Archive for the ‘Ramblings'’ Category

Mente vazia, oficina do diabo

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

Looking out over the balcony and into the valley below - everything looks so small beneath waves of the sun. A sweet yellow bird clenches tight onto the branches of a tree as the wind sways his tiny body violently up and down until he finally can't take anymore, flying down and disappearing into the valley of miniatures. I too can relate to the rough feeling of the volatile swaying of a mysterious force that one cannot readily understand the mechanics of...

I wonder what I'll find down there today... During the corona virus quarantine and without any connections, I'm on a mission to find weed.1

While walking down the hill I map out where I'll start and what streets I should try before sunset. I'm surprised at how well I know this town and how much it feels like home. I've lived in other cities, other countries for longer, but no other people exist like the Costa Ricans.

Picking up the pace, I pass by the man who spends his time sitting on a recliner outside of his house. The recliner rests half in his garage and half on the sidewalk under a bright street lamp that makes him glow at night (giving me the visual image of poor film noir). I wave hello to couch man and he shouts back with the usual, "Cómo estás?" We exchange todo biens. He's a NPC of the city and reliably in his correct spot.

Turning the corner, I pass by the guy who makes clay pots in his garage. Often we exchange waves with one of his hands covered in clay and the other working the potter's wheel. His store is stacked with bowls, cups, and piggy banks of all sizes. (If I have to re-spawn then it better be here so that I can replace my lost items.) The street is lined with the brightest flowers, fruit (both on the vine and in the road), and the entire place has a pulse to it. I run past the plant nursery, because the old woman who runs it waters the plants by spraying the hose onto the sidewalk and in every direction. Pick up trucks pass me with their beds filled to the top with fig gourds and only stop when kids with wheelbarrows run over to pick up the supply. Any direction you turn is something different to look at and its much more entertaining than a TV could be. 2

I figure that one of the better places to scare up some weed would be down the street from an empty park and the rehabilitation center. I pass by two dudes, one of which is sitting on a bucket and they're passing a joint back and forth. (Kinda low effort hiding it and turning around when people come - making themselves look even more suspicious.) I ask if either of them speak English. They don't, but the kid on the bucket hops up and hands me his phone on translation while he moves to a car that's now stopped in front of us. Its clear that I choose the right road. The kid runs inside the house, leaving me with his phone, and his friend. Begrudgingly, I use his phone to get the conversation started and ask if I can hit his joint. He gives it to me, signals to finish it, confesses that he speaks a little English, and then gestures for me to sit on his bucket. Ditching the phone I take a bucket seat and use this opportunity to practice a second language. We negotiate the deal in broken Spanish and are interrupted often as his operation seems to be thriving during corona. Each time a car pulls up: he takes the order, runs inside to get it, and makes another trip inside to get change. I can't tell if there is a boss inside the house or if he's trying to keep absolutely nothing on him. Either would make sense...seeing as all of this is happening on a narrow sidewalk between the front door of his house and the street (barely room for two people to stand shoulder to shoulder). I get the stash, shake hands, say goodbye, and start walking away when I hear his friend say, "ingles importante" - I agree laughing, and tell him "muy importante"... The entire interaction took about fifteen minutes. Have I just made contact with the dangerous Costa Rican gang that everyone keeps warning me about? If so, these are the nicest and most defenseless gangsters I've ever met. While walking home I stop at the Mini-Super3 to buy rolling papers. Get this, the girl working the counter explains to me that you can buy the entire pack (like normal) or one paper at a time. A couple of high school age girls agree that that is how they purchase papers. I buy an entire pack and offer them each a few.

Let's see who else I can meet on this journey. I take the main road home so that I can people watch, but by doing so I pass by a man who was watching me. He starts shouting my name, and I remember that this was the guy I met at the buss stop the other day.4 Emanuel and I say hello and he asks me if I'm from Romania or Germany. The Romania reference freaks me out because as far as I know we haven't made the news here yet. I'm not from either country I tell him and then say goodbye. He jumps up to talk more but realizing that I'm leaving repeats okay while staring sadly at the ground. I walk home wondering what tragic story is behind this guy's life.

One of the better parts of coming home is climbing the giant hill that leads to the house. You can't climb like this in Indiana and the road is coated in interesting insects and flowers. A long line of ants are marching up hill and I stop to check out what each of them are carrying.5 I like to itemize the items that the ants carry and try to figure out who got the best stuff. One guy is off by himself with a huge curled up leaf on his back. It seems like he is trying to impress the colony because the item is so large that he is making a drunk zig zag pattern. The timing was perfect and as he crawls to check out the gutter, a huge rush of water comes from the top of the hill, and the current takes him away until all that's left is his floating leaf. Another part of wild life that I can relate to, the not-always human condition... but I doubt tomorrow will be anything like today.

  1. He clenched my chin and forced my head up so that our eyes met. I tried to repress my grin -- I love these moments of feeling so small and inconsequential in his hands. "If you could have anything you want right now, what would it be?" For most people this question will only be a theoretical game but with him its divine. []
  2. Maybe where you live is like this too. I doubt it but would you actually know? []
  3. Mini-super being the Costa Rican version of a 711. []
  4. Costa Rica is so beautiful that even the buss stops are enjoyable to sit and think at. A great spot is this bench that sits outside of a small Catholic church. The bench is always empty and has a view to a plantation and the hills. The last time I stopped there a short, old man, with a huge smile (his entire face was basically just a smile), and wide eyes was walking down the street with this kid and his dog. I thought they were together until the man broke off and sat next to me on the bench. The man was clearly not in the best of ways and really wanted someone to talk to. I practiced my Spanish with him by doing some basic greetings and left. []
  5. Ants in the midwest are also very tiny so I've never seen anything like these big juicy guys. The things that they can haul is seriously impressive -- also its weird when you're walking to randomly see leaves keeping up with you. []

You would have loved her.

Monday, May 11th, 2020

This probably won't make sense to you. That's fine, because I need to brush death off of my shoulders for a while.

I've been grieving the loss of my grandmother and best friend for almost a month now. For a month I've been trying to write this post which has left me destroying text, crying, walking,1 and falling to the ground. I fell off of the grief wagon and into the pits of depressive obsessive despair. Do not be fooled,2 grief needs its space to move through your body, being felt by every part of you, sharpening the edges of your life through confrontation...until eventually whatever is left at the end can claim the victory. Its a harrowing experience that if avoided, will slowly kill you. I'm stuck and don't know what to do about it. After 24 years, I have nothing but living amends to offer to those that I lost. A week before I found out about my grandmother's passing I got the word that my best friend from childhood killed herself. It's hard not to make the connection between the death of the grandma who raised me after my mom died and my best friend killing herself while leaving behind a three year old child.

I've been living the last month in a fog of sadness without wanting to really do anything. It's true that bad news never has good timing. Some days are great and some I have to give myself a pep talk to breathe in the morning. I'm not very good at death, nor is their a way to measure grief but that is no reason to hide the lives of these two people. I hope you enjoy these stories about my grandmother and if you don't - she wouldn't have cared anyways.


My grandma, Dorothy, died in October and you would have loved her. Dorothy3 was born in 1929 and became the eldest of eight children. She raised eight children, my dad and his three brothers, and then my two older brothers, and myself when our mother died. I consider myself the lucky last girl of 14 children. My grandmother was the perfect grandmother - sweet and cold in the perfect combination. She taught me to read (One of our earliest books being Amelia Bedelia, of which I can still hear her laugh at drawing the drapes and dressing of the turkey.) by reading a page and then making me read the next until the book was finished. The two of us went through so many books that my teachers accused me of lying when I returned them to class. As a part of her mandatory grandmother responsibilities she also taught me how to play cards: war, solitaire, rummy, goldfish..etc. She let me cheat by claiming that two of a kind counted and I called her out on cheating after she expertly put down an entire hand of sets and suits when I had nothing. This was also the woman who did not have a favorite color and refused to listen to any music besides Elvis and my boy, Dean Martin. My grandmother raised 14 kids and never once went to a lecture circuit, read a buzzfeed article, or a self help book; however, she did raise her hands up and go 'all well' when she was wrong. By not giving a shit about pretense, feelings, or what is right by the standards of anyone but herself, I now have a great deal of lessons and stories I'd like to generously4 pass on to you.

Grandma Dorothy grew up as a second generation immigrant in Indiana. Her mothers and Aunts all spoke Polish in the house and especially when they didn't want any of the kids to understand what they were saying. My grandma took this as a reason to learn Polish and spent the next few years of high school secretly taking Polish language classes. This worked out well, as she understood all of gossip about their husbands, her siblings and cousins, and the neighborhood...except for the one day when she made the mistake of laughing out loud at one of her aunt's comments. After that, they stared her down and then never spoke Polish in her presence again.5

Apparently, it was a huge deal to go to the movie theater in the 1930s and my grandma invited her youngest brother along to a show with her. For some reason the kid cried the entire time, until my grandmother dragged him out and beat him all the way home.6

After she got married, she moved into a house in Hammond, Indiana and lived there from her marriage until she died. On any given day, I could bust into her front door and find her sitting at the kitchen table in her robe, eating jellybeans, smoking a cigarette, and reading a book.7 My grandmother loved to smoke Pall Malls and I'm sure they lost a fortunate with her death.8 The tiny three bedroom grey house had yellow walls that were stained thick with smoke and you could see it piping out of the chimney. My brother, Shane, would try and match her with smoking the same number of cigarettes and he'd pass out with us dragging him out -arm on each shoulder- by the end of the night. When she lived with us at my dad's house, he'd often give her ultimatums to entice her to stop smoking - they went something like, "its the cigarettes or the grand kids" to which she grabbed my hand and took me on a walk to buy more cigarettes.

If she wasn't reading then she was playing pogo word games. At 80 my grandma could spell better than anyone in our family and she loved to learn the basic functions of computers. We set her up with an AOL account in early 2000 and I have memories of us chatting over AIM9. Every time something went wrong and she couldn't "play her games" she'd call me with this sheepish tone and see if I could come over to fix her computer.10 As I got older, she'd call me and I'd find out that nothing was actually wrong but she just wanted to see me.

Like most kids in Hammond, we went to the community center to play in the public pool. For the first time ever, I got the nerve to stand in the long line for the high diving boards and when it was finally my turn, I took the long walk to the very top... stair after stair I climbed and after taking one look down at the lifeguard in the deep pool below, I turned back around pushing my way back through all of the kids in tears. I was so embarrassed and ran to my grandma for a hug. My grandma, who was not a fan of crying (huge fan of hugs though) enrolled me in swimming classes the very next day and bought a pool for her backyard. In twenty seven years, she is the family member whom I've never seen cry.

A lot of lessons I learned from my grandma were to not live in fear or make the same mistakes she did11 - she pushed me to drive, graduate college, not depend on people, have my own bank account12 and visit Chicago as often as possible. I opened my college scholarship letter at her house, drove to see her to announce that I got my first job, and she bought me my first mattress for my first apartment. The day before my first day at my new career, I came to her nervous and anxious (often staring off) about how the first day would go -- she pulled up the arms of her bathrobe, lit a cigarette, and said "awe Nicoley, everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time - you can't be afraid of anyone."13

There also existed the somewhat dubious advice, like 'if you show that you are good at something then people will just make you do it all of the time' and 'if you ever bowl a gutter ball just laugh and say you meant to do that.'

I'd often drive the hour and a half from the city to see her in Indiana. Leaving her house was hard and I attached a lot of emotion to her walking me out the door and telling me that she'd lock the door behind me. Her humility came through when she expressed that I didn't have to drive out here just for her and to get some sleep. No matter the time she'd offer to cook me whatever she had, last meal and all.14 Sometimes I turned the car around to come back inside and give her one more hug.15

My dad is an anxious guy and we would often fight at her house about whatever things dads and daughters fight about. One of few people able to calm him down, she'd look at him and tell him to knock it off and then look at me and say 'he came out of the womb like that'. Of course, she also wouldn't let me take her to church because, "the building would crumble" if she entered.

One of my favorite traits of her was her ability to laugh at herself like no one else I've ever met. Like her, I hope I can make mistakes and then laugh seriously at them. As she aged, she laughed at herself about shrinking, made jokes about the various ways in which she would haunt me16, and never stopped reading new books. I'll never forget the kind of happiness she showed when I came back to tell her about a new place I had been or someone I was in love with.17 That's rare in a person and if you find someone like that then hold on to them.

My dad told me she would live forever because she was too stubborn to die and my grandmother promised that she'd live until I got married. Now, I have a bone to pick with both of them. Its true that you would have loved the chain smoking, jelly bean eating, astute, and stubborn grandmother that I had. I consider myself lucky if all of my fortunate left with her.

  1. lots of walking -- how many times can you walk down the same road to ask yourself the same question? []
  2. and grief will try and fool you with fear. It'll tell you that your sadness is coming from a different place, nothing is as important as it seems, and you wouldn't feel this way if you did more living. []
  3. Dorothy though, I mean can you come up with more of a classic name? []
  4. and I mean generously - she became in a shut in for a reason. []
  5. My favorite part of hearing this story was that my grandma never imparted any of her feelings - she always told it like it happened and not how she felt about it. []
  6. "I was so so mad," as she told it. []
  7. I should also mention for science that she lived until 92 and I never saw her drink a glass of water or alcohol. Only coffee with powdered creamer for her. []
  8. The experts say she never inhaled but I'm not so sure. []
  9. This is where the 'Gma' nickname began []
  10. She made me write it down and go slow so she could do it herself. []
  11. This was the woman who told another mother on the block to hit her first and cursed out a teacher who took away my brothers magazine. He got his magazine back. []
  12. Never sparing a dime when I was low on funds in college to do laundry. []
  13. A favorite story of hers was when she got a job at the elementary school that my dad went to. The women all got a new coworker and one them went door to door to tell the others about what trash the new one was. The new woman turned out to be pleasant and the door to door weirdo was not be trusted. []
  14. That's my family though. All of them would give the shirt of their back if you need it more. []
  15. She also did not want to be photographed but I still sent my brothers secret pictures of her smoking cigs to let them know that she was breathing. []
  16. I spend most nights praying she'll haunt me or that I'll at least be able to say hello to her in my dreams []
  17. This includes MP to which she said in stubborn fashion that "he would be handsome without the beard". []

Memento Mori

Monday, April 6th, 2020

I made a mistake.
How so?
What's all this for if I can't show you?
I'm sure you remember all of those things I dreamed of doing with you. Someone else will fall for you just as I had.

cr-1

It's a wonder that people haven't forced a way to disarm a volcano. "It's so pretty but just a little less lava and make it more flat... then it would be perfect."

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Cheers from Costa Rica.

Tales from Indiana.

Monday, April 6th, 2020

Alyssa and Caitlin were my best friends from second grade until freshman year. Having a threesome is difficult but we made it work through relentless teasing and laughter. They both were hilarious and we all came from varying degrees of a dysfunctional household; however, Caitlin was gorgeous (she developed Ds before anyone in school, had blonde hair, and a great laugh) and she knew it.1 Therefore, we watched her go through so many shitty dudes. The guys don't vary much in a small town and she seemed to only date clones. I'll never forget the toughest break up she went through... the three of us were hanging out at her place (low supervision and her mom had a hoarding problem which included thousands of CDs to choose from) and listening to album after album. None of us had drank, smoked weed, or done any drugs at this point. The only way we got by was through laughter, tears, and good music. This time it was seven in the morning and we had done another all nighter by watching MTV music videos and cybering on AOL chat rooms (A/S/L). I'll never forget what she told me as rays of the sun cast themselves into rainbows on the plastic CD covers. She said that the only way to get over someone is to teach yourself to hate them.2 At the time, I didn't have the worlds to tell her how fucked up that sounded but I never forgot it.

The last time I spoke to Caitlin3 was when her brother, Kevin, committed suicide. Kevin and my oldest brother were best friends when Caitlin and I were best friends. Eventually, Kevin stopped leaving his room and refused to see anyone. Whenever their family came up between my Dad and I, he told me that something bad was going to happen and someone needed to do something about Kevin. I came when Caitlin called to tell me about her brother. We hung out in her townhouse in Highland(IN) and I smoked weed in the garage while she drank wine. We hadn't spoken for years so it was somewhat of a surprise to me when she called me for support. Apparently her cop boyfriend had proposed to her behind the high school - on the bike trail and now they lived together in this townhouse. Her mother felt like she was settling but according to her, she welcomed comfort after her unstable childhood. In short, her mother was a hoarder and her father faked his own death to escape his family and she also walked into him holding a gun to her mom's head. At twenty she asked me a lot of questions about death that I couldn't directly answer. How do you make someones life meaningful, what do you do with this anger, how do I stop being angry at my mom, why him, and why now? I realized then that she called me because I had the most experience with death out of anyone she knew. I smiled because I remembered that time when we were seven at a sleep over and she told me that she always wished that I could see my mom one last time. The answers I gave her questions don't bare repeating as they weren't very good or conclusive but they were honest.

In truth, no one is granted the chance to have illusions about life. Life is short, temporary, and meaningless by nature. The length and depth are completely up to you.

  1. None of us fit in with the families whose parents made them homemade lunches and picked them up from school. We avoided our homes and hated everyone. []
  2. An approach I have used to pry myself from a few relationships. I prefer looking for the best in people but let's be honest in that it is much easier to find faults. []
  3. Alyssa and I continued our friendship for years after us and Caitlin fell apart. We lived together when I was in college, I broke up her first fight, and saw all of her boyfriends up until the birth of her daughter. I miss her everyday. She was such a good friend that I thought that all of my friends would be like her - that's both a compliment to her and an insult to me. This would have made her laugh. []

La revedere, Timișoara.

Monday, March 30th, 2020

We've been back in Costa Rica for almost a month now. A month of palm trees swaying in the breeze, parrot singing to each other from our balcony, and mangoes falling from the sky during walks under the hot Costa Rican sun. I again remember how the plunging swoop of the great yellow bellied kiskadee goes. The pipa fria flows and the pineapple has quite literally been kissed by the gods. The geckos have all moved back into the house, if only to cackle in the faces of the people who left paradise.

Sitting at my desk, staring into the ever descending valley, and I can remember how excited I was to leave here for a European voyage...All of those months ago, I was told that we were leaving but not where or for how long.1

The unknown of what was to come was exciting in so many ways and before we left, I did eventually find out that we would be landing in Germany and ending up in Romania. My first time in Munich was an overwhelming amount of fun. I was younger then and new things were exciting - regardless of their quality or purpose.2

Our Romanian driver picked us from Germany to take us to whatever the fuck a Timișoara is.3 It was the middle of the night when we finally arrived to Timișoara and even then I could see that the city was run down. In the states, the poorer neighborhoods are segregated so its clear when you've left one and entered another. In Timișoara every fifth house is abandoned and on every other corner you'll find one with missing windows. After living there a year, I couldn't tell you where exactly either the good or bad parts are. I've never quite experienced the sort of pretentiousness that consists of out of work BMW owners speeding by lines of babushka wearing grandmas who are carrying bags of produce and waiting for the buss.

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Imagine if buildings were no longer constructed after the 90s - no improvements or modifications. Whatever you have is what you're stuck living around and that's Timișoara. Okay, fine they did build a new mall that soon flooded from the pool breaking and I have heard that the coffee is better now.

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I'm impressed by how the mannequins looks more attractive than the clothes on display.

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This is not an industrial zone but where the shopping center is - it's naive to let the pipes fool you.

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The streets are much too narrow for the amount of cars that need to park on both sides. So, what we have here is cars parking half on the street and half on the sidewalk (including semis). You won't see police giving out tickets for this nor does anyone at all seem bothered.

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Genuine leaded gas. Suck it EU.

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On the positive side, if you'd like a cat to adopt you can head outside on any given day and on any street and you'll find a cat to pick up and take home with you.

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I think this is for laundry that needs a beating. My friend, Elena, thought that it was cute that I had never started a stove with a match or hung laundry out to dry. Do you believe that they don't use shower curtains? They will cover the table in a plastic cloth, but it never occurs to them to hang the table cloth to block water from flooding the bathroom floor. Also, putting your laundry out to dry is stupid and barbaric.

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Don't be fooled by the rust or over grown bushes - this overpass is working and the only way to cross over the train tracks.

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No one I grew up with believed me when I said that this is not the ghetto part of the city. I will say though that I'm nostalgic for walking around the city with the knowledge that I will be leaving soon.

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In the town center you'll find a park filled with nothing but-busts.4 It's pretty weird and wouldn't you much rather they used female busts? I understand that building the bodies of statues is challenging but why not build one nice full sized statue? Or why not have a leg here or an arm there? Trust that it's really unsettling to walk through a city with scattered heads staring back at you.

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Timișoara's summer concert series. Lots of standing, no dancing, and minimal accommodations (see tent with nothing underneath it). You know, I never met one person who actually liked living there and I never thought I would like a place less than Indiana.

I wish I had a better ending (or beginning and middle. ha) to the story of my time in Timișoara. The girl I was before I entered Romania had never seen a wild snail, used a dutch oven, tasted loveage, or been in a castle...etc so all is not lost. I'll always hold some nostalgia for that little 'city' in Romania.

La revedere si noapte buna.

PS. If you're ever at Piața Petőfi Sándor then find the black and white dog on the corner and give him a pat for me.

  1. I got in trouble for something before we left and spent a few sleepless nights ruminating over the idea that maybe Master would just leave me in Costa Rica. That after weeks I would walk to his house to find everything gone. []
  2. That has changed quite a bit now and I can spot a terrible hotel from being in the lobby only for a few seconds. []
  3. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I would be routinely driving on this exact highway we first took into Romania as apart of our Budapest conquests. []
  4. Not just some park in the middle of nowhere - this is the premiere park of the EU's Cultural Capital. []

Gin-gin flex on them.

Friday, January 10th, 2020

I'm standing in line waiting for the deli clerk to assist me so that I can order fifty leis worth of olives.1 Olives that are on special order from Master and that I took a return trip2 to the "grocery store" for. The woman next to me is crowding me by walking to my right side then my left side then back to my right. I take a deep breath to stop myself from being annoyed by her presence. Hey, you know possibly she also doesn't speak Romanian and was ordered to go to the store. Maybe we'll have to battle it out for the remaining olives - plenty of large cheese wheels to hit her in the head with if it comes to it. These olives haven't been in stock since before Christmas, so I'm ready to go toe-to-toe with anyone in my way. Actually, this is the premiere grocery store and nothing has been in stock since before New Years. Have you ever seen the egg section completely empty? No, how about bare vegetable crates? Yeah me either until I got to the carrefour on January 3rd.

Now that I'm thinking of it, I only see a small amount of olives in the bowl. Oh, I can order now....here we go. Luckily for me, the cashier speaks English and I explain to her that please give me fifty lei worth of olives. She shakes her head to signal no. I look at her with pleading eyes and I know we both know she can't do that. Right, because instead of being able to spend the fifty lei that I have in my pocket I can now only spend five. I ask her to give me all of the remaining olives. The clerk rummages around looking for more olives and finds none... just my luck. I wonder if anyone else in the store is having a similarly devastating moment. Life on the wire, right? I take the tiny package which contains a small amount of olives 3 and head to the check out line. Does stocking items actually mean that the store just orders one item from all of the vendors in a category? Pretty sure you can just use an electronic order management system instead of people for this, but I'm also sure they can use traffic lights instead of roundabouts.4

As per tradition, all of the lines are long so I step into the first one I see.5 I am behind a big guy in line whom is slowly loading his goods onto the belt. He begins to speak Romanian to me and I understand from his gesturing that I can go ahead of him. He then makes a follow up gesture to the self checkout line and mumbles something to which I show my sweet ten lei. You see, this store only has self checkout lines that accept card as payment. As I'm checking out I have the distinct feeling that I've been here before. Oh right, this afternoon.....

While having coffee in town we were reminiscing about the time that I came downstairs to a surprise naked ice cream party. The ice cream was from a shop in town close by. So, I trade my passport to Master for 200 lei to spend on ice cream. I leave the coffee shop in somewhat of a panic for a few reasons. I have not been to the ice cream place in a while, I get nervous easily, and I must get back to the car before anyone else arrived.6 Well, what do you think? Did I find it in time?!

The ice cream shop, Leonidas, was open but no ice cream was in site. Apparently some weirdos don't stock ice cream in winter. Fuck me I thought while running back to the car... All I need now is for them to have gotten to the car before me. I make it to the parking lot7 and the car is still sitting there. I'm now waiting outside of the car feeling the cold wind hitting my face and looking around at the dull brown colors of the buildings surrounding me. This city is especially ugly in the winter without any vegetation to provide some color contrast to the dull and decrepit man made surroundings. It's especially charming with the construction that never seems to have any progress besides spawning new construction in surrounding areas. I'm sad and disappointed at not being able to do something which I was sent off to do. I would have liked to deliver something good but this country tries its best to prevent you from doing so. Didn't this exact thing happen recently? Ohh right the search for zacusca.....

One of the few good things about Romania is the zacusca. After many taste tests of different brands and flavors we finally found the perfect zacusca.8 It's true that this exact zacusca is perfect for tuna, eggs, pork, polenta...etc. but its also almost nowhere to be found. To be more specific - it took us a trip to three stores before we found a jar. The first store we tried is the Costco of Romania EXCEPT without keeping a regular stock of products.9 I would have never imagined that stores could sell pallets of items but not replace them. Unless of course, dogs are actual store managers. They would look really cute with a button up shirt, tie, and a clip board. The second store is a major grocery store which is on almost all major intersections in Timisoara. This store does not carry even one jar of the type we are looking for. The third store we tried out of desperation (since they were the least likely to have it) and bought the last nine jars that were stocked. While loading the jars into the cart I couldn't help but think of my time at Gin-Gin Flex.....

When we first arrived in Timisoara it was decided that I needed a mattress. At this point in my life, I had almost no interaction with Romanians or what it meant to have to search a town in need of a common item. Some days I miss having wide eyes. The first store we looked for a mattress in was set up in such a way that the store was composed of showcases instead of sections. If you want a mattress you have to visit a dozen show cases and dig through the bedding, pillows, and frame just to look at a single mattress. Pretty dumb. We left the store quickly and haven't been back since. I remember thinking about all of the mattress stores in the states. The small town that I was from had a least six pure mattress stores.10

The next store we were trying is named Gin-Gin Flex, small, and is painted purple. I dodge a mattress that's canopying over the entrance and narrowly avoid walking over one on the floor. The place is filled with wall to wall to floor mattresses. A little old woman appears from seemingly nowhere and explains to us that we can pick out whichever 'Italian' mattress that we would like but they don't deliver. So no, you are not going to get help from the person who works at the mattress store to carry the mattress nor are you going to be able to have it delivered. This place is a true flex. On to the next one.

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The next one being the major construction/home goods store of the area. The place had great mattresses and I enjoyed bouncing from mattress to mattress until I found the perfect one; however, the employees refused to help us take it from a standing stack to either our cart or the car. I'm still not really sure how they can claim to sell mattresses or have employees. With this logic our house is a bar since we have a large collection of liquors and no we wont get it for you, you can't take it to your car, and your money is no good here.

The register ding brings me back from my memory and I hand over five lei...

Cheers to whatever things may be missing next.
May we always find you.

  1. I struggled with the phrasing of this sentence because no numbering system exists for ordering from the deli in Romania. No little red machines guys that you pull out numbers from. You may be wondering how you know when its your turn. You don't really, just connect with your mob mentality and mean mug the person next to you until the person behind the counter notices you want something. []
  2. Ya see, we got home with the olives and he liked them so much that he sent me right back to the store to get more. []
  3. The small amount is actually less than the original amount we came home with. []
  4. Roundabouts are a real mess in Timisoara by creating/enabling traffic. People are to afraid to merge and there is a light-less pedestrian lane cutting through the traffic going straight through the roundabout car entrances. Drivers entering the roundabout on the right will turn on their left blinker. It's like a hedgehog running in circles came up with the system. []
  5. The lines may be so long because not everyone uses bags to pack their groceries. What they do is load the items from their cart onto the belt and then reload them from the belt directly into their cart. Only to place them into their vehicle as free standing objects. Perhaps they don't actual have a pantry or cupboards and will just run to their trunk when an item is needed in the kitchen. This is the best reasoning I can offer. []
  6. I was told to meet them at the car but the implication is that I better be there first. []
  7. This is only one of three public parking lots for the entire city centre. I'm actually surprised that they even had the foresight to create one parking lot. []
  8. I'm greedy so therefore not telling you which brand/flavor it is, more for us - haha. []
  9. Well that and the store prevents paying customers from parking in the entire first lane. Nothing says customer service like walk your cart loaded with bulk products to the back. []
  10. At one point, my dad got rid of the mattress that was in my childhood bedroom and wanted to buy me another one. I stayed home when my brother and him went to look for mattresses. Our family almost exclusively bought furniture from one store named Lenards. Apparently, the two of them went to Lenards and asked for the cheapest twin mattress they sold. Well, the store didn't have the cheapest mattress in stock and he didn't want to order it. So, then he asked for the second cheapest mattress and it was also out of stock. This is how I ended up with the third cheapest twin mattress in Lenards. I really do appreciate my dad not making me sleep on the floor....or that cot that we had tried first. Also shout out to Lenards which has since changed its name to Couch Potato. []

Belgrade, Nis, Edirne, & Istanbul

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

Belgrade hasn't at all changed since I was first there some seven months ago. I used to like the city and most people will - if you are only there for a weekend and stay at hotel Moskva. The city is overpopulated, small, and has nowhere to party for someone out of college (both in budget and mindset). We polled a large number of girls who all confirmed that the places to party are the four blocks in the city center, another street by the river, or river boats (each decrease in space, respectively). Oh, but to get to a river boat you must first got through a gypsy village (avoid driving over chickens) and make yourself a parking spot. I even ventured into a river boat to talk to someone who worked there, but stopped when a homeless man yelled at me to be quiet while he hand fed fed his six kittens. I apologized and left... I mean conceivably that's a better use for the boat then filling it with people and advertising it as party.

The best parts of Belgrade are really only hotel Moskva and the roasted chestnuts.1

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It's anyone's guess as to what's appealing about a sexy rabbit lamp and with legs like that I very much regret not begging for it.

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Do not be deceived, this is indeed real ice cream at the cafe in the hotel. I can't say enough wonderful things about hotel Moskva and this is despite them not letting us eat at the restaurant in our bathrobes.

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The adventure continues on to Nis, Serbia which I very much recommend visiting. The Emperor Constantine was born here (which is advertised on a sign on the highway) and the city holds other historical sites. The place looks like its been through enough shakedowns to be compared to Timisoara. However, unlike Timisoara they aren't too smart to dutifully maintain their history. You can also actually find a good few places for a repast.

Da skull tower.

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We should really bring back the phrase 'for the bones of the saints'.

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So we did stay an awful night in Sofia, Bulgaria. No pictures were taken and the city was as I imagine Bucharest to be. A decrepit capital built up by the idea that the place needed a capital city.

Crossing the border into a foggy Turkey felt like the long awaited promise land. The city of Edirne did not disappoint. The place was buzzing with vendors and friendly people pulling carts, tossing fish, and selling fruit. Dogs and cats roamed the streets freely on their own business and the fog finally cleared. It felt like being somewhere new as opposed to another European city with the same problems under a different name.

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The shops are so cute that they look goose sized.

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Take it from me that dogs in Turkey don't like lamb bones. I tried to give a few dogs a bone and they wouldn't even lift up their heads. I can only imagine what sort of decadent food these dogs get daily from the shopkeepers. You'll have to find another way to tip them for posing for your picture.

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On to Istanbul and to the baklava.2

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Leaving Istanbul so abruptly meant more than just saying goodbye to a city. The way out was filled with pain, confusion, and mistakes. I have to remember to not attach myself to the feeling of possibility that paved the road on the way in. Reality never matches the dreams that you carry with you. Even Newton died knowing that he wouldn't ever discover alchemy. If I ever again have the chance to return, may I be wiser, better, and more prepared for all that may come.

  1. I hate chestnuts but love delivering them. Not many things are more satisfying then searching at night for a vendor, finding one who had just put the nuts to the fire, buying all of them while a line of people form, and sprinting away after he gives you the last bag. You gotta run to ensure a hot delivery to your Master and it also leaves people confused with a story to tell. []
  2. I was addicted to baklava back in Chicago. My friend would make Turkish coffee and offer me baklava from one of the Turkish shops in the neighborhood. Turkish coffee takes a lot of concentration to make and she would often burn it as I distracted her by packing bong after bong. I feel nostalgic for those days and her. Living with her in Chicago introduced a whole world of imported food that I get to authentically taste now. []

Chicago 2018

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

I was telling some friends about my time in Chicago around this time last year and they enjoyed the story. Maybe you will too.

Around two years ago by now, I was sitting at tapas1 with my good friend, Amanda, drinking our favorite pink sangria and texting her boyfriend's wife about what type of (surprise) engagement ring my friend would like best.2 To be clear, this was after our waitress/friend had told us about her wedding and baby plans with her girlfriend. Apparently, her lesbian twin sister who was already married just had a baby and the process was smooth.

It was the usual Friday routine so after we ate and got tipsy we headed upstairs to hit the bong and dance around until one or both of us passed out after the long work week.

Flash forward a year later and I'm flying into Chicago from Costa Rica to meet her at the airport in a reunion of tears, laughter, and more tears. Her wedding was in a few days and so much was left for us to do. First tacos though from the best taco place in the city which is next to the gay bar, the Jackhammer, and leather sex shop. The place is open all night and after 12AM count on seeing costumed men ordering tacos and making out.

I spent the night with her in the same building I used to live in. You know that saying about how when you return to a place you find that it hasn't changed but you yourself are different? It's true and at times makes me nostalgic for the person that I used to be.

The following morning I walked the fifteen minutes to meet my other three friends at their new apartment. We drove to Boystown for a boozy brunch. I can't remember the name of the restaurant (probably due to the amount of Bellini that was consumed) but it was great and as we were finishing up a drag show was starting. They walked with me to a sex shop to help with my task of picking out butt plugs and other such items. I was looking for a tail and the choices were slim. The first tail plug I picked out was rainbow and we agreed that it was much to sugargay so the blue unicorn one was selected. I was surprised to hear that they were worried for me because of the size (which was the smallest) of the plugs. Purchases were made and I walked out with a bag full of plugs, tails, and double ended dildos. From there we headed to my friends car which was ....not in the spot she left it. What no one noticed before was the tow signs and yup her car had been picked up. She started crying, my other friend complained about not wanting to pay for this etc., and I stood there with my bag full of toys. Another girl picked us up and the 200 was paid to get her car out of the impound lot. Damn the man. Enough of this for one day. I linked back up with Amanda for wedding shopping.

Chicago has this street lined with stores which sell fantastic cheap costume jewelry. So many stores and such pretty things. After shopping, we spent the rest of the night laughing until our stomachs hurt and sitting on the beach listening to the sound of the waves from cold Lake Michigan.

The next day was her wedding in the evening and she had a hair and make up appointment in the morning. I woke up to find her crying in panic and I am still to this day ashamed to admit that I was unable to console her. I got her to focus on my list of tasks to do rather than hers and we went on a scavenger hunt through the city for things like Russian sprats (which we found because Chicago is great). By the time we got to her wedding she was done crying and we were ready to celebrate. One of our friends gifted her home made weed cookies which were consumed at the table. Poly weddings are special, the amount of love that goes into the wife being the one to marry the two off is something to see.

The next day was my last day in the city and was mostly spent chilling, drinking, and eating at various peoples houses. There was another boozy brunch, more weed, and of course tacos.

Amanda and I went to the airport together the following morning in a long and bitter sweet car ride. The emotions were short lived though because I almost missed my flight due to the airline not wanting to sell me return tickets. I never before ran through an airport to make an international flight but hey, I did it and all was not lost. Even the guy driving the luggage carriage was cheering me on to let me know I made the flight! That's pretty much Chicago though. If you are smart enough to look past the idea that bullets are flying past your head at any given moment then you'll see the friendly, accepting, and sometimes high cast of characters who make up city that I love.

Pictures below are from Chicago, the wedding, & as a bonus included are additional unflattering images of me mouth-wide-open and midcackle!

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  1. My favorite tapas spot was below our apartment building. The building itself was on the same block as the beach and the neighborhood weed dealer hung out front for a trifecta of convenience. []
  2. I'll never forget the day when she called to say she had something important to tell me and would understand any reaction to the news. Her new friend had hooked her up with her husband, she was in love with him and now in a polyamorous relationship. I told her that was gross and was ashamed of her life choices. Or possibly I said what any true friend would say, which is that I loved her so much and also I had already been in a poly relationship. []

Vienna

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Back to the first stop of the trip, Vienna. The city is as beautiful as it is functional and it may the last of its kind. You have to go see it now because as I've learned from travel...hardly anything stands the test of time and its mostly just a question of when.

The Spanish Riding School1

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Two old women were gabbin the whole time we were watching the show. One pulls out an apple from her purse and starts chomping on it in front of the horses, so rude. What's next she takes out some sugar cubes and starts licking them?

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Schönbrunn Palace

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A storefront mouse workin' his storefront.

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Belvedere Museum

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I have a much greater appreciation for these tools after transcribing the Philosophical Transactions. Give it a read and you'll see what I mean.

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The Albertina

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I took the train from Vienna to Linz by myself for an infraction that I won't repeat the details of again. I will say though that the train ride was unenjoyable, desperate, and lonely. Not eating for a few days and then running through the train station while random thoughts fill your head with panic and a feeling of uncontrollable loss is a recipe for passing out. All of that being said, the next week was still much more challenging to get through. I was consumed in sadness and failed to take any other pictures besides this one of the platform. My time in Vienna came to an abrupt stop which is also another reason to avoid wasting time and missing out on a city that may never be as great as it is now.2

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  1. You're not actually allowed to take pictures inside. I got caught and cut off so please enjoy! []
  2. A woman in the same car as I was wearing a ball gown length shinny emerald dress with a fur shrug, a hat to match the outfit, and a gladstone bag. She was the perfect character to accompany a person on the train. I was afraid that when my stop was called that I would be stepping onto the platform of 1800's Linz. Regretfully, I did not get a picture of her but I am sure she's somewhere in the world escaping from danger with just enough time. []

Frankfurt-Linz

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

So, after Linz but before Brno/Prague we visited Frankfurt. This was a rather sad trip for me. The city itself is so dirty and filled with garbage that you would think the people who live there actually despise it. I stopped keeping track of the amount of rats and we never found aworththemention place to eat or have coffee. The hottest nightlife spot consisted of teenagers drinking bottles of wine outside the city center while blasting US rap. I'd rather live in Timisoara (and that's saying something because I'd rather be in Highland than in Timisoara) and am thankful that we only stayed the amount of time we did. That being said, I only took two pictures:

This is a view from our hotel room as the sunset.

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A niche shop filled with so many different kinds of brushes.

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Munich similarly let us down and so we skipped Berlin all together. It's a sad thing when a place decays past the point of it's historical value.

Though the thing I won't ever forget about Frankfurt is the first meal we had there. I was a few days off of the harshest sentence I've gotten thus far and listened to some powerful, shocking, true, and heartbreaking things at that meal. I'll continue to reflect on what was said and let it be known that the lesson is not lost on me. However, the shattered feeling of pain still sits with me like a familiar friend on the edge of my bed. Speaking of old friends, I have to say that I am grateful for the man who talked me away from being consumed by anger and despair during this time - thirteen years of consistent, unyielding, vulnerable, love, and honest friendship.

Anyways, on to the small Austrian city of Linz.

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View from the top of the Pöstlingberg.1

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It's an incredible thing to feel so small while standing on top of the world. The trees in Europe during fall are absolutely beautiful and I missed the season while in Costa Rica.

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Gnome house and the first hint that we should have hit the dirt and gotten out of there.

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Because gnomes are fucking evil. The little bastards took over the forests and imprison all of the bears. Look how creepily they build things.

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Clearly they also force the bears do drugs and have cubs so that they can put them to work being stung by bees and harvesting honey. Poor bear is stuck in a tiny cage.

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And the tiger is so desperate to escape from the evil enslavement and propaganda machine that the gnomes built a city from.2

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Definitely poison.

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A city filled with death, destruction, and enslavement of forest animals. Never trust a gnome.

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  1. Look up the Johnstown Inclined Plane sometime. []
  2. Walking through this story time village felt like I was in game of Rampage. []