Friday, October 29, 2010

Quarter Bowling Night

Cheap bowling is like the Bat Signal for nerds. I mean this nicely, because it would be impossible to deny that I do not also share in the same excitement that overcomes these people every week. While not quite on the "We're going to dress up like Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia because we've never been laid" level of excitement, I would classify myself under the "Holy crap pitchers of PBR are $6" category. In case you were wondering, yes, lane 29 decided to share with us their Star Wars theme and questionable virginities.

Nothing like a cult-sport to bring out the superstition in people. A man in the lane next to me was the spitting image of Silent Bob. Now, I'm not one to judge (that's a lie), however he literally had to kiss his ball every single time he rolled. And as the night progressed (yes, you can assume my level of intoxication was rising), it became more and more difficult not to laugh every time he kissed the little pink finger holes in his black ball. After a while, I was staring at him so intently you would have thought I had made a drinking game out of it. The 'kisses' became a blurred line between actually making lip contact with the ball crawling in bacteria and just sort of spitting a little right on his hands. While describing the experience right now is making me gag, actually seeing it happen in front of me was all I could do not to laugh in a grown mans face. Superstition or OCD, I'm not sure what it was but I am sure he caught a cold.

All this being said, I cannot wait for next Wednesday night. Not so much for the mingling, but for the laughing at other people part.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Should Have Seen This Coming

I knew from our first conversation that it was probably a bad idea when he said, "Nothing lasts forever." It's not that I'm the marrying type, or the kind of person that thinks she could trick someone into loving her forever, but I do have a crippling fear that one day I will be too old for anyone to fuck me.

I've dealt with a few break ups in my time. Not very often, though, and this is based on the fact that I am a selfish person who thinks too highly of herself and therefore cannot put up with most people. I've had a few, "I guess I didn't realize how crazy you really were until just now and I'm forced to run away before any of that crazy rubs off on me," break ups and the usual "You drink too much," break up. But my all time favorite break up is the surprise break up.

It comes in many forms, but my favorite is when I've been traveling. On my way to Africa, my boyfriend at the time tells me, "you know, I think we can do this. I think we should stay together," which I thought was odd coming from the person who broke up with me every summer so that he himself could travel. I thought it was going to be ok at the time (I'd be gone for 4 months!), but SURPRISE! Here's a message sent via MYSPACE why I think we should no longer be together anymore. Are you fucking kidding me? I could have been fooling around with other travelers 4 weeks ago, you prick!

The break up following a trip was a pretty good surprise, too. Really? You couldn't have turned me back to the wild before I went? No? Too difficult? I literally sat there thinking he was one step away from saying "It's not you, it's me," to which I would have had to have thrown my coffee in his face because that's what the movies have told me to do.  That entire thought process really did go through my head. These are the kinds of things I think about. What is wrong with me. Nothing like being told by someone that they would rather be alone then with the likes of me. That's a kick to the junk.

There's nothing like the all-consuming solitude that follows a break up in which I've managed to ignore all my other friends throughout the course of said relationship. Begging and crawling back to them, I of course have to listen to all their boring shit that has happened while I've been away before getting down to what I really want to talk about, which is myself, and of the horrible pain and why does this shit keep happening, blah blah blah. I'm exaggerating, but you get the point.
In any case, I'm sick of wallowing in this mud. I'm sick of feeling things that other people make me feel. I've forgotten that I am better off on my own. Why do guys always make me forget that I am a badass?

The Art of a Successful Hostel in a Country Where Foreigners Come to Drink

One of the dirtiest tricks of a hostel is the check-out time. As a rule, while traveling in most parts of the world, to get a real feel for a culture you have to experience all aspects of a culture, which includes the nightlife. Check out time is 10am. I don't know if you've ever been hung over, but the thought of waking up and being thrown into the streets by 10am is terrifying. These hostels have an excellent, 'come home whenever you feel like it' policy, which only promotes the oversleeping and therefore overcharging of the traveler. This will actually promote the traveler to pay for another night in order to nap away the hang over and start the whole process over again. It's an infinite loop that the silly foreign drunk must not fall victim to!

And who knows if the traveler will actually make it back to the hostel at all, in which case they must, in an odd sort of 'walk of shame', collect their personal belongings that were left in the room past check out time from the front desk. There you have it, the sand trap of the hostel world. Now go make your millions.

Butterflies-Be-Gone

10/8/2010
I always wonder why I get pre-trip butterflies. They start about 20 minutes before leaving for the airport, and increase when I'm overwhelmed in the security lines. I'm not scared, nervous, or particularly worried about anything, so when the butterflies arrive, it's always a surprise.

They retreat slowly when I'm seated at my gate, and are almost gone by the time I am safely in my seat awaiting take-off. A quick in-flight cocktail trims the remaining anxiety, and a slow, growing excitement takes its place. A kinship begins with the fellow passengers and I who have been together since check-in. We catch glimpses of each other amidst the masses and garbled languages at security. Finally settled in to our gate seats, we find a comfort in these random faces. My accidental travel companions and I welcome new comers who are tardier than we to the gate. We ponder each others separate walks of life, and how fate chose us to be together on this day, this flight.

In yet another terminal, I am reminded yet again why it is I choose to travel. Those butterflies, the anxiety, the relief, the emotional rollercoaster reminds me that I am alive. Rather than be stuck in the same neighborhood, the same job, the same people- I am thrown into internationality, into the world. It's easy to group and stereotype Americans, they are no longer interesting to me. Unfamiliar cultures are what I crave, and despite my predictable game-day jitters, I find myself retreating to the safety of the different.

Airports send flashbacks rippling through me. At times it feels like I'm only alive when I'm on the road. 5 years ago today I received that crippling phone call. Awakening to frantic knocks on the door, my life was changed forever. 5 years later, I wonder what kind of long-term effects have instilled themselves in me. Am I stronger? Weaker? Needier? I'm sure I've gotten away with much more than I should have, had things been different. Maybe I would have traveled more, or maybe less. For better or worse, I am who I am today because of that one hiccup in time.

Perhaps my least favorite part of traveling is the food. Not food on airplanes (which, as a general rule, I find deliciously fascinating), but the food found in airports. The overpriced chips and soft drinks. The hard, white bread sandwiches, which for some bizarre reason usually involve cold fish. If, sober, you wouldn't touch fast-food then it's game over. Your choices will include Wendy's, McDonalds, (especially in international airports), and if you are lucky, a Starbucks. Similar to sports parks and movie theaters, the simple lack of any other choice creates inflated prices. It's these outrageous prices that make perhaps palatable food into something you hate, out of principle. The threat of an entire plane ride with nothing but a bag o' nuts terrifies me. I'd rather choke down a $10 sandwich and quell the fears of starvation rather than a 2 hour blood sugar plummet. I think that says that I've been privileged for too long. 3 years ago I hopped a bus by myself from San Salvador to Guatemala City without any idea where I was staying. That me would kick this me's ass. A short plane ride reduces me into panic-buying the shittiest food on earth.

Privilege and the ease of purchasing things has made me soft and weak. I have unintentionally trained myself into believing that I deserve the best. In actuality, I should be grateful and fortunate to have these essentials.  These are the things that I forget when I am idle. Maybe it's why I crave movement. To pull me out of this Western cloud and into what it truly means to be human. Lack of communication with every corner of the world. We've gone for so long having cell phones that to be without them is refreshing. To not be at anyone's beck and call. It's a loss of responsibility to everyone else except yourself and the world.

PDX - MCI

Upon landing at the Kansas City Airport, I jarringly think, "Fuck me running. I know this place."

I'm not sure whether you have experienced this Midwest oasis, but after exiting the plane, the passenger is bombarded with a very small area with a crap ton of people milling about and sitting in chairs. Of course, staring at you. The concourse is cut off by security (why wouldn't it be?) and seems to be the only relief from the forced claustrophobia, which is a dirty trick because you have to then re-enter the security line like a total jackass to be right back where you were. I don't know about you but when I see a thousand people staring at me my first reaction is to find someplace to hide, like an empty gate or a bathroom. I made this exit mistake the last connecting flight I had, late, and had to run around whipping my shoes and jackets off like a fucking dumbshit.

This time, instinctively, I swiftly retreat to the only real safety of the airport, which is a seat-lined corridor next to the windows. It's like upon landing, people should be briefed with maps and perhaps a warning of, "We know you'll want to leave the scary room where everyone stares at you, but- do not be alarmed! This is where you are supposed to wait in agony! Hope you wanted to pay $5 for chips today. Have a nice flight."

On the plus side, I do find it hilarious that while you cannot find a single vegetarian option, you can find metal bottles of Budweiser, tiny bottles of wine, and- yes this is gloriously true- adorable bottles of lukewarm margarita. To drink while you wait. No, you can't take them on the plane. That was posted, I didn't ask or anything. All things considered, these luscious little bottles were the most reasonably priced items I could find.

So, I sit idly in the corridor wondering who would really check if I brought the tiny bottles on the plane, when I feel a hollow rumble in my stomach.  Bleary eyed from lack of sleep, sobriety, and travel preparations, I meander through the terminal stands searching for some cheap food. Chips? The only shipment today that got through was Original Lays. Blech. Fruit and yogurt? Looking at that watery yogurt was like looking into my future of spending the whole flight in the lavatory. Alright, here we go- a Quiznos stand. They can help, I'm sure of it.

Maybe not. The only sandwich without meat is their egg and cheese breakfast Sammy. I disagree with this in two parts: one, because I generally disagree to putting already cooked and then reheated eggs on anything. Two, I hate the word Sammy. Desperate enough to stoop so low, I ask the large Black man if he will still make me this "Sammy". "Ma'am breakfast stops serving at 10:30," (Imagine Orlando Jones from Office Space: "I used to be addicted to crack, but now I'm clean..."), and before he can drone any other practiced line at me I shuffle away defeated. For the record, for a place that prides itself on barbecue, the irony that they also don't have a spot to get BBQ is not lost on me.

I'm already in a bad mood from playing "I was late to the airport and now I have to pick a middle seat" roulette. I lost, horribly, and sat next to Overweight Hairy Arms and Chatty Kathy, who wanted to tell me ALL about her pilgrimage to Forks, Washington to see where Twilight had been filmed. In a different world I would be able to tell people exactly what I think of them. "Let me just stop you right there. It's not that I think you are pathetic for nearing 50 and making vampire vacations for you and Hairy Arms over there, who you didn't even have the decency to sit next to. Ok, yeah, it is fucking pathetic. Why can't you just stay at home and drink away the pain of your failed dreams like the rest of us are bound to do."

Anyway I go over to the normal looking Southwest ticket agents and ask them if I exit security whether I'll have better luck. "Well do you have time to?"
"....... yes."
"Well there's a Great Steak & Potato that's just incredible down to the right, and there's a fancy sit-down restaurant."
Let's analyze this. First of all, under no circumstances should a fast food place, let alone one that was left behind in the 90's, be described as incredible. Secondly, if you have to describe a restaurant as "sit down", it probably won't be all that fancy either. This is an airport, nothing is going to be better than mediocre.
What I want to do is ask if they have any earlier flights out of middle-earth. Instead I back away slowly and exit security, who let me pass by without a warning or a sign letting me know that I'm going to have to be strip searched again to get on my escape vessel.

Looking at the GS&P's menu, I become acutely aware that even though my blood sugar is plummeting, and I'm turning into what many ex-boyfriend's have called 'irrationally crazy', that I will never in my life eat something called a "Cheese Tato". Ok, they've got a veggie sandwich, let's do this!

I line up behind 3 gigantic women for the only item at Kansas City with the word veggie in it that isn't immediately followed by an animal sacrifice. I order from a (Mexican?) guy who looks either stoned or extremely disgruntled, I honestly can't tell. After chopping up (steak?) some from of beef (I think?) he asks me what I want. I reply. No effort in starting said sandwich. He makes two more gross ballfat sandwiches while the ladies glare holes into this poor guy, so I feel bad for him. I have the tendency to meet people and think about how life may have left them behind (mostly because I'm terrified that it will happen to me or that it already has and I don't realize it).

He asks me again what I would like, so I humor him. "Veggie delight, but instead of mayo, could I have the buffalo sauce?"
....incoherent mumbles.
"I'm sorry?"
"Our buffalo sauce is $3 more."
"Are you being serious right now?"
....incoherent mumbles.
"No really."
"I'm just playing."
I decided I'd just go ahead and leave that conversation there. So he barely gets the shreds of meat (cat?) off the little spatula things and squirts like, a lot of oil onto the pan. Yuck. He puts an assortment of vegetables onto the pan and it becomes obvious that this isn't a well-ordered item. More oil. Then more oil. He gets a bun and tosses the lot onto the white bread, which immediately becomes soaked in, you guessed it, oil. "Lettuce, tomato, mayo?"
"Um... ... lettuce and tomato."
"Mayo?"
Now, what I want to say is, "are you fucking with me or are you just really that retarded," but, since we've established that I, under no circumstances, should ever say what I am thinking out loud, I reply no. He wraps it all up and gives it to me, and it feels as if I've been outsmarted by a 3rd grader. "Are you going through security?" he asks me. Dammit! I just want this to be over with! "Yeah... but later."
"Because you can't take that soda with you."
".... I understand that." What part of me being 23, tattooed, and obviously not from your neck of the woods says to you that I've never been in an airport before?
"Because you have to drink the soda before you get on the plane." Now it feels like I'm on some sort of practical joke show, and I better be because there is no reason I should be suffering this much at 11am. I can't even say anything more because I'm too scared that if I open my mouth, inevitably a variation of "fuck you and this shitty airport" will come tumbling out.
Safely at an unused area of chairs, I take a bite of the sandwich and my mouth is immediately consumed in hell flames. And now my hands are too greasy to open the soda. And the little fucker did not give me napkins. I would swear, openly, in front of kids at this point but I'm too busy sucking in air to cool the grease fire.

Heading back through the strip search, I begin to realize with stone-faced hilarity that while there is zero warning about leaving the secure area, I did get told a thousand times by Dweedle Dee that I couldn't bring a Goddamn soda through. I secure a window seat on the plane, and strategically place sweatshirts on the middle seat. As luck would have it, a huge, fat man plops himself down into the aisle seat. Mission accomplished. Then, dreams shattering, I hear a "is this seat taken?" Son of a Whore! A tattooed, long haired redhead (grooosssss) sits down and I immediately get the impression that homeboy with the assortment of Celtic designs wants to chat. Fuck all. About 2 minutes later, my pen runs out of ink (noooOOOO!!!) and he uses this as his 'in' to initiate sparkling conversation. Why is it that people who've spent time in prison always A) want to talk to me and B) will mention their 'hard time' within two sentences of talking at me. I must have, "yes, I do want to hear about your court-ordered time in the 'slammer'" somewhere in my features that I don't know about because I can assure you, I absolutely do not care and will probably be scared shitless of you.

Feigning sleep turns into mouth-breathing drool sleep, just in time to be unconscious for the landing. There's nothing like hitting the ground and being shock-awakened with a gallon of adrenaline coursing through you. Completing the day's travels, my sanity and faith in humanity have waned significantly. Also I'm pretty sure I may have spent the day traveling through time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bum-Shanked: a Heartwarming, Chicago Lesson on Patriotism

So, I've been in Chicago less than 24 hours, and I have successfully been shanked by a bum.
It's amazing how many of my stories start out that way. I think there must be something about me that screams "I secretly light homeless people on fire while they are sleeping peacefully in doorways and therefore you must avenge your fallen comrades by shankment". Let's get this straight: Just because when a bum asks me for money and I avoid all eye contact, it is not because I think you are a subhuman who uses blind rage to assault helpless females in broad daylight. I am just a poor, priveleged college kid that a) cannot afford to buy you McDonalds every day and b) doesn't really want to talk to strangers unless forced to. Try asking people who don't have holes in their 5 month old $15 work shoes with the bottoms of their pants stapled because they were bought from Goodwill for 25 cents. Seriously, if you're going to fucking stab someone with your heroin needle, at least go for someone who looks like they've got a $20 in their wallet.
So, I'm on the El train going downtown, carefree and elated because I'm alone wandering a city I don't really know that well (masturbation material). It's a beautiful sunny afternoon, and I'm not at all worried that I am by myself on this climax of an adventure. (Cue, overly dramatic scary doom music). Who should clammor into my train car through the emergency door and sit about 5 inches from me? A crazy man that smells like the floor of the Yamhill Pub. "Hmm," I think to myself, "Isn't it about one in the afternoon? I mean, I ride the theoretical drunk train early too... but it's more of a 'happy hour' thing and I'm far to cute to look and act like a psycho... should I be worried that he's breathing on my neck with booze-breath that could melt crayons?" He mumbles something incoherent. Balls.
Mistake number one: I have far too many piercings in my face to leave the sanctity of Portland. Mistake number two: I have a biography of Che Guevara in my hands. I must have put on my "I'm a filthy communist hat" this morning without looking in the mirror before I faced the day.
"May I ask what you are reading?" I am surprised, because the way he said this made him seem like he was normal. And I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, because not only am I a chickenshit pussy with confrontation, but also I'm scared of freaks. So, I, like a fucking moron, tell him that it's about Che Guevara. "Oh, who's... what'd... what'd he do again?" Oh shit. Yet still, I am reluctant to back down and say something like, "Oh, he's an American hero who loves babies and trucks," or "Stop looking at me, you're making me dirty with your eyes." No, I somehow manage to get out, "He's an Argentinian who helped Fidel Castro overthrow the Cuban government." WHY, MAGGIE, WHY??? Why do I say things like this?
He proceeds to ask me if I thought that was a good thing. I managed to get out, "At the time..." before he starts yelling unintelligently about how I was probably going to vote for Obama (He's one of those adorable racist bums) and how I was a socialist who hated America and also the soldiers in Iraq. Oooooh my God. I politely try to ignore (my best and only strategy) the crazy man yelling nonsensical words full of spite, gin, and fury. Then he declares self-rightously, "What the hell is on your lip?" At this point people are getting ready to intervene.
That's when the scene turned hilarious. After I stammer, "A...a... a piercing?" He says, "Of what?" ... ... ... did I miss something? Is that usually the next question? I told him "I don't know" because what the hell else was I supposed to say? Of what. Next time I'll be more quick on the feet and say something like, "Oh, it's a piercing of Obama," or "It's a piercing of a dirty-cunt homeless freak that shouts booze-induced racist-wrath at a small white girl who may or may not have pissed herself the minute he sat down. Oh wait, that's you."
Then, it get's better. The minute I said, "I don't know", he goes, "I have a buddy who has a cleft pallet who is in the Navy. No. No. NOOO!!!!!!!" He screams "No" at me so loud and with these crazy fucking drunk eyes that finally a guy stood up and took a few steps in our direction. I don't know why, but at the prompting of said man he ran around the corner of a small divide and cowered in a corner like a puppy being tortured by children high on ADHD medication.
I took that as my cue to politely excuse myself from the situation. So I moved to the other side of the train car. As I tried to make it obvious that I hadn't just moved because of him, that no- I wasn't offended by his opinions or odor, I just merely needed a change of scenery, I prayed to Zeus that he would not come find me. I even looked the other way for good measure. I'm so white it hurts.
Then, from the depths of hell, I hear the passionate hostility turned loose on someone else. I would not have turned around to look at what was happening if you had told me Jesus had been resurrected and was masturbating orange soda on people in the back of the train. But, from the sounds of it, my bum was yelling at a black man. "Oh, are you sad because you are going to hell? Going to hell in a handbasket?" Ohhhh my God. As my heart started pounding, I hear him mumble in the single most evil voice I have ever heard in my life, "I'm fucking talking." That's pretty obvious crackpipe, but in all seriousness you could traumatize babies the way you're yelling. I cannot even describe to you this voice, but let it be known that it will haunt my dreams for millenia.
Like I said, it was probably my own fault for "being who I am" and "carrying commie propaganda". Whatever. I think if I had not gotten off the train at the next stop, he would have found me, ripped out my lip ring (which is in obvious defiance of nature and is clearly taunting all people with cleft-lips), and taken out his rusty defense-blade and carved small crosses all over me before shouting "McCain FOREVER" and then eerily chanting "punish, punish, punish the sinners" while disappearing forever in a cloud of smoke.
I wish I had made all of that up, but it honestly occurred less than 3 hours ago. Tomorrow, I'll make sure that I don't wear anything that says "I'm a big liberal with lots of unholy tattoos and piercings that also opposes white American patriots and also I fuck black people and burn Bibles.Viva la Revolucion!"

A Scene from Hell

Let me describe an experience for you:

Imagine, an overwhelmingly hot and sweaty day in the wrong part of town. I mean, the part of town where the blocks are so packed full of people and cars that you are almost being hit by motorcycles on the sidewalks. The part of town that has used condoms and needles... fucking everywhere: in the gutter, on the sidewalks, being thrown about and at us by children... We are trying to find the
bus station. We heard earlier that day that everyone is trying to get into
Kenya because of the Ebola outbreak in Western Uganda... the government having decided to close the borders on the 20th of December. What the hell did you say just say to me? Cue: extraordinary amounts of hypochondrism and an increasing feeling of what I liked to call being "Scared Shitless". Struggling to find the
bus station with no map and different people sending us on wild goose chases
throughout this little gem of a neighborhood, we finally arrive at our
destination with sunburnt farmer's tans, shot nerves from all the near misses of motorized whatnots, and the scent of impending desperation in our nostrils.

In the ticketing "office", we find a tiny window in a room crammed full of
people (it was our last option for bus companies... having tried most of the
rest already.) Imagine: that one tiny door in the Willy Wonka factory. Or, a doggie door raised a little bit too far off the ground. Above the window, it says "Booking Office". Great. I don't know if you know this, but not only do African's have no idea what a "line" is, but also
the term "personal space" seems to escape them. I spent 45 minutes fighting my
way through this mob of fucking smelly people attempting to book a ticket for Friday, just a few days before Uganda was to be closed off to the world.
Me and the three other girls agreed that the struggle to get to this midgit
window was like wanting to scream, projectile vomit, pass out, punch someone, and cry at the same time. And of course, lucky me, I get the obese 4 foot something old
lady pressing her gigantic stomach and tits onto my back the entire time. I'm
not sure if it was necessary, but for some reason she also needed to grope me
inappropriately oh- I'd say every 20 seconds. And what's more, she treated me to a little "Lift of the shirt and wipe the face while simultaneously rubbing exposed flesh and thin brazzier all over the white girl" action. 
Up until that day, I did not know it was possible to
sweat so much and so profusely that it ran/gushed down the back of your legs, head, back, chest, cheeks (both sets), etc.
but alas, friends- that circle of sweat-hell does indeed exist.

The four white girls finally baracaded ourselves in a fighting semi-circle to
the front. The strategy was this: push the smallest girl with all our white-might to the front, which ended up looking like: three short, sweaty, red faced girls covered in (hopefully) dirt elbowing other disgruntled sweaty people and pushing a very small girl to the point that she was no longer standing but levatating her way to the front because of the force of so many people pushing from behind.    And, of course, when we have kicked and screamed our way like a child who had just been told that "Christmas was cancelled this year because they didn't pray hard enough and Jesus doesn't like sinners" would, the Goddamn 2-inch window closed and no tickets were to be given out. I believe we all said in unison either, "We're fucked," or something like "If I don't get out of this fucking country by the 20th, not only will I suck my thumb while I cry myself to sleep, I'm going to bring a machine gun in here and kill everything that moves." Something like that.

But, it was to be that one day that the gods smiled upon us as if, we had actually done something useful with our time in third world countries. For once, we managed to escape a situation relatively untraumatized, with only some smelly, questionable sweat stains in the shape of the Buddha upon our backs. Which beats the time when we almost got shot at with unregistered weapons of foreign murder for wandering too close to the Congo/Rwanda border crossing. The manager of the bus company came out of a hidden 'torture/rape' room and said that because we had called him earlier that day, we would be reserved not only tickets out of the rapidly infected country, but we would have the 4 best seats on the gazillion-odd hour bus ride. "If it's at all possible, would you mind if we went back into the hell-room and you let us buy our tickets from the cat door? I haven't yet had my fill of having my ass jiggled by an obese woman who sweats the smell of rhinos and mumbles incoherently while I try not to turn around and spray her with vomit. Any chance?" "What?" he asks. "Nevermind. Four tickets to Mother Fucking Kenya."