Saturday, May 1, 2010
This is the latest installment of my weak retrospective attempt to cover my ass for not blogging for a month and a half. To be perfectly fair, I have been very busy and incredibly tired -- anyone can attest to that. This week itself is a testament to that fact, I have spent every moment of it writing, singing, adventuring, and partying and we aren't even through Saturday. I have been out at bars every night this week, sampling fine pints of Staropramen and delighting in some amusingly Danish covers of American classics.
More importantly, being out in bars downtown practically guarantees my proximity to the shawarma that I crave at practically every moment here. My gripping condition is in such advanced stages that I have visions of my next lunch break before I've even finished the pita sandwich itself.
Since you last stared disinterestedly into your monitor and smirked internally at my grossly overwrought style, the epic battle between man and machine (being me and my bike, respectively) has raged on and come to a tense armistice. First the metal fiend took my shorts, followed by me robbing it of its gears in a dish-best-served-cold manner, as chronicled in my previous post. On Thursday, however, I escalated the battle to a devastating and anti-cathartic plateau when I peddled so furiously in first gear that the chain slipped itself of the hellish teeth of this bike's gears. And so we now both lie in wait, biding time and gathering strength until both parties are in sufficient shape to advance our hostilities.
The weather has, on occasion, deemed it appropriate to not spit in the face of springtime and actually be nice, which is much appreciated. Wearing shorts, cleft as they may be, is a pastime of mine that I had forgotten the joys of in what seemed to be the longest winter of my life this past year. Canoodling and other boat-based shenanigans has abounded on those nice days, and bike rides down to the shoreline have been a staple source of contentment for me.
Musically I've been inexorably drawn to old classics that I never really knew I loved until now. I've always been big on the Rat Pack and slightly more modern interpretations like Michael Buble, but it was the re-discovery through some ostensibly divine machinations of a batch of duets between Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong that has really hit me in my brain's heart. These songs are meaningful and present in a way that surpasses musicality, they are transportative and transformative with regards to the listener in manners untouchable by most music of our time. At least it's that way for me. I defy anyone foolish enough to contradict my enormous brain to let themselves experience The Nearness of You or Stars Fell on Alabama and tell me that they haven't been taken to a place of wonder 3 minutes and 35 seconds long, the topography of which rises and falls in ways that common cartography can't possibly hope to encompass.
I'm considering putting out invitations to famous chefs to concoct a dish for me that artfully entwines the subtle, lofty and rainy-Saturday-morning flavors of waffles with the faith-inducing, life-fulfilling alimentary oeuvre of a rare cut of sirloin. I know it's possible -- the popular south'ren culinary combo of fried chicken and waffles will serve as my proof of concept.
I'm gonna pause here to give you some time to google "alimentary oeuvre" and collect the pieces of your shattered conceptions of the assumed limitations of language.
I don't know, guys. I don't know how else to encapsulate my experience here. Telling you where I've been or what I do on a daily basis, with the exception of my travel break which I will hopefully get to next post, would be an entirely fruitless endeavor. I am simply living here, the hours pass and the nights go by and I couldn't be happier about those truths. There are situations that are difficult, awkward or otherwise trying, but they are a part of the fabric of this place and time as much as the incredible ecstasies I've been privy to while here.
I lament having to miss the last semester of many of my friends at Grinnell, but I will be upon them with a ferocity unknown to man or beast soon enough (the 19th).
This is all I have time for tonight, perhaps tomorrow will dawn on some more musings.
Monday, April 26, 2010
I could have sworn that I posted something here like 5 days ago about how I promise to post more, bit by bit. I guess that was just a glorious fantasy of my thoroughly exhausted mind.
Friends, compatriots, angry mob of people standing outside threatening me with disembowelment if I don't blog soon...I have indeed been to the ends of the earth. I have traveled to the northernmost limits of where any human could reasonably and willfully want to go in April, far to the East to the shattered lands of the former Yugoslav republic, and as even as far as the McDonalds down the street for some midnight french fry action. Oh you know it.
Part of the reason for me bitching out on this digi-literary (digirary) endeavor is that I was in foreign countries for the first two weeks of April. The reasons for the rest of my universally lamented absence from the blogosphere aren't quite as legitimate, but I guess I'll try to come up with some excuses or something. I guess my most compelling reason is that I've really gotten out there in an incredible way, and all of my time is spent experiencing experience. I have had a phenomenal April so far, and I have no intentions of letting the last leg (called a "slutspurt" in Danish, as you may recall from a previous post) of this month break the mold that I have cast around it in unbreakable plaster.
I think I will begin recounting my adventures in reverse order, because the details ("deets," in case anyone I know would dare to be a Twitter user and an acquaintance of mine simultaneously) are simply too fucking juicy. The events beginning on Saturday and continuing through today have thoroughly defined my past few days on this green earth as the single most pride-obliterating stretch of time in my life. The hours of the past few days have been fixed to one another in some sort of horrifying weave of misery and shame, each stitch another vicious affront to my dignity that may, in fact, be the death of me. And yet this devastating tapestry of woe into which I have been spun is so truly awful that it can only be hilarious.
I am, of course, exaggerating, but the combined embarrassment of the past 48 hours in particular forms a sufficiently massive enough moeity that science, or this blog, must address it as something in its own right. The events begin the night of the 24th, a Saturday, when two mysterious bruise-like phenomena appeared below my jawline and, in what will prove to be a nearly fatal flaw in but a few paragraphs, above my collar. Since my wardrobe is distinctly lacking in any sort of turtle-necked apparel, I was to suffer the shame of this scarlet letter throughout the weekend and into this yet-young week.
Fast forward to Sunday morning, around oh-nine-hundred hour, when I'm awoken by an SMS saying "let's hammer mill it up dude!" Now, this is exactly what it sounds like -- we were to bike around 10km to visit a medieval water mill used to power an enormous hammer, which was in turn used in its hey-day to forge the barrels of the King's rifles. Now it's used by the finest of Danish line-chefs to forge eggs and bacon for intrepid travelers, which we aimed to become and reap said brunch-ly bounty. But before we even get to the mill, disaster struck.
Exclaiming to my friends, "hey check this Danish mount I'm about to do," I confidently stepped onto the left pedal of my bike with my left foot, launching it forward with the intention of vaulting my right leg over the seat and onto its respective pedal. But woe was to befall my leg on its be-doom'ed arc over the seat of this abomination of Danish bikemanship. With the bike still rolling, my shorts became entrapped by the snaring grasp of some arbitrarily placed plastic bits under the seat cushion. With my pants caught in the dastardly clutches of my inanimate adversary, the momentum of my leg carried this chain of events to its logical and horrifically embarrassing conclusion -- the sundering of my favorite pair of lower-body garments.
This was no ordinary tear in my pants -- this was a rending of untold proportions, a hip-to-hem fissure exposing the true frailty of my mortal soul. With that, the tides of this Old Man and the Sea struggle between pants and bike seat took an alarming turn. Now inextricably trapped inside my shorts, the seat of the still-rolling bike lost the upper hand, but my shorts' thirst for vengeance would prove fatal to what remained of my pride. Trapped on this rolling machine of mortifying hatred, I toppled like so many Titans in a film starring Sam Worthington, the hard ground delivering the final and mortal blow to my dignity. This was the first awful thing that was to happen to me on Sunday.
25 kilometers of biking later, my noble steed decided to begin dying slowly. First I lost third gear, then second, followed by the shifting mechanism popping off of the wheel cap, causing the remaining unattached gears to create a horrible grinding sound everywhere I biked.
So there I was, with two giant hickeys, ripped shorts and a broken bicycle, utterly and terribly vanquished. I suffered greatly at the lashing tongues of my classmates today, even my Danish teacher was eager to point out the blotches on my neck that seem even now to outline the very topography of my humiliation.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
A liar. I don't have my manifest destiny rap recorded, though there's a chance it will happen today. I say a chance, but between packing for Iceland (score), Muppets in Space (score), this blog and whatever other shenanigans are on the menu for today, I'm not sure there really is one. Sorry to disappoint.
This was the second week of midterms, which I'm now cleansed of by the soothing aquavit of travel break. Similar to many other assignments here, these midterms really never had a chance. They were defeated soundly and with little deliberation, damned to serve an eternal sentence in the hellish Land of the Complete. Yae, and verily did Simon smite 12 pages and an oral midterm, for his power over words was so great that none could bear their utterance or withstand his rhetorical onslaughts, mighty as they were. My most thorough victory was that in the European theatre, in which I battled all the nefarious forces that the Danish language could muster on such short notice and was flawlessly victorious. So now here I stand, broad, muscular shoulders highlighted by the triumphant light of the waxing moon atop a pile of vanquished vowels, smitten semantics and war-torn word-choice.
Tuesday was my roommate Peter's 21st, which was just the right mix of awesome and chill that I think should accompany all 21sts. He has a sweet perfectly circular battle-scar on his palm from trying to put out a flaming shot that had been burning for a bit too long while his friend fumbled for the change to pay for it. While burns are typically never a good thing, even one so inconsequential as this one, this ovoid stigma has symbolic potential of the sort that people usually long after pursuant to such celebratory landmarks. Does Average Joe feel any older after having walked in place while another year paraded by him? The celebration of a birthday is almost atemporal, the time passing during those hours lasts forever in the moment but practically doesn't exist in retrospect. But now Peter has an indelible mark that's slightly less temporary and vastly more corporeal than his birthday celebration to remind himself that, in a highly metaphysical sense, he can in fact buy beer legally.
Ha! You thought I was gonna make some deep point there, you crazy fool.
Speaking of depth, specifically the depths of complete and almost transcendental suck that my laptop has sunk to, I'm now resorting to avoiding using my trackpad at all costs. It picks really interesting times to grab a spatula and just start flipping shits. 20 minutes ago I could put my finger down in one place on the track pad and watch the cursor on screen jump around like a chipmunk in Moon Shoes. Granted, I'm like the Albus Dumbledore of using a keyboard like a mouse, but there's a certain sense of 'convenience lost' when you have to use the tab key more than 20 times to get to the link you want on a web page. On top of this, my franken-cord of an AC adapter is literally disintegrating under the existential stress of trying to keep my psychologically disturbed battery inside the bounds of electrical sanity. The cords springing from the brick portion of the charger are frantically trying to escape, loosing themselves at the slightest provocation and sometimes surreptitiously. The brick itself, which is doing its best to emulate its namesake in form and function, is thoroughly cracked and will soon be nothing more than a shattered shell and twisted circuitry. I have to lean stoically on the base of the keyboard to get it to start up properly, and even then it hangs at bizarre points in the boot process. I am wholly unable to navigate the treacherous terrain of this computer's issues in a way that would allow me to fix it, or even suggest how to fix it. All I can do now is wait in my craft at a safe distance, donning a protective suit and making brave exploratory missions down to its surface when I need to collect strange minerals (profile pictures) or decipher alien writings (guitar tabs).
I'm making a list of every song I know how to play on guitar so that I have a kind of setlist to work from. I constantly forget that I know how to play certain songs, to the point where picking up a guitar is a hopelessly redundant odyssey through the grease-caked gears of my memory that largely results in me playing the same five or so songs. Granted, I really like those songs, and the five have changed over time, especially since I arrived here, but the bottom line is I need some dependable variety. I say dependable because there are also a frightening amount of songs that I know parts of but lack that critical linchpin to stake the train cars together and thunder down the tracks. Lyrics and bridges are my two greatest weakness and comprise the largest holes in my musical repertoire currently. I am also looking into doing acoustic covers of hip-hop hits and R&B chart-toppers, a la I'm In Luv (Wit a Stripper), so if you have any suggestions of songs that I could cover, don't hesitate to let me know. I will take any and all suggestions, and probably work on them after I complete my rendition of Sean Kingston's "Fire Burnin." It will be poignant and refreshing, spiritually as well as aurally. There shall be much rejoicing.
Music and memory are really two beautiful parts of a frightening whole. My mind, probably due to years of schooling in the media arts, expresses thought primarily as FinalCut montages. There are dozens of tracks in each montage, several obviously for images and myriad others for thought, emotion, moments, movements and retrospection -- but really only one for audio. Certain songs are monogamously associated with incredibly specific images and moments in a way that, while I accept it, fundamentally don't understand -- nor do I wish to. I also don't think I have any power to change what is bound to what, which has unfortunate side effects on my mental music library. There are some songs that I just can't let myself listen to anymore, as huge a space as they inhabit in my heart and mind, because they hail from a time full of profound unhappiness and self-destruction for me. I am almost super-conscious of those times now, and knowing that has been a source of tremendous positive power in my life and has allowed me to feel like I've moved on. That said, I don't need to tell any of you about the power of music to transport you in a hyper-literal sense back to certain times, feelings, moments, eras, events, people or places. As a remarkably solid example, the song Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists is almost impossible for me to listen to. I woke up to that song every day for probably 18 months in high school, so many times and with such ridiculous consistency that I can literally feel my old CD player spin up as I snap into consciousness at the start of the song. The brutal melange of fear, confusion, exhaustion, excitement, dumbfounding dis-anticipation and the dull flicks of the headlights of blood cells turning on to resume their endless circuit of the longest highways in the world, the buzzing echoes of being audibly rent from my dreams -- the annihilative catharsis of that moment where the real world collides with you yet you're in absolutely no state to comprehend it. Even the acoustics of the song are colored by these memories, since I really only heard it in that vast but brief purgatory between sleep and wakefulness, and it thus sounds like it's being played at a great distance to me.
In other news, I am slowly realizing that I have displayed unacceptable levels of sloth in educating myself about quintessential American culture. The shelves of my brains categorical library of experience labeled "Movies starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart," "Golden Age Radio Dramas" are characterized by an alarming dearth of content. The one set of bookends I can say I've distanced significantly are those that start and finish the category of Sinatra Classics and other related tunes.
In terms of movies that I have seen, recently, I had the mixed dis/pleasure of seeing Outlander, the 2009 film with a budget of $55 million dollars that nobody has ever even heard of. Nor had I, until Hurricane was browsing some illicit viewing site and stumbleupon'd it. The movie centers around a grizzled Jim Caviezel, playing the role of a space marine marooned in 8th-century Viking fucking Norway. Caviezel the space marine crashed in his space ship, which he was previously space-flying through space, to hunt space dragons with the Germanic peoples of the Scandinavian peninsulae. So basically we have Jesus Christ, donned in all his Passion and a suit of metallic powerarmor, and about a hundred bearded berzerkers slinging blades and arrows at a nearly immortal space-beast of unimaginable murder. Let's just say....holy fuck. The movie grossed an abysmal $166,000 United States dollars in theaters, the quantitative unanimous reprimand for whoever thought it would be a good idea to make a movie that shitty. Don't get me wrong, it was awesome to watch -- 55 large can get you a pretty dazzling amount of CG explosions. Besides who doesn't like watching the guy who played the big JC of N come to fisticuffs with hammer-wielding giants? I can't really think of anyone.
In hilarious internet news, there has been recent and very serious debate here at IPC among certain individuals about a matter of grave importance and sober consequence: Could Captain America dead-lift more than Jesus, the Son of God? We were split vehemently in votes of confidence either way, so we did the only thing that a morally responsible group of intelligent, cognizant individuals can do in a situation such as this. We put it on Yahoo Answers. Behold the righteous glory of the answers we have received and will surely continue to receive by following the Golden Path of enduring internet justice to this link. Be sure to check your faith in humanity at the door and prepare to bust a gut as we reap this dark harvest of blackest sin and utter hilarity that we have oh so woefully sown.
So there you have it, pretty much my full range of emotions manifest in a few vignettes of this past week.
Life is fucking good.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
But it is also performed by me. I helped with lyrics and video too, but only a little bit. This is a parody project for some hojskole friends' Danish Politics class, it focuses on the Danish People's Party, a faction with some pretty bigoted views on immigration.
Yes that's me peeing on a police car at the end. No, I'm not actually peeing on the police car. Yes, my jacket is on backwards. That's how they do things here. Which is to say -- in the hood.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Great balls of meat. Pic vaguely related, mostly just hilarious.
I have been entirely too busy here and loving every moment of it. I have been writing essays like Don Magic Juan turns tricks, which is to say readily, with great speed and little regard for their emotional stability. If I may wax Foghorn Leghorn for a second, this Thursday I destroyed -- I said ah I said de-stroyed -- a six page paper with little to no remorse. I wrote that paper so hard that the second I chiseled the last sentence onto that monolithic work of immortal intellectual granite, the prompt tore itself asunder and erupted into Red, White and Blue flames. That essay had no idea I even existed until it was already too late and I had emptied its substance onto the page. Then, just to prove my continued dominance over academia, I went to the library to check out books about Vikings. And then my Journalism and Public Relations teacher told me I had one of the two best press releases in the class -- the class about PR, you know the one. The one filled with Communications majors that do that kind of thing for a living.
On top of that, the recent success of my Manifest Bestiny rap (going onto video today, up by the end of next week if not sooner I promise), my much-anticipated cameo in a rap video about the Danish People's Party and St. Patricks Day have vaulted this week into awesome week status. PLUS I biked up the mile-long hill from the train station...with somebody else sitting on my rear tire. AND (YOU THOUGHT IT WAS OVER) tonight is performance night at my hojskole, which means that Jeppe and I get to blow the collective brainminds of everyone with our rendition of The Balcony, followed by a cover of Hallelujah (a la Shrek), feat. Taylor Woodward a.k.a. The Hurricane (with a voice like a summer breeze (makes me feel fine, blowin' through the jasmine in my miiiiiiind)).
You could say I've been busy
And loving every exhausting minute of it.
Last Sunday I went on a bike ride with some folks from the folkehojskole (ironic, amirite?!?) to a slightly post-medieval watermill. We biked through a forest, a refreshingly arboreal experience after really only seeing greenery from within a speeding train for the past two months, and while nothing is really blooming right now it was still...evanescent? That's not the word I'm looking for, but oh well -- back to the story. This mill, driven by a series of ponds and streams linked and subsequently diverted by a Danish king centuries ago, has one purpose, and a particularly epic one at that -- to run a giant hammer. This hammer, pounding relentlessly like a tireless engine of hatred and revenge, was used to flatten steel in the process of gunsmithing. An entire colony of gunsmiths lived and worked in this mill and the quarters surrounding it, secluded in the forest where the Swedes couldn't pelt them with meatlumps. Anyone who catches that reference gets a million Fond Childhood Memory points, redeemable for crappy renditions of cartoon characters I still love unabashedly. Pic above is a clue.
Meanwhile, in reverse-tangent land, biking is wicked cool. I always underestimate how good it is to bike, or I used to at least. Getting them out of the basement where they are stored here is kind of a hassle, and I really wish the snow had melted a little earlier so I could have been using it all this time, but I can't really describe how lucky I am to have a bike provided for me by the program here. Doing this all over again I would gladly consciously choose an hour-twenty+ commute if I knew I would get a bike out of the deal. Every day even if I'm a lazy little slut and only go into the city to stuff my face with shawarma (which I'm convinced is a terrorist plot to get me to trust foreigners, and I find myself powerless to stop it) I still get two miles of exercise out of it, one exhilaratingly fast downhill ride and one thigh-exploding, thick-swelling, rip-maxing uphill climb that makes me regret just having eaten and also immediately want to eat more. It makes dinner that much better or a night that much more complete when I bolt off the train and hufflepuff my way up the hill. I think exercise, as unstructured as it is in my case, works wonders no matter what the problem is.
In other hilarious news, the likes of which can only happen coincidentally in a manner such as this, I learned some rather...intriguing information at a bar on Thursday night. The story starts at the wrap-up for my core class, featuring drinks on DIS and a hilarious slideshow with a shaggy-headed me and some 30 other kids shenaniganizing our way across one or more foreign cities. This was an event of tremendous import as it symbolizes the end of my last 8:30 am class, meaning my dominion over the fickle forces of sleep is nigh. I took a train home after my coupons were veritably use'd, met my friends out at Annexet, our local haunt. I arbitrarily had a conversation struck up with me (weird way of phrasing it, but trust me it encapsulates the situation pretty aptly) by a Californian and a Helsingor native, apparently on the same football team -- the American kind, mind you -- here in Denmark. We got to talking about the folkehojskole where I live and the sketchy Turks that live across the street. Now, most Danes think any and every Turk is a sketchy Turk, but I am using all of my American sub/urban went-to-a-diverse-public-school-system sensibilities when I say that these Turks are characters of a most unsavory nature. Every night their driveways are empty, but by noon every day there are upwards of 10 cars (and a boat) parked outside their house. I rarely see the same cars twice here, and when I do they are frequently missing crucial engine components or in the process of being jumped. One of the houses has a bar in the basement, which is normally just plain cool, but the entire first floor of the house, viewable through ridiculous and probably Swedish bay windows, is a veritable marble forest of busts depicting various Mediterranean old gods and personages. At least I think that's what they are. I really don't know. To drop the crime olive in the creep martini of this situation, once a week a dude in a red Ferrari absolutely tears down our street and screeches to a halt in the driveway of one of the houses. This is the only Ferrari I've seen in Denmark -- you don't really get rich in this country without taking some...extra-ordinary measures. At this point the Dane breaks into the conversation and says "you heard about what happened there right?" Suffice it to say my interest was piqued, and I said to him as much. Turns out one of the biggest drug busts in Denmark's history took place in those three houses about a year and a half ago.
Sooo....yeah. I'm in the middle of mid-terms, kicking ass and taking names, performing across genres, biking like the man who made my wristband and doing all of this across the street from what may or may not be a drug depot or chop shop. My last couple of blags were really angry, but hopefully this post will give you a glimpse of my good side and dissuade that image of me fuming with rage while stoic Danes with their pointy shoes and dumb sweaters prance by (hilarious as that image may be). The truth is that anger, while usually associated with negative connotations and bad experiences, bestows upon me the mystical power to express myself like no other emotion can. Words pour forth like so much boiling vitriol, and the deep channels carved by the floes of my rage are soon after filled with the soothing rains of literary catharsis. It's been hard for me to write in the past week, maybe because I've been so busy, but I suspect it also has to do with the fact that I haven't had anything whip me into a lather this week. Hopefully I can learn to let positive inspiration work its magic and shine through onto this thing more frequently. Sorry for keeping everyone waiting.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
And nothing further of interest happened in Berlin. Theeeee end.
I've spent the past week keeping busy with school work and other creative ventures. Tonight, in but an hour, is North American Cultural night at my folkehojskole. We are 18 Americans at this hojskole, and it is our solemn duty to spread the glory of our free society to the cobwebb'd reaches of the depraved minds surrounding us. They call themselves many things, Europeans, Africans, Asians, "Canadians," but after tonight they will all call themselves Free. They will learn of our culture, watch our history unfold before their eyes and witness the blazing fury of our culture as it sears its image into their collective subconscious.
We are recounting, in the form of a staged classroom discussion, a sort of false-history of the US. The teacher and the skits present horrible misrepresentations of important events in American history, like fictional messages left on King George's answering machines by his ministers during the American Revolution, and then the students present the correct information in an incredulous manner.
My part in this poorly-prepared fiasco of cultural exchange is to present the concept of Manifest Destiny to these peoples, who have never known the sheer beauty of unbridled westward expansion. Their nations were formed and the surrounding territories settled centuries before their births, but America is at its very core founded on the spirit of opportunity as set on the stage of a vast expanse of breathtaking beauty and bounty. The medium through which I will express the wind rushing through the tawny hair of the pioneers as they struck out across our great land? Why, that's a silly question to ask -- it really only has one possible answer: Gangsta Rap.
Ladies and Gentlemen, for your reading pleasure, Destiny is Manifest (Manifest Bestiny):
It's the Wild Wild West...Manifest
It's the Wild Wild West...Manifest
America, America, Home of the Free
England rolled up on this bitch with 13 colonies
They were complacent at first but would not stay on their knees
Said: You can front, you can step but don't tread on me
They rose in power, fortune and fame
Said “Hello, World. America's the name”
Began to multiply, getting busy neva tame
Filled up the East Coast and said “Man this shit is lame”
So they packed up all they things, saddled the horses
Loaded all they guns, and marshaled they forces
Drankin whiskey packin heat, lightin up like torches
Got my wagon tricked out, lookin somethin like a Porsche
Because my wagon is covered and my game is tight
Got my oxen train up front we gonna run it all night
My bizzy's got a bonnet on, she lookin' outta sight
If we gonna make it in this land we gonna do it right, Uh.
Struck out to the West, first stop Oklahoma
Said listen up girl, I just wanna be on ya'
So now we got 10 kids, all wanna be land ownas
Said nah this ain't no Oakland, took it straight to California
Looking for some land, people called us pioneers
Gold on my teef and diamonds in my ears
Suddenly in our path, some Indians appear
Spit rhyme like hot fire, 's why they call it Trail of Tears
But my flow would not abate, lyrics flyin like hot lead
Indians trifle with my crew, guess they wanted to get dead
They didn't understand, it was already decided
This whole land would be ours, from beach to beach-head
To Pacific Sands – yeayuh
From New York.. Uh
Urbbody in America
Say “Hell YEEAAAAaaahhhh”
My lyrics are limitless, my rhymes are a mystery
Destiny is manifest, that's American History.
America, you can thank me later upon my return to thine hallowed shores. Video forthcoming.
-- DJ Fresh2Def a.k.a. Sizzle-Dizzle a.k.a. MC Manifestopholes a.k.a. Kid Capitalism a.k.a. The Great White American Hope a.k.a. Big G BootyScoops!
Friday, March 5, 2010
So it's come to this. No shirt, no pants, still in bed at 9 in the PM with a full bottle of scotch, a pair of fake aviators and a case of the German stomach flu. The readership may find themselves asking: Why so unclothed, Simon? 9pm is very late, why do we find you in such a state and bedridden? Where did these miscellaneous items come from? For that matter, where have you been the past 9 days? How come you haven't seen fit to update the blag of late? Is there a god? Have I left a turkey/my gasoline collection/any number of younger siblings in the oven? Why do kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch?!?
Before you lose all direction in life, wallow in self-pity and buy a Ferrari/breast implants, rest assured that I can and will answer all of these questions in what will surely prove to be a blog post of extreme length and minimal practical value.
All of this started last Friday, typically a day full of mythology classes and man-about-towning. But this Friday was to be like none other. I did my laundry at literally the last minute possible, threw all of my worldly possessions into several burlap sacks affixed to sturdy branches, stuffed my bandoleer with as many brews as it could stow and struck out into the night. My destination? Frue Plads, to meet the tour bus for my imminent departure to Germany on a 7 day study tour with the teachers and peers of my core class, European Culture and History: Memory and Identity (Germany). With a 10 hour bus ride on the horizon, I knew that I would need everything in my arsenal to make it through the next 36 hours.
This trip would prove to be an epic poem of love, loss, tragedy, faith and learning. Even the bus ride there, normally a thing relegated to the same category of experience as sleeping naked outside in the cold or being relentlessly clawed by badgers, was unusually full of fire and verve. But, like fire (and most but not all verve), it can also burn as it warms. Well past my stock of beverages and working on more acquired at a local 7-11 before the bus took off, I knew then that if nothing else the bus ride would be interesting. I was to prove myself right to the utmost degree.
To sleep soundly on a bus requires a certain kind of fortitude that one doesn't come by easily. Very few people possess it inherently, and billions around the world are forced to acquire such tenacity through artificial or unsavory means. I chose a combination of sleep deprivation and inebriation, and promptly slept through that night's entertainment (an Oscar-winning movie that I'm sure I would have loved) and, blessedly, most of the bus ride.
The exception to this miraculous and beer-induced sleep was to be presented by Jeff Lauer, a peer of mine on the trip. Whether or not you realize it at this juncture, you all know Jeff Lauer. Maybe not by his given name, but perhaps hearing his colloquial moniker your memory will be jogged. Jeff is known to one and all as "That Guy." He embodies not just the namesake, but the very essence of what it is to be That Guy in every way.
He is a shameless partier, dresses as a gentleman should, strikes out on adventure at every turn and always comes back with a Conquistadorean story of interactions with the natives or some new species of water-dog found in the caves of Zanzibar. He also makes decisions that lead to unforeseen and often humiliating consequences, all of which he bounces back from with remarkable grace and unmatched fervor. In this case, his inappropriate choice was eating a sandwich on the 45-minute ferry ride between Denmark and Germany. Host to any number of uncatalogued parasites and heretofore undocumented hostile organisms, this sandwich like the soldiers let past the gates of Troy laid waste to his digestive system and resulted in him vomiting, one row of seats behind me, no less than 5 separate times over the course of 8 hours. Now it's impossible to say that it's his fault for being stricken as such, but this is exactly what makes him such a paragon of That Guy-ness -- he is awash in a sea of terrible import with only a crude sextant and the stars to navigate by, all of which lead him to the same tragic cove of pirates which seek to rob him of his social dignity.
Yet he sails on.
And here we have reached a prosaic peak, a literary vantage point from which we may survey the lay of this land and glimpse the rolling hills and dense thickets of the verbose landscape to come. Looking back on the path we have traveled, I can count 7 paragraphs and a line to describe a single bus ride. We haven't even made it to the first day of the trip. The author acknowledges the arduous nature of the task ahead for both writer and the written-to, meaning bailing, napping, stretching or grabbing snacks is excused and even encouraged. Noting that, the fact that the bus ride there warranted so much text is also an indication in and of itself as to the epic and fundamentally bad-ass nature of the pursuant week. Let's see about the first day.
We officially began our journey, after driving through the night, in Dresden, Germany, site of the infamous Bombing of Dresden. Now a triumphant story of resilience after its utter and terrifyingly complete destruction, the city's restoration efforts have revitalized nearly every major cultural site and then some. The history of the place is visible in its every stone -- a special kind of stone typical of buildings in the region that accumulates a hard shell of oxidized iron as it ages, turning it jet black at its full realization. The new stones used in rebuilding, freshly reaped from the same quarries as their ancient brethren, are therefore a startling white contrast to their time-singed predecessors. Since many of the original stones and buildings were left partially intact or reusable in some way, this creates a checkerboard of history and memory on the facade of every church, palace and memorial in the city center.
The city of Dresden was bombed in 1945, when many surmised the war was already irreversibly won, by Allied forces to ease the approach of Soviet soldiers to the capital. A controversial act of war in any regard, the only unambiguous thing about it is that it was incontrovertibly badass in its scope, implementation and devastating effect. The object of the bombing of Dresden was to create a firestorm that would absolutely annihilate it. To this effect, a mix of high-explosive and incendiary materiel was dropped on the city, bombs totaling in the hundreds of thousands. The explosives would level city blocks, removing structural elements to create wind channels that would facilitate the dropping of incendiaries over the same path. This combination of incredible explosive force, readily combustible material and a high-speed oxygen supply creates a literal firestorm. This firestorm raised the outside temperature of Dresden to over 1,000 degrees centigrade. At this temperature, the structures made of wood were literally evaporated and those of stone were heated to such impossible temperatures that they exploded. Aside from the two atomic bombings in Japan executed months later, this is probably one of the most impressive, morally dubious and downright terrifying displays of the destructive capabilities of the collective human will and the devastating machinery it has created for use on ourselves.
Now almost fully restored, this city is home once again to some of the most striking churches, opera houses and gardens of Dionysian debauchery. We went on a tour with an alarmingly chipper guide and learned many mundane facts about the stunning sites around us. I am always struck by how the information about most buildings is far less majestic or even relevant than the actual structures themselves. This was certainly the case, as evidenced by the fact that I could describe to you in intimate detail what these buildings looked like but supply probably no more than a tidbit or two about their historical background.
That night we struck out in small groups and explored independently. This night wasn't as interesting as it could have been, but was still fruitful and fun in many ways. We stumbled upon a great biergarten owned and operated, so it seemed, by just one person. We had authentic German cuisine and enjoyed fine beverages for a delightful 3 hours, then went off in search of the real night life. We ended up at two bars, one place that was up so many flights of stairs (and decorated in such a way) that it may as well have been in space, and another owned by a potentially Indian man who was so shocked that we were both American and in his bar simultaneously that he gathered his whole staff to gawk at us as we socialized.
I say it wasn't as interesting as it could have been because apparently a block from where we were was a Big Lebowski bar. I won't even go into detail here because it should be evident from that sentence alone the opportunity I missed by not finding that place.
The next day we went to Wiemar, a stupendously boring yet quaint and important town in German history. We got a tour from a guy who had nothing much to say, and what he did have to say he said in broken English. That day we also got a few hours to tour the grounds of Buchenwald, one of the most famous concentration camps of the second World War. One would expect a profound sense of despair, grief and depression to arise from such a visit, but I left there with only deep, deep anger. The way they had arranged the exhibits around the camp and the painfully apparent lack of effort placed into the whole design of the place as a memorial and educational site was so painful to me that it took me most of the day to get over it. The recording for the audio tour was disorganized and filled with irrelevant information arranged in a confounding order. To top that off, it was narrated by a person who spoke neither German nor English as their first language and sounded like a flamboyant lisp put through a Lithuanian blender and poured over a toasted loaf of shit. I came out of the camp several miles more tired and no more informed than when I entered, much to my dismay.
That night, to make up for the disappointment at Buchenwald, we had a pleasant dinner and some nice scotch. The waitress made the foolish mistake of serving Johnny Walker to me in a ridiculously cool Bulleit Bourbon glass, which common decency dictated I liberate from the premises. Seeing as it was a Sunday night at this point, the only place we could find to continue our festivities was a local place named like Mittle's or something like that, which was a hilarious time. We walked from that bar back to our hotel...entirely backwards. Miraculously, I was the only one to fall down after tripping on some stairs 20 feet from our hotel. I was the shame of that excursion, something that I'm still grappling with emotionally. My left buttcheek was severely bruised the next day, a traitorous mark I was to bear for the rest of the trip. Pun intended.
Something I should note about Germany, especially the Eastern parts we were in, is that nobody speaks English. One of the more hilarious moments of trying to negotiate the language barrier was when a friend, Gil, was trying to find a money clip in a department store. When we asked a clerk where the wallet section is, she looked at us blankly until I pulled mine out and pointed to it. She turned to a younger-looking patron who was able to help her out, pointed to the wallet and asked him a question. He searched for the right word for a second, and then looked up at her and exclaimed "Oh, put-money!" To which she replied, "Ooooohhhhh. Put-money." This is decidedly not the way that Germans say wallet, not even a very good transliteration, but it is a hilarious way to think about nouns. We then decided that every noun in German would be described by what was put into it. Therefore a mouth would become a put-food, a toilet becomes a put-crap and the oral presentations we had to do on the trip became put-bullshits.
Then, after a mundane visit to the Bauhaus school in some town, we made it to Berlin proper. I have to say right here that this city, while home to some great feats in architecture and some of the most significant cultural sites of the 20th century, was really underwhelming. I had really never considered it before this trip, but the Berlin wall that separated the city so absolutely between East and West fell only two decades ago, and while the process of reconciliation is largely complete in the cultural sphere it has yet to manifest physically in many ways. Our hotel was in East Berlin, and the garbage-and-dog-shit littered sidewalks were my first indication that this wasn't quite the city I had expected.
By day we gawked and ogled our way around the city proper, and by night we roamed within what seemed like an entirely different place. We ate a nice dinner in a restaurant that doubled as a ballroom, meaning we got a free show with the meal. Unfortunately this show was a dance class consisting mostly of a bunch of stodgy Krauts club-footing their way around the dance floor with their wives, who almost certainly coerced them into attending by threatening to take away their kurrywurst privileges. Kurrywurst? Don't ask. It doesn't make any more sense even if you know what it is. Hilarious anecdote about this restaurant (other than me and 6 other people thinking that the appetizers were the whole meal and positively gorging ourselves before the entrees even made it to the table):
There is one girl in our study tour group who is really quite annoying. I'm not talking amateur shit here, I'm talking big league Wreynold's Wrap levels of cling. Paraphrased from the words of jazz great Mose Allison (not you Moze), her mind is on vacation but her mouth is working overtime. This isn't really a normal vacation either, seeing as in the case of a normal vacation people have a tendency to, I don't know, return from it. This is more like a voyage, the kind that Eskimos take when they have outlived the ability to support themselves, floating out to waste away amidst the vast floes of the sea. I could go on with this metaphor, but suffice it to say we tried our hardest to stay away. I'm referring not to subtle misdirection or other such subterfuge, but rather actual documented plans of escape and evacuation contingencies. So, a large group of us stealthily, or so we thought, slipped out of the restaurant. This was a group dinner, meaning the school settled the bill before we even got there, so we knew we could leave any time we wanted to. About a block and a half down the street, giggling and giddy with the success of our covert operation, we were almost run over by a man on a bicycle. While that was shocking enough, the first words out of his mouth were even more so: "Are you skipping out on the bill?" Apparently this disheveled man on a bicycle was the restaurant owner who had seen us leave and thought that, like other teens he was to tell us about, we were attempting to dodge paying for the meal. We were as confused as I was taken aback, but we explained ourselves sufficiently and he let us go on our way (to the bars). The night and those pursuant were to be filled with similar shenanigans and artful dodgeries. It put that little bit of sport into the whole adventure that made it that much more satisfying.
We saw important cultural sites, got a tour by an exceedingly intelligent Danish ex-pat that lasted a little bit too long in weather that was slightly too cold, ate wienerschnitzel -- the whole 9 yards (8.2296 meters).
I am having the damnedest time writing this thing. I'm going to leave it here for now and pick up with our second night in Berlin, prominently featuring me spouting diatribes on the topic of my literally interminable loathing for British youths.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
There are some things about Danes that are really getting to me, even though I know they shouldn't. I have always been one to accept cultural differences, at least in theory, but now I think in practice I'm finding it harder and harder to deal with the public demeanor of other peoples. None of the following is universal, but we'll just say that I've experienced it enough for it to really tick me off.
The first and least severe of the etiquette infractions I've experienced is that most Danes are not that helpful. There have certainly been some that were a great help, but people don't even seem to know or care about even the areas where they live, let alone seem willing to help you find whatever it is you're looking for. Danes don't like talking to strangers at all, especially not when they haven't been spoken to first. I can understand that this is just how things work in Denmark. However, there are two things that I absolutely cannot understand.
The gangsta aesthetic here is impossibly prevalent amongst Danish youths. It isn't difficult to see the appeal of hip-hop music and raiment to juveniles of any country. What is difficult to understand is the attitude that seems to come along with it. I guess sweeping disrespect for authority is universal, rough childhood or not, but this is a welfare state for christ's sake. These kids will literally never want for anything in their entire lives, yet they dress like assholes, disrespect people and violate their privacy in public spaces -- in a manner most atypical to the vast majority of Danes. They love American hip-hop music, yet I couldn't really think of a place outside of Asia that is culturally further from the environment in which the genre arose. This might stem from my tendency to listen to music that I understand and identify with, emotionally or otherwise.
The last thing, and the thing that makes me want to lash out in fury every agonizing instance of its existence, is that nobody here can understand a single fucking word of my Danish. Yes, you're saying, I can see how that might be frustrating, but I don't get how that experience could be as downright purgatorial as you make it out to be. Well, dear reader, let me tell you the rest of the story. I have a good accent. I know very few phrases, but the phrases I do know I have practiced again, and again, and again and again. I listen to native speakers say them on a regular basis and spend hours emulating the noises. There is no way on god's mostly-blue earth that I'm as bad at Danish as one would gather from the looks I get when I try to speak it. I don't even know how to describe this properly, so I will do so with the most ridiculous literary devices I can think of:
Yesterday a woman on the train wanted to tell me that this was the last stop on the line we were on, and as I was to later find out she said as much, very clearly in Danish. This would have been obvious to me already if I hadn't been dead asleep for the past 1/2 hour of the ride, but the bottom line is that the scene opens with some lady saying something to me in Danish that I clearly don't understand. The most helpful phrase I've learned here so far is "I don't speak Danish," or "Jeg taler ikke Dansk." This is not a long phrase. The pronunciation isn't even that strange as Danish phrases go. I said it out loud, in a manner of appropriate volume and enunciation, looking straight at her. From the look on her face, I seriously thought that in my sleep I had accidentally done grievous bodily harm to somebody very dear to her. She looked not just confused, but actually disgusted at my utterance of that simple yet essential phrase. Her reply was "What?!?" as if I had just insinuated that by night she sells her body to fat Swedes on the ferry.
I was literally livid with frustration. I know that Danes have a hard time with accents, but I simply WILL NOT accept that the level of mis- or total incomprehension I have been subjected to in this country is tolerable or even rational. I'm trying so hard and it feels like getting slapped in the face every time somebody asks me if I'm speaking German. I'm telling you guys, my accent is really pretty spot-on. It's obvious that I'm not a native, because to achieve that kind of proficiency in this language involves growing extra folds in your soft palette or fucking gills or something.
On top of this, today marks the first day of the rains and, in all likelihood, the last day of snow in any serious capacity. Most would rejoice at this painfully lackluster display of warmth, but I am more depressed by far. Aside from my freakish affinity for the cold, I really fucking hate rain, especially clouds. My only way of dealing with the weather here has been to avoid thinking about it as much as humanly possible. I can count two days where it has been sunny for even a majority of the day, let alone the whole thing. If I didn't have such a burning hatred of numbers, I would calculate a percentage of sunny days out of my total days here. The result, we shall say, would be mind-shattering.
So, am I going a little crazy over here? Yes. I haven't been getting out quite as much, I've been up later and spending more time recovering from said late nights than I usually would. I have a really long day ahead of me, tacking on to my already 5 hours of wakefulness at 11:12 am, but with any luck or vague sense of cosmic consistency it will end well. My plan for today is to get through classes and a Danish quiz, over at 5:45, and then grab drinks with the interns and staff of the IT helpdesk here. I have hit it off with them really well the few times I've been in with friends' computer problems or those of my own, and if nothing else we will have ridiculous customer service stories to swap over a few brews. Then, it's back to Mojo again to see their house jam band tear it up. My goal from now until that begins at 9:30 is to get as many people as I can to come along with me. I think pretty much everyone I live with is busy with work or other plans, but I can't spend another night sitting around on this infernal machine upon which I now chisel this cursed tome.
One light in the bleak and never-ending sea of greyscale of this country is that we are close enough to Sweden to get their major sports networks, which means Olympic hockey! Naturally, Denmark is terrible at just about every sport -- known or as of yet undiscovered -- so nobody here cares about the Olympics, and thus very little of it is broadcast. The up/downside to having to watch on Swedish networks is I've had the distinct (dis)pleasure of listening to Swedish commentary. I am in such a habit of tuning out the banal blatherings of whatever once-almost-famous stiffs they can resuscitate for long enough to draw Xs and Os on whatever hideous technological holdover from the 1980s they can rig up before going on air, that even in languages I understand, I get about the same value out of it. As much as I'm filled with xenophobic rage at the perceived rudeness I have suffered at the hands of the Danes, I don't think anyone can help but find the Swedish language anything short of hilarious. Listening to the Swedes, especially the old ones who have the real Nordic Lilt in their voice where our deepest caricatures of their language originate from, turn names like "Jack Johnson" into "Yak Yawnsoon" could make a hanged man grin. That being said, the prevailing inferiority complex that the Danes have in regards to Sweden leads me to believe that I shouldn't be happy about having to watch things in Swedish.
I will now take a moment to pay tribute to the United States of America's Men's Olympic Ice Hockey team, who are kicking ass and taking names in the true likeness of Uncle Sam and the rag-tag bunch of kung-fu hustlin' superdelegates that founded our great country. After brutally burgling the Canadians of the only thing their nation had (very intentionally past tense) to be proud of with the defeat of their supersquad of Canuck Puckslingers, the American team has done us proud as a nation and, it is my firm belief, will continue to do so until the halcyon wings of freedom have vaulted them to highest position on the winner's podium. Oh, say, I can already see that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the lands of the Canadians as we slowly but inexorably subsume their culture and territory into ours.
I myself tried to go ice skating for about the 6th time yesterday, figuring it would be nice to finally use the skates I had shipped over here, and after weeks of asking around (not surprisingly nobody had any even remote idea of where to find an ice skating rink) and searching frantically on the interwebs I finally thought I had found a place. I got the address, printed out explicit and detailed instructions on how to get there, had my watch synchronized with the atomic clock and my skates ready to go. I even called ahead to make sure they were open for public skating. The detail that I missed was that this ice rink was closed two years ago for renovations, and a temporary rink in a completely different part of town was opened and given the same number. So while I did call ahead and confirm, after almost 4 hours of stumbling around the public transportation system to the far reaches of Osterbro and back, all I came back with was an unpleasantly intimate knowledge of a dilapidated building that once held the object of my dreams and desires, where now only regret and shame remain. I did have a bitchin' chicken and jalapeno sandwich across the street, though, and I got to know that area better. So, as usual, all is not lost. Just a little disappointing.
Last night I got to take another crack at singing The Balcony with Jeppe, and besides the fact that we both keep switching the lyrical order in different ways (it's been a while since our last rehearsal), the piece is really coming together. We got some preliminary informal recordings of it, you can expect a video of the finished piece by mid-March after I get back from my long study tour. I love singing songs, especially ones that sound good, especially ones that sound good that have harmonies (which is all of them). Slowly I will master this craft of harmonizing, until I can harmonize with everyday speech and just totally destroy peoples minds when they talk to me. The song, which is realllllly good and should be thoroughly investigated by anybody who has remotely similar music tastes to me, is by a Danish band called The Rumour Said Fire as I have probably mentioned a dozen times before. Jeppe and I will be performing it for a showcase night on March 20th at my folkehojskole, and hopefully again at other venues after that.
Even in a land of dank, cloudy frustration and brusque natives, there remains opportunity and promise for an enterprising young fool like me. The question will slowly but surely come to be about how this will translate to my life at home, around which I have constructed convenient and very cloistering barricades that prevent new things from entering or exiting. I'm not sure how to answer that, nor do I think I will be until I can see first-hand how it plays out, but I have some idea of where to start.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
When posting the link for my previous blog post on my Facebook wall, I had to do one of those character recognition tests to make sure I wasn't a robot trying to spam peoples walls with my e-filth. Normally they are pretty non-sequitur word sets that you have to identify and retype, like "bridging haptic" or "abandonment crustacean." This one made just enough sense to be kind of a thing, and it was hilarious, and now I've gone off and forgot it. Fuck me sideways. It was hilarious too! Something like Indigent Williams, like a proper hobo name, conjuring up the silhouette of a dirt-eating 75 year old panhandler in the grizzly heights of the Sierra Nevadas.
You may have noticed a sudden dearth in the normally verdant fields of verbiage that this blog purveys. Well, aside from the fact that I'm becoming less and less incredulous about the goings-on of this place as I adjust culturally, I've also been hoarding away my writings so that I could present to you this bumper crop of delightful prose. Two posts in one day! What I have to offer you, aside from my normal musings, is this:
Preface -- An Island Apart, A Fantasy As One
Even in foreign countries, sometimes you just can't help imagining what you would do if the zombie apocalypse were to occur. This is the second draft of a collaborative effort between myself and Taylor Woodward, a colleague here at my hojskole and a true patriot, who is featured prominently in this short piece. With any luck or motivation, this will be further revised and subsequently serialized.
Chapter 1 -- Dead Dread Deadening
Taylor sits quietly in economics class, his gaze catching at seemingly arbitrary points around the room. The teacher drones on about marginal revenue. The stapler, the heavy oak desk that looked so out of place in the sparsely furnished classroom, the hefty aluminum legs on the chairs. The pathetically unintelligent ask unintelligent questions. Taylor doodles and ponders how much time is left. A room devoid of interest but full of so much potential.
All of a sudden, a break in the monotony. A girl by the window screams in horror, the collective attention of the class focuses on her just in time to see her pointing out the window at the offices across the way. At the point where her gaze collides with the building's facade, the class fixates on a bay window awash with the blood of innocents. Students leap up from their seats, vaulting up onto the window sills to get a better view of a sight they know they shouldn't want to see.
Another girl shrieks and points, as girls are wont to do, in the next office over a woman is barricading the door in a desperate bid to buy time for her already fading existence. The weak door cannot withstand the pressure, snapping inward in an explosion of splinters. Four figures enter the room; clothes torn, skin gray, mouths agape and covered in blood...zombies. The walking dead. Not just walking – the limb-ripping, flesh-feasting dead that reside in the collective nightmare of every society. The class watches in horror as the vicious ghouls set into the woman and subsume her into their vile cohort. Down on the street people flee and run from the zombie foe as Taylor's econ teacher slams down the phone, cursing the absent dial tone.
Screams of terror erupt in the stairwell outside the classroom as zombies pour into the building. The teacher rushes over and locks the door, Taylor knows it is a futile gesture, some students begin to weep.
Chapter 2 -- Hurricane Stirring
The screams from outside grow louder, rising with a tide of crashing doors and frantic footsteps as zombies surge into the classroom across the hall. Some other students begin to panic, others faint from terror. Taylor walks calmly over to the coat rack and dons his jacket, zipping up tight. He feels the cool leather of his gloves at his fingertips as they slide effortlessly onto his hands, a sensation almost as familiar to him as that of taking a man's life. As the arms of his night-vision shades slip over his ears, the power cuts out, muffling the gory screams of the inhumanity around him in darkness.
As the zombies begin to bang on the door, students rush over to secure it. Taylor, having realized hours ago the futility of such a gesture in the face of a potential zombie attack of this magnitude, already knows what must be done. He kneels down next to the chairs his gaze had wandered across at the beginning of class, slowly unscrewing one of the metal legs; about 4 feet long and solid – perfect.
As the students continue to pile chairs and tables in front of the door, Taylor waits. Biding his strength for the dark harvest to come, he sheds a single tear for the imminent death of his classmates.
Just then, the all-but forgotten back door of the room slams open. Zombies. Students scream and try to run. Too late. At least 10 of the mutants rush through the door and attack the class now trapped in a brutal bloodlock they have no hope of winning by the very barricade they erected in a vain attempt at survival.
The teacher goes first, torn into a bloody mess, never to give horrible essay prompts ever again. Then the dumb students, caught trying to escape. Taylor waits patiently at the other end of the room. As the zombies devour what they believe to be all the students in the room, one catches a whiff of yet-fresh brains.
The creature raises its blight-ridden skull, directly into the path of the whistling chair leg, which connects with a sickening splunch – bloodying the undead mob already blanketed in red. The creature's zombie allies turn and roar as they face their undoing: Taylor Fucking Woodward.
They lock eyes for a moment,
The zombies are slow, plodding. Taylor moves like the wind, swinging his weapon in magnificent arcs as he catches the first zombie In. The. Face.
Ducking, sliding, weaving, he eludes the outstretched arms of his foes, grasping fatefully as their instincts command, only to lose their . And after many strikes of his mighty weapon the dispatches the last of his enemies back into the fiery hell from whence they were borne. As he begins to leave he notices one of the zombies was a police officer, 9mm handgun still holstered faithfully at his side. Taylor commandeers the gun, cleans the zombie blood off his table leg, and walks out of the building as it is engulfed in a crimson inferno.
Taylor feels the heat. He never looks back. He can feel the bodies burn – but he senses no fear.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
...Wednesday night, at Mojo, a blues bar. There's is nothing quite like live blues, even if it is performed by foreigners with weird haircuts. That place is probably the best in terms of total entertainment value and legititude that I've visited while here. It's small, smoky and well-appointed enough that it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. This bar has live performances nearly every night of the week, and entry is free on weekdays.
What an epic week. Full of Adventure! Scandal! Drama! This week has been host to a grand coincidence of both potential and kinetic brands of fun. They are properly correlated for the first time in a while, and I am reaping the rich bounty of this fun-harvest. These are solid plans that turn out to be better than already expected, which makes them pretty much the best kind of plans.
I feel like I have found the core to this whole experience, my social kernel, from which I can weather the shitstorm of gossip and snakkeligt that pervade my living situation. Really it's all you can expect when people of such vast difference in attitude and action are placed in direct contact for hours and hours a day without much in the way of reprieve. Every action and conversation is threaded through with a venomous strand, and the net it weaves covers the entirety of experience here. It isn't really that different from being at, in a purely hypothetical sense, going to a school of 1,400 in a town of 9,000. Not that I have much experience in that kind of situation. But still, at Grinnell people have the time and leisure to get settled in before the shenanigans really start. Also, living on a floor for a whole year at college impels your signature onto a sort of contract that forces you to care what other people think, in what turns out to be a really uncomfortable dance. Here, there isn't quite enough time to care about that stuff, and it really shows. On the bright side, the group size at the hojskole is just right such that there's breathing room between people.
So the band last night, a blues quartet strangely entitled Tutweiler, was comprised of 4 Danes who look like they could be a Weezer ska cover band that had a horrible lab accident involving the Dave Matthews Band and Chuck Berry's ghost. Short sleeve button downs, the SuperCoif slickback hair, cowboy-Europop pointed boots. The whole 9 yards (
And so it was written in the book of Rage. Parts of this week just pissed me off. Couldn't really tell you why. Maybe it was my bipolar Danish teacher who told the class that I wasn't in good shape because I had not one but two grammatical errors on my homework. I think I've already belabored the point that the Danes have a different sense of what is public or private than we do. Maybe it was that we watched United Flight 93, a movie as cheesy (at times) and morally dubious as it is discomforting. Maybe it was the fact that it's been cloudy in this country since before human memory, or the 3 flakes of snow that managed to hit the ground without melting that prompted all buses to stop service. I fucking hate that bus so much I have dreams about it getting ripped apart by large machines with no remorse.
Maybe it was my bitch computer, which stopped taking a charge from the wall for about an hour this morning. I think that episode was the closest I've come to axe-kicking a piece of technology through a solid floor, but luckily I was able to restrain myself. Luckily, being a badass of unfathomably epic proportions, I happened to narrow down where the power failure was happening and -- get this -- have the spare part to fix it with. This is the second time this particular part of my AC adapter has failed, so this time I came prepared. Yae, and on this day it was acknowledged my dominion over all things technology.
Maybe it was this runny nose, which is pretty much a never-ending cockblock but for fun. Wanna go out? Sniffle. Were you thinking about being somewhere without a tissue box for more than 15 seconds? Drip. Had you planned on not feeling like shoving your head through a wall at least once an hour? Throb. What the fuck do sinuses even do? They just sit there all day, smug in their power over you and your olfactory senses, drizzling hideous slime out of two holes in your face. Why can't the cavities in our skulls be filled with something cool, like chocolate syrup? Why can't we just use it as storage space? It all just seems like a big sham to me, and the festering mountain of sodden tissues sitting next to me is all the proof I need.
Some days, you just have to be angry. Hell, most people hardly even need a reason. I haven't figured out how to get around it except to let it out. If I try to talk myself down I always just end up depressed. The good news is it never lasts very long, and there always remains my one true outlet for emotions that I have no clue how to deal with: humor. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is tonight's word.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
It's challenging to stay as "in the moment" as I feel like I should be at all times. It's also hard to type on these goddamn European keyboards. Must they thwart my attempts to bring prosaic justice to this accursed land at every turn?
But onward I must press. My tactic so far has been to just get outside, and to that end I've been shoveling an elliptical path through the snow atop the frozen pond in the yard here. I may have already mentioned this before. I don't remember, I write too damn much on this thing anyway. I might be acting in a Sisyphean manner, as I'm certain by the time I finish the ice will be too thin to skate on -- not to mention the fact that it consistently snows right after I get done shoveling. Not a lot, but enough to irk me in a most irksome manner. IRK.
I really really don't want to fall into a pond of near-freezing water. That would kind of put a damper on whatever form of happiness I had going on here.
Today, instead, I will be playing soccer. Football. Whatever.
I crave buffalo wings with such consistency and visceral fury that I don't think I'll make it much longer in this alimentary climate, which is comprised chiefly of mayonnaise and weak curry powder. Any kind of food you could consider "Dansk," a distinction that many Danes don't recognize, can pretty much be boiled down to a sauce you can put on starch or meat. It still tastes pretty good, but I think it lacks a certain verve that food from places with real cultural pride has. The snack food is also severely lacking, which is really more of a blessing than anything. It's easy to see why our country tips the scale so obesely when weighed against others, especially Denmark. Not only is our food fattier, saltier and more artificial on average, but the portions are larger and the price is unimaginably lower. It would be interesting to map the prices of food over America's history and try to compare it to other countries. While I suppose lower prices allow more of our populace to eat to begin with, the food they are given in the quantities they are buying it presents a situation that is pretty universally reprehensible. And throughout all of this, the farmers and providers of America are being swallowed up at a rate comparable to that of the fruits of their labor.
I had a mildly exciting week. Between a strange illness, many late nights, a paper writing experience and a bar performance, I feel like I should have more to talk about than I do. I guess I can try:
I went out into Copenhagen on Tuesday, purportedly to sing some karaoke. What ended up happening was distinctly not like karaoke, but it was still legit. I met up with Bill Schoenfelder, aka Big Bill Money aka Billiam aka Billionaire, who I haven't seen in a coon's age, and he tagged along as the rest of the American contingency from my højskole and I ran amok through the city square and "hopped bars" as they say. I had some hilarious exchanges with very drunk Jews, who are always excited to see other Jews in such a strange land as this, you can imagine for yourselves how those went. When we actually got to the karaoke place, after our group splintered in a quintessentially inebriated manner, there was really not much going on. There was a guy on stage, we would later learn it was his birthday that night, holding the mic. Now, karaoke was happening, but he was decidedly not a participant. The words were scrolling by on the screen, and the instrumentals were blaring, but he was just holding a conversation that was completely unrelated...through the microphone. We left immediately and sang the whole way home, which was a long way. There is almost nothing good about the night bus to Helsingør. On it I gave my flash drive full of random music ripped out of my iTunes library to a girl, purportedly a friend of somebody staying at this højskole, so with any luck I'll see that again before May.
Thursday was exciting enough, I got to sing a song with that guy I mentioned a few weeks ago on this blog, Jeppe. In typical fashion, eschewing the always helpful step of planning ahead and, I don't know, knowing what time I'm supposed to be there, I just showed up at the bar at a random time hoping he would be there. Turns out I was about 80 minutes early, but also in typical fashion turned out to be a very good thing. I was one of 4 people in the bar for those 80 minutes, and two of the people were already fast friends and were decidedly against holding a conversation with me. Which left me and the bartender, a really neat guy named Kasper who was playing Kings of Convenience when I came in. Music really is the great uniter.
Long story short, we talked for a long time and I got the name of some cool underground music spaces to check out in the future. Then the drinks started coming in. By the time that night ended at 3am, I had payed maybe 70 kroner for about 200 kroner worth of drinks, not one of which I asked for but all of which I received gladly. The bartender was also a whiskey enthusiast, so of course I had to try some of his stock. Needless to say next Thursday will take place primarily at this bar, conveniently only a couple miles from my place of residence. The performance also went well, although they only had one mic which was troublesome. Once I get the parts down for more songs (slash make them up), I could be a regular.
After that, one of my companions and I decided to stick around and make some friends. We ended up meeting, in keeping with the truly ridiculous nature of everything, a bunch of professional bricklayers who were also on the same soccer team. Apparently they've been out of work for quite a while due to the weather, which not a single Dane fails to point out is unusually cold even for a country this far North. I end up randomly stepping in and winning a fusbol game, playing wingman for one of the bricklayers, hilarity did in fact ensue.
After singing so much and being around college-aged people for so long (you will recall I just came off of a short study tour with 30 of my contemporaries), there was no way to avoid getting a cold, specifically in the throat. The scary part was that my tonsil really hurt. Yeah, that's right. The one I had removed. So basically my throat is haunted now.
Friday I had a fun time of staying in and small-scale partying at the højskole, and I'll take this time to point out that I have danced more here than I have at any one other place or time, something that I didn't really expect but I suppose subconsciously knew had to happen. It can be fun! I introduced people to Tunak Tunak Tun, which as you know means virtually endless entertainment.
Saturday was a costume party, as a part of the Fastelavns tradition here in Denmark. It's like Winterween, but without ghosts. The tradition is to put a live cat in a barrel and then smash the barrel like a pinata until the cat is broken loose and, probably severely abused, flees the scene. This is symbolic of driving evil out of the town, but due to magical trickery they had to substitute cats for the witches they really meant to put in the barrels. Nowadays it's just candy in the barrel, but it was still funny. It was also Korean New Year, Valentines Day and our very own special made up holiday, wine day. Hooray! I dressed up as the 70s, but after a solid week of out-and-aboutness I felt like I couldn't muster the energy to put my all into it and really adopt the full persona. Pictures will follow
This was also unfortunately one of those nights that I fell asleep before midnight. Let's just say my night didn't go as planned, but it's really no disaster. If I've learned anything from being here it's that you are never out of options.
Soccer time. Football. Whatever.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
What my dad astutely pointed out about a day after my last blog post is that I never really talked about how I learned to stop worrying and love the Gammel Dansk.
Aside from the fact that I really wanted to work a title reference to Dr. Strangelove into this blog somehow, the two major parts of that clause are definitely relevant to my journey here, or really to any journey I undertake. Let's break it down: First, I really don't like worrying about things. Second, raised on a culturally diverse diet and blessed by Odin with an "open-minded palette," I've developed a taste tolerance for just about anything.
Now, you're probably still scratching your head in a befuddled state. You want to ask me, "But Simon, what is Gammel Dansk and in what manner does it relate to your taste buds?" To answer this, we'll have to delve into some etymology.
Dansk is the easy part of this couplet, meaning "Danish." The first word is a little trickier but still doable, with Gammel glossing to "ancient," or, more appropriate to the vernacular of liquor naming conventions, "old." Old in the sense of, say, Old Crow. I think most of you will, from the resounding depths of that reference, be able to infer the terror that this word should inspire in you when placed before "Dansk." I'm looking at you, Greg Swanson.
Now, there's some context you should be aware of when approaching Danish liquors and food in general. The only real spice they have in this part of the world is Anise. For those who aren't aspiring botanists out there, this is the plant not quite responsible for unleashing the abomination known as licorice upon this world, but for then imitating its flavor for some probably Satanic purpose. I think it's one of the only plants that could withstand the constant yelling emanating from Viking civilization around the turn of the first century.
In all seriousness though, the Vikings, in keeping with their truly brutal nature, liked really bitter stuff. Lacking hops, the Vikings chopped up wormwood to brew into their beers. I don't know if you've ever bitten wormwood, I had a chance to do so at the brewery tour we went on, but it is true to what I'm certain its namesake would taste like. So really bitter tasting weird shit ended up in a lot of Danish sweets and treats, but most importantly in Danish liquor. They have licorice shots, menthol shots, schnapps flavored with dill leaves and soil -- you name something you would never want to ingest concurrently with alcohol, they've got it.
So now this brings us -- dramatic pause -- to Gammel Dansk. Gammel Dansk has licorice. It probably has anise. It has echoes of vermouth. It has the flavor sucker-punch of bitters. It has 40% alcohol by volume. It has it all. Gammel Dansk is an incredibly potent bastardization of more or less everything you wouldn't want to drink independent of some vast quantity of mixer, but all mixed together. And the flavors do not complement each other, except in the sense that it makes the true awfulness of every distinct stitch of this Frankenstein's brew really come to life.
The first time I had Gammel Dansk, at the ridiculous kollegium party I described a few posts ago, I thought that in the frenzy of the party somebody had also struck me in the torso with a 2x4 at the moment that I took a swig. The second time was a much more fitting occasion, standing on top of the grave of Gorm the Old, the first King of Denmark, where our teacher busted out a bottle and plastic shot glasses for the whole class to suffer under. Rational prudence would have led to me refusing to drink the stuff a second time, but we were on study tour, and the site we were at is literally as old and Danish as it gets. Literally, that site is host to a rune stone with the first recorded instance of the land being referred to as Denmark. Also, it's been my habit this trip to never say no to adventure, which this drink certainly qualifies as.
Somewhere in this tangled mess of words is a point I was trying to make about letting go and just rolling with it. The study tour was stressful, our group was full of really outgoing people that I have a history of being intimidated by. And it happened, but I feel like I got by alright, and I kept saying yes to adventure with maybe one exception, and it worked out fine. Maybe not ideal, but in truth it's not worth worrying about if somebody else had a better time than you. It isn't about having a really epic time all the time, in fact it can't be philosophically speaking. I had to fight those thoughts, tag-teaming me with my bizarre discomfort with travel, tooth and nail, but maybe I gained some ground. We'll see.
It always surprises me how my situation here never really stops changing, new people are constantly entering and exiting the scene. It's a Plato's cave of beer and people and bad karaoke, figures parading before my eyes -- some of which in a sense won't even be real to me in 3 months. In another sense, though, there are a tremendous amount of choices open to me here if I just take the initiative. Me inviting people out to parties or making plans is something completely foreign to my normal experience, I like to have things just coalesce organically. But it's refreshing to ask people to come out for a night on the town, it makes me feel more in control of the situation than I normally do. Confidence is fun.
I saw a couple of the kids from my tour out on the town last night and everything was groovy. I say groovy because I literally can't wait until this weekend's Ice Disco party (tagline: "The Shizzle on the Izzle"). I'm just gonna end it there, with the part about disco on ice. Because that is downright exciting.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Seeing as this is the first time I've been in Zealand and sober since Wednesday, I figured I would blog about my short study tour to Western Denmark, otherwise known as Jutland to us and Jylland to them. Jutland is a mystical place, replete with planar landscapes, flat lands and hill-less countrysides. It took me a few days to really discover how without-height this part of Denmark is, mostly because of the oppressive fog that choked out the sun every hour of the day and night.
The drive, clear across the country, only took us something like 4 hours, which is ridiculous considering that you can practically drive any direction for that duration from my house and never see the end of anything (ok, maybe due East would take you to the shore by hour 4, but you get the point). I would use my school address as an example, but I feel like that's cheating -- everybody knows Iowa is 4 hours from everything, it's just a law of nature.
I'll take this time to note that after only 3 days without a computer, my hands have already forgotten where some of the keys lie. This marks about the 4th time that I've typed 5 instead of 4, and the third time that I've hit the = key instead of backspace. It's legitimately concerning, on two fronts: a) I would like to maintain my proficiency at computer use and b) WHAT HAVE I BECOME?!?!?
In Nordic Mythology we broke down the structure of pre-Viking poetry, called Scaldic poetry (epic). These poems were hundreds of lines long, written entirely in the heads of roving bands of poet-warriors, and had the most batshit insane rhyme scheme I've ever heard. The Germanic peoples hadn't hewn end-rhymes out of rocks and blood yet by this time, so everything was consonance and alliteration. Every line had to begin and end with words with the same beginning vowel sound, as did the middle word of the line, which had to be the same as every other middle word in the poem. I will reprint some more rules from an undisclosed online source:
"Each stanza has eight lines, and each line has six syllables. Three syllables in each line must be stressed, and the last syllable must be unstressed. The lines are linked in alliterating pairs, and the first line of each pair must have two alliterating syllables. All lines must have internal rhyme."
So ridiculous! Why would anybody bother making poetry like this, you ask? How would anybody even remember poetry like that? There are so many rules! Our teacher, Morten Warmind of the Bloodthirsty Blade, told us that to the contrary, these poems were hard to memorize at first but thereafter literally unforgettable. People in those times memorized all these crazy oral traditions and poems because they had nothing else to remember. Never was there a scene like
Mette: "Lars, did you remember to club the seal this morning?"
Because seal clubbing was literally all they did all the time, with some jewelry making or boar hunting in between. While this may be an especially narrow view of Viking life, the point still stands: they had more room in their brains back then.
The Jutland tour was a whirlwind of museum visits, delicious meals, attractive...monasteries and liquor. It was a great opportunity to both get to know other kids in the program and meet Danes, who are as a rule hilarious and awesome. We got a chance, on top of our excessive museum visits, to stay at the first folkehojskole ever created (by N. F. Grundtvig himself), furnished almost identically to my home hojskole and replete with same-aged Danes and a couple Czechs. We had a chance to sit down and mingle with them, which was really cool. I think that my conversation skills are really improving, and it's always fun to hear about people who had more or less a completely foreign upbringing (sans the absurd amount of Friends everybody in Europe grew up on). The only problem is that I'm now getting tired of asking the same questions over and over again, and you all know how much I hate repeating myself.
We got a chance to see the epic oldiocity of Ribe, the oldest sedentary town in all of Scandinavia (which is also, incidentally, the namesake of ScanTron automated answer cards from the Standardized Testing days of yore). It was cold, confusing and full of people who were probably holdovers from the town's first neighborhood, which is to say: ancient, crusty, territorial and completely non-English-speaking. I walked on a lot of lawns trying to get better looks at landmarks and buildings, and subsequently got yelled at in Danish quite a few times, presumably ushering me off of said lawns.
We went to a Viking museum in Jelling, ("Yelling," in keeping with my theory that everything can be made better by screaming things as loud as you can) the place where the first King of Denmark is buried and also home to the most epic runic stones in the world chronicling the spread of Christianity in the Viking kingdom.
Most importantly, though, we got to go out on a Friday night in a town with literally nothing to do but drink. We ended our "academics" on Friday with a tour of a local microbrewery, which I was reasonably excited about given that I spend a majority of my time drinking seasonal microbrews and discussing Proust (BRIGAND!). Now, most brewery tours you get a really long spiel about how it's made and then they give you a thimble full of their latest travesty and send you on your way. This brewery, owned by three ordinary schmucks who are probably brothers in a symbolic sense, began the tour with a tasting. In fact, the whole tour was a tasting, we never even moved. The distillery is in something like a 500 year old garage in the center of a 1300 year old town, and 35 of us crammed into this one room filled with beer and he just said "have at it." With that and the beer included in our dinner that night, I was drunk for easily 8 hours without paying a dime (50re). Not only that, but the beer was fan fucking tastic. Beer here is higher quality in general, but it's all the standard pale fare if you don't want to pay out the ears for it (incidentally, Vikings used to pay for beer with actual ears). Dark beer here is the closest thing to the godly nectar of (br-)Olympus that mankind has ever ventured, but comes at a correspondingly wallet-punishing price.
We then went to a bar that we heard was fun and reasonably priced, we being me and this guy AJ from Grinnell who I met here. As an aside, AJ tells me that he had an avocado tree on his street growing up as a kid in California. The fiery passion for jealous murder in cold blood burned brightly in my eyes. Anyway, needless to say there was karaoke, and also needless to say I have a throat cold, but I sang anyway much to my body's dismay. Karaoke is always a bucket of fun, but after a while I was utterly defeated by it. Walking outside, I saw a lot of Danes running around looking kind of odd. It didn't really strike me until I passed a guy and felt my mouth say "holy fuck, it's Ziggy Stardust." Apparently he didn't really expect me to say that as much as I didn't expect me to say that, and he whirled around and promptly hugged me for about 10 seconds. I was the only one who got that he was dressed up as David Bowie's alter ego that night, as this was a night that Danes in Ribe go around in costumes.
What I didn't know at the time, or did know but at the time forgot, is that this time of year Danes celebrate Fastelavns, which is pretty much a less eerily pagan Halloween where kids dress up and get drunk. Sorry, go from house to house and demand candy. Basically, Ziggy then invited me to go out with his friends, but some other people I was with were being difficult and much to my now dismay, I didn't follow him. Instead I went back to the hostel looking for ping pong tables, stumbled into the gym and cried "wtf, are they racing mini-horses in here or something?" What I meant to say was "My, there is a lot of equipment in here that would lead me to believe there's a dog show happening tomorrow." There were jumps, hoops, those crazy dog slalom post things, the whole shebang. Then I put dog and hoop together and realized that I had indeed seen an alarming number of well-groomed canines about the city that day. This would be confirmed the next morning when I awoke to frenzied yapping, surrounded by dogs. Not literally, but you get the point.
As usual, despite the highlights of this trip it was once again confusing and unsettling in some ways. I really don't like traveling and I get cranky if I have to stand for too long. Between walking everywhere, being on a cramped bus and the awful beds they had us on, my legs took a pounding this week. Keep in mind that this study tour was with 34 people I had never met before, so figuring out that dynamic was also a hassle. I got out-sarcasm'd many times over by some of the kids in the group, but I managed to keep myself socially engaged the whole time. Sometimes I felt a bit too much on the fringe for my liking, but I kept my chin up and had a really good trip. I also really like the guy who is teaching our class and led the whole tour, we had a number of really quality conversations that I would never expect to have with a teacher. The faculty-student dynamic here is completely different from that in the states, and it's really quite nice.
I'm not sure I have any major ontological conclusions to draw from any of this, and there's about a dozen more pages I could write about the study tour, but I think I'll leave it here for now. Today's adventure will be finding a place to watch the Super Bowl, and will probably involve me staying up all night until the trains start running again tomorrow morning. Details at 11 (a.m. tomorrow).