Leaving (Travel 2)


coast

I’ve come to find that the immediacy of losing something always increases it’s value.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  Consider the coffee bean, or rather coffee beans, specifically the last few scoops worth.  I always treat them reverently, like they’re the last beans on earth.  In my case, if I’m particularly broke, they might as well be.  I’m sort of afraid to use them, and I’m not really sure why, but when I inevitably do, they taste all the sweeter because I know they’re the last.

boat

As it is with the coffee bean, so too is it with traveling.  I’ve come to my last two weeks in London, and I find that I’m having more fun now than at any other point on the trip.  It’s like being able to see the end has helped me appreciate things I have taken for granted.

london

The beautiful London things that I used to ignore daily suddenly spark an interest in my mind

Tower

Not to mention that I got to go to scotland and see things like this

rocks

Or This

Town

Or This

bikes and castle

 

Now, my newfound enjoyment in all things Britain related might be from my Scotland Trip, or the weather finally breaking, or my stonehenge trip.

stonehenge

 

But I think not.

stonehenge 2

No, it’s because the trip is coming to an end.  All these other things, little trips and the weather, help make it nice, but I appreciate them all the more because soon they will all be gone.

coast2

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that I don’t want to go home; far from it.  I am quite looking forward to getting back, seeing the people I had left there, eating proper peanut butter, being able to afford a drink (6 pounds for a G & T at the National?  Come on!) and seeing the sun.  I’ll be quite happy for the trip back, and yet the trip still looms, and in it’s looming, I find more enjoyment in the present.

castle

So to anyone on an extended holiday from their native land I have this to say: the immediacy of your return has a direct, positive correlation to your enjoyment of the place you will soon be leaving.  So enjoy it, because it’ll probably be the most enjoyable part.

edinburgh

And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, especially yourself.  Now is the time to strike.  Do not mope that the journey is over, and soon it will be nothing but memories, go forth and make new ones!  Now is not the time to weep, but to laugh.  Not to sit, but to run.  Not to die, but live.

castle 3

So go.

Just go.

And for god’s sake

Enjoy yourself.

 

Troll 2

 

 

 

 

Travel


~On Traveling~

I started out this post wanting to prove to the world that traveling isn’t as good as everyone lets on.

Image

After looking through all these pictures, I’ve completely changed my mind.  It’s worth it.  It’s totally, unequivocally  irrevocably worth it.

dover castle

Now, you might think you can get away without traveling.  Take food, for instance.  One of the troubles with Europe nowadays is that the food is almost universal, at least from my experience.  Sure, the French food in France is better than the French food in London, but I can still get French food in London at far less cost, and they speak English, or at least I don’t feel quite as dumb when they don’t.  Same thing with Italian, German, Spanish, Russian (which I’ve never actually sampled.  Anyone know what russian cuisine is like?), it’s all there.  So that’s one less reason to leave.

churhc

All of this true, but when you eat a croque madame in a cafe in Paris, looking out the clear glass window into the bustling, twisting streets, and everyone is speaking Frech, and your completely happy to munch on your meal and play at guessing what they’re actually saying, you begin to understand a little bit more about France than you otherwise would have in your neighborhood pub with a croque monsier.

Travelling can seem daunting at times, though, and it can sometimes seem a bit boring, though it is, in fact, anything but.  Things just lose their glamour after a while.

Paris

Versailles, for instance, is great.  It’s a bloody huge palace that removes any pity you may have had for Marie Antoinette or the French aristocracy, because it is nothing if not absurdly opulent.  I Mean, look at this:

versailles chapel

My God!  Or try this one on for size:

Hall of mirrors

Now you can’t tell me that if you were a french peasant who had recently lost his favorite mound of dirt to a royal tax collector, you wouldn’t be more than a little upset when you saw this place.  Makes sense, right?

But that’s not really my point.  It’s actually the opposite of my point, for as I walked through Versailles, through room after disgustingly opulent room, I began to marvel less and less at the richness of the place.  Indeed, by the end of the tour I was quite blasé about it.

“Oh, look.” I’d mutter in a monotone to Jared, “Another jewel encrusted doorway…”

“Gee,” he’d say, “Havent seen that before.”

versailles ceiling

Just imagine how boring the world must have seemed back then if you were a king.  You’d be bored with Versailles, which was probably one of the most beautiful places in the world at the time.  What else is there?

Especially when you have statues of yourself looking like apollo enshrined all over the place.

Especially when you have statues of yourself looking like apollo enshrined all over the place.

And it kind of goes that way everywhere you travel. Another beautiful lagoon (BVI’s), another ungodly huge graveyard (Ypres), another monstrous church (Rome).  You get used to it, and pretty quickly I might add.  It’s not that the things are suddenly less good because you’ve seen a bunch of them, it’s that they just begin to become part of the scenery, to the point that you never notice them, and that if a tourist were to ask you where St. Paul’s was, you’ respond with “Well, i think it’s over there.  Not really sure why you want to go to that place.  It’s just a beautiful cathedral.”

st. pauls

But if you only go to these big places, you miss some of the other things.  The things that really make the trip special.  Like this.

amelie

It’s the cafe where they filmed Amelie.  Cities like paris are full of little treasures like this, hidden away from you as you run by, sprinting from Notre Dame to the Eifel Tower, a tattered map in one hand, fifty euro clutched in the other.

thames

So what’s my point?  I don’t really know.  Sometimes, you just write about something you love simply to write about it.

horse on hill

I guess my point is this: I’d encourage anyone planning a trip to take a step back and think, really think, about what it is you want to do.  Nine times out of ten I would bet it’s not run yourself ragged seeing every single big, famous thing in the city, because when you rush through, you miss the little things, the tasty things that make traveling worth it, and make life worth living.  You miss wandering down the alleys that only locals use, and watching street performers, and rushing off before the end because you don’t have the money to pay them, or leaning against a brick wall and sipping on mulled wine in Covent Garden Market as you people watch, or simply sitting on a bench and watching the river flow on by..

I'll leave you with a caption from the best worst movie ever, "The Room"

I’ll leave you with a caption from the best worst movie ever, “The Room”

Cheating is Winning, and Winning is Awesome


“I couldn’t let you win, because you cheated.” The dark man said to us, glaring through his goatee at our team of 8.  If memory serves, I believe we were going by the pseudonym “blood, bath and beyond” that night.  I slammed my hands on the table and jumped out of my seat, barely keeping my balance.  I had drunk much beer that night, and stability had long ago fled my intoxicated form.

“How dare you, sir?  How dare you?” I slurred, pointing a finger at him with one hand and grabbing the table with the other, lest I fall over.  My german friend Alex slammed his hands on the table and jumped out of his seat just as drunkenly.

“Yeah, how dare you?  We aren’t cheaters!  We came to the pub tonight to play an honorable game of trivia, and by Jove that’s what we did!”  He shouted.  I have often thought that the easiest way to combat someone calling you a liar is to get angry.  It could very well be your natural response to someone calling you out, even if you weren’t lying.  Too bad we were lying.  Lying our hearts out.

Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t go to trivia night at the pub with the intention of cheating, it just sort of happened.  Like in one of those teen horror movies when the popular kids play a trick on the nerd, and the nerd ends up dying and haunting them forever, which incidentally is seldom long.  We had intended to just guess on the ones we didn’t know, but after 3 or 4 in a row, it begins to get a bit discouraging, and the alluring call of our smart-phones grows incessantly louder, so much so that we are no longer able to resist their sirens call.

This isn’t our pub, but it’s as good as you’re gonna get this close to graduation

“Charles,” my friend Ashlee inevitably asks me, “you look like you need to use the rest room right now.”

“What?” I respond, confused and alarmed.  How did she know that I needed to pee?  “No I don… oh!  Yes, yes I do.  If you would excuse me…”  Using your smartphone is illegal in the pub during trivia time, and if anyone sees you doing it, they’ll report you to the Quizmaster, curse his name, and he will confiscate your answer sheet.  It is therefore necessary to stagger to the restroom if you want to cheat, far away from the prying eyes of the other teams.  The stalls provides the optimal protection, but sometimes they are occupied and/or stinky. The urinals work in a pinch, because most people just stare straight ahead while they do their business, and sometimes hiding in plain sight is the best option.  Of course, if someone does look over at you while you are at the urinal, all you must do is begin making zoo noises, and they will most likely leave you be.  If they don’t, then I only have this to say to you, my friend: run.  Simple, really.

We had sent seven or eight such expeditions to the lavatories that night, and had learned some rather impressive facts.  Ketchup, for instance, was sold as medicine in the 1830’s, and there are four cars and eleven light posts on the back of a $10 dollar bill.  Normally, when we cheat at trivia, we answer one or two questions that we know are correct incorrectly, so as to appear that we weren’t cheating.  We eventually learned, however, that we were probably going to get wrong some of the ones that we thought were right, and so the practice had fallen out of style.

The trivia quiz has two parts: useless factoids and name that tune.  It’s a lot harder to cheat on the song section, because there aren’t any speakers in the bathrooms, so we generally try to cheat as much as possible on the first part.  The songs that night were especially obtuse: TV themes from the 70’s and 80’s.  Fortunately, I had invited Richard, my boss, an honorable man and by no means a cheater, to join us that night and it turned out that he was amazingly gifted in the 70’s and 80’s TV show theme song department.  I don’t think he knew that we were cheating, though he was probably somewhat worried that we would cackle evilly every time one of us had to use the restroom.

After the songs were done, we made some last minute corrections and handed the answer sheet to Alex, who took it up front.  He returned with a big smile on his face, and plopped down into his chair with an air of satisfaction.

“Well?” I asked conspiratorially, “Is it done?”

“Yes,” he replied calmly, taking a sip of his beer, “It is done.  The quizmaster, may his hair be chewed off by a thousand camels, was dubious.  He asked me if we had cheated.”

“And?  What did you say?”  Ashlee asked angrily.

“Of course not, oh noble one!” Alex replied smugly, bowing to Ashlee as if she were the wretched quizmaster himself.

“And he suspects nothing?” I asked frantically, grabbing Alex’s shoulder and turning him to face me.

“Nothing at all.” Alex replied, shrugging off my hand

“You did well this day, Alex.” Ashlee commended.  She made a motion with her hands and we all leaned in.  All except my boss, who was furrowing his brow in confusion.  “It is finally our turn, my friends. This time, we will have the highest score!  This time, we will be the victors!  This time, the prize will be ours!”  Ashlee said the last line at an almost shriek, and we all raised our hands in the air and cheered.

“What is the prize?”  Richard asked.

“A $20 gift card!”  I responded, and we cheered some more.

“So that will pay for what, four beers?”

“Yes!  But there’s more!  If you win, you get the honor of sitting at the king’s table next monday!”

“Oh.  That’s nice”

When the time came around for the Quizmaster, curse him, we were positively giddy.  The incumbents were sitting at the king’s table, and from my vantage point I could clearly see the fear in their hearts.  It was manifest in every halfhearted laugh they dared to hazard, and in every movement that they made.  If there was room in my heart for pity, I would have felt sorry for them, but the world of pub night trivia is a cruel place my friends, and I felt nothing but the icy blackness of schadenfreude.  The quizmaster picked up the microphone, and he drew my attention away from the kings table before I could eat my fill of their misery.

“Tonight’s winners” he said, silencing the crowd with a wave of his hand, much like a Roman emperor of old quieting the mob in the arena, “With 36 points…” He paused here, and I looked at Ashley puzzled.  We had gotten 38 points, not 36.  Maybe there had been some sort of error, maybe there had…

“The Schemin’ Geezers!”  The king’s table erupted in an explosion of joy.

“How…?” I asked numbly, sinking into a black despair, “How can this be?”  The rest of the table was equally as distraught as me, all but Richard who clapped for the geezers.

“Good for them!” he said, and I think he meant it too, and we hated him for it.  We ordered more beer as the quizmaster went to congratulate the “winning” team.  He happened to walk by our table at one point, and i grabbed his sleeve and dragged him over to us.

“We had more points,” I aid threateningly, fumbling around on the table for a knife or something, though none seemed to be in reach, “why didn’t we win?”

And so we come back to where we started.  After alex and I had shouted at him so vehemently, the Quizmaster, may his house be struck by a falling satellite, seemed unsure of him self.  Perhaps he had judged us wrongly?

“Ok, you’re good liars, I admit, but I know that you cheated.  Look here, how did you know what the boiling point of liquid nitrogen?”

“I’m a chemistry major.” Alex said, and he was.  As it turned out, he actually did know the boiling point of liquid nitrogen offhand.  We didn’t have to cheat on that one.

“Well, how did you know which roman emperor wanted to put his horse in the senate.” He asked.  I raised my hand.

“How did you know which Shakespeare play had MacDuff in it?”

“Scottish name, scottish play,” Ashlee said, “We figured it had to be MacBeth.”  We didn’t have to look that one up, either.

“Classics major.” I responded truthfully, restraining a laugh.  Incredible, I thought.  He was asking us to explain only the answers that we didn’t cheat on!  He was beginning to look a little nervous now, and I could tell that he was worried that he very well may have slighted us from our victory.

“Ok, fine.  I’ll give you those, but there’s no way you knew the three large cats that can roar!  No body got that one right.”  Uh oh.  I was hoping he wouldn’t bring this one up.  It’s not that we cheated, far from it!  I knew all three.  It was that the way that I knew all three was kind of embarrassing, and I wasn’t looking forward to having to explain it.

“Oh, charles got all those!” Ashlee said, smiling as she happily pointed me out, damn her.  “He can tell you how he knew that one.”  Everyone turned at looked at me.

“Well,” I began, pulling at my collar nervously, “Lions are obvious.  I mean, who hasn’t seen the MGM logo, right?”  Everyone nodded, except for the Quizmaster, who rolled his eyes.

“Well yess, everyone got lions!  How’d you know the other two?”

“What is this, slumdog millionaire?” I asked angrily.

“Charles,” said Ashlee, somewhat annoyed, “Just tell him how you knew about the other two.”  Great.

“Ok, fine.  Well, I knew about Jaguars because of Age of Empires II: The Conquerors.”

“What’s that?” quizzed the Quizmaster.

“An old video game.  You could play as the aztecs, and they had a unit called jaguar warriors.  They were essentially guys with clubs who wore jaguar skins, but when you clicked on them, they roared, like jaguars I suppose”

“And the other?” he asked.  Here goes nothing.

“I knew that Panthers roared because in R.A. Salvatore’s beloved Drizzt fantasy novels, the main character, who is a magical dark elf, also called a drow, has a magical stone figurine of a panther.  The panther’s name is Guenhwyvar, and hen Drizzt lays down the figurine and calls her name, the panther magically materializes.  It occasionally roars, and I therefore assumed that the forgotten realms wouldn’t lead me wrong, and that Guenhwyvar roaring was an accurate representation of the average panther.”

Pictured: Guenhwyvar and Drizzt

Silence.  Dead, ugly, awkward silence.  My friends stared at me as though they had just discovered a new and disturbingly nerdy facet of my personalty that had hitherto been unknown.  I could tell they weren’t very happy with the discovery, much like how an archaeologist would feel upon finding an ancient Egyptian tomb, only to discover that it had been raided decades ago and was empty.  Not knowing what to do, I soldiered on.

“For you see, quizmaster, Guenhwyvar is no ordinary panther at all, but is in fact a creature from the spirit realms.  She lives in the Astral plane, and Drizzt’s summons merely create a portal through which she can travel into the mortal realm”

“Yes, I see…”

“No one is quite sure whether or not she can die.” I continued, raising my voice.  “She certainly can be injured, though.  On several occasion Drizzt and his companions had to send her back to her astral home, fearing that she may die there from her wounds, but she always returns completely regenerated.”

“Very good, but…”

“THERE WAS THIS ONE TIME WHEN THE FIGURINE WAS DAMAGED AND THE MIGHTY COMPANIONS OF THE HALL WORRIED THAT GUENHWYVAR HAD BEEN LOST FOR EVER, BUT THE NEEDN’T HAVE FEARED BECAUSE…”

“Yes, yes, very good.”  The quizmaster growled, cupping a hand over my mouth, thereby silencing me.   “It seems I was wrong.”  He looked around at us, telling us in no uncertain terms that was absolutely positive that he hadn’t been wrong, but that proving that we were dirty, filthy liars was too far above his pay grade.  “I can’t let you guys be the winners, because I already gave it to the other team, but I can give you a few coupons for free drinks and deserts.  Will that work?”

“Yes!” We shouted in unison, a bit too quickly.  An honestly cheated team, I realized far too late, would have rejected his pitiful coupons and demanded its divine right to sit at the king’s table.  A wry half smile crossed his face as he gave us the coupons.  We didn’t care if he had learned the truth of it, drunk as we were on alcohol and victory.  It was decided that I should hold on to the coupons, since I was the most regular attendant of trivia night at the pub, but when i got home, and the rush of winning began to wear off, I felt sick to my stomach.  We had cheated and lied to a person’s face, and for what?  Some coupons?  I had always prided myself on being honest when it counts, and now I had tarnished my reputation, or at least what little reputation I had left.  Disgusted, I threw the coupons into the trash can, and convinced myself that I had now cleansed myself of all the negative karma accrued during the night, and went to sleep, not regretting trashing the coupons one bit.  Well, at least not until next Monday, when I had an unquenchable thirst for Jamaican Cheesecake and I reached into my wallet to find it devoid of both coupons and money.

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