10 February 2015

Flashback: Pizza party

When I was a freshman in high school, my friend T. and I were invited to a pizza party by a guy whom we barely knew. It seemed like a strange invitation, but I was curious. I asked: Who else will be there? What's it for? What do you guys do? "It's just a bunch of kids our age from my church. We eat pizza, hang out and talk." I had some misgivings because I knew most of the churches in the area were more conservative than I was, but I also didn't want to pre-judge a bunch of people I'd never met. And it sounded casual enough; if it didn't turn out to be our thing, T. and I could just leave.

We went. In addition to seven or eight other kids our age, there was one older guy. (At the time he seemed ancient, but he was probably only in his 30s.) "Get your pizza and come sit down," the older guy said. Little alarm bells went off in my head; already this was less casual than I'd anticipated. But we were here, the pizza was served, and I was dependent on T. for a ride. We each took a slice of pizza and a paper towel as a plate and joined the circle of people sitting on the floor.

A few bites into our slices, the older guy began to sermonize about the evils of homosexuality and the inescapable damnation of homosexuals. T. and I gave each other sideways glances - he'd recently confessed to me he thought he was bisexual - but we felt trapped. We'd taken the free pizza, were in the circle, and getting up now went against all my parents' teachings about what it meant to be a good person and a polite guest. So we stayed until he was done speaking and we were dismissed.

On some level I blamed myself. I knew already that almost nothing in this world is free; if someone you don't know very well offers you pizza, they're bound to have an ulterior motive. On the other hand, the guy who'd invited us hadn't been completely honest, either. I felt like he'd purposefully withheld information from us, which meant we couldn't make an informed decision.

I felt duped. Manipulated. Betrayed.

I had a similar experience last week with a novel I read, which I wrote about on my business blog.

18 November 2014

Europe 2014: Air, Water, Food

One of the things I noticed while traveling this summer was how different the air, water and food was in each of the three places I spent significant time.

Behind Sacre Coeur, Paris
Madrid has an arid climate, so the air is fairly dry (though not as dry as, say, Bend, Oregon). Smells carry well, especially in the summer when the sun heats the air. It smells mostly of urine and feces, both from dogs and from humans. On occasion one also smells delicious food, but it's hard to know how to react when you're simultaneously smelling delicious food and sun-heated urine.

The only two things I remember about Paris's air is that it was humid - once you started sweating, you never dried off all day - and that at times it smelled so strongly of the sewer that I felt nauseous.

I don't recall that Vienna smelled a particular way, nor that it struck me as either humid or dry. What I do remember is that the air was somehow greasy. At the end of the day my skin felt greasy and my hair looked as though I hadn't washed it in three days. I'm not sure what causes this...perhaps all the street-vended meat?

03 November 2014

The Tale of the Lost Luggage

In order to get back to Madrid from Vienna, I had the option of taking the train - which would've only cost about $170 but would've taken three days - or flying for $380 and arriving same day. Up until that point in my travels I'd stuck to trains for various reasons, and when I arrived at the Madrid airport on Sunday, August 31st, I added one more reason to prefer train travel: it's a lot harder to lose your luggage when going by train.

When it became clear that all the luggage had been unloaded from my flight and my bag was not among it, I briefly considered losing my shit but decided against and instead queried my way to my airline's lost luggage window. It turned out there were six other bags that hadn't made it onto our Brussels Airlines flight.

As I gave my flight information, described my bag, and wrote down my contact information, I began to feel a slight sense of relief: at the very least this would mean one fewer bag to deal with on the Madrid metro today. I figured my bag would come in later that day and I could pick it up when I returned to the airport the next day to fly home. If not? Well, maybe that would be okay; in that moment I felt very zen about the possibility of having lost it forever. Sure there were things in there I wanted, but after having lived with very few things over the last two and a half months, I felt sure I could let go of my attachment. I was practically a Buddhist monk by this point.

And the most important thing was that I still had my computer. Losing that would've been a completely different thing - it had all my writing on it, all my photos from the last several years.

06 October 2014

Coming home: Madrid to Portland

I can't remember ever having a more stressful journey between two points. Even though it's been over a month since it happened, in telling this story to a friend two days ago I got all stressed out all over again, which indicates to me that I'm not over it yet. But perhaps writing this blog post will help me process and get some of that energy out of my system.

My flight was scheduled to leave Madrid for Chicago around noon on Monday, Sept. 1. Since I didn't have any bags to check - in fact now only had one bag, period, because Brussels Airlines had lost one of my bags the day before - and I had checked in online the night before, I decided to leave the place I was staying at 9am so I could be at the airport by 10, which (my experience led me to believe) would be plenty of time to use one of those self-service machines to print out my ticket, go through security and find my gate. Ahahahahahahaaaaa!!!

15 September 2014

Coming home: Vienna to Madrid

I awoke to my phone alarm at 4:30am on Sunday, August 31. As is my unintended custom when I have to get up early for something, I hadn't slept much or very well.

Veronika got up with me and made us coffee while I dressed and finished packing my bags. We stood in the kitchen chatting as I drank my coffee and ate the croissant I'd had the unusual foresight to buy the previous afternoon. Though I don't remember now what we talked about, I remember it was a pleasant and interesting conversation, and that I was grateful for her company.

Around a ten after five, I hugged Veronika goodbye, reassured us both that I'd left the keys to the flat on her entryway bench, and left her flat for the last time. With a pack full of clothes on my back and my purse and another backpack full of computer and notebooks, I went down the stairs and out the front door into the quiet, still-dark street. As I rounded the corner I heard a voice above me. "Yes, that is right!" she said. I looked up to see Veronika had poked her head out the window to make sure I knew the way to the tram stop. We waved to each other and I continued on.