playing a card game called "Assholeski"? And that I was the "Vice Assholeski," Peter was the "Assholeski", Yosh was "Vice Presidentski" and Elizabeth was "Presidentski"? When our "ski" language would slip a little Elizabeth — a proper British school marm — would chide us, "Pleaseski. Keep it upski."
"Sorryski," we'd say. She was loving it and it would laugh hysterically.
We were talking about music and clubs and things and she invited me to go to a local Edinburgh club where Shaun Ryder was to play. When we discussed who Shaun Ryder is, I realized I knew of him, and had seen a movie about him, "24 Hour Party People."
I found the Spanish guys and made plans to go out to the club the next night.
I slept until 2pm the next day and still felt like shit. But, I rallied, did some laundry and prepared for clubbing.
The club is called Liquid Room and it is right next to Edinburgh castle. I wasn't too familiar with Shaun Ryder, but Elizabeth was a big fan, and I figured she had happiness in a pill and that everything was going to be all right.
The night's lineup was decidedly English. While we were coming up on our "pillski" — yesski, itski started againski once we were highski — they were playing Morrissey and similar music. I wasn't setting my hopes high for the evening with that kind of prep, but the Spanish guys and I made fun of the music and we were all getting higher.
On one of our first days of hanging out, someone had put on a Linkin Park CD and Eloy called them "Gay Park." From then on everything that was a little "off" we called "Gay Park." We even made variations. When someone requested some Eminem in our hostel bar, Eloy turned to me and asked, "Do you like Eminem?"
I struggled to think how I could put into broken English my strong dislike for him and responded, "No. He is a little 'Gay Park.'" We all cracked up as he translated to Marcos. At other times a swishy fellow traveler would sashay past our bar stools and Eloy would remark, "I think that guy is 'Gay Park.'" You can imagine how much "Gay Park" was bandied about in the Liquid Room when "Girlfriend in a Coma" started to play.
Pretty soon I was damned high. My head was swimming and I felt the rush of good Ecstasy once again. An announcer got onstage and yelled into the microphone, "Ladies and gentlemen! Shaun! Ryder!"
We went nuts. I hadn't heard one song yet, but the anticipation was electric in the room.
Shaun Ryder played. We danced. Danced. And danced. I had never heard music like this before, even in the movie about him. It was aggressive house music. It had all of the high-flying tricks of American house music backed up by heavy guitar and angry lyrics. Not angry at each other, not angry at ourselves, but angry at authority. It was Manchester Music. This was a culmination of societal angst and hard drugs. The zenith of a world sparked off by Abby Hoffman and Jimi Hendrix from 30 years prior.
People climbed over the top of one another. We shouted at Shaun. He shouted into the microphone, "I should've fucking told you!" were his lyrics. "Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! Rattle my head!" was another anthem. The more he yelled the more we yelled. At one point I was glowing like the filament of a light bulb and yelling at the top of my lungs with my fists curling back towards my chest and my head flipped straight back. I looked around. I wasn't the only one yelling like that. Everyone was. I wasn't the only dancing. Everyone was. I wasn't the only one climbing over the top of other people and holding onto them. We all were. We were organized chaos. We were building a pyramid of sound and rage and human flesh, so that we could worship at its altar.
Soon Shaun left. Girls had their boobs signed by this mega-Manchester star. We came down off our high and decided to go home. The night was defeated and so were we. I got to bed at 5:30 and woke up at 8:30 to catch my bus and leave Edinburgh.
I'll tell you later about the dodgiest hostel in Europe later, kiddies. I'm out of time.
All right kiddies. Here we go. One of the last postings of Euro Ollie / Redneck High Pan-Atlantic Chapter / A Fat Tattooed Bastard in Europe / Ollie Does it Euro Style / Jawbone of an Ass.
That's right. In the immortal words of Motley Crue, "I'm on my waaaay! Just set me freeee! Home sweet hooooome!"
My jaunts tying the Celtic knot of Scotland, Stonehenge and Ireland proved to be costly. So, I'm calling Virgin Atlantic and pushing my dates up to next week.
I like Barcelona. Last night I got in a little late, had some dinner, went to bed. When I got up in the morning and left my hostel, I was propositioned by a 20-Euro whore and was told to watch my back by a Pakistani shopowner. This was right outside my hostel. "What are you doing here? You should be careful! This neighborhood is very dangerous."
This is where I LIVE, Senor Pakistani Mr. Shopowner Guy!
Of course, why would I suddenly become Mr. Security and stay in a hostel NOT in the shit, shit, shittiest part of town? It's worked for the last two months, anyway.
Running out of time. Talk again soon, Kitten.
So, London has the worst hostel in Europe, bar none. I got there from my nine-hour bus trip from Edinburgh and, after several tube stops, bus stops and walks, I was finally in the East London neighborhood. I recognized the neighborhood. It's the same neighborhood I've lived in since I was about 23: The Ghetto. I can recognize a ghetto quick as shit. It's pretty easy. Look around, if there's a mattress in one yard, a broken phone tossed from the window into another, a dishwasher or washing machine or oven upturned in another one, you're in the ghetto.
I looked for a sign for the "In Between", but couldn't see anything. No sign. No numbers. It wasn't even a multiple-resident building, just a townhouse. I knocked on the door and it was opened by a French guy.
"Is this a hostel?"
"Come in. Come in."
I stepped inside. There's no reception and no one on duty or working. Just a TV room, three guys, one light bulb full of crack and a satellite TV system playing the free previews of the porn channels because the three cracked-out losers in the front room couldn't afford to buy a movie.
The door shut and locked behind me.
"You have to call Mr. Abdul. He'll come here and give you a bed," I was informed.
I picked up the phone. It was dead.
I took evaluation of the room. I thought to myself, "This is it. You've got to find something sharp or blunt, and at the very least maim these three junkies to get to that window at the far end of the sitting room. Maybe then you'll be able to drag your carcass through the broken glass and into the street where you can scream for help. HERE WE GO!"
"Wait! Wait!" the French guy put his hands up like he knew I was about to lose my fucking mind right there in the front room.
"Here, I show you. You stay tonight, call Abdul in the morning, pay then. OK?"
He took me upstairs to a room with four bunk beds, no heater and no light. Considering I'd been awake for 30 of the last 33 hours, I took it.
Later that night — must've been around 2 or 3 because I didn't get there until 11pm — Mr. Abdul showed up. I had been asleep for a couple of hours by now and was quite disoriented. Not to mention there were probably more than a few trace chemicals still navigating my bloodstream.
"You GET OUT! You stay here, you don't pay, you are stealing!"
Fuck! I don't believe it. The French guy left me to hang with the owner in this flophouse. Wait. No. He's talking to someone else.
"How long has he stayed here?" Mr. Abdul questioned someone in the dark. The single bulb from the hall, leaving nothing but raking shadows across the floor and wall, provided no information.
"A week maybe more," the French guy replied.
"He has not paid rent. He is stealing. That is the same as stealing. Throw him out."
"Wait, my wallet is gone!" someone else from the cold shade of the room.
"I saw him, he took your jacket outside and returned with the jacket, was your wallet in there?"
"We will find it. Take him outside," Mr. Abdul ordered.
"What about him?" the French guy stepped into a streak of light and inquired to Mr. Abdul, pointing up to my bunk.
"He is fine for tonight. I will talk to him in the morning."
The door shut. I took everything I owned from on top of the nearby locker, spread it out on the bed beneath me, put my knife under my pillow and went back to sleep. I stayed there for the next three nights, taking a day trip to Stonehenge and finally leaving for Galway, Ireland.
For symmetry I stayed there on the way back from Ireland before catching my plane to Barcelona.
I may go back once more before leaving for the States. Just for old times sake, and to say hello to Mr. Abdul.
Don't let anyone tell you they can't quit smoking. I've quit three times in the last two months alone.
I've got my Nicorette and I looked up the lyrics to "Jane Says," so this time is the charm.
I have gone from one shit extreme to the polar opposite. Whereas Mr. Abdul's humble abode reeked of fungus and crack smoke, my new hostel is like living in one of those Vend-O-Restaurants. You know, the kind that has all of the food behind a little glass box that's opened when you insert a coin. The kind that are sterile to the point of smelling like chlorine, brightly lit and uncomfortable. This is my hostel in Barcelona.
In Mr. Abdul's "In Between" in London, I bunked with shiftless criminals. In Alberg Juvenil Barcelona Mar, I bunk with the Burger King Kid's Club. They are a group of young individuals reveling in their own cuteness and diversity. They have yet to find themselves as adults.
The first night they arrived they clanged and crashed into the room without a care as to who might be there or what one might be doing. Namely me, sick with some kind of Spanish flu, trying to kick cigarettes and recoup some of the sleep I've missed since Edinburgh.
They speak through their nasal passages and don't finish many syllables. Which makes them sound like the cartoon characters The Rugrats.
"Gee! We all get top bunks!" one squealed in some weird delight. Our bunks are in a small box with a curtain on the front affording some privacy. I can only assume they didn't see me in mine, flushing toxins from my body and drifting in and out of conscienceless.
Once they were settled in they started conversing openly and loudly.
"What can I do for my Daddy? It's his birfday soon. I bgetalonggangm a big cake last year," I could hear her breathing change and the material of her sweater rustle as, I'm certain, she made the "this big" arm gesture about her father's birthday cake of last year. "My mean ol' sisters won't do anyfing special for him this year, I just know it."
"You can trabel home safewy and gib him a big hug," one suggested.
"Good answer, Becky!" another cheered.
"No, I want to send him somefing nice from Europe. But, I don't know what. Maybe tomorrow we can walk around and find somefing to send him?"
"Yeah! Good idea!"
I gathered one of them is named Brandon. He should get a double beating because he's supposed to be A MAN. This is nearly forgivable in girls, but him? I know his name is Brandon because one kept chiding him for getting a B+ in second year Psych.
"Geez, Bwandon, second year Psych is pretty easy. You didn't do too well."
"I know," so nasally, so throaty, so cartoonish, "I din't hab a teacher who made it intewesting. But it's not his fault, it's all mine," his voice deepened because he hung his head in shame.
"Awww. Don't be so hard on yoursewlf. You'll do OK this year. Sowwy for yelling."
"It's OK." replied Bwandon.
I wanted to throw my curtain open and scream, "You filthy fucking maggots! You are the worst thing that could possibly happen to me right now! I'm fuckin' dope sick, flu sick and kicking nicotine and you're arguing at the top of your Gummie Bear lungs about second year Psych and a fucking B+! Second year! You've got to be 19 or 20 and you're talking like this? Stop with the fucking Thornberry Adventures for a couple weeks, folks. It's fuckin' up your heads."
"Hey, Mr. Meany Guy, we're just…"
"Button it, Teddy Ruxspin, or I'll fuck-start your head and introduce you to Mr. Laceration of the Supra-Orbital Ridge!"
But, I didn't have the self-confidence or the energy to anything except lie there. The best I could do was cough, rattle, sneeze and gag up globs of goose grease. I've never been more thankful for having stinking nightsweats and a nose which required irrigation every couple of minutes. The entire night I sounded like a hospital ward and I'm sure — I hope, hope, hope — the Getalong Gang was completely grossed out by, "Mr. Pudgy Tattooie Cough Up His Lungs Guy".
I just had my first incident in European pickpocketing. I'm at an Internet cafe and some guy came and sat down behind me. I'm always pretty aware of who's around me in an Internet cafe because I sometimes visit messsageboards that have some fairly racy pictures. I don't want people getting the wrong idea about me.
So, this guy sat right behind me and I thought, "Better be careful. No hot pictures." Then I felt a tapping on my leg, so I looked down. It LOOKED like the guy was trying to take off his own jacket — his arm was down one sleeve and the other hand was holding the collar — but his "sleeve arm" was in my left front jacket pocket. I suppose it's a good thing I have what the sistahs would call "thick" legs, because otherwise this dickhead would have nabbed all of my lint and fluff.
There's seriously nothing in my jacket pockets except some Nicorette.
I reached down and grabbed the fella's hand. "Hi. How's it going?" He was looking at a forearm larger than his thighs and more decorated than a Moorish Mosque.
"O' lo siento. Perdon. Perdon." He shook his head like, "Please forget it. It was nothing. I wasn't doing anything. Just innocently taking off my jacket, you see." His face was embarrassingly apologetic.
Then, as he was walking out of the place, he couldn't help himself and tried to nab an Australian girl's jacket. He grabbed, broke into a run, tripped over a chair and was greeted by quite possibly the biggest, baldest Spaniard in Europe. SMACK!
The jacket was returned and in the ensuing confusion the crook again made a break for the door. The manager was standing there talking to La Guardia Urbana — the city cops.
The thief shagged ass with the cops right on his tail. I'm sure they grabbed him less than a block away. Sorry, dude. Just not your day.
Last night the Getalong Gang busted into the room just before midnight and started singing "Imagine." Then they made "peanut buttew sam'iches." And everything was OK. Because while they were cramming peanut butter and white bread into their mouths "Bwandon" said, "You guys. By vis time tomowwow we'll be in Wichmond."
From the stinking box below them I muttered, "Yay".
I can't get out of the "going home" mood. I can't stay off the Internet. I can't stop making plans for when I get home. I check my e-mail 50 times a day and visit my old messageboards. I'm essentially done with my participation in Europe.
As beautiful as Europe is and as exciting as new cities and new friends are, traveling is a little rough. The first few weeks I ignored people who came into the room and blasted the light on or started singing, but after 2-1/2 months it wears. Walking the streets alone isn't the easiest thing to do, either. Instead of getting used to it, I went the other way. I enjoyed the solitude at first, but now I'm just waiting to see old friends.
Here's an open letter to the fine people of Europe. I take that back. This happened a lot in San Diego, too, so let's make it an open letter to the fine people of the world.
I take that back, too. Here's an open letter to THE WOMEN of the world.
I know it's important for you, your sister and your sainted aunt to walk three abreast swinging a child and/or tiny dog and/or 17 shopping bags between you like you're in a fantastic novel about shopping, estrogen and the bonding of three generations of independent women, but the men of the world would also like to occupy at least one body width of space on the sidewalk.
So, if you could, tuck in those fuckin' bags full of earrings and dildos and hats and shit, put that brat and/or mutt between you and at least walk in a 2x2 formation, fer fuck's sake. Just leave us one lane. That's all we're asking. One lane, so us fellas aren't up to our ankles in rat urine and cigarette butts down here in the gutters.
Not usually one for piercings, I must've had a momentary lapse in judgment. I just had my ears scalpeled from no holes at all to 10mm tubes. The scalpel was bad, but not as bad as I had imagined. I can't hear very well now because my ears filled up with blood during the process and I've got a perverted version of swimmer's ear.
The Getalong Gang has been replaced with the REAL Getalong Gang. This dynamic duo from Australia have set up shop in the corner of the room and are plying quite a trade. I don't know what they're getting in return, but there have been a new couple of guys in there every night for the last week. They're both pretty cute too. I can only suspect that they each have an uncle whose favorite turn of phrase is, "This is our little secret, OK?"
They've got a racket like I wish I could get going. They spend the day with a couple guys, I don't know seeing sights or some shit, then they go out, get shithoused at the club, bring the guys back to the room and do the dirty wookie. The dulcet melodies of the sweaty drunken Aussie-ettes fill the room, "Do you love me? I love you," until about 5 or 6am.
They're very open with their information and I think they've double-timed a couple of the guys. The other night someone asked during the teasing, pouting, giggling stage, "What about those other blokes you were hanging out with?"
They simply replied in unison, "We love the Melbourne boys."
Now the nightly ritual reads like a litany, "What about those other guys you were with at breakfast?"
"We love the Melbourne/Wessex/Edinburgh/Madrid/Portugese boys. We love them."
Last night "Evelyn" dropped a sloppy drunken bomb on some poor London boy. "Wait. Wait. I've got a fiance back home."
Oh ho. Fellas. How about that one? You're some poor sheepshit farmer in Dunnywoods-fuckin'-outback Australia pining away for your girl and she's on the other side of the globe engaged in some Muy Caliente dry humping in Barcelona, Spain. Some cockney Londoner is grinding his zipper into her hip like he's trying to start a fire, and in the last opportunity to speak before she's fitted for her 9,000th man-timber mouthpiece for the week she blurts out, "I've got a fiance back homblaghaghalahghah…"
Last night I wandered around Camden town singing, "Sweeeeet home California! (nit nit nit nininininaaaaaah) Where skies are blue! Sweeeeeet Home California! (whoa, sweet home) Lord, I'm comin' home to you! (Here I come, O California!)"
Tired of being a lackey for The Man, in the summer of 2003 Redneck High's heavily-tattooed Ollie decided to shuck his job and spend some time livin' life. Thus he took his savings and left sunny San Diego for what adventures may come.
After a few months bumming around his hometown in Northern California, side trips to the casinos of Reno and the hippie Mardi Gras of Burning Man, and a last-minute minor judicial run-in with The Man — still trying to squash Ollie's plans to live, dammit, live — in November 2003 our intrepid hero departed on a European trip of indefinite length.
He had no firm plans and no set itinerary. He drifted through Europe wherever favorable exchange rates and foreign-accented women of questionable morals led.
The Man made one last-ditch effort to keep his foot on Ollie's neck upon trans-Atlantic arrival, arranging for him to spend most of a day in airport jail courtesy of a suspicious English customs agent, but this didn't end the tale. Instead Ollie — he's heavily-tattooed, you know — learned his first valuable lesson of the trip: Wear long sleeves when arriving in a new country.
He posted updates whenever time and Internet access allowed, keeping a running account of how Ollie Does It Euro Style…