Sunday, September 26, 2004

things i´ve learned in my travels

1. the world is a very small place, and

2. though people are basically the same everywhere you go, cultural stereotypes have origins.

3. no amount of lying about on a mediterranean beach can erase an entire summer´s worth of lycra-lines in a weekend. crap.

4. gezpacho and beer is the best meal ever conceived by humankind.

Saturday, September 25, 2004


bit of a funny story (well, the story´s funny enough, but my telling of it may suck, so don´t get your hopes up).

i´m walking down a mountain in italy. coming up the trail are a couple of tourists. i say "buon giorno" in a passable italian accent. the tourists reply "bon jerno." americans. i roll my eyes discreetly, and they proceed to pull out a phrase book and attempt to ask me all kinds of questions, like how far is the castle, how long will it take to get there, etc... i decide to have a bit of fun and play dumb. i tell them in italian that i don´t understand, and let them sweat it out for a few more moments, bumbling along in phrasebookese. i then proceed to make up a bunch of fake italian-sounding crap, smile, and continue down the trail, almost falling off a cliff from laughing so hard. really, they were like National Lampoon´s Eruopean Vacation incarnate; it was hilarious.

Which i why i totally deserved exactly what i got from the french waiter.

on my last afternoon in arles i had time to kill, having been chucked out of my hostel at 10 am, but my train didn´t leave until 4. not wanting to spend the day walking around with 3 weeks worth of baggage on my back, around i went and found a pleasant cafe´overlooking the old roman arena (which seats 20K and is so well preserved it´s still in use for bullfights) and took a seat at a table outside in the shade. i flagged the waiter ("Garcon!"), and ordered a glass of red wine, all in gramatically correct but very poorly uttered french. there was a bit of confusion, because that particular cafe´ it seems doesn´t normally serve wine by the glass. the smallest unit on the menu was half a carafe, which was too much for me. after some more bad french and a lot of gesticulating, i got them to bring me a glass of wine. i spent an hour there, enjoying my bordeaux, writing in my journal, and admiring the scenery. an old man passing by stopped and smiled at me for several seconds and winked. when i had finished my drink, i asked my waiter for the bill, which he brought. when i had paid it he smiled at me and said in perfect english, "thank you madam. have a pleasant afternoon." Aaaahhhhh!!!!!!!!!! Oh, well. I deserved it. And it was funny.

Friday, September 24, 2004

mustve been the wine

i just realized that i never explained the title of last blog entry, ¨romantic tongue.¨ i guess i had more wine than i realized. it´s french, it´s cheap, it´s good. what do you want from me anyway? (for those of you who remember my last fore´into french wine, let me assure you this was nowhere near that bad.) anyway, the title. while in firenze i met a nice guy from san diego named kirk. we met while admiring david, then had lunch, then spent the afternoon together, then had dinner. so basically, a nine-hour date. (how good is my life?) over dinner, we mused over our particular difficulties with italian. i quipped that by the end of my trip, having attempted to communicate in italian, french, and castillian spanish, i would have a very romantic tongue (those of you unfortunate enough to know me personally are not surpised by such pathetic double entrendre). kirk, being on his flirtatious toes, replies "that´s great. the question is, to what will you apply it?¨ i love a good flirt.

i´m rather wishing at this point that i had stayed in france longer. despite the obnoxious keyboards, it´s a beautiful country. i spent my second day at a bird sanctuary on a salt marsh near the rhone river delta, where i saw over 30 sps. of birds in 2 hours. the weather was perfect, the company was perfect (i was again on my own), and it was the most restful afternoon of my vactaion. no museums, no mopeds, no tacky tourist shops. just me and the birds. and the horse. i also spent a few hours on the back of a stunning white andalusian gelding. the best way to see a county, i´m convinced, is from the back of a horse. i´ve only been riding a few times, but he had the most relaxed gallop of any horse i´ve ridden, and the two of us just rode off into the sunset, fording shallow rivers and chasing flocks of flamingoes like a toddler scaring pigeons. god, it was great. words can´t describe.

so now i´m in barcelona. by sheer coincidence, i happened to arrive on the first day of a 4-day festival commemerating the end of summer. it´s the 2nd biggest festival of the year (the first being easter). there are market stalls and street performers everywhere, and all over the city there will be free concerts in the evening. i spent the morning wandering the old medieval quarter (yeah, there´s a surprise), and the afternoon at the beach reading a jane austen novel (see previous entry Damn you, Jane Austin) and soaking up the sun. i´ve been doing a lot of soaking lately. i seem to travel osmotially. my last afternoon in france consisted of sitting in the public garden where Van Gogh often painted, eating cheese and bread and the best grapes of my life, and reading the history of the cod fish. (yes, the cod fish. don´t laugh, it´s a good book.)

obviously this is only a thumbnail of my travels. i wish i had time to describe the prehistorically uncivilized french public toilets (ironic, coming from a culture that claims to be the most civilized in the world), or relate the story of my japanese roommate who told me that i was a good daugher for honoring my father´s quest for mustard, but there´s a lot more barcelona out there waiting for me, and i´m not going to waste any more time in an internet cafe´surrounded by american backpackers and listening to billy joel. you may not have a life, but damnit i do. adios!

Monday, September 20, 2004

romantic tongue

disclaimer: please forgive the attrocious spelling and punctuation: french keyboards are even nuttier than the italian variety

pisa; in case you were wondering; is a one-horse town: if you ever go there; for the love of god dont go on a sunday: these people keep the sabbath; and after youve gone to the tower and gotten another tourist to take a photo of you in a stupid pose intended to give the impression that you are knocking the thing over; there is nothing and i mean nothing left to do: so you spend 6 glorious hours sitting in the sun on the lawn with the rest of the tourists scatching your butt and wondering what to do next because EVERYTHING is closed:

then you hop a train to arles in the south of france; and you marvel at the morning glories growing by the train tracks that are so blue you think you have the mediteranean on both sides of you: then you arrive in arles; spend a few minutes being slightly annoyed that its much more touristy than youd hoped; but then you get over it and stop caring because you are in one of the most beautiful places god ever created on earth; magically preserved by our good buddy vincent:

then you eat a fabulous french dinner; drink too much wine; and attempt to blog the experience on a keyboard where the a; q; w; m; and all forms of punctuation are in the wrong place:

ps; how do you pick an italian man out of a crowd? easy: good shoes; bad shirt; tight pants:

peronal to HBM: glad the dry spells over:

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Two Wankers of Verona

Im blogging this from an internet café in Firenze (thats Florence for all you ingnorami), which is a marvelous union of incongruity. The computers are brand new with flat screen LCD monitors and all the trimmings, and the room dates from about the 14th century, complete with marlble columns, romanesque arched cielings, and slate floors. good stuff. (please forgive the random punctuation... the italian keyboards take some getting used to.)

i arrived here this afternoon from Rival del Garda, a charming (ie, fake) tourist town on the nothern tip of Lago del Garda, a gorgeous alpine lake in the Dolomites near the Austrian border. The water was milky green. I spent a lovely 2 days jogging along the lakeshore, hiking the hillsides outside of the town, window shopping for stunning italian leather items i will never be able to afford (though i think jacob might snag that black and oxblood purse for me and stash it somewhere til xmas. i hope.), and making nice to my brothers new fiancé. he popped the big one my second night there. well, it was inevitable. he told us he was going to do it, but we all saw it coming anyway. i dont hate her. he really could have done worse, but he could have done better too.

anyway, 2 days was about all i could have handled of riva del garda, so im glad to be gone. i arrived after having my luggage stolen by a bus driver in verona, where i didnt need to be in the first place becuase some other idiot gave me bad directions. ergo, it took me 22.5 hours to get from manchester to a resort in northern italy. i couldve rowed here faster, and had more fun in the process.

the train ride down to firenze was lovely. i was glad to get out of the mountains, which make me claustrophobic. we passed vineyards heavy with grapes, and olive trees just starting to ripen. all over tuscany there are odd little abandoned castles stuck into the hillside. not the big imposing castles of enland and wales. these are just one small tower and paltry curtain wall, looking out over the countryside with centuries-blind eyes. i love travelling alone; i love going where i want to go and when, but when the sights get good i always pine for a friend to share the experience.

im staying in a dingy hostel in a seedy area (dont tell my mom), but i love it. the guy who runs it has been hitting on me since i arrived (he looks about 30 and i could do a lot worse), and is doing everything in his power to make my stay comfy. i love being in a residential area. i love seeing the city as the florentines see it, sans tourists. rival del garda was created for tourists. its like walking around the set of a movie set in a quaint italian village. its too cute to be believable. firenze is the real deal. theres garbage in the streets, hookers on the corner (no wonder the italian blokes are hitting on me), and destitute art students everywhere. its gonna be hard to leave, i can tell already.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

When it rains, it pours

damnit, why does all the good stuff happen right before i leave????? yesterday i was with a fellow with whom i've been really close since arriving in Jolly Old. maybe it was because i was leaving that he finally decided to strap on a pair and do what he's been wanting to do for months, or maybe i'm just so stunning that he couldn't stop himself any longer, but boy did i need that. i havn't been kissed in six years (yeah, that doesn't make me sound desperate), but DA-AMN!

so it was a good day. Later i was out with a girlfriend of mine having a send-off drink at a local pub (pleasantly illumintated with flattering green lights) when the fittie who works at the local bakery (and with whom i've been flirting like a demon for 3 months) walks straight up to me and starts chatting me up. he recogonized me, and came over to ask my phone number. GODDAMN IT!!! I'M LEAVING IN 6 HOURS! WHY NOW?!?!?!? (do you sense my exasperation?)

but wait, there's more. i just got an email this morning from a lovely friend of mine on whom i had a terrible crush back in my undergrad days. he's 6'4", speakes 5 languages fluently (only 2 of them indo-european), plays every stringed instrument known to man including the lute and mandolin, has a base voice that could melt frozen chocloate and is every bit as rich, and is a snappy dresser to boot. he's in london. lemme say that again. HE'S IN LONDON! NOW! AND HE WANTS TO SEE ME! AND HE'S STILL SINGLE!!! AND I'M LEAVING IN 6 HOURS!!!!!

somebody shoot me.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

moment of truth

"The popularity of the new genres spawned or accelerated certain linguistic modifications. An upsurge in the number and frequency of intensifiers has been linked to the genres of fabliaux and satire. This may be a function of one of the major characteristics of these genres: exaggeration. Absurdity requires a certain degree of overstatement, for which intensifiers are always extremely useful."

*sigh* I love me.

Monday, September 06, 2004

must be getting old

i was accosted today by a half dozen children (and i do mean children--the oldest was no more than 10), who pulled me off my bike and tried to rob me. it was pathetic. they clearly had no idea what they were doing, and i had nothing worth stealing. finally the impetulant punks literally demanded the shirt off my back (i just bought this shirt at a regatta. i love it. it says 'set the water alight'), to which i announced they would have to take it off me. i was acutally hoping they would, just so i'd have an excuse to pound the midget miscreants (some stress relief would do me good right about now), but they caved. i'm looking forward to riding my bike home. if they're still on the path setting up little barricades i'm just going to plough right through them. can we say "bowling for street urchins?" as i rode off, i actually found myself muttering "kids these days. what's the world coming to?" yep. gettin old.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

getting punchy

after having reformatted my dissertation more times than a bonobo gets laid in year, i'm finally in the home stretch. after putting in a 14-hour day yesterday i re-titled one of my chapter headings, "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right: Defining Middle English and the Middle Ages." This morning when reality dragged me from my bed kicking and screaming I was forced to admit the likelyhood that whichever decrepit, humorless academic winds up grading it won't get the reference and will dock me for my lack of professionalism. bastards. but they can't stop me from referring to the massive phonological shift of the 13th and 14th centuries as the Great Vowel Movement.

Friday, September 03, 2004

sad but true

I was walking this evening on my way to check my email (a pleasant 3-mile stroll from my current abode), when I met a lovely man named Gabriel. He smiled at me and asked for directions, which I was happy to provide. He was from Nigeria, and is studying info. tech. at the university. We chatted a few minutes, and he asked me, with his thickly musical accent, if he might accompany me on my walk. I told him I would be delighted to have his company, and we set off. He then confessed that he had been nervous about approaching me for directions, because most of the English women he has encountered have either crossed the street when he approached them, or ignored him, eyes fixed dead ahead so as to avoid contact at all costs. He said he only decided I was OK to approach when he noticed my Birkenstock sandals, identical to his own. He's never seen an English woman wear Birkenstocks, and he figured I must be foreign (a bizarrely correct assumption) and thought I might be less afraid of him.

We looked at our feet and laughed over the clunky shoes, but I was struck by how godawful it must be to go about your daily business with people constantly shying away from you because of your appearance (which in Gabriel's case is that of a well groomed, well dressed, rather attractive (if a little short) black man). His fear of frightening me explained his initail behaviour: for the first 5 minutes we had been chatting he stood extremely far away from me, as if I were a stray dog he was afraid to approach.

I'm sorry that my time in Manchester is almost up. I would have like to have the chance to meet Gabriel again. We exchanged emails, and hopefully when I return to England in January we'll be able to cross paths. In the meantime, here's a message to all you smug, white, bourgeois suburbanites: there are far more men out there like Gabriel, who have no wish to intimidate, mug, rape, or murder you then there are men like the ones you see on the evening news (which, incidently, is written and broadcast almost entirely by white people), standing in police mugshots or led by the handcuffs out of the courtroom. These images only serve to perpetuate racist stereotypes and fertilize a culture of fear, which results in disproportionate numbers of racial minorites being convicted and sentenced to unduly harsh punishment. So here's my challenge to you, to be carried out once every day for the next month. See if you can do it. Beat the system--smile at a black man.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The guns... they've stopped!

Location: Almost there...
Mission: Distinction on my MA dissertation
Strategy: Turn off targeting computer, close my eyes, pray like hell the Force is with me, and put that goddamn fucking womp rat in its place.

The silence is eerie, Harrison Ford is not going to bale my ass out, and I am alone in the universe. I have 10 days left. Almost there...

ps. Happy Anniversary, mom and dad! I hope that when I've been married for 32 years I'm still as horney as you two.