Reverse the Jelly Baby of the Neutron Flow

I interrupt my whinging and Bulgarian ethnic slurs to bring you news of this out-of-this-world experience: The Doctor Who Experience, to be exact. Also, seeing Dr Faustus at the historic Globe Theatre last night, which would otherwise be unrelated.
THIS TIME, IT’S NOT.

Originally, I learned about it when I was in Cardiff and saw a sign on an area map that there was a Doctor Who tourist trap near the Torchwood set/Millenium Centre. When Karen and I were in the area, we couldn’t find it. The signs were there, but the exhibition itself was not. When we got back to the hostel, I learned that it had been dismantled and moved as of April 1st. Crushing disappointment.

Yesterday, since I decided to spend the next 3-4 days left in London (more on this later, too) I needed to figure out something to do beyond sitting on the couch and watching shit BBC3 TV. I got the bright idea to check what was on in The Globe, and then I got distracted by reading about some article explaining how H&M can get away with stealing so many prints from, like, Anna Sui or Diane von Furstenberg, which actually doesn’t interest me in the least. While on this page, it was hard not to notice a blinking advertisement that said “CAN YOU FLY A TARDIS?” The rest is history… It was showing at the Olympia 2 in Kensington. I booked a “Silver Package Adult Ticket” for 12pm on Friday where I get a tour and a whole bunch of fun stuff included (lanyard, signed certificate, poster, book, etc.) WEE.

 I left here at 10:30am because I was so nervous about getting there on time. (It was fine. St Johns to Cannon Street, District Line to Kensington (although I got off at the wrong Kensington and had to hoof it from there.)) I knew I was in the right spot when I saw a TARDIS lurching out of the side of the Olympia like some weird crash site. The guys in the reception area knew immediately that I was there for the exhibition (because nothing else was going on) and I even went into an elevator with, like, a real bellboy/elevator man.
There’s a mini walkthrough with the sets from the Hungry Earth/Cold Blood episodes. I took a picture of two frightened schoolgirls in exchange for them taking a picture of me with a Silurian. The old gentleman who was the main chaperone was hilarious and we ended up bonding over the Weeping Angels. That sounds weird. You know what else is weird? Hearing ten-year old children yelling “I WANT TO SEE THE WEEPING ANGELS. AND DALEKS! EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE, SEEK AND DESTROOOOYYYYYY.” It gave my heart like a deep cardiac plunge of joy to hear this stuff. To make it even better, I was the only ticketholder for 12pm who wasn’t a member of this large school group, so I pretended I was with them for over half an hour. As a result, I got to touch some stuff and linger longer in some areas. After a while, they figured out I wasn’t with them. Still.

We watched this pre-simulation video from Matt Smith about the crack in the Universe, which ROTATED ON THE SCREEN and the screen split vertically to let you walk into the Starship UK set. Whilst we don our “radiation goggles,” Matt Smith comes on the screen again and explains the dilemma he’s in as THE TARDIS MATERIALIZES IN FRONT OF US. I mean, it was hidden behind a gauzy screen but I was standing next to a Smiler the whole time and wanted to get the hell out of there. Thus, we walked through the TARDIS policebox doors and into one of the actual sets of the interior with an actual TARDIS console that beeped and booped and had a moving floor to simulate flight/disaster. The mock-dilemma escalates in mock-emergency because we were under a Dalek invasion, so we literally ran into the next room, me feeling as excited and young as these shrieking ten year-olds. In the next room, though, I was standing near a wall where an animatronic Dalek just came out and pointed at me to scan our brains. You watch the TV show and wonder how something that looks like an overturned bin with knobs on it could possibly destroy the whole of the Universe, but when this Dalek pointed its little plunger-and-whisk combo at me, I almost shit my pants. Of course the Doctor saves the day, and then the staff realized I wasn’t with the school group, so I had to go my own way onto the last of the exhibit.

Here, there were really valuable pieces from the entirety of Doctor Who, including the ENTIRE Doctor wardrobe with models, dating back to 1963. I almost reached out to touch Tom Baker’s scarf and David Tennant’s trench coat. Almost. I didn’t want to get kicked out. An American guy took a picture of me with a Matt Smith wax figure and I took a picture of him with the row of Daleks. His iPhone had a TARDIS screen on it, to give you an idea of the fandom surging around the memorabilia in this room. Some kids were playing in the shell of a Dalek and I was taking MySpace-like pictures of myself with the gasmask little boy a la ARE YOU MY MUMMY. There were models of Slitheen, Judoon, Oods, some other things I’ve never even watched yet.

The gift shop was unreal. As I later told Liz, I nearly bought lifesize cardboard cutouts of the TARDIS or a Weeping Angel, but checked myself. 1) I can’t fit them in my suitcase and 2) if we ever had an apartment together, a Weeping Angel is the last thing you want to see in the dark when it’s 4am and you wake up really needing a pee. So I bought some Dalek expandable towels and a Cyberman mask for myself instead of blowing dozens of pounds on DVD sets, comics, books, Adipose stress-relief dolls, reproduction Sonic Screwdrivers, or Dalek bubble bath.
It was truly amazing. Despite my utter devotion, though, I felt weird walking around Kensington by myself, clutching a big white bag that said DOCTOR WHO EXHIBITION on the side. I walked into a Sainsbury’s and bought chicken breasts and avocados just to have one of the orange Saino’s bags to cover my purchases. Dumb.

This all brings me strangely roundabout to the Globe last night, where I finally saw my first stage production of Dr Faustus instead of having to read it or– Lucifer forbid– read it out loud in a class of freshmen. I had the utmost pleasure in seeing the role of Mephistopheles acted by none other than Dr Who’s companion Rory, Arthur Darvill (“in real life.”) It’s like the role was written for him. Imagine Darvill as Roman Centurion Rory in his grief and rage as he shoots Amy, and that was EXACTLY how Mephistopheles was portrayed. Darvill went the route of utter remorse and frankly looked like some brooding Conor Oberst of the Underworld with the arms folded, leaning against a pillar and trudging to do Faustus’ biddings. It was hilarious, but it was also really powerful to watch this guy who played the most wishy-washy whipped Dr Who companion become a screaming demon in a doublet and enormous shoes.
Faustus was quite good without being too obnoxious, although I think he giggled a bit too much. Robin was also really good. I didn’t think his character was all that funny in the text, but the actor definitely clowns very well.
Darvill looked up into my balcony and I thought I’d faint from the tortured look on his face.
The spectacles of the play were amazing, with these dragons carcasses and furred demons on stilts. To my complete delight, the last spectacle consisted of the entire cast manipulating these bloody dead bodies being tortured in hell, and Mephistopheles and Faustus were playing rock renditions of the song ON THE LUTE.
HURRR.

I was sitting next to three Californians in the middle gallery, second row. The guy only started talking to me after I’d had a moderately-priced-but-still-revolting-Budweiser (or maybe I talked to him first because of that.) He said they run their own outdoor theatre company in California, yet he couldn’t remember the name to The Two Gentlemen of Verona after he described the plot to me. I told him about The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski but he stared at me blankly for a bit until the bell rang for the end of intermission. He couldn’t understand what I was doing there and where I was from, whether Central Jersey, North Jersey and did I permanently move to England? I think he was a bit slow in that Californian way.
Also, there were two high school-aged tour groups there, one from China and one from Italy.
The leader of the Italian tour group sat next to me during my solitary beer and tried to soothe her charges. “Gianna, do you like the play so far?” And this girl Gianna, whatever, stereotypical Italian name said, “Yes, but my English is not good enough. I do not understand everything.” The teacher lady just shrugged and, I guess, comforted her with “Neither do I. I don’t understand a lot of it because it’s not really English.”
I was like, OF ALL REMARKS TO MAKE WHILE SITTING NEXT TO ME. Let it flow over me and yell in my head “WTF, WHY ARE YOU–, ARE YOU–, HUHHHHHH.” At least they have the sense to try and enjoy it rather than to, like, talk on the phone or clip their toenails the whole time. Which I saw others do. Talk on the phone, I mean.

Overall, I’m pleased with the collective £60 I spent on a most excellent 24 hours of enlightening endeavors.

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 Two

Day Two: Friday June 24th, 2011.

She said typewrite
Sad and all I had
She said circles in squares ain’t bad

As I said, I woke up laughing at being in Bulgaria. Exotic!

Breakfast was about as ridiculous as dinner the night before. We had the cheeses, meats, strong coffee, banichki, milinki and boza. Banichka and milinka are dough-based pastries, a bit tart or sour like a natural yogurt taste. Boza is a fermented wheat drink with a low alcohol content that tastes like Cream of Wheat and looks like sewer water. WIKIPEDIA FUN FACT: “In Bulgaria it is part of the traditional ‘Banitsa with Boza’ breakfast. Although a popular beverage, boza is used to describe something (film, piece of music, etc.) to be bland, boring, and of low quality.”
 

Our plan was to go to the beach but before that, we needed your typical supplies. We walked to the corner store (there’s WHITE POWER graffiti on the wall) and I felt really Anglophonic in there. I didn’t want to speak too loudly to give away my foreignness, but HOLY CRAP, there were such cool products in there that Adam would’ve loved the packaging.

Zhas drove to a beach further North than Varna’s city beaches because we wanted to sneak into the resorts.  We were concerned about parking behind the bus stop because the Bulgaria cops were hanging out there. While one chatted on his phone and another talked to a lost couple, we awkwardly stood there. He spoke to me as if I knew was he was saying, so I nodded a lot and smiled. We got a thumbs up and we crept through a hole in the fence into the resort territory where the poor Europeans go on vacation.

It was a beautiful day for the beach: sunny, breezy, not a cloud in the sky, no waves. The water was the clearest and cleanest I have ever seen in my life, which I shall continue to use as a standard for excellence. The two of us lounged on the beach or floated on the pink floaty raft thing. I sketched the pier and wrote a bit when, hours later, a group of friends and acquaintances stopped by around 3pm.

“I don’t deserve to be here. I graduated college as an average student with minimal distinguising qualities and now I’m in Europe. I find myself being driven around the backstreets of an antiquated country in a stick-shift, listening to chalga and dodging gypsies.
We just started playing volleyball with a new group of friends, which I understand to be Veso, Mitko, Jessie, Kim and another person whose name eludes me. I’d like to brush up on my Bulgarian grammar and not sound like a precocious two year-old, but this is more interesting.”

Zhas and I got ready for a dinner held later at Veso’s villa somewhere out of the central part of town. The house was a huge spectacle on a crazy narrow road. Mostly I felt pretty awkward at the beginning because I only knew Zhas, the guys were at the grill (skara) or else they were in the kitchen chopping vegetables.
As we opened some bottles of Bulgarian beer and peeled potatoes, Zhas and I experienced an awkward pre-dinner conversation with the two American girls. This Bulgarian beer, by the way, was Stolichno– a really strong black sludge. This was a starter for the epic dinner that ensued…

The table sat 7-12 people at varying times for shopska, handmade fries (ow hot oil,) “steaks” (highly Vegeta-seasoned pork(?)) various salads (Russian, Picadilly, tsatsiki) and 1.5 litres of homemade rakiya in a plastic lemonade bottle. I felt like I had something to prove so by the end of the night, I was sitting on the grass and shouting “DAI ME RAKIYA” like a champion. It really wasn’t a good idea, because I was eating sour cherries off the backyard trees before dragging myself upstairs to the room Zhas and I commandeered.

Hopefully I didn’t snore, but we’ll get to what I DID do tomorrow…

Lessons learned:
-Not only smart people go to Harvard.
-“ox” Harvard students.
-Do not mix beer and rakiya.
-Don’t do it.

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.

2011 Summer Kick-Off

GUESS WHO’S BACK? BACK AGAIN?
NARK IS BACK. TELL YOUR… Mom.
Or actually, tell my mom, because she won’t figure it out until I tell her.
That’s what you get for loyal readership, I suppose. Life’s a trial. Shrug.

Anyway, point of importance: the European debauch resumes again in one week.
I saved (I didn’t scrimp and save, because I know nothing of scrimping) but I saved nonetheless. Here I sit on my ass– which, I might add, is even fatter than it was in 2009– but I am ready. Okay, I haven’t called the banks or packed or even bought a new suitcase, but I think I can mentally handle the 5+ weeks of my strange American existence amongst the magnificent and majestic European Union etc.

I’ve also been brushing up on my Bulgarian for fun. I have my colors and animals down; I was working on adding diminutives when I saw a little kid’s drawing of a little bee. Normally, adorable things make me want to destroy something, but this was Bulgarian and is therefore okay. I’m too lazy to convert the file to post it up here, but you can google pchelitsa and look at it yourself.

The program I’m working with is free, so it’s a little retarded, very basic and a tad too formal, but it gives one enough time to reflect on the necessity of letters. That is– signs to match sounds. The Cyrillic alphabet at least makes up for needing weird letter juxtapositions with Latin letters. EXAMPLE: the formal apology of Съжалявам can be wrecklessly transliterated as sazhaliavam or cuhjuhliavam. And that looks like a dirty word in Sanskrit. Yay, Proto-Indo-European language family.
I’ll probably just keep this on hand: http://www.commonusefulphrases.org/common-useful-basic-bulgarian-phrases.html

Until Tuesday, I’ll be busy with farewells… Some more painful than others. NOT. Suckers.

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.

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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.