“Pining for the fjords?!”

In which I talk about Norway BUT don’t be fooled, this is actually about me.

I’d like to say that there’s some sort of fate or twisting destiny or like a safety net for circus performers w/r/t my life, but despite this, I still don’t believe it. Sort of like I probably don’t believe in a higher power but now’s not the time to discuss this.

I got back from Bulgaria on Tuesday night and stayed up until 4am trying to decide if I should go to Cornwall or Oslo the next day, for three days. Cornwall was out because all reasonable accommodations were booked. Although it would’ve been wildly expensive, I seriously considered booking the trip to Norway because it looked beautiful and clean and everyone has that secret impression that the majority of Scandinavia is run in an efficient, crime-free, maybe even Metropolis-like manner. All for the greater good; all for the safety of the people.
Of course we know this isn’t true now– Norway is still, in every way, part of the “real world” with drugs and death and sexkjøpsloven. And now terrorism, although I’m fairly sure there are better places in the world to bomb. (My blog’s going to get flagged by some EU Lord Protectorate because I just said that. Chill your fanny out.) Anyway, all this means I got some tweets being like 140-characters of “omg I’m so glad you didn’t gooo.” That’s not to say these messages weren’t thoughtful but Norway’s statement was awesomely touching:

You won’t destroy us. You won’t destroy our democracy. We are a small but proud nation. No one can bomb us to silence. No one can scare us from being Norway. This evening and tonight, we’ll take care of each other. That’s what we do best when attacked.

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/07/22/norway.explosion/index.html?iref=BN1&hpt=hp_t1
At least CNN has a better grip on it than BBC.

Really this was supposed to be a gratitude-filled “my life v. adventure” but somehow inside it’s twisted to “my life v. my valuables” while I news-scan and wonder how I’ll ship home my tea  mugs and maybe I’ll try mailing them by post but it’ll be wildly expensive. I’m 41% of the way through Infinite Jest and I can’t even look at people in the street. I’m also eating a leftover doner kebab for a 9am breakfast, so that would alter your intake in some dangerously chemical way. I accidently just bit my own finger.

Last night at the Wickham, we were discussing my impending “real life” future, beginning on my return to the States late Monday. On the topic of getting a job, James mentioned my blog offhand in a way that said he thought I was going to send it to a publisher.
If I polished it up, do you think I–?
Deep down, I’m a person much like any other who would be really interested in some audience interaction. One can only talk to oneself for so long and I haven’t felt this batshit since I dove headfirst into House of Leaves for a second time. In spite of my onionskin-like Narkiewicz Complex (I almost footnoted this, but JESUS,) which allows us to find ourselves more interesting than other people while we peel our own layers back… At the end of the day, it’s still just me. Sittin’ in London. Eatin’ a moist pitta filled with mystery meat and chilli sauce. Still wishin’ I went to Norway because I’m clearly indestructible.

An American in Bulgaria: Day Four

Day Four: Sunday June 26th, 2011.

Although we went to bed when the sun rose, we felt guilty when we woke up at 1pm.

We basically farted around the apartment, watching a Steven Seagal movie (which is weird, because an advertisement just came on TV about him as I type this.) (It’s also funny on a separate level because the deep and ultimate question is on my banner: is it really and truly OKAY to watch Steven Seagal movies AND are they FILMS?)
We did our nails with Mama Ves, aka her mom, who kept asking what we were going to do that day but really wanting to know if we were going to party some more.

Zhas and I got in the car for what turned out to be my first Bulgarian Mall Experience. Here in my notebook, I wrote <<“We bought a couple of partsalki” (sp?)>> and I honestly don’t remember what this means. I tried googling ‘partsalki’ with limited success. If I don’t remember, it can’t be that important.

I saw a whole bunch of fascinating things, including a little kids’ caterpillar-shaped train and small children floating inside plastic bubbles in a real pool. IT BLEW MY MIND. I drew a picture of it in the notebook, but I didn’t have my camera on me when we saw this wonderful things. My only concern is their limited supply of oxygen, otherwise I’d say to leave those kids in their all day.
http://cache.virtualtourist.com/3109821-Kids_in_Bubbles-Beijing_Shi.jpg

I also braved the registers and purchased some stuff for myself at Zara, Bershka, some knockoff Armanic perfume shop, etc. where my American accent met with various reactions: crankiness, amusement, surprise, downright rudeness. Whatever.

We went to the other mall to meet up with Veso and the girls, which somehow felt really awkward, and was even more awkward when we decided to go bowling. All of us are pretty competitive; Bulgarian lanes also have no concept of using bumpers so we had to actually play for real. I came in second-to-last. Whatevs, penultimate ain’t so bad, particularly when you use the word ‘penultimate.’

We parted ways, Veso and the girls going back to the villa for whatever, whereas Jujka and I went to Godzila by the sea for pizzas. With beer, airan, and shopska salata, I also had a ham, mushroom and pickle pizza. It was almost unfair, how awesome this part of the night was, because we were supplied free entertainment across the street in Punta Cana. Apparently Sunday is Latin-dancing night so we ate our pizzas while watching these unreal salsa dancing people who kept switching partners after every couple of songs. It was sort of like a really beautiful swingers night where all the guys just look flat-out gay.

And then, of course, because we can’t resist to party a little bit, we met up with everyone again at Cubo to celebrate two separate birthdays: Sasho and Zlatev, who we will come to know very well in the coming days. OH FORESHADOWING.
Anyway, this is the first time I said “Milka Chocograins” out loud in mockery of the weird Bulgarian commercial. The guys thought it was the funniest thing that ever happened and nearly pissed themselves. More mojitos (complimentary, in honor of the birthdays) and then we were off for some munchies at Subway. Bulgarian Subway: new experience.
Veso ended up eating four McDonald’s cheeseburgers, one 6-inch sub, half of another sub, and then an ice cream cone. Zhas and I split a 6-inch “Beibe Puyeshko” which boggled my mind. If everything is metric, why are the sandwiches in inches?! EXPLAIN.  I would also like to note that McDonald’s around the world have specialized foods to cater to local palates: Germany has beer; France has wine; Guam has spam; and apparently the Philipines have spaghetti. Bulgarian McDonald’s (which looks a bit like mkgohalgks in the Cyrillic script) has a sandwich called the McZorba, which features some type of grilled meat, cucumber and feta. Sounds good, though I never got to try it.

All in all, a fine night and a rest from the excessive partying.
JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU READ ABOUT MONDAY.

An American in Bulgaria: Day Three

Day Three: Saturday June 25th, 2011.

We woke up early in Veso’s parents’ room of the villa, feeling better than expected out on the balcony. We had leftover breakfast with everyone outside on the patio and then the reality of the DEADLIEST HANGOVER EVER set in. Was it worth it being the greatest American ever?
No.
Perversely, I made a positive impression with everyone on behalf of America but I also thought I’d vomit all over Kabakum Beach. While I curled into a ball on the sand, everyone else watched the Formula races, ate tsatsa, and drank ayran or tarator. Finally the wind and the clouds broke and we went back to our respective domiciles with the intentions of meeting up later that evening.

Back at Zhas’, her dad gave me an aspirin and a thumbs up and I recovered many hours after the fact. We went downstairs to her brother’s flat to celebrate Mary’s birthday with the grandparents. (I had showered, to which her brother said “Why did you shower? It’s not a holiday.”) We watched Mitko and Mary’s wedding photos while we nibbled on this really interesting cake… Like a thin cake filled with jam and raisins/assorted fruits, and then rolled and covered with cream. It oozed when you tried to eat it so, effectively, it was super delicious. Everyone kept offering me various types of alcohol and I had to refuse like a broken record. All in good spirits of course. (Hawhaw, see what I did there.)

We walked around Primorska Garden and saw so many weird and interesting things… There was a carnival in the center of everything, completely lit and running but with no one there. Carousel, mini golf, paddle boats, a row of coin-operated cartoon-shaped riding-things.

While being harrassed by drunk men in a mineral spa on the side of the road, we walked to Sardinia (restaurant, not the island) where we met everyone for mussels and/or pizzas. It was good. Not much to say about that, really.
We walked down the seaside street to Cubo and I lost an earring. Unimportant. Cubo is basically a massive tent on the sand, with chairs and umbrellas and loud music. I had two pretty epic mojitos.
You’re supposed to pay one lev to use the toilet, but no one was there at the door so I walked right in… to what I thought was the men’s room. Why? Because there were NO TOILETS. Perplexed, I stood in the stall and waited until I heard the sound of two other girls coming in and doing their business into the holes in the ground. I wish I could show you my notebook, because I drew a small model of the hole in the ground, complete with rubber anti-slip grips. Point being I PEED INTO A HOLE IN THE GROUND. And on that note, it was time to go to the club.

Xtravaganzza is essentially a warehouse filled with three separate bars, walls lined with shelves to hold drinks, and lots and lots of drunk Bulgarians. You can also smoke inside, but they must be one of the few places in Bulgaria with a ventilation system, because that much of smoke in an enclosed space would leave anyone blind for two days. (We did, upon later notice, discover that we smelled TERRIBLE re: sweat, alcohol, and smoke.)
Because there were about ten of us, we bought two bottles of Bushmills whiskey and like 20 cans of Coke. The music was good and we had our own table up front next to the DJ booth. What I wasn’t prepared for was the ‘showtime’ that kicks off at midnight. A couple dozen half-dressed writhing young ladies on a stage above our head. After that, they sort of tag-teamed each other and dance couples came out: either two girls or a girl and this guy. And THIS GUY was probably the most flamboyant dancer of all time. We watched him literally dance with his own shadow until he noticed Kim mocking him.
I don’t know.
Veso does a pretty good impression of him.

We kept it up to chalga and left around 4:30am because I kept going “OHMYGOD I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW LATE IT IS.” When we got back to Zhas’s flat, we stood in the kitchen and raided the fridge for a literal feast of meats/cheeses. Sated, we retired to our sleeping quarters and prayed to not feel sick the next day. PARTYYYY.

An American in Bulgaria: Day One

Day One: Thursday June 23rd, 2011. Two weeks ago.

And you think you’re a guest
You’re a tourist at best
Peering into the corners of
My dark life.

I got up early to take the train to Luton, which sort of sucked. Getting to Luton, I mean… It wasn’t that early. Luton is a funny airport, and by ‘funny,’ I mean ‘complete shit.’ I sat around for two hours with a bunch of disgruntled American bikers (complete with bald eagle tattoos) and drank scalding cappucinos. The woman at the bureau de change was named Natasha and wanted to know how long I’d be in Bulgaria for and if I was going by myself. She advised that I look after myself. Still don’t know what to make of her.
Here begins an excerpt from one section of my notebook.

“It is with great trepidation that I walk around Luton– this airport sucks and it doesn’t make any sense. I’m also really nervous that I’m going to die in Bulgaria and no one will know except for my brother. And Facebook. I teared up on the bus from Luton Parkway and I realised it’s because I was sad to leave England, even though I also know I’m coming back. Duh. But holy crap, talk about facing the unknown… I have nothing to my knowledge except for that which I’ve gleaned from Eastern European tourbooks in East Brunswick library which only mention Bulgaria in passing.
Two points of irony:
1) I’m leaving England on the nicest day we’ve had so far: sunny, mild, NO RAIN.
2) The food I chose to buy for an early lunch was a feta salad, which is retarded because shopska salata is literally going to be served every day, or so I hope. I also bought grapes and a stick of delicious Wensleydale for £1,50 so there’s that too. I like food.
[…]
I just opened the door of the plane toilet because it was green and said VACANT and a Bulgarian woman hastily hiked up her oversized panties. I shouted SAZHALIAVAM at her and closed the door. This sort of thing happens from time to time…? On the inside of the door, the sign for locking is in English and Polish but what kind of retard doesn’t lock the door?!
The plane ride was spent reading the WizzAir inflight magazine in English and Polish, looking at the Alps we flew over, and trying to ignore the smell of the feet of the woman next to me. She took off her shoes for the 3-4 hours. Ick.

After one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever experienced, the majority of the plane clapped and cheered. ‘New experience?’ I thought simultaneously with ‘What the fuuuuhhhh?’ I think I had the ‘white people grin’ on my face as we were transported from the tarmac into Varna airport itself. It had to be at least 85ºF.
Zhas was waiting for me at Arrivals and I’m pretty sure we both had a moment like “IS THIS REAL LIFE?”

The majority of her family lives in the same building on this crazily narrow street. I was introduced to her father and her grandparents with what seemed like a great success. Having only learned it the night before, I did my best to stammer out “I’m pleased to meet you” which incidentally is one of the most complicated sentences ever. Her grandparents are the cutest people ever and her dad is not only great, but EXCELLENT.

Dinner was an enormous affair of mixed nuts, meats, cheese, and multiple salads all over the table. Lukanka, soujouk, chicken filet, two types of feta, kashkaval, olives, Shopska salata, Russian salad, rakiya, orange juice, tropical juice, soda, chianti, dessert wine, etc… And then Mama Ves was like, “Ok, entree time = chicken with mushrooms and gravy!” I learned that the word for ‘mushroom’ (‘guba’) is also the word for ‘sponge.’ After that, there was ice cream cake to finish it off.

Despite feeling like the fattest person in the world, I wanted to go out and see Bulgaria’s Thursday night-life. We walked out the building and into the streets of Varna, to my general disbelief. Actually, it was pretty deserted but there were fair amounts of people by the seaside. I think my first impression was a not-quite-lucid “Shiiiiiit.” We stopped at a place called Punta Cana, although I couldn’t remember the name of it until the next time we would be around there… Anyway. We sat down on a covered couch with curtains right by the sea and I encountered my first entirely Bulgarian menu. Luckily, I can read the Cyrillic and a lot of the alcohol has the same name. (Gin is spelled sort of like ‘djin’ because there’s no j sound.)
The two of us ordered what turned out to be gross cocktails– mine was a big gay colorful cocktail of rum and cherries. Zhas had an icky drink with Drambuie in it because we didn’t know what it tasted like and neither did the waitress. We toasted to being in Bulgaria and I watched the sea change colors under the lights of the chalga/barbecue tavern place next door.

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful, but I woke up the next day, laughing.

Let me praise you for the good times

I’m sitting here in the warmth, drinking my last cup of tea and listening to The Mountain Goats The Life of the World to Come. I was just locked out of my flat because I let Tori in (keyless again!) and my door slammed behind me. DUH. I’m wearing a cami, a skirt, and tights. It’s 30 degrees out and weather.com says it’s supposed to snow tomorrow. This is my life, I guess. Or as Daria is wont to say in a regrettable maxim, “So is life.” 

But let’s flash back, shall we? There’s a lot of ground to cover, geographically and emotionally. For the most part, the rest of this is chronological, not thematic.

[TO COMPLETE LATER: Andy’s breakfast, blog. Saturday night at the NXI –> police. The rugby team’s mess. News of blood.]

Sunday evening, we all agreed that it wasn’t necessarily morbid if we all wanted to go look at the blood in front of New Cross library. We were going in that direction anyway. So we took the 30-second walk and stared at the amount of blood from what we presumed to be stab wounds. We took pictures of it, and I probably took it a little too far by taking a picture with it.
It was gross, it was funny. Eh, we live here.

The ukelele band at the Amersham Arms on Sunday night is really where it all ended. The first half of the set ended with “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine” but we replaced it with “It’s the end of our trip as we know it, and we might cry.” So we cried a little bit on each other during the break. They, the 8-piece uke/banjo/lapsteel/kazoo band, came back and either played Christmas songs or hipster requests (from me!) I stole their request/set list, but off the top of my head, they played hippy-dippy Hot Chip’s “Over and Over” and Bright Eyes’ “At the Bottom of Everything”. THEY EVEN DID HALF OF THE OPENING MONOLOGUE, despite the fact that I was joking. I mean, it wasn’t well done, but the fact that they did it… Well… I called out for Morrissey and Tom Waits, but they never got to it.
I fell a little bit in love with the youngest ukelele player. He had to be maybe 25, looked a little bit like Colin Meloy, did a wicked job at the Pogues. The second set closed with The Pogues’ “Fairy Tale in New York” and I literally almost sobbed all over Joe. We walked back a very subdued bunch.
I don’t know if people fully understood how important that was to me, but I enjoy sitting around and listening to music with people. It was really weird for Andy not to be there, as he completes the 7 Loring Family members.

Monday, I spent Daria’s last full day with her in Waterloo and South Bank, blowing bubbles. People loved it. I gave the rest of the bottle to these little British kids, which automatically made me look like a sketchy potential paedophile. But the two of us sat together on a bench for a long time, watching the water and making friends with these birds. I had a best friend whom I named Albert, because he kept trying to pop the bubbles with his beak.
We also ‘hit up’ Westminster for a quality last time. Wound up sitting in a pub off Parliament, where all these hilarious civil servants kept running in for a pint and a loud conversation about nothing in particular. Gam and Daria attended Evensong at Westminster Abbey while I went back to my room and discovered that the rugby team took nearly everything I owned in the kitchen and left me with condiments.
Our dinner that night consisted of chicken noodle soup, sweet and sour chicken, rice, garlic chili potatoes, vegetable spring rolls, an Iceland pizza, and George’s last bottle of wine. (Did I forget anything?)
Gonna miss them Iceland pizzas. Karen just informed me that during WWII, the largest bomb dropped in London was actually dropped in New Cross. On a Woolworth’s, which is now present day ICELAND. HILARIOUS. But seriously, why would you aim a V2 rocket at New Cross? What a waste of explosives. Send it to Westminster city or something, not the middle of nowhere so a crapload of civilians get killed by chunks of falling Woolworth’s. (Gopher?)

Today, after seeing Daria off, I took the tube to London Bridge and walked up Tooley Street to the Hays Galleria. It was filled with fancy shops in a rich-looking arcade (Arcade here is not the same as arcade there.) I popped over to Tower Bridge and just stood there for an hour looking at the bridge and the HMS Belfast. I wish we’d all come there as a group because the area around it and on the northern side of the Thames is really impressive. After, I walked back and took the Jubilee to Waterloo, basically repeating the day before that I’d spent with Daria. Walked up to the London Eye and cried in public. Bought stuff at the Cologne Christmas Festival lining South Bank. Then, I sat on a park bench for a couple of hours, listening to Owen and helping tourists take pictures of themselves. (I even thought I saw Albert the Seagull again.) I sat still until I turned blue/purple from the cold. Practically ran across Westminster Bridge during sunset to take pictures of WM Abbey. Parliament lit up and I left, even though I absolutely love that building.
I had my very last pasty for dinner. I shed tears all over it.
Not really.
I took a ridiculously long shower because it’s so freakin’ cold.
Karen came to say her goodbyes, Gam and I went to Chik Chicken (sp?) for a chicken dinner… To remember the place by. (Serious LOL.) Lewis stopped by to take the pots and pans I dumped/hid in the shrubbery outside.
Here I am again. Still stuff left to do, but this is it for now.

SEMI-FINAL CONCLUSIONS
I don’t dare sum the whole trip up yet. I don’t know if it’s because I can’t accept that it’s over even now, or I can’t locate any–uh– visceral concision in order to cover 3 months in a strange place. It was up; it was down; it was the most different things I’ve ever experienced in my small life. And your life is small.
As we all know, courtesy of Shakespeare’s London, the Hubble telescope has proven that our space in the cosmos is worthless. Our world is small, our galaxy is small.
Emily Carroll and I can bring up a stranger in conversation, and it can just happen that we’ve both met this person in completely separate times. I can walk around Amsterdam and see two men who sat next to us the day before. We can see Daria’s flatmate standing on the corner. We can get on a bus with a family in Belgium and then see them again in France. I can walk around Paris and see people we met the night before in a completely different arrondissement. Gam can run into our newly-departed family members on the tube. It really makes me think about Kurt Vonnegut’s idea of the karass— that ” a group of people who, often unknowingly, are working together to do God’s will. The people can be thought of as like the fingers that support a Cat’s Cradle”— and the granfalloona false karass; i.e., a group of people who imagine they have a connection that does not really exist. An example is “Hoosiers”; Hoosiers are people from Indiana, and Hoosiers have no true spiritual destiny in common, so really share little more than a name.” This is crap I think about all the time.

Tomorrow, I’ll spend six hours in the airport and then eight hours on the plane. Longer than the average college student stays awake; a day of waiting . . . I can almost look forward to how Chekovian this is going to be. Ultimately I think it’s funny that something Zade (the captain of the rugby team) said to me that came back right now. “Are you waiting again? Is that all you ever do? Whenever I see you, you’re waiting.” Hey, throwback to Dave Eggers: there is travel and there are babies. Everything else is drudgery and death.

Also ironically, things Darryl has sung are perhaps appropriate, and an acceptable way to end for the day:

Stopping at the flower-lit wash of world color,
suddenly pulled from the lonely cold snowy lawns
but I kinda miss all of the safety I associate
with little things like clothing layers, blankets, fireplaces.
[. . .]
Fear is for the indoors;
you’ll get no roses for your rainstorms.
Emptiness will manifest in those who decide
they’re much too scared to get wet.

I loved the Loring Family.
Even if we talk about farts way too often.

Produce

Woke up 2 hours early for no particular reason. Did laundry, read the newspaper, ate breakfast. I was going to say that “I made myself an English breakfast this morning,” but it’d be sort of untrue. Tea and eggs and toast and mushrooms. Mostly mushrooms.
Another thing to miss: going to market.
Yesterday, Chris and I went to Lewisham Shopping Centre for bric-a-brac and what-have-you, and we stopped to buy some veg. Having been craving mushrooms, I bought a bowl (because these things come in bowls.)
We stood at the table for a long time, deliberating over which bowl to choose while ruddy people shouted Cockney garbage at each other.  The woman poured the bowl of mushrooms into a plastic bag and asked me for 1 pound. ONE QUID for nearly TWO KILOS of Portobello mushrooms. Holy crap. I can’t even cook that much at one time, much less eat all of it.
I should’ve bought tomatoes as well.

 Dylan Thomas sort of said Wales was the chosen land, but England could be included too. Aaand everyone knows it. “New York is great but London is the greatest city in the world” said someone raised in Gloucester.
People are less judgemental than in France, anyway, which is probably more beautiful, if we’re to judge by aesthetics. London is comprised of so many foreignors that no one really knows we’re you’re from until you open your mouth.

I don’t think it’s all that mad that Under Milk Wood just springs up unbidden in my mind. Sitting on the 453 at dawn, the back of my mind said “The principality of the sky lightens now” like he’s narrating my life from the grave. Cool, right?
Hup…
As I sit in my room with my snowglobe and blow bubbles–>
I’ve made my choice and am left to regret my decision.

Last night, I watched 101 Dalmatians. The movie is so much better now that I can recognise places in the movie. I mean, yes it’s Disney and yes it’s animated, but they included famous places and tossed about slang like it’s no big deal/like it wasn’t written for 6-year old kids.
Right off the bat: Regent’s Park, St Paul’s Cathedral, Camden Town, etc.
Between the lines: the 2 criminals are watching a TV show called “What’s My Crime?” It looks A LOT like Question Time, although I doubt Question Time existed in the 60s when the film was animated. That’s something I’ll have to research. [edit: No, Question Time was introduced in 1979.] But when they break into the house, the criminals make up some bull about a new Act issued by Parliament in order to get inside. They yell about how no one cares about Parliament and Scotland Yard is useless. Durf.

There were times when I actually laughed out loud just from watching. I guess this all went over my head when I was still more interested in the daily adventures of Barney.

1) Tonight is the last Taco Tuesday for our group. After Christmas, we’re going to reconvene at Andy’s house (if it’s okay with Marc and Celia) to have a Taco Navidad. Gam will be in Wisconsin or something, so we’re going to set her up a place and Skype her.
2) Tomorrow is the CEA Christmas dinner and then Othello with our Shakes. class. I’m really excited about Othello, because I’ve never seen it, and because Lenny Henry (a British COMEDIAN) is acting Othello. He was half-trained at RADA, I think, so this will either be really interesting or really bad.
3) Thursday is the Christmas dinner, for which I’m either going to make pumpkin spice bread or kiflis/kolaches. Whatever I don’t make for this will be made for the following morning.
4) Friday is the Shakes. class Christmas party and viewing of our films. (Ours is completed, and runs about 16 minutes long. It was supposed to be 3 minutes long, but it’s just SO FUNNY.)
5) The weekend is up for grabs, but people start leaving. Not only am I going to be the last person to leave out of our group, but also out of our flat. I was the first one to arrive back in September. Think about that one.

A Weekend in Liverpool

~LIVERPOOL, England: 28/11/09, 10:00pm.

[edit: I fail to mention that the first thing we see in Liverpool is a man covered in blood, walking down Leece Street like he has no idea why we’re staring at him. He looks at us, smiles, and says “Uh. Fuckin’ birds!” when a pigeon flies in Gam’s face. Another man across the street is screaming about chickens.]

Sitting in my hostel room with three French(?) girls and a German(?) dude who just surprised them by asking them if they were done with the bathroom in French. They had a mini conversation, like “Oh! How do you know French?” “sabuh-dah…” And then he had a serious conversational fail.
1) He said “Euh… et… le ‘same thing?’ ” LA MEME CHOSE.
2) He said “Et qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la nuit?”
Thus I revealed the extent of my French by nearly falling off of my bed, laughing. Instead of innocently asking them what they planned to go out and do that evening, it was basically the equivalent of asking them if they’re prostitutes for hire. The French girls knew what he meant, but they informed him of his grievous error in conduct.
What is it you do during the night? versus what are you doing tonight?

We got better acquainted and talked about Paris after I blew my poker face. When I told them I had stayed in Barbès-Rochechouart three weeks ago, their jaws dropped in amazement that I’m still alive. (I TOLD you Friends Hostel was a shithole!) And then the conversation was over and they switched to talking in Spanish.

Before that, I had walked into the room across the hall, which was filled with drunken Irish men who insisted I must be Danish because of my bone structure. Then they tried to offer me a billion drinks and I sprinted back to my room because a boy named Dave tried to stick his hand in my butt. (What is it with the Irish?! My first day in Dublin, a guy purposely shoved his umbrella into my buttcrack!) / (I’ve never met so many guys named Dave!) I doubt it’s any safer in here with my hostel-mates, but at least they won’t be sticking their hands anywhere.

John(?) from Cherry Hill/Pennsylvania, a biophysics major studying abroad in Leeds, sat down on the bed next to me and just taught me how to adjust the shutter speed on my DSLR. Interesting people you meet. He tried pretty hard to get me to go back out into the world with him and his mates (the German guy– Sebastian– and two Spaniards: Sergio and Alberto.) John left his Canon DSLR just sitting out on his bed. I told him that was a stupid idea, but he said he trusted all of us. Here I am, sleeping with my purse next to my face.

But anyway, I didn’t mean to start in medias res. I ended up alone for the evening in the hostel and denying 3+ separate opportunites to hang out with strangers because I felt like crapola. For a moment, I seriously thought I might’ve been developing swine flu. I even called my mom to check.

The run down: We woke up at 330am and left New Cross around 430am in order to get to Euston Rail Station for our 605am train. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but we were leaving so early, the tubes weren’t open yet. Gam and I both wrote down bus directions, but I forgot something and the buses were running so infrequently that we basically walked/ran from Tottenham Court Road to Warren Street Station. DUH. I was irritable at myself and everyone I was with.
The train to Stafford was alright, I guess. There was a man on the train who REALLY needed a tissue. I could hear him sucking up his mucus every 10 seconds even through my headphones.
We had less than 2 minutes to find the train from Stafford to Liverpool Lime Street and I wanted to murder everyone for being so American. I also wished Chris was there so I could make sourpuss faces at him.

Our first thought about Liverpool was “HOLY CHRIST AMONGST MEN, IT IS COLD.” The weather got worse throughout the day, as it tends to do when we’re out on vacation. We got there a little before 9am and walked to our hostel. We thought it was a nice place, until we saw the stains on the linen… Between blood, pee, and sweat, we half-expected the infamous Doodoo Bandit to show up and trash the place.

Daria, Andy, Gam, and I hung out for two hours alone in the room until noon, when we took a BEATLES TOUR. Called the “Fab Four Taxi Tour,” we had our own personal tour guide who was also our black cab driver. He took us to places like: John’s birthplace, his university, Ringo’s “soap opera” neighbourhood, Paul’s house and the caretaker who looks like him, George’s house, Eppy’s birthplace/party flat, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, and this church that had Eleanor Rigby’s grave, etc. So cool. [edit: I’m pretty sure we had THE BEST cab driver out of the whole lot, now that I’ve looked at the whole list on their website.]
What was not cool was the incessant change in temperature: in the cab, out of the cab, minimal warmth, freezing wet toes, no gloves. Daria and I had to pee. I started feeling feverish by the time the tour ended at 330pm and I just deteriorated every hour.
Danny, the cab driver, dropped us off at The Cavern Club and we watched a live cover band of kids my age. The Grace: http://www.myspace.com/thegraceonline They had an… interesting… interpretation of The Beatles’ “Taxman”, but I really loved their cover of Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.”

Ah! Another two invitations to go out! The German guy, Sebastian, let me stay but a Spaniard (Sergio?) pulled me out of bed and dragged me to the door, despite my lack of shoes. When I feinted getting ready/looking for my shoes and he realised I wasn’t coming, he gave me what an American would interpret as the “I love you” symbol. Apparently it means something QUITE different in Spain. [edit: difficult to interpret, but I guess his gesture at me implied I am Satan’s whore.]

After Danny dropped us off at The Cavern Club with little idea how to get back, we wandered into some pub with INSANELY cheap food. It was next to the holiday skating rink, for future reference. I ate some crappy lasagne, even though I wasn’t hungry. I felt stupid, because when Andy and Gam asked me what was wrong, my voice quavered and I almost burst into tears. I wanted to crawl into my too-small bed in Spotswood and have my mom make chicken soup, listening to terrible TV shows in the kitchen while my dad yells at someone on the phone about gun parts.
To be funny, I ate all of Gam’s peas. The effect wasn’t very funny.

We wandered back to the hostel even though we felt like we were back in Amsterdam (a feeling I simply cannot describe.) All of us took an hour-long nap around 6 because we felt like death and we were all laughed-out over the “Doodoo Bandit” and his work on the duvets.
We went back out– after much effort and many complaints about the cold– to a pub at the corner of the street called The Flute. It was also a throwback to Amsterdam, with the lighting and couches and open space and circles of people doing their thing. I was delirious by the point. The bartendress told me bluntly she “didn’t have time for my questions,” which made her the ONLY person in the ENTIRETY of Liverpool who was less than cheerful and welcoming and fantastic.
We left The Flute around 10pm in search of more interesting pubs/night life, but I came back here and tried not to die. Here I am. It’s not 12:20am and no one in this room is content to leave me alone.

~LIVERPOOL, England: 29/11/09

I woke up, well-rested and alive, at 10am. We were downstairs by a little after 11am. Because we were lazy and the other three were in various states of their hangovers, we ate at the cafe attached to the hostel/hotel.
Something compelled me to order a vegetarian English breakfast, and now I’m seriously considering reverting back to vegetarianism for health reasons.
The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” was playing in the cafe and I nearly spit out my toast. I frenetically bobbed along to the music, paralleled by the cafe-worker, a bespectacled guy in plaid who looks like he could be from Williamsburg, or a member of Grizzly Bear, to be more accurate. We caught eyes mid-bop and exchanged a little courtesy nod in honour of Morrissey.

Sebastian wound up talking to me until 2am about everything and nothing. After initially offering me a cookie (IT WAS A TARWEBISCUIT!!!) we fell into discussions about different education systems and the class structure of Germany. He asked me about my honest traveller’s opinion of the world (London in particular) and he told me about his town in Germany. We also sat around and talked with the French girls, sabuh-dah, who were actually only 2/3 French. Cristina was from Spain, but Clemence and ____ were French, renting a flat in Paris.
(Funny story: They told me my French was really good. They were FASCINATED that I was American and that I was capable of speaking a different language. They admitted how mean that was, but it made me feel awesome. The three of them kept inviting me into the kitchen to share a bottle of wine with them, and they wouldn’t leave me alone until I told them off in French. MERCI, MAIS JE RESTERAI DANS MON LIT POUR LA NUIT. They applauded.)  

I said goodbye to Sebastian and his friends three separate times at this point. Before he left the room the first time, he chucked a packet of Trolli Sour Glowworms (from Germany!) at my head. Maybe that’s a token of dour German regard, where he comes from.
It got me to thinking about Tidmarsh’s lessons during Shakespeare’s London, which made me miss Chris again. Jung’s coniunctio and fusion between individuals and all that cal. It was bizarre and wordly and true.

After walking around Albert Dock, we saw them AGAIN. Sebastian, John, Sergio and Alberto were sitting in the window of a restaurant. So grand total, we said goodbye to them 5 separate times around Liverpool.
Our group shuffled into a giftshop on the docks to get out of the rain, and the radio played a “new” Death Cab for Cutie song. I felt so acutely uncomfortable for not knowing it, which led me to ponder on exactly how long I’ve been away from the United States.

Albert Dock is the perfect place to meditate on your sorrows, we think. We stood over the water and fell silent. That’s how sombre it is. We cheered up by paying 5 pounds to ride Liverpool’s ferris wheel. Much like London has the London Eye, Liverpool has The Big Wheel.
Everything about it was retarded, in the most accurate sense of the word.
It was so incredibly stupid that it was actually worthy of 5 quid.

Lunch at Gourmet Burger Kitchen was no big affair. (Home of the MOST GORGEOUS BURGER.) The waitress gave us horribly wrong directions to get to The Jacaranda, which is this pub that John and Paul used to work in, so we hopped in a cab. Love how cheap the cabs are.

Jacaranda was cool. Someone selected Morrissey’s “Panic” on the jukebox and I nearly crapped myself –> fulfilled one of my bucket list wishes.
Jacaranda is also where I got married.

Just as I was discussing with Andy about how all these guys spend their days by going to work, coming home, and farting around a pub to shout at each other, these four guys come over and start talking to us. It’s only 530pm and they’re completely pissed. We didn’t really get their names, but they got our first names and continually asked why in hell we Americans were in Liverpool. Did they forget about the tourist lure of the Beatles? Probably. Duh. One guy, the nicest and most gentle, looked like Dave Foley. Another looked like he could be George Lopez’s cousin gone to seed. One guy was as rowdy as a five-year old boy who just got a new action figure and kept giving people high fives. And then my FIANCE was a larger balding gent who stole a ring off of a girl’s finger in order to propose to me.
This was all so incredibly hilarious and unreal that I had to immortalise it by calling my parents. I’m POSITIVE they were alarmed by the voicemail they left, but I prefaced it with “Please don’t be offended.” I hoped they saved it, because I could barely what they were shouting into my phone.
The rowdy guy bonked Gam on the forehead once (hilarious) and kept up with the high fives after everything he said. He tried to shake my hand when I said something brilliant and instead, I did the swipe-my-hand-over-my-hair move like those cool people do, and it was like I had just invented it, by the response those guys gave me. I felt like a million cool bucks and a number ten on the cool scale.
The Dave Foley look-alike told me that my fiance, who’s name is something like Mark McCally, is actually proposing to his girlfriend on Christmas Day this year and he wanted to get in a bit of practice.
Mark got down on his knee in the middle of the bar and presented me with the gaudiest blue piece of costume crap I’ve ever seen, but I did my duty with a perfunctory knod and a squeak. Everyone in the bar stopped what they were doing to stare at us. You should see the pictures Daria took on my camera.
What I was not expecting was when he picked me up and twirled me around in the air. Touching was limited to that, thank goodness, or there would’ve been a serious problem between our two parties.
When we said goodbye to these fellows, the mood shifted from conviviality to sobriety in less within 15 seconds. They clapped us on the arms and gave us each a kiss on the cheek (I got enchanté kisses on my hand instead, like a proper lady.) They wished us a safe journey to wherever we call home, and hoped we’d remember them all fondly.

The train station was freezing cold again, so we spent the hour waiting in the only enclosed space in the vicinity, which was a pub. Naturally. Things of note about our time spent in the pub: 1) Another drunken Irishman tried to cozy up to us, but split when Andy came back from the ATM. 2) One of the bartenders selected Peter Sarstedt’s “Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?” on the jukebox and I literally did not know what to do with myself. This would’ve been on my bucket list if I could’ve even considered it as a possibility.
It was outrageous. I was so happy.

Train back to London Euston was boiling hot. Andy and Daria wrote the first two scenes of a play and performed it for us. I passed out. Getting back to New Cross is always really GLLAIGHT** when we come back from a trip. Hot showers and dry socks.

———————————————————————————-
Overall, Liverpool is probably worth another trip, if I had a different group of people to go with (ie- my parents.) They’d love to see all of the Beatles junk, plus it’s a completely underrated tourist location. The people are all out-of-this-world friendly and it’s the cheapest city I’ve been to in Europe thus far.
Plus, the accents are the best. Since yesterday, we’ve been yelling “GREAT” at each other in the Liverpudlian accent (which has a Welsh twang to it), so our GREAT would phonetically be spelled as “G-L-L-A-I-G-H-T” **
GLLAIGHT. gll8.
IT WUZZA GLLAIGHT RECORD, YEA?
The end every sentence with “yea?”
So now we end every sentence with “yea?”

Today I felt like crap again, and my politics seminars were made exceptionally difficult.
I somehow- somehow– thought this could be cured by eating Iceland fishcakes and Thai chilli pickles. I was wrong. There is NOTHING more masochistic than eating my Thai chilli pickles. I was actually crying and yelling when I made them last week, they’re so spicy. I could never get chillis like that at home, much less from a screaming Cockney vendor off of the street. Brilliant. Another thing to miss.

GLLAIGHT BLOG POST.