Thursday, June 23, 2005

Farewell, Britain

I’m still in Heathrow, but the end is near. By the time I finish writing this I will have been here for about 15.5 hours. I remember when I thought my 10-hour layover en route to Spain was out of control!

One of the things I’ve decided after this year is that I may be burned out on super-low-budget traveling. I’ve overnighted in so many airports and spent so much of my life on cheap buses in the last five months (is that all?) that in the future I may be willing to shell out more money in order to not give up my sanity for long periods of time just to get from point A to point B. But it was fun in a way, and I would like to take this moment to simultaneously thank and smack easyJet, RyanAir, and

In fact, there are a few other things I’d like to mention. Farewell, Scotch eggs, Cornish pasties, meat pies, and wild crisp flavors such as “roast lamb with mint sauce.” Farewell, black pudding, haggis, neeps, and tatties. Farewell, Dairy Milk and Jelly Babies. Farewell, social acceptability of dipping things in mayonnaise. Farewell, nice biscuits, chip shops, “spag-bol,” English breakfasts, and deep-fried Mars bars. Farewell, mystery that is mincemeat. Farewell, tea and pudding being much more than tea and pudding.

Farewell, BBC, ITV, and channel 4. Farewell, Coronation Street, Eastenders, Emmerdale, Doctors, and Neighbours. Farewell, Big Brother. Farewell, Makosi, Kemal, Derek, and Roberto. Farewell, Roberto’s sexy voice and tight underpants. Farewell, Maxwell, Anthony, Saskia, Science, Vanessa, and Craig. Farewell, channel 5 and your risqué documentary programming.

Farewell, Jordan, Peter Andre, Jonathan Ross, Suranne Jones, Richard & Judy, David Walliams, Matt Lucas, Javine, Davina McCall, Dermot O'Leary, Busted, McFly, Charlotte Church, Cat Deeley, Edith Bowman, and Nigel Harman. Farewell, Heat magazine and those who populate your pages.

Farewell, ore-GAH-no, to-MAH-to, ba-NAH-na, and PAP-rika. Farewell, wanker, slapper, numpty, slag, bint, and pillock. Farewell, mobile, trolley, bin, bum, WC, knickers, trousers, bollocks, and “cheers!” Farewell, double decker buses, pubs, rugby, and real football.

Farewell, Exodus, Oh Henry’s, Espionage, Revolution, and all the church pubs. Farewell, Belmont, Vue, and UGC. Farewell, driving on the other side of the road. Farewell, pounds, quid, tenners, fivers, and pence. Farewell, horrific exchange rate. Farewell, recreational queuing. Farewell, Union Street, Belmont Street, and Great Western Road. Farewell, flat. We had a lot of great times together.

Farewell, University of Aberdeen. We never got along, but you still managed to teach me a thing or two.

Farewell, blog -- this one, anyway. I didn’t update you as often as I could have, but I did the best I could. For the rest of you, they may not be in Scotland, but I’ll keep on having adventures and keep on writing about them on and if you’re interested. I have nothing but love and appreciation for anyone who took the occasional peek at this blog throughout the year.

Farewell, every single person I met this year. I'll never forget you even if you forgot about me five minutes later. Farewell, those who stuck around and became my friends. It meant everything.

Farewell, Britain. We laughed, we cried, we learned to love. I’ll never forget the time we had together.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


I’m writing this in Heathrow airport. I’ll be here for the next 20 hours and then I’m getting on a plane back to America. It’s been an absolute nightmare getting here, but here I am.

I guess I should rewind a wee bit. First of all, my goodbye party was a success! The part where we tried to go clubbing together was a bit unfortunate (Tuesday night deadness), but we relocated back to my flat and the good times continued to roll.

I knew I was going to stay up all night the night before I left, because I thought it would be silly to spend my last remaining hours with my friends in a state of unconsciousness. In the end, only Rosie made it all the way with, but everyone else made a valiant effort. Laura and Jill shared a bed, while Pip and Karen slept in a cardboard box in my attic. No, really.

I thought staying up all night would give me plenty of time to finish packing and goof off too, but the more I packed the more I realized it was going to take some kind of miracle to fit all my shit into my suitcases. In the end, I ended up packing an extra bunch of stuff in this shitty cardboard box which is about to disintegrate after the beating it took today, and giving Laura a bag full of more stuff with the promise that I would pick it up “next time we hang out.” Behold the power of denial, that I was able to keep from bawling as I said those words.

Final goodbyes occurred at the train station. It was sad. Really, really sad. A decent amount of that sadness had to do with the fact that, managing my luggage on my own, my top speed was like 0.25 miles per hour and everything kept falling was a disaster. I thanked [insert deity here] that I didn’t have to change trains on my way down to London, and I could take the Tube to this airport instead of a train that costs ₤15 (cough cough, fuck off Stansted, cough).

I dozed a little bit on the 7-hour train ride, but mostly I had too much to think about to get any real sleep. I should have been more grateful that my millions of pounds of stuff was sitting on a luggage rack instead of being hauled all over town by poor little me, but there you go. Getting off the train in London was miserable. Getting on the Tube was miserable. Getting off the Tube was miserable. And it was HOT. Sweat pouring down my face. Wearing thick clothes to save space in my suitcase. Dear lord.

One thing I’ll never understand about the London Underground is the lack of escalators or elevators in so many Tube stations. At one point I was dragging my stuff down the steps one at a time and it all fell down to the bottom and I remembered when I was doing the same thing with Sarah back in September how many people were tripping all over themselves to help the pretty girl carry her things. Why couldn’t I be a pretty girl, just for today? Or at least have enormous breasts?

The only thing worse than hauling your shit down the steps to the Tube is hauling it up. They didn’t even have a fucking escalator or elevator at the Tube stop for the airport. Are they not expecting anyone going to the airport to have any luggage? Assholes!

Well, I made it to the airport. The only thing between me and home is a bunch of time to kill, so I’m glad the worst is over.

All this, and I haven’t even started writing about all the thoughts that have been running through my head all day long. Now that I’ve left Aberdeen for good, I can start thinking about this year differently: as a whole, as something that’s been completed, something I can make sense of. You know, all the clichés about studying abroad are 100% true: it changed my life, it opened my eyes to other cultures, I’ve grown so much, I feel more confident, I feel more capable, etc. All that stuff is true. But the realization is no less powerful just because everyone told me this would happen.

Now that it’s more or less over, more than ever I can see that any of the “bad” things to come out of this year are just not important compared to so much good. I don’t even think I believe that anything bad came out of this year, but I know I’ve spent time worrying about such things over the last 10 months. For example, I worried about the fact that, even with my clean slate, I made a lot of the same mistakes I’ve made in my “normal” life, mistakes I thought I would get away from by moving here. But it doesn’t matter because the difference is in how I dealt with them.

Part of me is totally used to this new lifestyle I’ve been living -- all the cultural differences, traveling around Europe on a regular basis, totally cut off from my friends and family -- and part of me cannot get over all the amazing places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen, the incredible friends who were everything I had besides what I brought here in a couple of suitcases. I’ve been through so much, and I am changed for it. I will never be the me I was before I came here, but luckily I am proud of the me that’s going home.

I’m worried about things like reverse-culture shock. I’m worried about the difficulty of reintegrating back into my own life, and dealing with how much my friends’ and family’s lives will have changed without me. I’m worried about feeling like I don’t know people I’m supposed to know better than anyone. I feel like those things will affect me more than most people just because of the way I am. But right now I can’t look forward yet, I can only look backward and think, Holy shit. I did it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Tonight is my last night in Aberdeen. At 10 AM tomorrow morning, I’m hopping on a train to London and flying back to the country I came from. From the moment I got off the plane in London way back in September, I’ve been keeping a mental countdown of the months, then days I had left before going back to America. So how did this still manage to sneak up on me?

I think Aberdeen knew I was leaving and decided to make my last day in town one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in the last 10 months. The sun was shining, the trees were green, the heat was kept in check by a nice breeze. Laura and I had a drink outside and I didn’t think it was possible I would be leaving something so familiar in 21 hours. It’s part of the reason I haven’t been all that choked up about my impending departure -- I just don’t believe it’s real. Denial is not just a River in Egypt. (In fact, it’s not a river at all -- it’s a coping mechanism. The Egyptian river in question is actually called “the Nile.” Impress your friends!)

Now it’s starting to sink in. My goodbye party should be getting started in a few hours. My room is totally empty. The sun is setting outside (where else?) and I’m thinking, This is the last time I’ll look out this window and watch the sun set. Everyone I know who’s still in town is coming over tonight and when I came home this afternoon, Rosie saw me and screamed, “SHIT!” and dashed into her bedroom with something, came out, and “innocently” announced, “Nothing is going on. Don’t go in there or you’ll ruin the surprise.” I told her, “Never play poker.”

How is it tonight already? I just don’t get it. I remember trying to wrap my mind around leaving America. I remember being scared and lonely when I first got here. I remember doing all right when it came to making a few friends. I remember thinking it might as well be forever before I’m home again because it’s too far away to conceive, but when it’s all over it will have been the biggest thing I’ve ever accomplished. And now I’m going home tomorrow? I did it? Already?

I’m not trying to sound disappointed. I just can’t believe it. And I am disappointed, but not because it wasn’t as massive an accomplishment as I imagined it would be. I am disappointed because it was massive, and it’s almost over. Ooh, here comes another wave of denial again...ahh, that’s better.

Already, however, I’m starting to realize what a mess I’m going to be in 15 hours.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The opposite of Hell freezing over

AAAHHHH! This cannot be happening! I am a freak who finds Seattle too hot to handle. So I moved to Aberdeen, Scotland, a freezing gray shithole (I say these words with love) that sees almost no daylight during the winter. And now this city has betrayed me by throwing a heat wave at me. Seriously, y’all, it’s HOT. It is also very, very humid. It’s too hot to move. This is not supposed to happen in the north of Scotland. I go to the beach and look across the sea to Norway, for god’s sake!

I’m actually not going to look up any actual temperatures because I have this horrible feeling that everyone will say, “That’s not hot at all! You’re just weird. Weird, weird, weird. And why are you wearing high heels?” I’m also not going to use my fellow Aberdonians as evidence that it’s not just me because they’re probably equipped with the same weird internal thermometer as me. All I know is, we’re sitting in my flat sweating our brains out with all the windows wide open and oh my god this is against nature.

I’m reminded of a saying that goes, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the oven.” I don’t know what that has to do with my current situation, but what is a person doing in an oven in the first place? That’s way weirder than wearing high heels. It’s not like I get off on it or anything.

To take my mind off the heat, I would like to tell you about how wonderful my last week in Scotland has been going. A week seemed like so long when I got home from Amsterdam, but there’s so much to do and so many people to say goodbye to, I don’t know if I’m going to get it all in before I go. I have been spending a lot of time with Pip, which is nice because we hadn’t seen each other for weeks before I went to Amsterdam.

Pip and I have been planning to have a “Spike and Anya night” together for months, which refers to an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in which Spike and Anya are rejected by their partners and get trashed and have illicit sex. Now that I’m explaining it to you, the appeal of planning a Spike and Anya night seems extremely questionable. (Especially when you take into account the fact that Spike is a vampire and therefore dead. I swear, I don’t get off on that!) The bottom line is, we drank a lot and bared our souls. It was a good time, really!

I guess it’s been much more pleasant than exciting (which is a good thing after the craziness that was Amsterdam). Seeing my friends, watching a shitload of Big Brother, packing my stuff. I’m so glad I sent so much stuff home with David when he came to visit, but I’m afraid it might not have been enough because I’m looking at these two little bitch suitcases and wondering how I’m going to fit my entire room into them. At least on the way here I could leave stuff behind if it didn’t fit, but now I pretty much have to make it fit or throw it out. I investigated sending stuff home in the post, but everywhere I went charged the same rate: an arm and a leg.

It’s weird when Rosie or Laura or whoever mentions something they’re doing next week and I realize I’m going to be on the other side of the planet by then. There has been a lot of, “Eric, you should come to...oh, yeah, you won’t be here.”

I can’t believe I’m going to see my family in less than a week. And I’ll see Luke again the very next day after that.

I can’t believe I’m not going to be able to watch Big Brother anymore when I go back to America.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Home before home

I’m home once again after a wonderful vacation, and I feel good about that. In a week, however, I’ll be going HOME, and that is harder to wrap my mind around. It’s hard to believe that a year ago I was trying to wrap my mind around starting a new life in a foreign country. Now I can barely handle the thought of resuming my old life in my own country. I’m happy about it. But it’s not as simple as that.

This is the beginning of my very last week in Aberdeen, and after spending a week and a half with two girls who have also done the study abroad thing, my head is full of nothing but Big Thoughts about how much the last 10 months have Changed My Life. Aahhhh!

Right now, I feel remarkably similar to how I felt a week before leaving America back in September -- there is this queasy impression that I am counting down to a death sentence, since I am saying goodbye to life as I know it on my way to the utter unknown. You might think it would be easier this way around, but holy shit. I am way more freaked out now than I was 10 months ago.

I understand now why nobody studies abroad in their last year of university. I can’t even get a transcript from the University of Aberdeen until July, and only then can UW convert my foreign study credits into actual credits that count towards my degree. And only then will I know if I’ve graduated or not. Until then, I’m in a state of limbo, which is pretty inconvenient because at this point I have no idea (a) whether or not to register for fall classes, (b) if so, how many, (c) my registration period was over a month ago so I don’t even know if I still can, so I might have to wait until January, (d) whether I’m going to live in Seattle or Los Angeles, (e) how long I’m going to be there, (f) what kind of job to look for when I get there, (h) etc, etc, etc.

And then there’s reverse-culture shock to worry about...

I have decided to close this entry by sharing some information with you I forgot to include in my Amsterdam entries. You know how clowns have those never-ending ribbons they pull out of their mouths? There was a stripper in the Red Light District whose act consisted of slowly pulling one of those out of her vagina.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Amsterdam pictures

WARNING: Some of the following pictures are absolutely filthy and should not be viewed by children or nuns.

There are not actually very many pictures from this trip. My camera ran out of batteries on the first day, Jen’s camera won’t turn on for unknown reasons, and Laura forgot her USB cord in Aberdeen so she has to conserve space on her memory card. Also, there are a lot of things you’re simply not allowed to photograph, such as whores in the Red Light District (they turn off the lights in their window if you point a camera at them) or strippers doing unspeakable things to fruit products.

So here is a small assortment of pictures we have been allowed to take in this city.

This is the Erotic Museum in the Red Light District. It was actually pretty thorough -- it included erotic art from many different cultures and time periods. And the top floor was devoted to fun erotic photo sessions! Here is me...well, what can you say about an image like that? And I’m probably going to regret posting this on the internet, but I feel it’s in the name of journalism.

Laura and I went and had the Heineken Experience, which we felt was essential after visiting the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. It’s telling that neither place tries to use the word “museum” in their name. The Heineken Experience was like, “Here is 10 minutes of how Heineken is made. Now we’ll give you three free beers and let you star in your own Heineken music video!” There were also such features as “Be the DJ at Club Heineken,” “What it feels like to be a Heineken bottle,” Heineken Foosball, and a neat hologram that had nothing to do with anything as far as I could tell. It was a good time.


Saturday, June 11, 2005


Oh my god! I’m in Amsterdam! Again!

I don’t know where to start. It’s been pretty crazy. Our sleep schedules are already decently fucked up -- we’ve gone out dancing two nights in a row and been out past 4 AM both times. Surprisingly, Thursday is not a great night to be out in Amsterdam (I didn’t think there was ever a dead night in Amsterdam), but the girls and I found a nice gay bar with a dance floor AND A POLE. Pretty much a recipe for success.

Actually, the craziness started before that. The night we arrived in town, Laura crashed early, but Jen and I were ready to get the party started. We soon discovered that our hostel is about two blocks away from the Red Light District, which is an amazing bit of luck on my part since I chose this particular hostel based solely on price. All I can tell you and still keep this blog family-friendly (because it’s all about the children, y’all) is that Jen and I spent a lot of money and saw a lot of things we’ve never seen before. Oh my god.

Yesterday, the three of us did a basic exploration of the city on foot. I’m actually shocked at how well I remember how to get around since it’s the most confusing layout for a city I’ve ever seen. But still, I’m amazing so I may as well accept it. It was a very relaxed day, topped off with an indulgence in one of several popular substances that are legal in this country and illegal in most others. Is it a bad idea to blog about smoking a joint? It shouldn’t be. Because it was really, really good.

Like most people, I’ve heard a lot about Amsterdam and all the crazy stuff that goes on there, and one of the things I heard was to look for “coffeehouses,” which is code for “where to get marijuana.” I must admit, I had questions. Like, what if you go somewhere and it’s actually just a coffeehouse? Like, you go inside, all “Yeah! Where are the drugs at?” and they just look at you. Or, I imagined having to be discreet about it, saying something like, “’s your ‘coffee’? What’s the strongest ‘coffee’ you have? Will I have to roll it myself?” But no. You walk into a coffeehouse and there’s a menu of all the drugs. I didn’t have to use finger quotes or anything.

I absolutely love Amsterdam. It’s a gorgeous city, and it looks so different from any one I’ve visited so far. There don’t seem to be any right angles anywhere in the buildings -- they seem to be leaning against each other, or out over the street. It’s like there were a bunch of normal buildings, and someone squashed them together and they became really narrow and tall. And the canals still rock my world, as does the abundance of bicycles. There are hardly any moving cars in this city -- anywhere interesting is within walking (or biking) distance, and for once it seems like everyone in the city understands this.

Amsterdam is very happening, very alive, very exciting, but at the same time it feels so chilled out. The walking and bicycling as opposed to driving is part of that. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the people are incredibly helpful and friendly. After all, we’re talking about a city I’ve been to twice, whose language I’ve never had to study in order to feel fully capable there. Not that I wouldn’t love to, because between my knowledge of English and German, picking up Dutch is something I’m doing without putting almost any thought into it. I still can’t get over what a mishmash of the two it reads and sounds like.

Last night it was a little easier finding a place to go dancing. A lot of places were open that were closed when we tried them the night before, and we stopped inside a few of them, including a lesbian bar which I found really amusing because there were so many gay guys there dragged in by their lesbian friends, who clearly felt weird about the whole thing. There were lots of women socializing (and a few dancing) away, and off to the sides were little clusters of gay guys fidgeting around together. It reminded me of a dog park, actually. It was pretty funny.

In the end, the three of us found ourselves at the same bar as the night before. The one with the pole. Since it was a bigger party night, there were three or four other dance floors open, but after everyone had migrated to those, Jen and Laura and I hijacked the pole and made the DJ play all our favorite songs. It was actually really nice of him to play like six of our requests in a row, but I would also like to point out that he was playing crap before we got our hands on him and by the end of “Jumpin’, Jumpin’” by worldwide sensation Destiny’s Child, the dancefloor had started to fill up again. This lends credence to my theory that I should be the DJ in any club I go to, ever.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I went to Slain's Castle

The title says it all. I went to Slain’s Castle, and it was without a doubt one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen. I’ve been meaning to go see it ever since I got here, and now in my last two weeks abroad, I’ve finally gotten around to it.

Basically, Slain’s Castle is a deteriorated old castle in the middle of nowhere on the Scottish coast. Apparently, it’s not technically owned by anyone, so it just sits there at the mercy of nature and time -- no restorations, no entrance fee, and best of all, NO PEOPLE. It just blows my mind that something so amazing is just sitting there with no one in charge of it, but this is one of those times when I feel really fortunate to have studied in Aberdeen because if I didn’t live a mere 45-minute bus ride away, I doubt I would have gotten around to seeing it, and I can definitely see why most people don’t.

Because the castle is not owned by anyone, there are no signs pointing the way to Slain’s Castle, because nobody wants to take responsibility for any pieces of it that may fall on your head since, well, it’s an old castle with no safety measures. So it was an adventure in itself just getting there. From Aberdeen, Laura and Jen and I took the bus to a small town called Cruden Bay and basically walked out of town until we could see the castle in the distance. Even from far away, it looked great. It sounds silly, but it was a kind of adventure that reminded me of being a kid: there we were surrounded by unexplored territory (well, unexplored by us), totally alone in the Scottish countryside, searching for a castle on a cliff, crossing ravines. Who has to figure out how to get across a ravine anymore? There’s always a bridge. I love that there wasn’t.

This is me apprehensively making my way through the trees. In the adventure story we were living, this is Jen being attacked by an evil tree. You will note that she is appropriately turned on.

Here we are taking a breather. Being in an adventure story is exhausting. (I would discover later that it also makes me hungry.)

Finally, we approached this side of the castle. We couldn’t believe how intact it was -- it’s definitely falling apart, but we weren’t expecting anything that strongly resembled a castle. Most of the castles I’ve visited that didn’t require an entrance fee were basically the bottom three feet of the walls. Everything else is usually gone.

I never got over how beautiful it was to look out castle windows and doors and see the open sea. Especially right on the edge of the cliff, such epic openness framed by the remains of this castle was such a beautiful image.

Everyone tells you not to climb all over the castle because it’s dangerous, but I didn’t see that we had much of a choice. There was too much to see just standing on the ground. Apart from tiny Cruden Bay, there was absolutely no sign of civilization as far as the eye could see.

Of course, in addition to being blown away by the raw beauty of the castle and the surrounding area, the three of us also had the good sense to realize that this was a phenomenal location for a photo shoot. There are hundreds more where this came from, but I’ll spare you. I kind of want to post this one just for fun, though.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Me and my girls

Finally, I have both Laura and Jen in my Aberdonian clutches! I know I haven’t posted much since they’ve gotten here. Part of it is because we’ve been busy together, and part of it is because of what we’ve been busy doing. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve spent an afternoon showing Laura around Aberdeen, but I have to confess, we’ve also been spending a lot of time in my attic.

Let me explain something about red light. It makes everyone look AMAZING. Ever since I discovered this, I have wanted to break out some cheap red light bulbs and see what kind of photographs I can come up with. This is also a lot easier now that I have a couple of willing subjects. The bottom line is, we took over 800 pictures and we’re not sorry. Thank god for digital camera technology. Basically, it’s a fun mixture of artsy and playful. I don’t know how serious we were about the artsy ones when we were taking them, but I have to admit some of them turned out pretty damn good.

The thing about my attic is that it has skylights, which means we can’t do red light photo shoots until it gets completely dark outside. And the thing about being this far north is that at this time of year, it never gets completely dark outside. Laura and Jen and I went out for some drinks and walked home at 1 AM, and the horizon was still light blue. And I know from many late nights that the sky starts getting rapidly lighter not long after 3 AM. I remember the winter, when the sun started going down at 2:30 PM. This is the flip side of that. It’s insane!

It may not have taken Laura more than an afternoon to see all the Aberdeen that really matters -- Union Street, the beach (it was covered in jellyfish), the university -- but she finished classes in London the day before she came here so she’s appreciating being a little lazy. I’d also like to add that she took the bus all the way from London to Aberdeen, which is a 12-hour ride. Sometimes I think that’s an enormous amount of time and distance because it spans from one end of the country to the other, but then I remember that the UK is teeny-tiny and I can’t believe how used to that I’ve gotten.

Also, I just took the girls on a day trip to Edinburgh. I’ve spent so many weekends in that city, it makes me so sad that in a few weeks I won’t be able to hop on a bus and get there any time I want! And the city has never, ever looked as beautiful as it was today. It’s officially June, and even in Scotland, that means it’s time for a little sunshine and greenery. For the first time, I actually went inside Edinburgh Castle instead of loitering outside and being like, “Oh yeah, it’s probably boring inside.” I realize now that that was just a coping mechanism to deal with the fact that I could never afford to pay the ₤10 entrance fee. I’m sure that’s not a bad price for what it is, but it’s a lot of money to me!

We met up with Iain, who lives in Edinburgh and is home for the summer, who walked us down the Royal Mile (along the way, we saw the infamous ₤400 million disaster that is their Parliament) and had a very cultural dinner of haggis with neeps and tatties. Neeps = turnips, tatties = potatoes. I’m pretty sure one of my favorite things about living in Scotland is being exposed to all these words I never could have come up with on my own. Laura was really excited to experience haggis. Jen was, until recently, a vegetarian and looked like she was going to barf as Laura and I moaned with pleasure over our meal.

Before I came to Scotland, everyone always told me to make sure and eat haggis while I was there. Half the time it was because the idea of it is so incredibly off-putting and it’s an adventure to eat something so unusual. Other times people tried to tell me that a haggis was a Scottish animal with shorter legs on one side so it could stand on the sides of hills without falling over. I think that’s stupid.

Finally, I’ll share a few more pictures from Aberdeen with you. The girls and I went to the grocery store and we saw a few other picture-worthy British products. (Also, Jen observed that these people appear to be obsessed with baked beans.) Mushy peas. Not just mushy peas, mushy processed peas. I’m pretty sure I’ll never buy a food product with the word “mushy” in it unless it’s for a baby. This one is a little friendlier: nice biscuits. I absolutely love this. It’s so darn British! This is the kind of thing that makes me never want to leave this country.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Return of the Jen

Jen arrived in Aberdeen for the second time today. I mean, the second time, and it was today. It's not like she's been coming in and out of the city all day. I felt kind of bad because the weather up here has been pretty grim for the past week and according to forecasts, it's not going to get much better as long as she's here. I'm hoping this does not inspire her to wonder why she left the south of Spain for this. I hope the answer includes the words "Eric, because he is wonderful and oh so fine."

Jen had her toe cut open in the emergency room a few days ago (it's a long story) and she just spent the night in the airport and didn't even fly into Aberdeen, she had to get the bus up from Edinburgh. It's been a rough journey. This is not how the city should have welcomed her! Oh, Aberdeen. You gray bitch.

So, today we sat in my flat and caught up. It's a good thing we have so much of that to do, because suddenly I can't think of anything to do in this town. We're both kind of sick, and it's so gray outside it's difficult to see past a few buildings down. I don't even know that it's particularly foggy or rainy, but the sheer grayness seems to be taking on a physical weight that makes it very easy to decide not to venture outside.

Because I am completely evil, I forced Jen to watch Big Brother with me and she so totally loves it! After just one episode! I won't go on about it here, but if anyone reading this is watching the UK version going on right now, I've invented a drinking game to go with the live feed: do a shot every time Vanessa is asleep in a different location. You will be in hospital within the hour. I don't know why that makes it a good drinking game. I don't know why I love Big Brother either, BUT I DO!

I do have a thing or two planned for Jen's visit (and Laura's -- she's arriving in a few days): we'll pay a visit to Cruden Bay and Slain's Castle on Sunday, and head down to Edinburgh for a day trip on Monday. On Wednesday, the three of us are flying to Amsterdam together. Awwww, yeah.

Still, I keep hoping Jen won't remember that 48 hours ago she was tanning away on a Spanish beach. And I convinced her to come back to Aberdeen because there's so much we didn't have a chance to do the last time she was here. Eek!

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


In one of my first non-mandatory ventures outside the flat since becoming ill, 10 minutes ago I was standing in a liquor store in high heels.

There's not even an amusing story leading up to it. I couldn't find my shoes anywhere and I had to pick up some stuff for Natalie, who came over tonight to cook a massive dinner. I saw the high heels (left by David when he visited) and knew what I had to do. When I got there, I realized I didn't have my wallet so I had to wait for Rosie to bring me some money. In the meantime, the gay boy in high heels tried to make small talk with the staff at Victoria Wine.

"At least I brought my passport!" I offered.

"Yeah," replied the guy behind the counter, staring at my shoes.

"Last time I was here, they wanted to see my passport and I had to go all the way back home and get it," I explained. I even laughed to indicate that this information was supposed to be amusing.

"Okay," he mumbled.

"Whatever, bitch! You don't know what I've been through in these heels! I've killed a man!" I didn't say that. We stood there in silence for 100 years, which was actually like five minutes. We cleared our throats periodically. It was like that.

I didn't even get Natalie's stuff when Rosie got there. She didn't have enough money. So we ran out of the liquor store and made a break for the flat. Well, Rosie got out quite speedily, and I awkwardly limped out of the shop behind her. How do women do it?

Monday, May 30, 2005

I'll get out more soon

Today saw my one and only exam for the semester, and now it's actually all over. It was very anticlimactic. The first essay question was about defining art cinema, and for the second one I defend the statement that Three Colors: White is a comedy. I thought it was really easy, which it could have been because it's only a second-year course, or maybe I didn't answer the questions thoroughly enough. Either way is possible.

I'm still feeling like crap. My throat is killing me. Waking up at 7 AM for this exam was the hardest thing about it. I've spent all weekend lying on the couch recovering instead of at the library. Consequently I have spent far too much time watching Big Brother, not just the show but the live feed which is broadcast for six hours every day. I don't watch all six hours! But I watch some of that really, really terrible? I think it might be.

I remember being really into The Real World and realizing that the fundamental flaw of the show is how little material it actually shows you. To fit anything interesting into 20 minutes a week, it has to be edited to death and that's why the title has always been a lie. Big Brother is the perfect solution! That is, if you happen to be fascinated by conversations between strangers who have been forced to live with each other, which I don't know why I am.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Kids say the darndest things

An interesting thing happened to me today. Ballal and I were walking down the street, holding hands for some reason, and we crossed the street in front of this minivan with a couple of kids in the backseat. One of them was a little girl, she couldn't have been more than 10 years old, and when we passed by, she announced disgustedly, "Poofs!" (That's British for "fag.")(Incidentally, "fag" is British for "cigarette." But Ballal and I are not cigarettes -- we're homos.)

I actually couldn't believe it. I was going to make some joke about how funny it would be if this little girl said something like that when we walked by, and then she actually did! Ballal and I didn't stop walking, but he yelled back, "Fuck you, bitch!" It crossed my mind that that might have been a bit harsh, until I heard her high-pitched voice behind us screaming, "COME BACK HERE AND SAY THAT, YOU BASTARD! FUCKING POOFS!"

It's so wrong, but I couldn't help laughing. A lot. I shouldn't have, because that little girl has already become a nasty human being before reaching her teens, and it isn't her fault, really. It's chilling because it reminded me that kids really do just imitate the adults around them, and if those adults happen to suck, a kid has no idea it's being messed up. I mean, it's not like this little girl is in any way informed enough to have developed her own opinions about homosexual lifestyles. If anything, at her age, doesn't the idea of man-woman sex gross her out as much as a good swordfight between male lovers?

That little girl's mother was driving. How come she was okay with all this? Did she turn around in her seat and say anything to her daughter? "Well done, sweetheart! You really showed those fucking benders!"

Kids. You gotta love 'em.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Sick night

Rosie and I are watching a progam called Dolphin Murder Mystery. I was hoping it was like a Hercule Poirot type show but it's actually a documentary about these dolphins who attack their own babies and toss them around in the air. I saw something like that on the BBC's Blue Planet, where these killer whales were torturing a baby whale and tossing it around for fun. Well, I can only assume it was fun because they didn't even eat it afterward.

We also watched a show called Teenagers From Hell, a documentary program about out-of-control teens who set each other's hair on fire and drive buses into houses and things like that. It was actually pretty sad -- there was one kid (the one who had his friends set his hair on fire for fun, and videotape it) being interviewed with his mom, and they watched the video footage while his mom cried and yelled at him, "What's wrong with you? Why would you do something like this?" Then, to the camera: "Christ, he's so fucking stupid." The kid just sat there like a lump with his mouth hanging open and not saying anything. It was tragic. Not the cheeriest night of television ever.

Sitting here in the, er, sitting room, I'm not terribly cheerful either. I've come down with some sort of virus which is causing every muscle and joint in my body to scream with pain and my head hurts like a motherfucker and I keep feeling like I'm going to pass out and movement of any kind is just excruciating. Uggghhhh. Iain came over to go dancing with me, but now he's stuck watching TV with me for the night instead. Ha, ha, ha! At least I can drag someone else's night down with me! No, I'm kidding. It's nice to have company, though.

Now we're watching a program about the top 20 UK Big Brother contestants ever in honor of the new series starting this week. I've never seen Big Brother in America, but isn't it kind of a national joke how boring it is? Anyway, basically every celebrity in Britain came from Big Brother, so it's a different kind of thing over here.

As I'm watching all this "best of" footage, I can feel myself being sucked in. I'm also fantasizing about being selected for the new Big Brother, especially since it coincides exactly with the end of the school year. I could have applied, been selected, finished university as normal, then spent the summer in the Big Brother house! After all, my visa doesn't run out until October 31st. And my status as a gay American would virtually guarantee me a spot on the show! The producers would be fools to pass up such potential conflict. My underdog/fish-out-of-water situation would certainly lead to a win, and I would use my prize money to buy Martin Freeman and make him my personal love slave even though he looks like a Muppet.

It's this kind of daydreaming, or crying over my aching head!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Earl of Manwich

Today, Louis and I had a mission: he had read in Attitude that there was a gay sandwich shop somewhere in Aberdeen and we were determined to find it. I don’t know how a sandwich shop can be gay. Maybe they only serve sandwiches with salami in them. We just had to find out.

Louis didn’t have an actual copy of the magazine which might have helped us find out where it was located, but he remembered it was on Market Street somewhere. So that’s where we started looking. Market Street is pretty unremarkable sandwich shop-wise. The only specifically sandwich-oriented shop was a hole-in-the-wall called “The Earl of Sandwich.” Since there didn’t appear to be room for a dance floor inside, we figured it wasn’t possible it was what we were looking for.

We continued down Market Street keeping a sharp eye out for such colors as purple or pink. Each pub we passed, we peered inside looking for drag queens or leather daddies enjoying the best gay sandwiches in Aberdeen. But we had no luck. So we continued past the docks into a more industrial part of town. We were still hopeful because, after all, we all know that sailors love a bit of cock now and then. At least, this is something I’ve always prayed for believed.

Our search turned desperate as we began asking randoms on the street if they knew of any gay sandwich shops in the area. None of them did. We were forced to conclude that we had gone too far and passed it already.

We ended up giving the Earl of Sandwich a second chance. After all, as we noticed this time around, the guy working there was wearing a bright pink shirt.

“Do you have any sandwiches you would describe” I thought it would be best to be as direct as possible. “What do you think is the gayest sandwich you have?”

To his credit, the guy didn’t seem fazed at all. “Well, there’s a lesbian who comes in here a lot, and she always orders one with salami on it. Funnily enough.”

“Are you aware that this establishment is listed in Attitude magazine as gay? You’re running a gay sandwich shop here, is that right?”

“I didn’t know that. We do have a lot of lesbians coming in here, though. Maybe we are gay.”

“Do you realize you’re wearing a pink shirt? Don’t you think that’s a little gay?”

He didn’t. But it was.

Louis and I talked to him for a little while as he made our gay sandwiches. I decided I would have whatever the lesbian was having. The guy had a question for us gays: “So, what’s the male equivalent of a faghag?”

Um...a fag?

“No, I mean I have a lot of lesbian friends. Like, A LOT. Do you know if there’s a name for someone like me?”
Though we failed in solving this man’s identity crisis, the sandwiches were yummy, and “coincidentally” quite phallic. They tasted pretty gay to me. The Earl of Sandwich was not the replacement for Oh Henry’s Louis and I were hoping for, but at least we know where all the lesbians in Aberdeen are getting their sandwiches.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Dublin pictures

Laura and I brought the wacky to Dublin thanks to some handy props supplied by Dublinia at Christchurch.

Here is me being my usual supermmodel self outside Stephen's Green.

The original St. Patrick's Cathedral! When my family used to go to church, we went to St. Patrick's in Seattle. There's a bit of trivia for you in case you're ever on a game show and they have a round of questions about me.

Mmmmm, Guinness. Here are Laura's and my complimentary Guinnesses settling at the Gravity Bar. I liked my pint so much, I was inspired to do this.

The River Liffey, running through the middle of the city.

I stole this picture from Laura. I think she took it at like 5 AM when she was catching the bus to go to the airport. The Millennium Needle isn't the most innovative structure around, but it sure looks pretty here.

During my day on my own, I was cool enough to stand outside the building where the Book of Kells is. That's what I like to do when I visit a city: find the interesting stuff and stand outside the building.

Real live cricket!

The real reason I hung out in the National Gallery of Ireland for hours and hours.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I heart Eurovision


Moldova's drumming grandma was also even better the second time around.

Javine performed second and wasn't great. I didn't want to touch her vagina fire at all. And I'm pretty sure she forgot the words at one point. Does she world need a less curvy and more toothy version of Beyonce? I'm not convinced. I know I was sold a few days ago, but after seeing all these entries that incorporate aspects of their culture into their performance, Javine's floor-humping is a lot less impressive.

21:16. Here is another reason why Eurovision is the most amazing television event in human history: Bosnia-Herzegovina's entry is a girl group called Feminnem. I was hoping they would rap or something, but ABBA imitations are good too.

Spain's entry is pretty much "Las Ketchup: The Revenge."

23:32. Wow, we lost soooooo hard. The results portion of the show took forever but I was still glued to the screen. They went to live representatives from each of the 39 voting European countries and added up the points very, very slowly. Language barriers provided instant comedy, or rather everyone tried to speak English for some reason and that provided instant comedy. I asked Rosie, Jo, and Iain why the whole show is presented in English and they were like, "Because otherwise we would have to read subtitles!" It was an attitude that made me feel very at home.

Yeah, NOOOOOBODY voted for us. We had zero points for the longest time, and then we finally got a few votes from Ireland (though I can't imagine why). Battling for the top spot at various points were Malta, Romania, Switzerland, Latvia, and Greece (who actually ended up winning, yawn). I knew Javine sucked ass. Damn you, surnameless witch!

Javine totally disappeared after the show, and when the UK correspondent finally tracked her ass down she was bitching about how the vote was obviously political and she was going to start recording her album in a few days anyway: "It'll be nice to be doing something real," she diva-ed. HA, HA. Where has she been for the last hour? Getting hammered? Touching her fire? Voting for herself with a foreign mobile?

The Norwegian glam rockers were totally trashed by the post-show and started licking the interviewer's feet. They took her shoes off first, though. I don't know why that makes it better that they were violating her on national television, but she didn't seem to mind, so whatever.

I'm so sad I'm not going to be here for Eurovision 2006.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Welcome to Eurovision!

Oh my god. I have just discovered what may be the best thing about living in Europe, and it is called EUROVISION. I had heard about this phenomenon before coming here but I did not fully understand the implications. Imagine an entire continent coming together every year to compete in a pop song contest highlighting the very best shit pop music each country has to offer!

British Laura came over tonight and the Eurovision semi-finals happened to be on TV, so she and Rosie and I totally made an evening of it. Basically, each European country comes up with an original song entry, and they all come together somewhere (this year, Kiev) and battle it out! It’s kind of like a train wreck, except nobody gets seriously injured!

This year the UK is being represented by a Popstars reject called “Javine,” whose breasts fell out of her dress when she accepted the nomination. No, seriously. She is singing a song of her own composition entitled...wait for it...“Touch My Fire.” It’s really, really bad in a good sort of way, not unlike Tyra Banks’s non-smash “Move Your Body.” At least Tyra’s request that I move my body was somewhat straightforward. What exactly is this “fire” Javine wants me to touch? Is it her vagina? Or something more metaphorical? Perhaps the answers to such mysteries will be unveiled if she wins. Go, Javine! You have my vote, girlfriend!

Actually, she doesn’t have my vote. Eurovision prohibits voting for your own country, which is a pretty good idea. (Because integrity is such an essential element of this contest.) Did you know Celine Dion won Eurovision in 1988? I would like to know what country she was representing. Isn’t she Canadian? Just because she speaks French doesn’t make her European, you know.

We didn’t get to see Javine compete tonight because the UK, along with some other countries, automatically went through to the finals for some reason. Laura and Rosie didn’t know either, but I guess that means I’ll have no choice but to watch the finals on TV this Saturday. I guess I can live with that, by which I mean you will not be able to pry me from the television with a crowbar that night.

Tonight’s travesties of musical expression included entries from Portugal, Latvia, Belgium, and Estonia. Especially Estonia. Estonia’s entry was performed by a teen girl group called Suntribe, each of the five members standing in front of their own rainbow-colored turntable and pretended to spin a record back and forth with no apparent result once in a while like they were DJs or something. Likewise, the duo from Latvia pretended to play guitars for half a song, but cast them off to perform their lyrics in sign language while the guitar music mysteriously continued.

And oh my god Portugal was THE SUCK.

On the other hand, I was a big fan of Romania, Iceland, Moldova, and Norway. Moldova’s entry involved an old woman dancing around with a large drum, and as for Norway, well, I always knew glam rock wasn’t dead. Either that, or it just arrived there and the Norwegians thought they were being “hip.” Whatever, they rocked!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I'm boring now

It’s really weird not having any kind of structure dictating what I’m supposed to be doing with my time. I got back pretty early on Monday, but slept most of the day because I stayed up all night at the Dublin hostel the night before. There wasn’t even a good reason for it, I just couldn’t sleep until 4:30 AM and then I decided it wasn’t worth it because I would have had to wake up to go to the airport at 5:30 AM anyway.

On Tuesday I watched That 70s Show for eight hours straight. Rosie bought the first season on DVD. Dear lord that was a good day, although I felt pretty useless afterward. Rosie remedied that by renting The Spongebob Squarepants Movie for us later in the evening.

Today I went to the library and watched The Sacrifice, which was absolute torture, and rented 12 Angry Men, Big, All the Real Girls, Broadway Danny Rose, and Live Flesh. They have an amazing selection of films in the library and I’m determined to watch a good number of them before I head home. There are so many great movies I can’t believe I haven’t seen. That’s mainly what I’m going to be up to for the next few weeks, I think.

I’m boring now.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Eric in Dublin

Oops, I was bad. Very, very bad. I said I would be visiting another member of the United Kingdom when I went to Dublin and that was wrong. I feel like it’s extra bad to make a mistake like that when there’s such turmoil surrounding the division between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The worst part is that I realized this just as I left the flat to go to the airport, and I thought, I am going to get some emails about this one.

Now that that’s out of the way, Dublin. It was awesome, of course. It’s a great city, albeit one that evidently does not believe in street signs or having streets names remain constant for more than a few blocks. This would normally have made the city a nightmare to navigate for visitors like me and American Laura (who met me there), but luckily the River Liffey runs right through the middle of the city so we could always use that to orientate ourselves.

Dublin, for some reason, was one of those cities that instantly made me think I would have enjoyed studying abroad there. I felt that way about Germany as a country, but none of the specific cities I visited there appealed to me in that way. Maybe I just really liked the Irish people. For a start, they were weirdly helpful and offered me and Laura directions whenever we looked lost or confused. And the barmaid at the Guinness Storehouse spontaneously offered to fill our water bottles. Hey, it’s the little things that count.

Speaking of which, the Guinness Storehouse! That was some fun. It was basically a museum/shrine devoted to Guinness. A seven-story museum/shrine, yo. And there’s a bar at the top with glass walls and a spectacular view of the city, where you can enjoy your complimentary pint of Guinness (if by “complimentary” you mean “included in the ticket price,” but still).

Laura and I tried to see most of the city on foot, and hit the major points of interest on the tourist map, such as Oscar Wilde’s house, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Guinness Storehouse, St. Stephen’s Green, and Dublin Castle (although we didn’t actually go inside because we both hate guided tours and they wouldn’t let you walk around and see it on your own. Damn you, Dublin Castle!). Through it all, I couldn’t help noticing that Irish guys, and their accents, are super duper sexy. I’m just letting you know in case you’re a filthy, filthy whore like me.

Laura had arrived in Dublin a day earlier than me, and I stayed a day longer than her. Surprisingly, I spent my day solo at the National Gallery of Ireland, of all places. I wouldn’t really call myself an art lover mostly because the only sedative more powerful on me than an art gallery is church. But I spent about three hours in this one without feeling the urge to do something else. I also went to Trinity College and saw a cricket game, and the outside of the building where they keep the Book of Kells (I couldn’t afford the €6.50 entrance fee even if I wanted to -- in fact, I was so strapped for cash that I could only afford digestives to eat all day).

That night, instead of going out on the town by myself, I hung out in the hostel with a bunch of Australians. It reminded me that I actually do like meeting and getting to know new people no matter how convinced otherwise I am. They had been hanging out at the hostel for two weeks -- they were originally only going to spend a few nights there, but their wallets got stolen so now they couldn’t afford to do anything but kill time until their flight back to England (they were studying abroad as well).

In fact, there was something of an epidemic of thievery at this hostel. Laura and I had two jars of sauce and six cans of beer stolen from us, and everyone we talked to seemed to have a story about their valuables being stolen while staying at this hostel, an alarming number saying they had been sleeping with their valuables in bed with them at the time they were stolen. The night I hung out in the lobby with the Australians, a group of kids from Poland who had arrived that night were freaking out because their passports and wallets had been stolen by someone who snuck into the building. Scary stuff.

I was very fortunate and had nothing stolen from me during my stay in Dublin. The trip was a really nice way to reward myself for finishing up the semester as differently as possible from last semester (i.e. not failing my ass off), and of course I got to see my beloved Laura, so that was all good.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

School's out...forever?

Finally, I’ve completed and handed in my very last essay for the University of Aberdeen, and maybe my very last essay for any university anywhere. My advisor at UW tells me there’s a good chance this year will take care of my last remaining credits, despite the fact that I spent half of it tooling around with the history department. I’m not entirely convinced it’s going to work out that nicely, but it feels nice to have actually accomplished something for my degree while I’ve been over here.

I even made an effort not to torture myself during the process of cranking out this essay (“The Road to Maleville: Rediscovered Masculinity in Fight Club and Cast Away.” Yes, it’s another winner). Not only did I turn it in a day early, and not only did I not stay up all night the night before (though it was quite close), but I had made an effort to undermine my terrible eating habits last time I went to the grocery store so there was very little junk food to gorge myself on, as I traditionally do in an attempt to guilt myself into productivity. I still nipped off to the kitchen every 15 minutes to stuff my face, but it was on things like bananas, brussel sprouts, and whole grain bread.

It’s not like I turned my essay in a day early because I’m a really good student or anything. The bastard is actually due tomorrow, but in about 16 hours I’ll be on a flight to Dublin to meet up with American Laura and cross another member of the United Kingdom off my list. It’s looking doubtful that I’ll be able to make it to Wales before I leave, though. Still, Dublin! Yes!

So that’s nearly it for me and the University of Aberdeen. This is the final week of the semester, and my last class was on Tuesday. After a final exam for European Cinema on the 30th, well, school’s out. It’s just me and whatever I want to do for the next five weeks.

In one of my more bizarre attempts at putting off working on my essay, I decided to make Rosie instruct me on waxing and we removed the hair from part of my leg. That shit is painful. And now I have a stupid-looking bald patch on my calf.

Just in case you were sitting there wondering, “What is the weather like in Aberdeen this time of year?” I’m going to tell you. It’s hot. Seattle hot. Like not actually hot, but enough to remind me that warm weather makes me grumpy. Living in an arctic hellhole like Aberdeen occasionally fools me into thinking I’d looooove to live somewhere tropical and sunny. But it’s all a lie! Oh, and remember in the winter when the sun started going down at 2 PM? Now the opposite is starting to happen: the sun comes up freakishly early and doesn’t go down until fairly late at night. I disagree with this because it makes me feel like I should be productive for longer. But it’s nice because it reduces the chance of vampire attacks.

Also, David is going SIFFing without me and for this he shall pay with his life.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Straight dancin'

After talking on the phone with Luke, I went out dancing with Iain. It was Saturday night, but we were determined to have a totally sober and cost-free night if we could manage it. The gay bar charges an entrance fee on Saturday nights, so we knew we were going to a straight club. We found a good one on Union Street and hung out there for the night. It was one of the better nights I’ve had out in Aberdeen.

The thing is, Iain is very tall and intimidating. So I felt much less threatened than I usually do in heterosexual clubs. We just wanted to dance, dance, dance. And that’s what we did! We found a nice spot on the dance floor and boogied on down for three hours or so. The music was much better than the gay bar, which is true almost anywhere, but this place played “Superstitious” (Stevie Wonder!) and “Galvanize” (Chemical Brothers!) and that’s all that matters to me.

It sure isn’t all that mattered to anyone else -- news spread like wildfire among the straight folk that a couple of Gays had entered the building. I like how they know we fancy other men, but somehow also believe we are blind and/or stupid and don’t realize they’re totally talking about us. Someone would be staring, and then say something to their friend, who would “inconspicuously” look over their shoulder to get a look at us.

It was just funny, really. Nobody tried anything mean, they were just really obvious about the whole staring and telling a friend thing. I wonder what they were saying. “What? There’s...really? In here? Wait, let me look. I’ll just pretend to be looking around and... Oh my god, you’re right. What are we going to do? We could probably take the little Asian one, but the big one won’t go down without a fight.”

There was also a group of girls who drunkenly draped their bodies all over us and slurred, “I know you’re gay... That’s cool...” Then they seemed to get upset that Iain and I weren’t engaging in anal sex on the dance floor, and yelled, “YOU’RE NOT VERY PASSIONATE, ARE YOU?” Then they found some straight boys to freak and didn’t pay attention to us after that.

Apart from people generally behaving as though Iain and I were space aliens, it was a really, rea

Saturday, May 07, 2005

I love you so much I want to barf

I was hanging out with Ballal and Iain at my flat tonight when Luke called. Rosie answered and said it was for me, but I wasn’t expecting anything international or anything. It’s always nice to know someone on the other side of the planet was thinking of me.

Luke is in Seattle at the moment, visiting his family and mine. He’s been hanging out with David and they also spent some time at my parents’ house. Even more surreal, David had the opportunity to meet some of Luke’s siblings! That’s just the weirdest thing to me. There are some serious worlds colliding here. What’s going to happen when the Rogge and Wanagel family trees meet properly for the first time? Will the laws of physics still apply?

Anyway, that’s not the point. Luke was just telling me about all this fun he’d been having, talking about people and places I miss, and I totally felt like throwing up. I really wanted to be like, “Yeah! Cool! That sounds like fun! Wish I could have been there! You kids don’t have too much fun without me!” I tried saying those things but eventually I couldn’t say anything because my stomach had turned upside down. (Not literally, of course. Otherwise this entry would have been titled, “Surgery I had today.”)

It wasn’t jealousy that they were having fun without me. It was weirder than that -- I was hurt they were even existing without me. It hurt not to be there with them, I missed them so much. The thing is, a lot of the time the only way to wrap my mind around this year is to convince myself the rest of my life is on hold until I get back. Like it’s a film I spent 21 years watching, and paused so I could go to Scotland and make a sandwich. I think you know what I mean.

It just reminded me that everyone I know still exists and I realized that everyone must be so used to me being gone -- just like I got used to being away from them. But that’s starting to change, as I close in on my departure date and I’m torn between feelings of “hurry up!” and “slow down!” I miss my family, I miss Seattle, I miss UW, I miss sunlight that isn’t accompanied by hailstones. I miss Luke. I miss Luke so much I heard his voice and wanted to barf.

When we get married, I’m going to put that in my wedding vows.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Missing SIFF

Ahh! The 2005 Seattle International Film Festival is coming up and for the first time since 2001, I’m not going to be there! If this had occurred to me before I signed up to study abroad, I would have thought twice about the whole damn thing. (I still would have done it, but the important thing is that I would have thought about it twice.)

I know from Moviepie that the official SIFF ’05 schedule came out in the paper today, but I’m too disappointed to even take a peek at the website. SIFF is one of my favorite times of year -- about a month long, day after day of going to independent and/or foreign films. One, two, or even three movies a day sometimes. It’s heaven. It always takes place at the end of spring quarter, which is when I ought to be working the most, but I don’t care. I have priorities. SIFF is my lover. And this year I must leave her unfulfilled.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Who am I?

Living in the UK for almost eight months now, I’ve starting paying attention to the different ways and occasions I think of myself as either American or British. Case in point: Rosie and I were watching something called Welcome to Fatland on TV the other day. It was a documentary program about five obese Brits sent on vacation to a Mexican resort catering to overweight people: wider beds, bigger showers, reinforced furniture, fat staff, etc.

The first half of the program was just about how these people found the resort and the ways it differed from typical resorts. Then they introduced this woman named Marilyn something-or-other, an American woman who gives talks on acceptance and self-esteem to fat people. She was going to lead group sessions with the British people about learning to accept their bodies and love themselves the way they are. You know, blah blah blah.

Marilyn was really hard to watch. She was so...wait for it...AMERICAN. Even the accent sounds funny to me now when I’m not expecting it. But it wasn’t just that. She was like a cartoon of the American stereotype, so peppy, so enthusiastic, so energetic. And, of course, she was fat. The British people just didn’t get her at all. In the interviews, they were like, “I don’t think this workshop is something I would benefit from. She’s nothing like us. Her methods do nothing for me.” I was with the Brits -- I didn’t get her. But I recognized the type with a clarity that only made watching her more painful.

An example: Marilyn explained that she doesn’t believe in weighing herself, she believes in...wait for it again...YAY-ING HERSELF. She brought out a bright pink scale with the word “YAY!” painted on it, and she had each member of the group “YAY” themselves. Please believe me when I say I am not making this up: instead of the dial spinning around to a certain number, it spins around to a complimentary word, such as “sexy,” “wonderful,” or “fantastic.” So these Brits would get on the scale one at a time and Marilyn would be like, “See that? You’re beautiful! Way to go! Good job! Who’s next?” She spoke in a tone of voice I used to believe only came out of cheerleaders.

Then, at Marilyn's "Flirting Workshop," she announced that the first thing everyone would need to do if they were going to practice flirting was to be comfortable looking silly. So Marilyn put her hands upside down over her face (you know, with the eyeholes and everything) and sang a children's song in a funny voice. The Brits were absolutely stone-faced. "Did I look silly? Good! Now you try it!" At that point there was a little mutiny and the group told Marilyn she had totally lost them. Then Marilyn cried and talked about her feelings for like a year.

It was kind of like seeing yourself on video and thinking, Oh my god...THAT’S what I look like? Being removed from American culture for so long, I’m surprised at all the things I used to take for granted, like Marilyn, and fake politeness, and cheerleaders. Yes, cheerleaders are real! I have explained this many a time to an open-mouthed Rosie and her friends.

Sometimes I see American guests interviewed by British talk show hosts, and I go back and forth and back and forth identifying with the Americanness and Britishness on display. It’s also interesting because I can see where stereotypes (sometimes fair, sometimes unfair) of America and Americans are perpetuated by the aspects of it that reach Britain.

Eek, this is just too much to tackle in one blog entry. I’ll have to elaborate some other time! All I can tell you is, I am 100% sure I am American when I hear a British person pronounce “lieutenant.” That shit is just wrong, yo.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Academic shuffle

With only three weeks of the semester to go, I'm starting to feel a little sad in spite of myself. The thought of going back was like an anvil weighing on my mind all break long. I was especially dreading writing my essay for European Cinema. Even I'm amazed at how close the deadline I pushed it, then when I started writing some sort of magic happened and it turned out amazing, if I do say so myself, which I just did. How am I going to remain convinced of my academic ineptitude when I keep writing essays I'm proud of? This has never happened to me before.

I feel competent and insightful in my classes. IS THIS THE TWILIGHT ZONE?

I haven't decided yet if the film classes are just better here or if the difference is all in my mind since I turned everything else in my life upside down. I'm pleased, but also annoyed that it took me this long to be able to do this stuff. I'm meant to graduate this year, for god's sake, and I've never enjoyed a film class until now. This doesn't bode well for the Cinema Studies program at UW. Or am I only productive overseas?

Of course, as conducive as my classes have been this semester, the University of Aberdeen's true nature still manages to show itself. My Film & Literature professor threw a bitch-fit when I told him I wrote about one film instead of two, but in the word count he assigned there was no way to cover that kind of material with any sort of depth or profundity. It was hard enough to pare down what I had to say about one film, let alone bring up a whole other one. And they have this big warning on the list of prompts that says, "DON'T FORGET: A GOOD ESSAY ADDRESSES ALL ASPECTS OF THE QUESTION." Oh, make up your damn mind!

Something similar happened on another assignment I did for European Cinema. They called it an "exercise," not an essay, and we were meant to analyze a three-minute clip from Metropolis. Well, it being an "exercise," not an essay, I didn't write it in a formal essay structure. As in, no introduction or conclusion, just straight up analysis. Even that was a chore to fit into under 1,500 words. But I got massively graded down for not writing in a formal essay structure, and when this was brought up in class the professor was like, "Mmhmm, yes, we should have called it an essay, not an exercise. We can see how you might have misunderstood. WE'LL HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT FOR NEXT SEMESTER." (She didn't shout it like that, I just put it in capitals because it makes me feel like shouting.)

I hate the way they're so anal about word counts here. It's counter-productive to put such an arbitrary limit on someone's work when you have no idea what they have to say or how they're going to say it. And kicking me out of Film & Lit the way they did, the whole fiasco with my Celtic Civilizations class back in November... It all ties into this obsession with rules and procedure and formalities, a very stereotypically British thing which obviously isn't always true but I'm starting to see how it's more true here than at UW. But I suppose I can't speak for anywhere but these two universities, so maybe I'm just getting a skewed version of things.

Still, I'm happy because I know the work I've done is solid and I deserved better than it got. My Film & Lit professor wrote on my final essay, "This is a very enjoyable, well-constructed, insightful essay. Had it answered any one of the questions I set, it would have merited a first. [That means an 18, 19, or 20.] However, since you decided to write your own question, I have to give you a lower mark. Consider yourself lucky I didn't fail you." Eh, I can live with that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Crises averted

I have a bad habit of staying up all night because I think it's annoying to have to sleep instead of doing something more interesting. I also have a bad habit of putting off essay-writing until the last minute. And I clearly have some sick fondness for overnighting in airport terminals. These things account for the fact that I've stayed up all night three times in the past five days. But even though my hands are shaking and I'm pretty sure I'm Norma Desmond, my mind is clear enough to feel relieved for a variety of reasons, involving some things that were bothering me from the back of my mind the whole time I was traveling.

1) My presentation on the classic Dadaist film Daisies is not tomorrow as I thought, but a week from tomorrow. This is good not only because it allows me to procrastinate some more, but also because in the state I'm in right now I would probably get up in front of class and be like, "This is what I see all the time now."

2) I finished my essay on Metropolis and turned it in on time. It amazes even me how close to the deadline my brain needs to push it before turning on and thinking of worthwhile things to say. I was watching Volcano with Rosie until like 1 AM. VOLCANO?

3) I found my tickets back to America. At some point while I was away in Germany, I realized I couldn't remember where I had stashed my plane tickets back home and the more I thought about it the more worried I got because when everything you own fits in a suitcase it's hard to lose track of stuff. Then I got home and turned my room upside down twice looking for the damn things and still couldn't find them. So I started to freak out properly, and made an appointment with STA Travel to investigate their policies on lost tickets and find out their thoughts on whether my parents would kill me if they had to buy new ones. But then it was okay because I found them. Whew!

4) Final exam schedules were finally released and it turns out I'm not going to be out of town for any crucial dates. I bought tickets to go to Amsterdam on the 8th of June, which is a few days before the end of the examination period, but considering previous experiences with this university I wouldn't exactly have been floored if my one exam had been scheduled for the very last day of a three-week-long exam period. But it turns out I'm all clear, so I can look forward to all the filthy pleasures Amsterdam has to offer without worry.

5) I picked up my final essay for Film & Literature and got away with a 14. (Scores here are out of 20.) I don't know if I mentioned it here, but for the only piece of graded work in the course we were meant to write a massive paper discussing two films and the books they were based on, and I only wrote on one because I didn't have enough room to cover a second. I emailed my professor explaining my slight topic modification before I handed it in, and after I handed it in I received a reply which can Britishly be described as "cross." But really, it was more like "outraged." I had no idea if he was going to give me a mark at all, but I managed to snag a 14 because it was so good for what it was. Yeah, you know. I'm just that awesome.

Now I have to go to bed.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Germany pictures

When Kristina and I got off the train from Wuppertal to Köln, the first thing we saw was the magnificent Kölner Dom, towering above us like an enormous cathedral. (This is fortunate because that's exactly what it is.) The Kölner Dom was so massive it was impossible to register even looking right at it, and certainly not possible to truly capture in a photograph. I made Kristina stand in front of it with me looking up for several minutes as I declared over and over, "This is sooooooo wrong."

Dancing German people! Outside a department store. You just can't avoid culture in this country.

Perhaps the highlight of my entire life was when we visited the Schokolademuseum. There, Kristina and I toured a real chocolate factory and witnessed such wonders as a chocolate fountain and the creation of chocolate kitties.

In addition, it was there I first laid eyes on the woman I shall one day make my wife. We never exchanged names, but in my heart I am certain she is called Frau Süssigkeit.

As if that wasn't amazing enough, we also watched a short film on the possibility of combining foot fetishes with an affinity for that cocoa flavor.

On a deeper, more intellectual note, the museum also contained an area reserved for chocolate art. It was almost too deep and intellectual to put into words other than "deep" and "intellectual." This one is obviously so meaningful it transcends language itself ("Without Title").

Other artifacts of chocolate art included chocolate poetry, a chocolate Kölner Dom, a plain chocolate cylinder which is so fraught with relevance its implications clearly go way over my head, something involving chocolate and fetuses, and finally something relating chocolate and war. Ooh, very topical!

This is a piece entitled "Chocolate Humpty." Behold the making of "Chocolate Humpty" here. If you ask me, it's really wrong that that's not the name of a filthy new dance.

I mentioned the Schwebebahn in Wuppertal, and here's a picture of the overhead track. It's insanity, I tell you!

You can tell I didn't do much in Tübingen because I took hardly any pictures. The only ones I can offer you are this shot of somewhere in town and a clown-headed bin which terrified the shit out of me because it was facing away from me and when I looked again it was looking right at me.

Also, I may have understated earlier how pissed off Josh and I were that we traveled all the way to Hechingen and this is the closest we got to Schloss Hohenzollern.

Friday, April 15, 2005

London pictures

These don't cover nearly everything I saw and did in London, but I thought I would give y'all a brief overview of the highlights...

First stop on Laura's and my list of things to see in London was Buckingham Palace. And by first stop on our list, I mean we got off the Tube at a random stop and it was the first attraction we saw.

Despite our lack of organization, we managed to catch the Changing of the Guard. They say the Guards aren't supposed to move or speak while they're on duty. Well, no wonder people are always getting inside the Palace.

On the River Thames, with Big Ben in the background! Seriously, being in London was just like being in London. If you know what I mean.

Here is a picture of me holding the London Eye. PLEASE DO NOT PANIC. This is a trick photograph. If you look carefully, you will see that I am in fact much closer to the camera than the London Eye and therefore appear much larger in proportion.

About to get on the London Eye. They do this thing where they keep referring to the ride as a "flight," because it's owned by British Airways and they would rather think of their creation as some sort of flying machine and not a giant ferris wheel.

My calm and collected exterior masks a crippling fear of heights. I pretty much spent the ride up huddled in the middle of the pod crying for Nun-Clown.

By the time we finished our ascent, I had gotten over my fear and begun to appreciate the amazing panorama surrounding me. The weather wasn't as nice as it could have been, but it wasn't anything I'm not used to. Here's Big Ben and Parliament as seen from the very top.

This is meant to be me holding Parliament like I was holding the London Eye before. (Trick photograph again, PLEASE DO NOT PANIC.)

You love it.

The squirrels in Hyde Park were scary little bastards. They get all up in your face and if you try to shoo them away they cut themselves and write "FEED ME" in their blood.

Eric has two Lauras!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I love to übernachten

When am I not spending the night at some sort of transportation hub?

Here I am at the London-Stansted airport on my way home. From Josh’s house in Tübingen, I am en route to Aberdeen via Stuttgart, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, London, and Edinburgh. I was about to say, “Oh, the things I do for the sake of cheap travel,” but it’s amazing how much money I’m not saving thanks to the ridiculous cost of inter-city travel in Germany.

Oh well. I’m here, and it’s not so bad. The terminal is practically filled to capacity with others like me, many obviously more prepared than me with things like sleeping mats and blankets. In case you were wondering, and I understand why it might be unclear, the reason I keep doing this to myself is because the cheapest flights of the day are the freakishly early and late ones, and since there’s no way to get anywhere interesting from Aberdeen without a connection, the only way I can take advantage of things like £0.99 flights is to take the last flight of one day and the first of the next.

It’s strange that I’ve gotten so used to all of this. When Jen visited me back in December, and she told she had to spend the night in the Dublin airport on the way to Aberdeen, my mind was thoroughly boggled just thinking about it. But now I’m like, “Yeah, I spent 28 hours getting from Germany to Aberdeen. What the fuck do you want to say about it?” I mean, I’ll be able to say that after I get home.

I’ve been amusing myself by writing monologues for Under the Habit, my upcoming film project about Nun-Clown. It will be equal parts day-in-the-life and historical investigation, with several dramatizations added to help the audience visualize key concepts such as Nun-Clown wearing intestines as a necklace. I keep giggling to myself and trying as hard as I can to stifle it, but people are still waking up and giving me evils, so I have decided to blog instead.

On the very crowded train ride from Tübingen to Stuttgart, I fell asleep hard due to the fact that I’d barely slept the night before and to my horror when I woke up there was a puddle of drool the size of Lake Michigan on my sweater...and it was still connected to my mouth. It’s only comforting to a point that I wasn’t conscious to witness everyone pointing and laughing at me, though to be fair if I was awake the chances of it happening would have been significantly reduced if not eliminated.

There are a bunch of old people sitting in the row behind me. What the hell are they doing here? Do they like to travel cheap too? It’s hard to imagine this is worth it for them. I wonder if they missed their connecting flight and got stuck here for the night. They’re not sleeping either. It’s all very suspicious.

I just realized I haven’t even written anything about being in Tübingen for the last three days. Probably because I didn’t really do anything. Mostly, Josh and I just hung out and I got to take a break from the hardcore travel-y stuff. Yes, I’ve been taking a vacation from my vacation. Josh and I made an honest attempt to visit a castle in the nearby town of Hechingen, but when we arrived, we found out there was only one bus to the castle daily, and we missed it by an hour. So we turned around and went back to Tübingen.

There are so many people here, it’s really weird. Every single seat is filled, and the floor isn’t exactly empty either. Are they all doing what I’m doing? They can’t all have gotten stuck here. I swear, they engineer these seats with monster armrests so you can’t get too comfortable sleeping in them. I guess it makes sense. If you sleep too peacefully, you won’t wake up for your flight in the morning. I still think it’s still kind of sadistic.

I should really end this post. I have so much time to kill, I could just write and write and write and write for hours about nothing interesting at all. I think it’s time to write some more dating videos for Nun-Clown...

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