Hey there!

26 05 2010

So, it’s been a little bit since my last post, but I do have an excuse – I was on holiday in the most expensive city in the world. Okay, so this list says #3, but hey, what do Mayors know? It’s enough to say that Copenhagen is extraordinarily expensive. Of course, that isn’t the whole story, which is closer to: Holy moly, that city is awesome and is now one of my all-time favorite spots to linger.


I hate to be cliche, but it might be easier to make a list of things I disliked about the city. However, I hate making things easy even more than I hate being cliche, so let’s set out on a journey that took your heroic protagonist to the Nordic lands. I arrived at the airport which was nice and modern, met my Dad, and got to the hotel. It was alright, but let’s just say the room was on the smallish side. We spent most of the first day creating a tourism plan of attack then hit the city. Ironically, our first meal was not Danish, but Japanese fusion. That’s right, I’ve become a member of the culinary glitterati who have dined at Wagamama. It was good, but it hardly blew me away – maybe I just got the wrong dish? In any case, back to the touring – I realize a picture is worth a thousand words, and since I’m not in the mood to write 10,000 words today (I have my doubts you’d read them, either), I think I’ll go picture heavy to show some of the pretty sights of Copenhagen…

Nyhavn - A manmade canal with eclectic hues and tourist traps

And WordPress officially just effed me over – I had 12 more photos and now it has made them all disappear. I’m going to post this now, then redo the rest tomorrow. Sorry folks, but expect more bright shiny goodness soon!



17 05 2010

I'm second from left

I’m taking no losses
Now I’m the boss
And I see you flossin’
My way with the grace
All up in your face
So I say
What’s up love
How ya doin’

So, you were probably freaking out. Probably thinking that I had ended my blogging spurt with a whimper, not a bang. Wow, that’s a lot of sexual imagery for an introduction, time for me to play it like New Edition and cool it down…

Anyhow, the reason I haven’t been on the blog machine as of late is mostly due to me figuring out my immediate future. Bad news is that it was a pain in the proverbial buttocks to do. Good news is that I finally did it. I’m officially (I have a job and an internationally recognized e-ticket) heading to a city that has approximately as many residents as the country I currently reside in:

For those of you who don’t recognize the lurid lighting, that is Shanghai, China. Shanghai. The city that a respectable guidebook felt safe in describing as:

Whore of the Orient, Paris of the East, city of quick riches, ill-gotten gains and fortunes lost on the tumble of dice; the domain of adventurers, swindlers, gamblers, drug runners, tycoons, missionaries, gangsters and backstreet pimps; the city that plots revolution and the dances as the revolution shoots its way in to town.

Yeah. Could be an interesting time, n’est-ce pas? Back to bed and then morning preparations for Copenhagen for me, but more to come on the great Communist/Capitalist Royal Rumble of a city I am about to join coming shortly. Peace and elbow grease, kids…

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end*

22 04 2010

Thanks to ESPN Page 2 - controversial answer at the bottom

One of the downsides of living abroad is that I have to work really hard to keep up with news from home. Obviously, a big chunk of this for me means the local sports teams. However, I’m not so far behind the times that I forgot the NFL Draft is tonight.  Every year, it seems like fans all over get incredibly juiced up for the draft, and have either ecstatic or apoplectic over the choices their teams make. Of course, all this is based on the subjective rankings based upon such esoteric categories as vertical leaps and Wonderlic tests (pictured above). I don’t get into nearly as much as most fans, but even I remember the circumstances surrounding some of my favorite picks – where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with when I heard the news.  I’m sad to say I dont remember the circumstances regarding the Patriots acquiring this future sexy gunslinger:

However, never fear, this isn’t going to turn into a mock draft or anything like that, there are roughly 432,583,498 fine folks who put tons of research and time into doing their own, and quite frankly, I can’t compete. Instead, I got inspired by the idea of the change that the NFL (and all) drafts bring. The biggest changes are to a young man’s life (and women in the case of the WNBA, but for the sake of expediency let’s just stick with male pronouns from now on), and the hopes of a team and a city/region. However, it all too is ignored that the draft can mean the final call for someones dream. An aging quarterback finding out that his team drafted a hotshot youngster has to fear for his continued job security.  Questions about where he has been and where he’s going are natural.

*Totally creepy interlude – when I queued up iTunes to escort me through the writing process, I decided I didn’t like the first song. I hit skip once, and the song that came on was Semisonic – “Closing Time.” As in the song I had already cherry-picked lyrics from for the title to this post. Life is is very strange sometimes.

In the spirit of that hypothetical introspective jock, I’ve been considering the recent past and the near and not-so-near future lately. As some of you may know, I’m planning to pack up from Prague and move on within the next few months. There have been several false alarms on that front in the past, but this time, it feels like the real thing. As such, a big part of the last few weeks has been documenting my time here in words, pictures, and memories. I’ll throw a photo I took from my daily commute here in later, but I don’t want to saturate the blog with photos; I’ve always thought of myself as more of a Hemingway than an Ansel Adams, and I would hate for that to change. In the meantime, I’m focused on the future. It’s rather up in the air, but unlike a few months ago, it it is least narrowed down to a few possibilities. It looks like I’ll be heading back home to Boston for at least a few weeks of glorious summer vacation, although it may end up as a part-time working holiday. After that, I appear to be headed east. As in the Far East. Shanghai is atop the list right now, although much depends on if the fine residents of that fair city want me as much as I want them. That last sentence sounded rather sexual, but let’s ignore that and keep our minds on the future and out of the gutter.

Shanghai is appealing for many reasons. For one, China in general is a fascinating spot right now. It’s a member of BRIC, which basically means everyone expects big changes and big things from the country this century. In many respects, Beijing appears to be the business capital of the country, but Shanghai, according to what I’ve read, is the trendier and more modern, fast-paced, international city compared to the Olympic host to the north. All of those adjectives speak to me in a big way.  In addition, this appears to be an excellent year to relocate to Shanghai since they are host of Expo 2010, which has already resulted in many cosmetic and significant changes to the city, with plenty more to come.  In addition, Shanghai is marvelously close to both South Korea and Japan, the latter of which I have wanted to visit for eons.  It goes without saying that there is also a remarkable amount of spots to hit up inside China, from the Bird’s Nest to the Great Wall to Shangri-La (or at least one of them, supposedly) to Hong Kong.

All in all, there is a lot to look forward to if everything works out in the next few weeks. Quite frankly, alternatives aren’t worth considering just yet, but one must keep an open mind. That open mind applies as much to the future as it does to the past, which means that a few retrospective posts must be in the future. For now, a little visual tidbit to keep you coming back for that exciting miniseries about my time in Prague:

Ahh yes, the venerable 16 line. One of the longest tram rides in Prague, and home to some of it’s most delightful mobile denizens. Mass transport never felt so right In the background, one of my favorite offices in all the city to work in – the views are indescribably beautiful and I will surely be taking the camera up there someday soon, so keep checking back. Have a god afternoon, folks.
By the way , the NFL insists the answer is 4, most likely since it alone has more than 4 sides. However, 5 is the only one without at least one set of parallel lines, and a shape is defined as much by structure as by the number of sides. The question is poorly written, in my estimation. Then again, I think the whole test is kind of silly, so I guess I’m biased. In any case…

Mini diatribe of the week

16 04 2010

I was going through my camera today when I stumbled on a few photos from my recent trip to Washington, D.C. with my Dad. While there, I checked out the Jefferson Memorial, and even though Texans won’t know who he was in 15 years or so, he was a pretty important dude. In addition to being a rather talented writer, he served as President, and among other things, repealed the tax on whiskey. As awesome as that trivia is, my mind wasn’t on triple malts that day, but instead, I particularly zeroed in on one of the quotes on the walls of the beautiful temple erected in his honor:

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Word up, TJ. In light of the big demonstrations lately against pretty much everything that are erroneously equating hating with the intent of the original patriots (not to be confused with the team of the Decade New England Patriots), I’m a bit confused about the logic to the protests. This also can be encapsulated by all the brouhaha over the appointment Obama is about to make to the Supreme Court. It boggles the mind that people think our Founding Fathers (and no doubt their wives and other female influences) were so above reproach, so infallible, that they only nailed the original document like a split hog, but that they would be imbued with a foresight that extended hundreds of years into the future. They didn’t anticipate spaceflight, weapons that could be fired more than once every two minutes, the public emergence of homosexuality in America, and myriad other issues. Now, those who know me well can guess my viewpoints on many of the hot topics of the day. However, I’m going to pull an MJ on this issue and stay away from advocating specific policy decisions. However, isn’t it about time that we moved our political discourse forward? By all means, let’s continue to honor the great heroes behind the independence movement in America by naming roads after them, building ginormous monuments to them, and offering ludicrously low car finance rates on their birthdays, and keeping them alive in our textbooks and hearts. However, when it comes to the present day, let’s actually listen to what they say about making and refining law. On a lighter note, Paris pics to come soon!

Two in a row…he’s heating up*

13 04 2010

So in the spirit of new starts or restarts or whatever you want to call this latest iteration of a blogging renaissance, I’m going for two days in a row. Unfortunately, this post won’t feature any exotic trips abroad, but I can at least try and entertain you a little bit as I try to get back into the writing flow. The last few days have centered around the theme of golf, a clause I wasn’t sure I’d ever say/write/think before the age of 49, but hey, life is full of surprises.

The golf motif revolved around two big undertakings – the Masters, and a social event unlike any other, Dan L’s Beer Golf.  I’ll take them in chronological order, which unfortunately for you all, is the opposite order I mentioned them. Beer Golf is in essence a themed pub crawl that rewards endurance, determination, and an almost inhuman tolerance for mind-altering substances. As well all know, Tiger Woods has two out of the three down, but can’t quite nail the last one. Zing! Cheap jokes aside, it was an excellent time that carried on for roughly 14 hours, 9 pubs, 414 questionable comments, and approximately 7 different snack foods provided for the masses by the lovely and eminently prepared Diane S.   For a better idea of the theme, peep this snapshot:

I'm partial to the final hole...

As you can see, chaos is sometimes planned, and Dan did a beautiful job in designing a challenging yet rewarding course. Fun was had by all, although I can’t speak for everyone’s quality of life on Sunday morning. However, I can speak to the quality of my Sunday evening. I was invited to a somewhat swank (in price, though sadly not in ambiance) pub to check out the last round of the Masters, an annual excuse for Jim Nantz to speak reverentially and feminists to protest the exclusion of women from Augusta National Golf Club. In between the parking lot placards and the announcing booth there’s a bit of golf played with the winner getting to don the fabled green jacket. It was also the aforementioned Tiger Woods’ first return to golf since his life was turned upside down on Thanksgiving. As the day moved along, it became clear that Tiger was no longer the big story, but rather, Phil Mickelson, the longtime provider of spills and thrills, was either going to finish a dynamite round or else blow his chances of victory with an ill-advised trick shot. Ultimately, with the outcome of the tournament still in doubt, it all came down to the 13th hole, and the drama in the pub was palpable.  Numerous times, such shots have proven to be his undoing:

Obviously, it wasn’t this time around. Provided a nice family moment, as his wife is battling some health problems right now and clearly it’s been a tough year for them all. So, that was the denouement of the weekend, and provided a neat theme this update. Congrats are in order to Dan and all the other Beer Golfers, and in a different way, to those who trained not for a party marathon, but a pseudo-athletic endeavor. Pats on the back, but not while driving, please.  10 and 2, 10 and 2. Drive safe and get home happy, everybody.

*Yeah, it’s obviously from NBA Jam. I have to work a video game tag in there every once in a while, right?

Hello party people

12 04 2010

So, there’s quite frankly far too much to catch up on since last I wrote, but equally frankly, I don’t believe any of you want to read a rambling screed, so I’ll try and keep this a decent length and you folks can approve or give me the thumbs down, at which point I’ll no doubt scurry back into hiding.

Two big developments carry the day since last I wrote. The first was my birthday, which is of course a rather sporadic chance for celebration. As such, I made the most of it, blowing it out with a large volume container of malted beverage and many assorted snacks and goodies for gourmands. As tends to happen at such things, there was a demand for games and other shenanigans, which upped the fun factor. It also led to many dance moves being displayed, for better or worse. A visual prompt for you multiple-intelligence types:

A small selection of the party-goers

Moving on before I get overly nostalgic and reach for the tissues, I was fortunate enough to traipse to Paris several days after my birthday. I was doubly fortunate in that I got to squire a delightful and beautiful lady who shared my travels. It was not my first time in Paris, but as a fine writer and chronic drunk (c0nnected behaviors, perhaps?) once wrote:

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.

I can’t say I qualify as a resident of Paris, but it certainly has a call reminiscent of the Sirens, and it’s a place that never leaves your mind once you’ve been. For this trip, I was more than happy to simply wander the streets, rather than dashing from Metro stop to Metro stop to see the sites. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy many of the buildings that represent 7.4% of the world’s postcards. Amongst others, I got to Versailles (rainy and opulent), The Louvre and Musee D’Orsay (rainy and crowded).To the eternal shame of all those who tried to raise me/turn me into a cultured person, this turned out to be the highlight of the Louvre, as it was far too long a line to get into the museum proper:

Two works of art

In addition to these fine stops, we also checked out the Eiffel Tower (picnic time!) and the Les Invalides – both massive, both sunny, one of which is really tall and one of which is the final resting place of a famously short man. Incidentally, Napolean Bonaparte was actually 5’6″, but got shafted 4+ inches by an obscure French version of feet. Tough stuff, but then again, he sorta earned an awful lot of enmity in his day. Moving on to slightly more recent history, one of the highlights of the entire trip was renting bikes through the Paris Velib program. For a reasonable tariff, we were able to move around the city at a speedy clip and get a little exercise at the same time. The exercise was eminently desirable considering the amount of cheese and red wine that was consumed in but a few short days. Paris is indeed paradis sur terre (thank you 3 years of high school French!) for oenophiles and cheeseheads (lovers of langres, not Packers fans), and we got to combine the two on a fabulous last night. Along with our generous hosts, Dan and Olivia, we headed to Montmarte for fondue. We gorged on cheese and bread, and washed it all down with a little red wine, which was served in an ingenious vessel:

Classy broads using classy bottles

Contrary to appearances, we were not dining in an abandoned Metro station, but a lovely family-style dining establishment that really hit the spot. I do believe our hosts were as taken with it as we were, and I have to send out a thank to an anonymous tipster who introduced me to this fine establishment many moons ago.

That about wraps it up for now. Of course, many other things have happened since my Iceland adventure, but I’m going to try to be a good writer and update a little more frequently (tough to be less frequent than once every 4 months, I suppose) so I’ll save some of that for later. There are also some potentially large geographical developments in the works, so stay tuned, friends and fans. Stay well, stay classy.

An update on the happy haps*

4 01 2010

So I suppose I owe the cyber sphere an update and a promise to keep blogging. At this point, I can’t blame you for hating on the blog or not believing me, but hey, have a little faith, huh? So, it’s 2010, and I have yet to make my resolutions, so I can’t share them, but there is other news of note. First off, I am home, not jetting around the world. In fact, I will be home for a few more weeks. However, I am due to return to the Europa, for better or worse. In the meantime, a short history of the last few weeks. I did the Christmas season in Prague thing, including the old-time markets and checking out the carp that would soon be bludgeoned for Czech Christmas dinner:

Other than tremendously ugly fish swimming on death row, the highlight would be the time I spent in Iceland, in the city of Reykjavik, which remains one of the few words in my native tongue that gives me difficulty in spelling properly. All those J’s and K’s, it’s like a bad Sesame Street song or a sobriety test gone wrong. Moving on, the city was lovely, but tiny. It reminded me of a supersized fishing town in New England. Also, holy hell, it was cold. I spent a day walking around the city all bundled up and at one point contemplated returning to my hotel room and skipping the tourism. For someone raised in Boston, that would have been a significant development. However, I refueled with organic fish and chips (interesting) and then hit a few museums and the shore:

The next day also provided some highlights, including the Blue Lagoon, which is a naturally heated (geothermal spa). Needless to say, December 23rd is not the high point for tourism season, and so it was a little less crowded (and a lot more snowy) than perhaps is usual. The snow, the unusually blue water, and the rocky surroundings made for a surreal scene. Peep it:

I flew home and did the Christmas thing, which for now, brings me to the end of my sordid tale. However, there is a Christmas gift for all of you. It’s rather a Chipmunk gift, however. I got a new digital camera for Christmas. How’s that benefit you? Better photographs, obviously. Something needs to enhance this wretched word vomit I splash on the Internet, right? Alright, I’m off to watch a moviefilm, so Happy New Year, everybody, and check back in this space slightly more often than usual…

*As a certain hipster-fabulous friend of mine might put it – it means “happenings.” Who knew?