Thursday, March 31, 2005

12:30 am call from the parents

Bob invited me over last night for homemade pot roast (which was fabulous), Shark Tale (which was too cute for its own good) and a look at my pictures from Europe (which I hope weren’t too boring). After we sat around for the rest of the evening solving all the world’s problems on our full tummies, I thanked him for dinner, headed out at the exact moment I needed to catch the last express bus north (because I have a wide array of superpowers), putzed around on my computer for a while with a Kleenex in my hand when I got home, and climbed into bed.

And just as I was in that happy place between snuggly under the sheets and worthless lump of sleeping man-flesh, my phone rang. And I just knew it was my mom (remember: superpowers). And I sat bolt-upright with my heart flailing around like a drag queen in a marabou boa.

At 36 (and 50 weeks!), I still get the occasional drunk-dials in the middle of the night, but the superpowers help me identify those calls by sound and I can just stick my head under a pillow and fall back asleep rather quickly.

But late-night or early-morning phone calls from the family have historically meant only one of two things: bad news (the dog died) or worse news (the cancer, the plane crash). Otherwise, we just don’t call each other when normal folks are in bed. Seriously. Our hearts can’t take it.

Worse yet, the number on my Caller ID last night was Mom’s cell phone—which, of course, meant that either someone was trapped in a car overturned in a rain-swollen ditch or there’s been an international kidnapping. (I’m good at interpreting the signs. It must be from watching all those episodes of CSI. Or maybe it’s the superpowers.)

Trembling (literally), I answered the phone. And Mom’s first words to me were: “Bonjour from the Eiffel Tower!” Which is exactly what I’d said when I’d called my folks from the actual Eiffel Tower a couple weeks earlier. So Mom was clearly calling in the middle of a life-flashing-before-her-eyes thing and it was too late for me to save her. Because Mom couldn’t actually be in the Eiffel Tower—she was in Iowa.

And then it hit me: She wasn’t in Iowa. She was in Las Vegas visiting her cousin. And (as she explained over the phone) they were eating at a restaurant in that fake Eiffel Tower above Paris Las Vegas. Or the Elvisio. Or whatever the hotel is that has the fake Eiffel Tower. (Don’t look at me; I’ve never been to Vegas.)

She had time-zone issues. She was excited about her trip. She didn’t realize how late it was. She just wanted to call and kill me say hello.

And after my heart found its way back down into my chest, I crawled back into bed and slept like the dead. And I mean that in the just-an-expression kind of way.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The woman on the train

I knew there was something wrong the moment I saw her. She was standing at the top of the steps on the northbound Belmot Red Line platform, and she was doing that off-kilter leaning-only-at-the-waist thing that people do when they’re really, really drunk.

But she wasn’t really acting drunk—and on further observation, she seemed more lethargic than intoxicated, more physically unstable than chemically impaired, as though she might be suffering from a neurological disorder.

Granted, I didn’t have much time to observe her; I reached the platform as the train was just about to pull into the station. And I wasn’t on an anthropological mission anyway—I had gotten a (way cool) tattoo about 10 minutes earlier, and that was pretty much the only thing I was interested in thinking about.

It was around 7 pm on a Wednesday, and the woman was dressed as though she might have been coming home from work as maybe a cashier in a diner or a housekeeper in a motel. She looked like she didn’t have a lot of money, but she’d worked hard to look as nice as possible within the limits of her budget.

But in sharp contrast to her tidy appearance, there was clearly something wrong with her. I even saw a man walking cautiously away from her as I came up the stairs, as though he’d been moved to step in and see if she needed any help.

I half-interestedly absorbed all this in the 15 seconds between when I reached the platform and when the first cars of the train started rolling by us. At that point the train had slowed down significantly—though it was still going fast enough that you couldn’t make out any faces in the cars as they whizzed by.

The woman started shuffling toward the train. But she didn’t stop at that magical at-least-a-foot-away point where everyone else stops. No, she didn’t stop shuffling until the train was rolling by her about an inch from her face. And she was still wobbly, bobbing and weaving dangerously close to the frames around the windows and doors … and the gaps between the cars, which with one ill-timed wobble could easily grab her, drag her along the platform and crush her in front of hundreds of horrified onlookers.

My brain, not processing what I was witnessing very efficiently, kept me frozen in my tracks as she stood there. I figured maybe she was extremely nearsighted and this is how she always caught the train. I figured the man I’d seen walking away from her was some kind of friend who’d help her if she needed it. I wondered at what point onlookers are supposed to decide that an unstable woman doing dangerous things on a train platform needs intervention. I wondered all of this in the space of a couple seconds.

The guy she’d been talking to earlier—whose brain was obviously the only one fully engaged on the platform—finally ran up and grabbed her by the back of her coat and yanked her away from the train. Barely registering his presence, though, she gave him an unfocused scowl and determinedly wobbled back to her position an inch away from the moving cars—which, after all this, were still going pretty fast.

And then it happened. She wobbled too close, and the frame of a train window CLOCKED her in the head. The momentum spun her around violently, her face an instant mess of blood and bruising and train grime. Yet she never fell over, never dropped her bag—in fact, aside from a brief stunned expression, she never even really looked as though she realized what had just happened. Not even when she reached up to her mouth and spit a bloody tooth into her hand.

By then, the train had stopped and a sea of people spilled out onto the platform. I saw her wobble onto the car directly behind the one I entered. Through the windows, I watched her take her seat. I watched her fish a dirty Kleenex out of her purse and try to sop up the bloody mess on her face that she obviously wasn’t completely comprehending. I watched her mumble and yell and draw stares like the crazy homeless woman the people around her thought she was … the people who had no idea that she’d just come within a hair of dying a grisly, horrible death in front of hundreds of helpless onlookers.

And I felt sick.

“That woman is drunk off her ass.”

I turned around to see the guy who’d pulled her away from the train a few moments earlier. He’d obviously seen her get hit, he’d been watching me watch her, and he looked even more shaken than I felt.

I told him I figured he knew her because he was the only one interacting with her. He said he’d just been kind of trapped into watching out for her as she stumbled around the platform before the train arrived. He said she reeked of alcohol, and that she hadn’t even been sure she was at the right train station. He said she’d refused his help when he offered it.

And then I felt sick and angry. Angry that this woman’s alcoholic stupor was causing so many strangers so much anguish. Angry that her choices almost got her mangled to a bloody pulp in front of a crowd of people whose lives would be forever altered by helplessly watching her die. Angry that only one person on our entire platform was unjaded enough to step in and offer her a meager bit of assistance. Angry that her “pro-life” government was so busy grandstanding over one hopelessly vegetative woman who gave good press that it couldn’t offer meaningful assistance to ambulatory, sentient people whose lives were far too unremarkable to fire up the faithful.

The man and I kept talking, watching her absently tend to her wounds through the train window. A few stops later, she got off and shuffled toward the steps that would take her down to the street.

Her face was still a mess. The Kleenex in her hand was soaked. And she still looked like she had no idea that anything had happened to her.

But, for once, she was walking straight. Upright. As though the events of the evening had at least given her a moment of sobriety.

Monday, March 28, 2005

You're probably gonna hate me for this

but I've had "Sweet Caroline" stuck in my head all morning.

And now so do you.

Hands!
Touching hands!
Reaching out!
Touching me!
Touch. Ing. Yooou!

Sweet Caroline!
Good times never seem so good.
I've been inclined
to believe they never would!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Homemade éclairs!

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Don't be too impressed. This is the only fancy thing I know how to make. I can somehow produce reliable pastry dough from scratch without losing any major fingers in the mixer and I use a cook-it-yourself pudding mix for the filling. I haven't quite mastered the art of the pastry bag (at least not the art of the pastry bag that doesn't involve getting filling all over my shirt), so I use the time-honored cut-and-scoop method. And then I hide the sutures with lots of easy-to-make chocolate glaze.

And now I'm off to share my vast single culinary skill with some friends at a lovely Easter brunch.

Commence making yummy sounds.

Friday, March 25, 2005

How to score guys online*

Guy #1: You’re hot.
(Guy #1 if he’s a moron: Your hot.)

Guy #2: Thanks. You too.
(Guy #2 if he’s a lazy fuck: Tks – U2)

Guy #1: We should hook up sometime.

Guy #2: Yeah. That would be hot.

Guy #1: Yeah.

*Do not deviate from this script—unless it’s to ask for more pictures, which you are obligated to deem “hot” in the event some are emailed to you. Do not read any profiles; instead, simply ask “into?” and force the other parties to restate the sexual preferences they’ve already clearly spelled out in their profiles. Do not let this conversation develop any faster than one post every five minutes. Do not attempt this conversation with anyone who lives closer than 500 miles from you. In the event one party attempts to take this conversation any farther, do not respond for three hours, then send an apologetic email (optional) explaining that your phone rang and/or your computer crashed and/or your parents caught on fire. Do not acknowledge each other the next time you’re both online, unless it’s to repeat this conversation and ask for more pictures. Do not hook up.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Friends in high places

I thought living in a 250-unit highrise would give me an instant community of friends and an endless string of evenings sharing bottles of wine Pepsi over impromptu neighborly dinners.

I had big social plans for the inhabitants of the 11 units on my floor when I moved in four years ago. BIG social plans: open-door parties, plant-watering services, built-in dates when real dates couldn’t be secured, borrowed cups of sugar, friendly help with DIY projects … it was essentially going to be dorm life without the homework. Or the Flock of Seagulls haircuts.

Unfortunately, the inhabitants of my floor—at least the handful of them I’ve met—aren’t exactly the ideal dramatis personæ for playing out my social fantasies. To wit: the unbalanced gay couple who won’t answer their door after they invite me over and who won’t tell me what they do for a living, the disheveled hermit whose place looks like the set of Earthquake: The Musical, the barking dog who doesn’t seem to live with any discernible human, the steady parade of guilty-looking miscreants who move in and out of the one rental unit with alarming frequency, and the squatty Polish lady police officer with the hearing problem and the mullet whose increasingly frequent orgasms ring loud and clear through the wall we share. LOUD AND CLEAR. (Though I was shocked to hear the moans of men coming from her place as well; I would have bet lots of money she drove a doughnut truck, if you know what I mean.)

Despite my optimistic social aspirations, though, the sad reality of highrise living is this: empty hallways lined with securely shut doors, elevator floors that are too fascinating to tear your eyes away from and (in my building, at least) an abundance of monolingual Russian grandmothers who smell like borscht.

The only real place to meet people in my building is the elevators (making friends in the laundry room is for some reason so totally uncool even Britney wouldn’t try it). But with three elevators and a population somewhere in the 400 range, it’s extremely hard to run into the same people in my building more than once a month. Which makes it all but impossible to cultivate friendships that last more than the time it takes to hit the lobby.

And I—your pathologically shy protagonist—have nevertheless worked my BUTT off trying to build enduring elevator friendships. Even with people who look boring. Even with people who don’t speak English. Even with people being carted out by the coroner.

My easiest point of entry so far has been dogs. Our building is littered (HA! LITTERED!) with them, and they’re constantly being ushered in and out for elevator rides and bowel-voiding adventures. I discovered early on, though, that the your-dog’s-beautiful-what’s-his/her-name approach is too small-talky to induce lifetime relationships—so I’ve been reduced to more drastic measures: Talking directly to the dogs. Which has to get to the point quickly if it’s going to impress the dogs’ owners:

me (in exaggerated doggie-voice excitement): Are we going outside to POOP? Are we going outside to POOP?
dog: wag wag wag
dog’s owner: (chuckle chuckle) We sure are!
me (as elevator door is opening): So … um … can I have your number?

I know: It wouldn’t even work for someone as beautiful and charismatic as Trent Lott.

Speaking of molten dog crap, a shitz-poo with an alarmingly full rectum actually got me involved in an elevator chat last night that ended in an hour-long conversation with a guy on my floor and tours of both his place and mine. Woo-hoo!

See, the dog left a rather soupy, revolting mess on the Senate lobby floor, and once we got on the elevator, this guy and I laughed about how glad we were not to be the poor owner who had to clean it all up and face the world every day knowing that she actually owned something called a shitz-poo. And when we realized we lived on the same floor and we weren’t both hooker-killing sociopaths, we became Best Friends Forever. Except I can’t remember his name. And I already asked him twice what it is.

Here’s the kicker: He’s lived on my floor for more than two years. There are only 11 units on my floor. And we’d never met until last night—which just underscores how challenging and unlikely it is to meet people in my building.

But he does live on the other side of Orgasm Lady, whose hearty vocal stylings waft into his place as loudly and clearly as they do mine.

So you might say she’s what’s been coming between us all these years.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Position available: Boyfriend

Primary responsibility: Applying and removing band-aids to/from the middle of my back every morning for the next two weeks.

Secondary responsibilities: Not laughing at the patch of bald skin on my thigh that I shaved so the band-aids won’t hurt so damn much when I pull them off every morning.

Required skills: Proficiency at band-aid application and removal in otherwise unreachable locations, a marked lack of squeamishness regarding stitched-up biopsy wounds (which seem to have stopped oozing by now), not hogging all the ibuprofen.

Compensation: Negotiable. Band-aids and polysporin provided by employer. Romantic boyfriend activities (including wild monkeysex, where applicable) available upon request.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Gay and bi (opsied)

So I went in for my triple biopsy today. And it was actually kinda boring.

I don’t know what the hell I was expecting that would have made it exciting—oily bodybuilders playing trumpets, say, or maybe Ann Coulter struggling to pull herself out of Rush Limbaugh’s saggy rectum—but the whole procedure was about as remarkable as Dubya reciting the alphabet all the way to the LMNOPs.

I did get to wear a hospital gown, though. And that’s always fun.

The procedure happened in two parts: First the nurse identified the three moles the doctor wanted to hack out of me, she injected some numbing/anti-bleeding agent on each site and then let it all simmer for about 10 minutes. (And that numbing stuff WORKED! As I was simmering, I poked and scratched my numby areas over and over—you know: just to make sure—and I felt NOTHING. Kinda like when I see an attitude queen get makeup all over his Prada or a hateful, malignant pope disappear into a fog of dementia.)

When the doctor came in for the second part of the biopsy, she used a pencil-sized cookie-cutter thing to punch out the moles, she sewed everything up with a few quick stitches, slapped on a few bandages and called me Mary done. I even sat up to watch the whole procedure for the mole on my thigh. And honestly, even though I could SEE her slicing and poking and removing and stitching my very own flesh, I couldn’t feel a thing. Not even nausea.

And now, all that’s left is the healing. (And the diagnosis, I guess. I suppose that part is kinda important too.)

The healing involves cleaning my wounds and changing my bandages twice a day for two weeks until the stitches come out. (Two of the bandages are on my back, so this project should be fun in a circus mime sort of way.) I’m also not supposed to work out during those two weeks so my manly, bulging muscles won’t rip open the stitches. (Seeing as how my muscles bulge in the same way the EPA actually Ps the E, though, I think I’ll just let the pain and potential-bleeding moistness dictate when I head back to the gym. Besides, if I don’t get to work out, I start feeling all fat and irritable. And don’t nobody want that.)

Of course, three moles have to weigh—and I’m guessing here—about 10 or 15 pounds each, right? So I suppose with all the weight I had removed today, I can totally let myself get all fat. And nobody will be the wiser.

Unless one of you, dear readers, is some kind of MOLE.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Instructions

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I totally stole this from Dan. But it's been making me giggle all day, and my friends all hate me now because I've forwarded it to them about seven times each I thought it might be nice to share with you.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I've doubled my tat collection!

TATTOO #1:
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art: Mickey Mouse
location: outside left ankle
location appropriateness for showing co-workers (1-10): 8
pain factor (1-10): 7.5
tat date: the day after Thanksgiving 1991
healing time: months and months of scabbing and bleeding and limping (I felt like I'd been clubbed)
cost: $50 in cash, can't remember if I left a tip
reason: ink gives you street cred
observation: it's really hard to take a clear picture of the outside of your own ankle

TATTOO #2:
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art: the date and finishing time for my first marathon
location: lower back, just below my underwear line
location appropriateness for showing co-workers (1-10): 1
percentage of co-workers I've shown it to anyway: 80
pain factor (1-10): 5
tat date: the day before St. Patrick's Day 2005
healing time: 48 hours, minimal bleeding
cost: $60 + $10 tip on a credit card that gives me cash back!
reason: marathon bragging rights, an excuse to get another tattoo
observation: it's really hard to take a clear picture of the space just above your own buttcrack

TATTOO #2 REJECTED LOCATION:
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location: arch of my right foot
expected pain factor (1-10): I was gonna guess around 4
demonstrated PhotoShop skills (1-10): 1.5
reasons for wanting that location: foot tattoos are sexy, it won't be embarrassingly prominent when I'm 80, my right leg is the one that gave me all the trouble when I was training for and running the marathon and IT MUST BE PUNISHED
reason that location was rejected: the tattoo guy said that your feet slough off cells so quickly, the tattoo would literally be gone in a matter of weeks
location appropriateness for showing co-workers (1-10): 5
percentage of co-workers I would have shown it to anyway: 90
observation: it's really hard to take a clear picture of the arch of your own foot

Friday, March 18, 2005

My not-so-celebrity mole

So this morning I finally started the second leg of the 2005 Cancer and Heart Disease False Alarm Tour.

(The heart disease false alarm, you may recall, involved an irregular EKG that proved to be within the bounds of acceptable irregularity after a very-much-not-fun stress test last month. Today I went in for (what I plan on being) false alarm #2: a mole that had grown a brain and a mouth and some scabby little hands and therefore wasn’t looking like it had much of a future on the beauty pageant circuit.)

But when the doctor saw my scabby, ill-shapen mole thingie this morning, she shrugged and looked COMPLETELY unimpressed. (These beauty pageant judges can be SO harsh. Fortunately, little Scabby Abby has thick skin.) The doctor said the scabby thing was a very common, very benign something-or-other (it had a real purdy name I asked her to repeat three times so I could blog about it—because I’m THAT dedicated to my readers—but I still can’t remember what the hell it’s called).

It had taken more than five weeks from the initial referral to get an opening in the mole doctor’s schedule, and the scabby thing (the mole, not the mole doctor) had all but healed in that time. But while she (the mole doctor, not the mole) was ogling my dermis (which sounds naughty in a Deep Space Nine kind of way), she noticed a bunch of other moles that gave her considerable paws. (HA! Mole paws!)

So she decided to do a complete body check—which started with a complimentary wardrobe makeover! She handed me the appropriate couture—a chic sheath in aquamarine cotton muslin featuring pearly white spaghetti straps along a plunging peek-a-boo opening in the back—and once I was suitably dressed, she promptly had me take the damn thing off entirely and so she could begin her poking and prodding and microscoping of my complete dermis (including what she politely called my “bottom”).

Now, I’m so moley that I’m surprised she could even decide where to start looking. I’m so moley, in fact, that the producers of Celebrity Mole wouldn’t even let me be on their show because I’d be such an obvious giveaway. And because I’m not a celebrity. And because I never auditioned.

Anyway, she dove right in and started taking measurements and making sounds of concern and mapping out my dermal constellation on a poorly drawn body shape on some official medical document.

And she found at least a pound of flesh she wanted to hack out of me. But she narrowed it down to three moles that had the worst ABCD violations from the Mole Code of Conduct (Asymmetry, Border Irregularity, Color and … um … just being a total Douchebag).

So you could say that next week I’m going in for a triple biopsy. (Please re-read that sentence carefully, especially if you’re a gold digger: It’s a triple biopsy, not a triple bypass. So don’t expect to marry me and inherit my vast stockpile of wealth Kenny G CDs when I topple over a week later with my hand dramatically clutching my heart. Because the joke would be on you! They’re Barry Manilow! And they’re LPs! Besides, we already learned that my ticker—despite an EKG that’s as queer as a football bat—is still essentially fine.)

Again, I choose not to be even remotely concerned about any of this until I have a very specific reason to be. Like looking down to find my cold, dead heart in my own bloody hands. The only downside to having the biopsies is the vanity crisis they’ll generate when I won’t be able to work out for almost a week while the stitches heal. ACK! If I can’t work out, nobody will sleep with talk to sleep with me!

And speaking of dermal scabbing, the tattoo is healing nicely. Once it stops looking like it might scare the wimmen and children, I’ll post pictures. (Remember: It’s in a place that’s not very appropriate to show people at work. Not that that has stopped me.)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I’m still called an admiral

Here are a few more painfully long, relentlessly overwritten memories of our fabulous Rainbow Tour through Madrid and Paris:

TOURISTS
Why do Asian countries limit the amount of children their citizens can have? To make room for all the photo albums.*

*This joke has been approved by an actual camera-toting Asian tourist who laughed just as hard as the rest of us** at the compulsive photojournalism displayed by EVERY cluster of Asians we encountered in Europe.

**And by “the rest of us” I mean the U.N. microcosm my friends and I made as we toured Europe last week. There were four of us: a black guy, a white guy (I was the white guy!), an Asian woman and a Hispanic woman. Or, to be slavishly PC about it: An African-American male (who was born in Guam), a Norwegian-German-Swedish-American male (who was born in Iowa), a Filipino-American woman (who was actually born in Manila) and a Mexican woman who is in the process of being nationalized as an American.

But in the shorthand of friendly familiarity—and because we all see PC nomenclature as a silly load of crap—we ended up calling each other, simply, the black guy, the white guy (I was the white guy!), the Asian and the Mexican. And we never missed an opportunity to make fun of the stereotypes that go with those labels. (I, as a white Northern European mutt, didn’t have much to offer in the way of mockable stereotypes, so I made sure to let my friends know they could always make fun of my Homosexual-Americanness and my people’s proud legacy of oppressing their peoples.)

And our endless conversations about how the Mexicans take all the good jobs away from the blacks and how the Asians never lose people in their tour groups because they’re so good at counting raised quite a few Parisian and Madridian eyebrows.

But then those Europeans can be so freakin’ judgmental.

SHOPPING
Shopping in Paris is hard. At least in the department stores. See, once you find what you want and try it on, you have to take it back to the people from the department where you found it so they can take off the tags and write up a paper receipt for you. You repeat this process in every department where you find something you want to buy. Then you take the handwritten receipts (and sometimes your merchandise, but sometimes they want you to come back and pick it up after you’ve paid for it) to the cashier station (called la caisse) so the cashier can transform your handwritten receipts into one electronic receipt and then take your money. Mon dieu!

BUT NOT ALWAYS. Because if you see something else you like when you’re heading off to la caisse with your handwritten receipts and you decide to buy it, the clerks in that department will sometimes want you to just add it on your pile and have the cashier do the two-step receipt herself. But the trick is THERE IS NO SYSTEM FOR YOU AS THE CONSUMER TO FIGURE THIS OUT. To the clerks, you’re just the retarded American who is so arrogantly out of touch with European customs that you deserve to be mocked when all you really want is to buy a couple shirts from a couple different departments that issued you separate handwritten receipts for your merchandise EVEN THOUGH THE DEPARTMENTS WERE NO MORE THAN A FEW FEET FROM EACH OTHER.

So, to recap:
1. Find clothes in department store.
2. Try them on.
3. Take clothes back to department where you found them.
4. Get a handwritten receipt.
5. Or just go right to the checkout.
6. But don’t ask what you should do because the clerks will just look at you funny and pretend they don’t speak English.
7. Take clothes and optional handwritten receipt to la caisse so you can generate more paperwork get an electronic receipt and make your payment arrangements.
8. Blog about how confusing it is.

AND SPEAKING OF SHOPPING …
Do you know how hard it is to find trendy clothing in Europe with foreign writing on it? (How am I supposed to demonstrate my cultural superiority over my fellow Americans when I show up in European fashions covered in ENGLISH?) And the trendier the European store, it seems, the more mundane the English writing it offers.

To wit: There’s this foo-foo men’s clothing chain in France called celio* (with an asterisk! because when you flout capitalization and punctuation rules, you’re proving to the world that you’re edgy!) that offers a clothing line that’s kind of the love child of FCUK and the Gap. The clothes are cool-looking and suitably European in their fashion attitude and poorly made, but the sporty shirt collection on display when we were there featured the names of AMERICAN STATES. I don’t know about you, but when I think “fabulous, suitable-for-a-gay-bar shirt to help me remember my vacation in France,” the first word that comes to my mind is, obviously, “Nebraska.”

AND SPEAKING OF ENGLISH …
This is just an observation, but I find it kind of ironic that the people who are the potentially least educated in multiple languages—fast-food employees, souvenir-store clerks, cabbies, etc.—end up handling the bulk of the communication with foreign tourists who are in town just to eat, see the sights, collect a few mementos and yell things like “Do you accept credit cards? You know: Cre. Dit. Cards!”

THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE
No, it’s not love. Or spanking. Or mime. (Not even in France.) The universal language, as Matt and I so clearly learned one night in a French gay bar, is SHOW TUNES.

See, we were sitting at this trendy video bar a few doors down from our hotel in the Marias. But since Matt and I have all the opportunistic timing of a trailer-park ovary, we decided to go to this bar on the one night that NOBODY else wanted to go there. So we’re sitting there chatting away, enjoying our unobstructed view of the video screens and wondering where all the French hotties went when a dance mix came on that sounded kind of familiar. The bartenders and their minute gaggle of friends immediately started singing along with it—in French—at the top of their smoky lungs. But we still couldn’t figure out what the song was.

But when the second chorus kicked in—in English—we knew EXACTLY what the song was, and we excitedly jumped in at the top of our lungs as well. And I, being the biggest queen in the bar, added my own harmonies.

And for a few glorious moments, in a mostly deserted bar on a not-so-quiet little street just up from the Hotel de Ville, a roomful of homos shared a universal message of love and hair and a burning need for sunglasses:

Lehhhhhhhht the suuun shiiiiiine!
Lehhhhhhhht the sun shine in!
The su-uuuuuuun shine in!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I just got a tattoo!

A second tattoo, actually.

Rico the tattoo professional wouldn't let me get it where I'd intended to get it (I'll just sit back quietly and let your imaginations take over here), so it's currently bleeding and scabbing and healing in my second-choice location -- which is actually someplace even more inappropriate to display at work.

Details and pictures to come ...

Monday, March 14, 2005

Let's hear it for the Rainbow Tour!

Wow. OK, this post is gonna be long. But I was in Europe for TEN FREAKIN’ DAYS, so quit your whining and get reading I have a lot to tell you. I’ve peppered this post with links to fabulous pictures and other enriching supplemental click-throughs, so you should be entertained until the bitter end. And if you can’t wait to see all the dark, grainy pictures my cheap camera took, you can just go here and check them out all at once.

Otherwise, I humbly present you The Rainbow Tour (now in low-carb digestible chunks!):

We’ll start at the very beginning, with …

AIR FRANCE
Aside from our early problems with lost luggage (which were more than compensated for with prompt, free found-luggage delivery and a well-stocked lost luggage kit that even included a condom), I really have no complaints about Air Chance France. The food they served was pretty good, the crew was attentive, our flights arrived more or less on time—and even though our seats were a little on the cramped side, they included individual entertainment centers that offered movies, TV reruns (including old episodes of “MacGyver”), music (including “An American in Paris”—GET IT?) and that spellbinding display of GPS ingenuity that uses cartoon maps and a little cartoon plane to show you exactly where you are, how high you’re flying, what you’re about to crash into flying over and even when you should expect to arrive at your destination.

OUR HOTELS
Our Madrid hotel was filled with fabulous basement catacombs (and free access to the Internets!), Barbie Dream Showers and curious, inescapable peek-a-boo displays of roommate toilet activities. Our Paris hotel was waaaaay less high-tech (and waaaaay less fastidiously clean), but it provided plenty of room for all my fabulous new shoes, and it could not have been more conveniently located for gay tourists who like easy access to shopping, pastries, charming little out-of-the-way restaurants, gay people, museums, walks along the Siene, piña coladas and walks in the rain.

AND SPEAKING OF PINA COLADAS …
You know how I never drink? Well, that kind of … um … changed in Madrid. You see, my friends ordered a pitcher of sangría at our first dinner … and I’d never had sangria … and I’m never opposed to just tasting alcohol (you know, just to see what I’m missing out on) … and it was kind of tasty … and before you could say Jake’s dancing around with his underwear on his head! I’d had a full glass of sangria every night with dinner—along with a shot of some syrupy apricot-and-cinnamon schnapps thing my last night (which I sipped like the dainty little princess I am)—for three nights in a row.

Go on. You know you want to. Just let it out. Let that giant YAWN out over my sangria story. “Woo-hoo,” I can hear you say. “Jake had a glass of alcohol with dinner. Alert the media!”

Well, I AM the media—at least as far as your eyeballs are concerned at the moment—and it IS news. I had more to drink during my three nights in Madrid than I’ve had collectively in the almost 37 years I’ve minced walked this earth. And while I’m not about to do anything crazy like order a beer or something the next time I walk into a bar (crazy!), I actually kind of liked my sangría. I didn’t feel like the alcohol did anything to make me slur my speech or tell my friends how much I loved—LOVED!—them, but it did apparently make my face quite red.

Some people drink and get laid. I drink and turn into an Oompa-Loompa. Sexy!

THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA
The TVs in our hotel rooms—when they weren’t bringing us dubbed reruns of “Charlie’s Angels” and “CSI” (which in France is called “Les Experts”)—kept our brains fed with a steady diet of CNN and BBC world news. (Note to Not My President Bush: The international media report every word you say and everything you claim to think as though you know what you’re talking about. Please make sure that you do.) And to our horror, these otherwise rational, relatively reasonable news sources that brought us political and economic information from around the world focused their American coverage on … the Michael Jackson trial. In all seriousness.

I am SO embarrassed that we have a kid-diddling circus freak as the sole noseless face of America in the international media. Seriously. I could just die. (See the reference to red-faceness above.)

FRENCH MEN
Before I move on to touristy things, let me just get this out in the open: I have a new fetish. Move over, muscular blonds with meaty butts and thick, rubbery lips—I’m now in love with wiry little Frenchmen with their tiny waists and angular faces and dark complexions and deep brown eyes. But damn do French men jam my expertly calibrated gaydar. Every single man in that country looks queer, from his manicure to his fastidiously trendy wardrobe to his impossible-to-resist-grabbing ass.

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, it’s on to the touristy stuff:

THE EIFFEL TOWER
What magic! What charm! The Eiffel Tower is just as fabulous as I’d imagined—though I’d actually pictured it being a little taller. We went up once during the day on Wednesday (apparently missing Rod Stewart’s third marriage proposal by mere hours) and then again on Thursday night, where we were treated to hookers! hookers! hookers! tacky kitten souvenirs gorgeous views of the city and the on-the-hour sparkling light effects that literally make everyone in the city gasp and applaud and reach for their cameras.

VERSAILLES
For some reason I’ve never been that interested in Versailles—though I’m a huge sucker for over-the-top architecture and vulgar displays of grandeur. Versailles delivers all of that and more—even managing to fuse my twin fascinations with rococo excess and wig-wearing human heads in a fabulous way I’d never even imagined. I was surprised to discover that large parts of Versailles (and, actually, there really are no small parts of Versailles) are in a state of formidable disrepair, though there is a lot of repair work underway. The famed Hall of Mirrors is currently undergoing a thorough rehab; we could see only about a third of it through the construction.

I even got in a bit of trouble at Versailles. See, there was this huge statue of Napoleon (who I’ve always thought was kind of hot) so I jumped in front of him and asked Matt to take my picture. But then I noticed that from where I was standing, you could pretend to look up his robe as though you were admiring his massive marble member. So I reached up and did just that. And just as Matt snapped a picture, The Angry French Lady of Death appeared in a cloud of smoke and started chewing me a new delicious chocolatey profiterole asshole. I wasn’t sure if I was in trouble for touching the statue, disrespecting the patron saint of French military might history or actually using soap in a European country, but I was definitely embarrassed for being caught doing tacky American tourist things.

NOTRE DAME
Again, not as big as I’d expected—but just oozing (literally!) with soaring Gothic charm. We climbed the claustrophobic little winding stone staircase to the top (I had to climb carefully because if I turn around and around too fast I might accidentally turn into Wonder Woman), where we were treated to spectacular views of the city and up-close-and-personal encounters with the church’s famed gargoyles. But since it was gray and overcast and COLD (it was pretty much like that the entire time we were in Europe) our rapidly shriveling nuts didn’t let us stay too long.

THE LOUVRE
I know this is sacrilege—and maybe it’s just because I was well beyond the stage of cultural overwhelmitude by the time I got there—but I found the Louvre to be kinda boring. (And this is coming from a man who habitually spends entire days in art museums in every major city he visits.) The building itself is GORGEOUS, but the sheer volume of art it contains is so overwhelming it’s almost nauseating. (Kinda like that time in fifth grade when I chewed five whole packs of grape Bubblicious in one afternoon—to this day I can’t even stand the smell of the stuff.)

I’m also not a huge fan of the genres that dominate the permanent collection. There’s an awful lot of dark Dutch paintings (Rembrandts are like Eros lube—a little bit goes a long way) and waaaaaay too much rah-rah Northern European stuff (there are acres of canvas dedicated to long-dead French royalty—who are similarly enshrined in virtually every other museum you visit in Paris—while there isn’t a single work by an American painter … at least not that I saw, and I traversed the entire museum last Friday). I do, however, have a fascination with heroic statuary and virtually anything Medieval, both of which are available by the ton (literally!) at the Louvre. Which was also part of the problem: While I stood in silent reverence in front of the first 400 marble statues that I saw of Greek gods clad in delicately veined muscles and draping robes, I found myself all but sprinting past the next 400 of them, trying desperately to spare them the fate of the doomed grape Bubblicious.

I also wasn’t a fan of I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid the first time I saw it—and I’m usually the first to jump on the grand-old-architecture-meets-funky-new-architecture juxtaposition bandwagon (wasn’t that a Beatles album?). But it grew on me immensely about the fourth time I walked through the courtyard. And once I entered the pyramid and discovered its role in making the museum so accessible I became a huge fan.

One of the reasons I was in the courtyard (and not in the building itself) so many times was because of …

THE STRIKE
I’m already not a fan of unions, and on Thursday when all the collective museum staffs of Paris staged a massive strike, my carefully planned vacation was torn asunder. I am the almighty tourist! You must bow to my whims and show me your national treasures and sell me overpriced trinkets on MY schedule, you selfish museum staffery! Actually, when we found out later that one of the reasons for the strike was to oppose a proposition to extend the grueling French workweek from 35 hours to 40, we did become arrogant, unsympathetic American tourists. But since there was nothing we could do, we turned to Plan B. And my personal Plan B was …

MONTMARTRE
There’s this obscure little tavern in the Monmartre district in northern Paris called the Lapin Agile where poets and writers and artists have met and exchanged ideas for over a century. There’s even a brilliant little play by Steve Martin about a hypothetical meeting between Picasso and Einstein at the Lapin Agile right before they burst into the worldwide consciousness. I’ve always wanted to visit this tavern, but it was pretty low on my priority list—until the museum strike moved it instantly to the top on Thursday.

The Lapin Agile kind of hard to find, and my wandering journey accidentally took me through Montmartre’s pretty revolting sex district, where trannie hookers—who had a preternatural ability to sniff out my Americanness as I walked by—literally HOUNDED me on the sidewalk. I quickly learned that if I pretended like I spoke only Spanish, they were pretty powerless to bug me with their pidgin English and their manly features and their tarty little outfits. Lo siento, Guapa. No te entiendo.

THE OLYMPICS
Both Madrid and Paris are vying to host the 2012 Olympics, but Paris wins by a kilomegamelometer mile in the self-promotion event. There’s a massive Parisian campaign on subway walls, candy wrappers and even entire sides of beautiful old buildings to create buzz and influence location judges. The logo in this picture adorns the magnificent Hotel de Ville, which was just a few blocks from our hotel. It also appears on a couple other buildings we couldn’t identify and even the Eiffel Tower itself. And it’s totally freakin’ cool—Eurocool, even!

OUR FINAL NIGHT IN PARIS
The four of us had enjoyed dinners all week at a range of charming little restaurants within blocks of our hotel (including one called Pain Vin Fromage, which served a lot of bread, wine and cheese in a spectacular catacomb-like basement), and we decided to mourn celebrate our last night together with warm cups of chocolat at a neighborhood pub. And when the bill came and we were forced to spend vast sums of Euros for tiny little cups of melted chocolate, we knew it was time to head home.

The next morning, I arrived at the airport with exactly 11 Euros in my pocket. And I was able to cobble together a meal in one of the snack shops for exactly 10.95 Euros. Best of all, after I finished my snack, I found a Unicef donation bin to throw my last .05 Euro in. And, after curing the hunger in my tummy AND in the world at large, I boarded the plane satisfied that I’d used my powers only for good on this trip. Except for that little Napoleon incident. And all the trashy souvenirs I bought.

Anyway, I’m home. And this post is more than FIVE freakin’ pages in Microsoft Word. So I’ll stop typing and let you get back to work.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some other vastly important stuff I wanted to include here. So stay tuned for the next chapter, which will NOT be this long. Promise.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Home again!

JESUS H. CHRIST ON A RITZ CRACKER -- Blogger will stop at nothing to ruin my perfectly good AMAZING vacation!

I spent two hours (and nine Euro) this week trying to make a post that Blogger wouldn't even take to the first screen for processing. So I abandoned the project and planned to write a long update when I got home (worrying all week, of course, that people would see I'd stopped posting and lose interest and never come back to visit me here).

And when I get home I discover that Blogger DID, in fact, make the post. THREE TIMES. With a coding error (from, I'm assuming, the weird way that French keyboards make greater-than and less-than brackets) that ended up crossing out everything in ever post I've ever written. Mon dieu!

Anyway, I'm back. And I've fixed the posting error.

And I've had one of the best vacations I can ever remember! The four of us got along famously. I saw nearly everything I really, really wanted to see. I ate like a pig. I got three new pair of shoes and six new shirts and a big stainless-steel knife with FROMAGE carved into the blade. I made out with a VERY sexy Italian (who didn't smoke!). I got accosted on the street by a big, ugly French trannie hooker who somehow knew I was American -- but I pretended I spoke only Spanish, which totally stopped him/her in his/her tracks, and he/she moved on to try to get bidness from some other unsuspecting English-speaking tourist.

And I have a million more things to tell (and show!) you all, but I want to do laundry and answer messages and read my mail AND EAT A PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH AND DRINK A TALL, COLD GLASS OF SKIM MILK.

One word of warning, though: I have seen the future, and it includes Nehru collars and angled zippers and colorful Chuck Taylors and shoulder pads that extend out like wings. AND MULLETS. It's not pretty, and it's coming this way. Be very afraid.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Gay in Paree!

So we made it safely to Paris on Monday with no flight delays and no lost luggage. (Le woo-hoo!)

Though our shabby chic hotel here is DEFINITELY not the high-tech dreamland we had in Madrid -- no free access to the Internets, no shoe stores just outside the front door and NO Barbie Dream Shower with Porno-Action Massage Nozzles. Then again, WE'RE IN FREAKIN' PARIS, so I'm in no mood to complain. In fact, I'm in the mood to shout Le Woo-Hoo! (even though I did step in le poo -- which is EVERYWHERE -- our first night here) and then move to Paris ... just as soon as I graduate from zygote to fetus level in my linguistic skills.

Acutally, my only regret on this trip is that I didn't work harder at learning French (motto: There is no such thing as too many final letterseauxlle). Where I felt like I had a fighting chance in any conversation I encountered in Spain, I feel like the village idioteauxlle every time I see a sign or have a shopkeeper ask me something simple like hello? I have, however, mastered the art of greeting people with the traditional sing-song bonjour! (and I've even learned when it's time to switch over to bonsoir!) -- and my skill at imitating accents has apparently fooled a few of the le dumber natives into believing I can actually speak to them beyond the ontological level.

The Parisians (motto: Watch us make out in front of you!) have even been VERY friendly and extremely accommodating when we've revealed ourselves to be linguistic retards tourists. Though I'm appalled at how much they smoke. They smoke when they cook, they smoke when they operate heavy construction machinery -- I think I even saw a baby take a nursing break on the train this morning so he could draw a lungful. I can't be sure, though -- it was kinda smoky.

Clouds of carcinogens aside, Paris is GORGEOUS (though it's on the cold side of cold) and just oozing with all the Olde Worlde Charme I coulde have everre hoped fore. And the food here! OH MY GOD the food here! I've eaten nothing but desserts for the last week. And then I washed them down with pastries. Fortunately, my internal clock is still in a state of confusion so it doesn't know when to start punishing me for eating carbs after 5:00.

I haven't bought much beyond food and three pair of shoes, but I did stop by a grocery store and buy two bottles of Fa (motto: The Suave of Europe!) body soap -- because nothing says I'm too cheap to buy REAL souvenirs like a couple bottles of inexpensive soap with French writing.

So far I've made only three purchases I regret: two pair of red underwear that proved to be too small when I finally tried them on back at the hotel (damn European sizes -- or, more accurately, damn small-balled Frenchmen) and a late-night jaunt with Matt to one of Madrid's famed gay saunas -- which proved to be WAY farther away than we'd anticipated and WAY grosser and more disappointing than we'd been led to believe. Grand total in wasted Euros: 15 (multiplied by about 1.3 = too much math for me but the approximate cost in dollars).

Anyway, I'm running out of le time at this Internets cafe (and I'm running out of patience with this French keyboard), so I'll close. Just think: I'm off to bed IN PARIS while most of you are still at work.

Le bye for now!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

I´m purring like a kitian

´cause I saw me some Titian!

(God, that was bad. But I´m caught in a weird mix of cultural overstimulation and jet lag, so I refuse to apologize.)

This morning we toured the unparalleled Museo Nacional del Prado, where I also saw me some amazing Reubens, Raphael, Cranach, Velásquez, El Greco, Bosch (bless the earthly delights of his twisted little imagination) and -- best of all -- my boy Goya. It´s hard to describe how much I love Goya´s work -- especially in person. His Saturn Devouring his Children is as disturbing as I´d hoped, though it´s a lot smaller than I´d pictured it -- and it´s displayed kind of absent-mindedly in a corner of a room filled with larger, less stirring works. (Note to self: Get the Prado curatorial staff replaced with people who display paintings MY way.) I also love his starkly honest portraits of what must have been the down-the-line ugly Spanish royal family. The next time I´m feeling like I´m having a bad nose day, I´ll just remember the Ichabod Cranes that populate Goya´s royal portraits and I´ll give myself an instant, massive jolt of self-esteem. (Of course, the ugly royal family could overcompensate for its shortcomings with wealth and power and a specatular palace. All I have going for me is a closet full of shoes and a couple lipo scars. But the shoes are FABULOUS, and I´m currently not dead, so I guess I win. At least for now.)

The second item on our tourist agenda today was supposed to be a train ride to the Medieval fortress town of Toledo, but after we´d walked all the way to the train station, we discovered that the Sunday trains to Toledo are rather scarce -- and that we´d already missed the last one. ¡Que lástima!

So we thought we´d do a little shopping instead, but the whole city shuts down on the Sabbath (I think I might have even seen a Catholic church somewhere when we were exploring the city yesterday), so instead we had ourselves a late lunch, and now my traveling companions are enjoying a brief siesta while I blog a bit and then head up to join them.

I have to say, there´s something profoundly satisfying about visiting another country, immersing yourself in its culture and having enough command of its language to find yourself able function there independently. My Spanish has taken me effortlessly through stores and restaurants and maps and street signs and advertising -- and it´s even gotten me a few compliments from the natives! -- though the explanatory documents posted next to the works in the Prado were definitely out of my league. In any case, I feel such a sense of belonging here, and I just know I´ll be back often.

On a more alarming note: The mullet is back in full force here in Europe. The fashionistas are covered in mullet, and it even adorns hoi polloi heads here more often than one would care to acknowledge. And though it´s never really left America -- at least not in the populations that don´t appreciate irony -- it´s doomed to return with a vengeance on more educated heads in the near future. You heard it here first. So don´t say you haven´t been warned.

We leave for Paris tomorrow (Monday) around noon, so we´re enjoying our last few hours in our kick-ass Madrid hotel. Here´s a link to it if you want to check out its high-tech-meets-old-world-charm glory. The brick-arched basement catacombs are perhaps my favorite part of the building (after the orgasmically glorious showers, of course), and I´ve been writing my posts from a free computer down here all week. It´s SUCH a cool space.

Off to my siesta. ¡Hasta luego!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

¡Te adoro, Fanta de limón!

Lemon Fanta is perhaps the biggest reason that Europeans are better than Americans. (Bigger than the fact that they didn´t spawn Dubya or Britney, even.) Lemon Fanta is what I missed the most after my last trip to Barcelona. And it´s what transformed today -- what would have been otherwise just your garden-variety Saturday in a fabulous Eurpoean city -- into ¡El Sábado Gigante!

Lemon Fanta, I have missed you. And I promise to make love to your carbonated, sweetened-with-real-sugar, flavored-with-real-bits-of-lemon goodness EVERY DAY I´M HERE. And I promise to give you full tongue while I´m at it.

Oh, we also saw the Royal Palace today. Normally, extravagantly rococo European palaces with themed rooms and chandeliers bigger than most cars and manicured royal grounds and ACTUAL THRONES make me as wet as a pubescent schoolgirl. But not today. I had me some LEMON FANTA.

And, quite frankly, nothing else measures up.

(Oh, we ran out of time to see the Prado -- I spent too much time drinking Lemon Fanta, I guess -- so it´s first thing on our agenda for tomorrow. And I dragged all three of my traveling companions to visit the green shoes I wanted to buy, and all three of them told me I was crazy. Which just means I´ve freed up money in my budget for more, even BETTER, shoes.)

Now we´re off to dinner at a restaurant with a Flamenco floor show. There better be lemon Fanta on the menu. Otherwise I´ll have to cut someone.

Sometimes I´m embarrassed to be American

* American man on shuttle bus at the airport: "I hate it here. I wish I were at home reading my email instead."

* American woman admonishing the front-desk clerk at our hotel: "In MY COUNTRY we can check out of our hotels without having to talk to YOU."

* Dubya. ´Nuff said.

* To make matters worse, it looks like America´s chief exports to Europe are McDonald´s, Burger King and Adidas. I am SO proud.

* * * * *

In other news, our luggage arrived today (woo-hoo!) while we were out shopping and taking pictures of places with names like Cock Bar and Museum of Ham. And we had a delightful breakfast of churros y chocolate at a charming little coffee shop, while the people next to us started their day with pastries and beer. And I´m now the proud owner of three pair of totally sweet new shoes. The green pair next door to our hotel is still calling my name, though. And there IS a lot of room in my suitcase. Stay tuned.

My rarely used Spanish is coming back in spades, and I´ve surprised myself a couple times already by having complete, coherent conversations with store clerks and waiters. But when the shoe lady tried to sell me some shoe cream today when I was trying to make my purchases, the look of abject confusion on my face totally gave me away as a tourist. BUSTED!

A few more observations about Madrid: The place is dripping with European charm and spectacular -- almost pornographically gorgeous -- architecture. The men are all well-groomed and rather pretty. Everyone has fabulous shoes. The guy handing you your churro at the bakery will probably do so with a cigarette in his mouth. There is a large population of homeless people with Thalidomide-like birth defects. The sidewalks are narrow, the crowds are thick and the cars zoom by in ways that only the Americans find alarming. And I keep catching myself wondering if I could be happy living here.

On the rest of today´s agenda: The Prado. Some castle I´ve never heard of. Those green shoes. Another fabulous dinner. Perhaps a nightclub.

And, of course, endless blogging.

Friday, March 04, 2005

I farted in Paris!

Toward the end of a VERY bumpy plane ride with many, MANY delays, I felt the need to ... um ... relieve some gassy bloating, as people less tacky than I might put it. Not wanting to offend my fellow passengers on the No Supermodels Express, I demurely waited until we´d deplaned so I could kick off our layover by polluting the heretofore pristine Parisian atmosphere.

And how was I rewarded for my courtesy? With a big fat pile of LOST LUGGAGE, that´s how. Somewhere between endless delays and missed connections and a late arrival in Barcelona Madrid, my luggage took a detour and ended up ... in Wahoo, Nebraska, for all I know.

On the plus side: No hauling of heavy baggage (at least not physical baggage) for Jake.

On the other plus side: I got a free overnight kit from Air France that includes a cheap T-shirt, an even cheaper washcloth, a mountain of toiletries and even a CONDOM. We´re definitely not in the United Theocracy of America anymore.

On yet another plus side: I always plan for such events by packing a day´s worth of clothes in my carry-on, so I´m not at a loss for clean underwear. Yet.

Luggage woes notwithstanding, Barcelona Madrid is just as beautiful and urbane and charming as I´d hoped. Our trendy boutique hotel is right in the heart of some hipster neighborhood that´s packed with funky clothing and shoe shops (shoe shops!), and after making two shopping rounds I´ve already come home with a kick-ass Eurotrash fashion-victim shirt (which is doubling as a coat until the Air France coughs up my real coat from deep within its Bowels of Lost Luggage) and I´ve almost bought two pair of totally funky, totally trendy, totally green, TOTALLY NOT ME shoes. The first pair wasn´t available anywhere near my size, and the second pair was one European size too big -- but I´m still salivating over both of them. I may visit them again tomorrow to see if the size fairy came during the night.

In the mean time, I seem to be managing the jet lag thing pretty well, and the four of us are getting along famously. I do have issues with the bathroom in our hotel, though; it´s separated from the sleeping room by a huge glass wall that´s frosted in most places -- but not frosted enough to give you ANY privacy when you´re trying to poop. Honestly, it´s set up so you´re forced to poop in full peek-a-boo view of the only chair in the room. Which is totally uncool. But the hotel makes up for that gross design contretemps with a made-for-porn six-nozzle shower that gives better rim jobs than most porn stars. And free access to the Internets. In fact, I´m typing this post on a lightning-fast computer (with a European keyboard that is so different from my American keyboard that I wonder if things like hyphens and strikethroughs will even read on American screens) in the freaking COOLEST old exposed-brick, flying-buttressed basement in the history of European architectural charm.

But my traveling companions just appeared and are demanding food, so I must cut this endless engrossing post short.

Off to the restaurants -- and maybe Air France-subsidized clothes shopping! Stay tuned for more fascinating details of Jake´s Rainbow Tour!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

¡Adios! Au revoir!

Voy al Madrid y Paris con tres amigos hasta el 12 de Marzo.

Matthew's coming to pick me up in 20 minutes. I'm nowhere NEAR packed. So of course I'm making a blog post.

First things first.

Interesting vacation trivia: I'm going to Madrid. I've been going to Madrid for almost a year. I know where Madrid is. I minored in Spanish, for goodness' sake.

So for some demented reason I keep telling people I'm going to Barcelona. I've BEEN to Barcelona. I most certainly know the difference between the two cities. And yet, when I turned the page on my calendar this week, there it was, in big bold letters: BARCELONA.

Sheesh. I need a vacation.

Be good while I'm gone!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Can you keep a secret?

My nephew’s gonna turn 6 on Saturday (go here for the fascinating nephew backstory), and he’s gonna get a gift he’s been patiently requesting (well, with as much patience as an almost-6-year-old can muster) for a couple years.

So he’ll wake up Saturday morning to find the end of a long string in his bedroom. He’ll have to follow that string up and down staircases, through room after room, in and out of the HVAC ductwork, and eventually to the mail slot in the front door.

And when he opens the door, there, on the front porch, impatiently waiting to be The Best Gift Any Little Boy In The Universe EVER Got, will be one of these.

And my nephew will promptly pee in his Drowsy Bear pajamas.

Now, a pet isn’t something one gives capriciously as a gift to a 6-year-old, and my sister’s family has been mulling it over for quite a while. But they decided that everyone would genuinely enjoy adding a white Labrador puppy to the family. And my sister, who as a stay-at-home mom, would definitely bear the brunt of raising and training it, has agreed to embrace the added chaos as long as everyone follows a few of her sanity-preserving ground rules (examples: the dog never goes upstairs, the dog will not drive the car).

On the plus side, a dog makes it easy for the rest of us to buy birthday gifts this year. For instance, I’m buying the kennel, which will promptly be christened The Uncle Jake Canine Pavilion and which will provide me with years of fat tax write-offs.

On the Jake’s-a-bad-uncle side, my nephew has been wanting a dog for so long that he’s already named the dog he doesn’t even know he’s actually getting. Last fall, the name was Addison, after a girl he liked on his kindergarten bus. But he’s since changed the name to something less pedestrian and heterocentric more befitting his uncommon creative brilliance—and for the life of me I can’t remember what it is. Which makes me The Most Selfish, Unloving Uncle In The Universe.

But, hey: tax write-offs.

More proof of bad uncledom: I’ll be vacationing in Madrid on The Day The Puppy Makes My Nephew Wet Himself. When I booked this trip almost a year ago, the whole birthday thing never even crossed my mind. I was thinking only of me, me, me. And I’m now living in abject fear that my absence on this, the most important birthday of his entire life, will just open the door to a lifetime of disappointment and bad news for the entire family, including (but not limited to) juvenile delinquency, mullet haircuts, Britney CDs, dated couture and (ACK!) “Jenna For President” bumper stickers.

But we’ll throw him off cross that bridge when we come to it. In the mean time we have to pull off Operation Puppy Surprise.

And if any of you breathes a WORD of this to the kid, I’ll hunt you down and cut you. Just as soon as I get back from Europe.