1. Bing Maps is terrible.
2. Check back here someday, in case you’ve been digitally immortalized.
1. Bing Maps is terrible.
2. Check back here someday, in case you’ve been digitally immortalized.
Quite sad, I say. Quite sad. I’ve been sitting on some blog ideas for months without ever getting around to writing them, strangely. I am missing my carefree deadjournal/livejournal/actualjournal days.
I guess part of being an adult is being embarrassed about the prospect of my every thought being available for public web consumption, but let’s be honest.
That being said, I think I can let the word vomit flow once more. I know I should really just use an actual pen and paper journal, but I have a bad habit of mixing sketchbooks and journals together in a very disorganized, messy fashion. Also, it does not take very long at all for my wrists to start hurting. How depressing is that? Even my body doesn’t want me writing or drawing for extended periods.
I’m seriously considering buying a condo, or else having a heart attack before age 30. I’m not sure how good of an idea it is to buy a condo that’s smaller than my current apartment and will cost 1.5 times my current rent. At least it’s forced savings? And the property value may go up since I’m looking at a place along Chicago’s somewhat-soon-to-be-opened Bloomingdale Trail? or should I say the 606? Both!
My chest feels kinda tight and gurgly. I think I’ve had too much caffeine today, which is impossible because there’s no such thing as too much caffeine.
Let’s see, here are some ideas I have currently:
My apartment building is a disaster. We’ve been living there too long. Time to move on. In everything! Let it go, let it goooooo. I should probably film myself in full drag doing a cover of Let It Go before it’s too late, right?
I’ve started sending some of my babies out to live on their own.
I ironed my pants, I’m wearing a belt, my shirt is tucked in, I’m eating oatmeal from a styrofoam cup, I’m on hotel wi-fi sending work emails, and I’m calling coworkers to annoy them before 10am. Being an adult is the worst.
I think I’ll go stand in line for a few hours to hopefully see grumpy cat and take a selfie on a wrecking ball to make up for this morning.
Nighttime casts the simple in the role of the sublime, upstaging reality’s part in the production.
It was strange enough to experience Taiwan without parents, but to be in the care of a host family, to be exploring a Confucius temple, to be wearing my pajamas, was all too surreal. I naturally associate dreams and nighttime, and it is in a dream perspective that I remember many awe-striking and lonely evenings. The edges of my Taiwan experience, a two week winter extension of a summer camp, are frayed like the well-worn and loved edges of a dream carpet I often ride. The face of my host father is lost to me, and the only detail still clear to me now was the daughter’s need to complete her French homework—her third language, a detail which put my lingual ignorance to shame. The mother had asked if I wanted any clothes washed, and I gladly volunteered everything I’d packed after changing into pajamas. I assumed I was done with cross-cultural experiences for the night, a reality shifting mistake.
What was an epic to experience memory has made a reviewer’s synopsis—devoid of the original essence and depth. The air was cool but heavy with Taiwan’s promise of rain. The ground was gravel and what pavement there was was uneven, but memory has repaved that night’s real cobblestone with more recent, European stones. Two temples were visited that evening, and my trepidation as the host father swung open the door of the second stays clear. We pushed our way into a sanctuary ablaze with candles and scented with imposing sticks of incense, and I felt alienated by this holy encounter. A short, fat, fifteen-year-old white kid from the Midwest was wholly out of place in Taiwan and an especially sore thumb clad half asleep in his pajamas in a place of worship. Perhaps my discomfort was due in part to Taiwan’s harsh reality as a cold target practice for Chinese missiles. America does not even officially recognize Taiwan as a country, yet there I was experiencing my first time as a cultural and racial minority in a land not saturated with tourists. A few nights later on the technical edge of the new millennium, I found myself amidst my own continuing fears of apocalypse and crowds of hundreds of thousands in Taipei, Taiwan. A man offered to buy a few girls in our group as a jump start to his new year which was our cue to bunny hop in conga line formation away from the main celebrations. We were an absurdist splash of brown and blond dots following a trail of leading black in a wider, raven sea. I spent the rest of the night perched on a fountain at a Taiwanese high school, talking to no one and watching fireworks in the distance. In the grand sense I was at peace, yet I still felt cheated by my isolation. Others in the group were discovering alcohol at a distant T.G.I.F. I was left alone, alongside a group of my peers to wallow in my own reflections while they wallowed in their want for alcohol.
Nighttime is often my most dominating memory of a memorable trip; it is the spectacular set piece, the rising action in the play, the last song in a musical. I was only eleven when I visited Egypt, something I am unsure if I should be thankful for or regret. I remember the trip, yet I rarely think of it. My nighttime experiences there were some of my first surreal memories. Near the midnight hour in a private resort town outside of Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast, I remember huddling together with my sister in our shared bed as my father pounded the wall with a towel to kill mosquitoes in the next room. My sister and I curled up, fearing not only malaria, but also the rats that’d invaded our borrowed flat.
Another night on a guided tour of Karnak Temple, a woman fainted from the heat that even desert night had not granted reprieve. I see the parting of the crowds as she fell backwards, slowly, as if she were drowning. Someone must have caught her against a backdrop of crumbling pillars emblazoned with hieroglyphs, but like the intricacies of the Confucius temples in Taiwan, the details are now shrouded and frayed. One last evening recollection of Egypt is set on the balcony of the Mina Palace Hotel in Cairo. From there my family could see the Pyramids, and we watched in amazement as nightly laser lights show danced across the theater of the sky. The night air was cool and refreshing; I say this because night air is almost always cool and refreshing. My nighttime memories are filled with these atmospheric hints, yet I cannot clearly separate and describe just how the air clung to my skin as I watched a technicolor projection of a ship paddling across the Nile. This technological laser light show fad of the nineties seems ridiculous now, as if the Pyramids are not impressive enough, but at that age I was upset we were not there, experiencing the event from an even closer vantage point. The logic of an eleven year old failed to account for all of the other beautiful, college fund depriving excesses of the trip.
Seven years later with thoughts of Egypt buried, I discovered the beauty of an empty main street in Aberdeen, SD covered in snow on New Year’s Eve. Prior to that night I often missed the point in South Dakota; I still do. For the first time I was fully taken with my friends and found peace in my surroundings. I attach great stigma to the state of my birth, but I cannot find fault with a group of teenagers experiencing snow as if it were their first time. Even Maren, who nearly had a breakdown that night, gleefully embraced the prosaic whiteness. Crazy Mike (so called for various nighttime run-ins with the police, which some would call a curfew violation, and which Crazy Mike saw as opportunities to dress as “Timmy the Broken Condom”) paraded up and down the street, strummed what was not his guitar, and serenaded the unwilling, yet still un-complaining. Emma, prone to severe depression, and Steph, prone to extreme self-destruction, made snow angels in the street. Dream memory here erases the self; I cannot see where I relate to the events on that street iconic of small towns worldwide and Jimmy Stuart’s resolve not to die. In memory, I drift almost as lightly as the snow amongst other free and joyous bodies, spotlighting their actions. That night I feared I was beginning to understand what so many Midwestern writers cling to—“a sense of place.” This “sense” derives from the point I discovered that night; it is often the people that make the experience in an otherwise uninspired landscape.
New Years two years later was the third act in a sublime play of New Year celebrations marking the odd year. Rome was alive with explosions, and everywhere Italian youths threw festive dynamite, making the occasion feel like a desperate celebration in a warzone. My apocalyptic fears once again renewed. I was in this ancient city with Maren, the first friend from home I had seen in months; Mike, the latest source of endless issues; and his friend from home Adam. We finished an amazing meal of pizza, pasta, and bread and an even more amazing Tiramisu to which life now pales in comparison to. After leaving the restaurant, Mike became casualty to urban warfare, his leg being hit by the shrapnel of a celebratory firecracker. We decided to escape the area of Roma Termini and find a bar, quick. Never has it been so hard to find drink on New Year’s. We eventually gave up and took refuge in an overpriced snack bar inside Termini. Maren was the only one successful in getting drunk, and by 11:00 both she and Adam were tired. They retired to their respective hostels, and Mike and I set off in search of life altering splendor on New Year’s amongst encroaching sounds of small explosives. Walking towards the Forum, we entered a barricaded side street and discovered an open air concert. There we counted down the seconds until 2005, and when the time came, a combined arsenal of firecrackers, champagne poppers, and car bombs all crescendoed at once.
Following the celebration we set off in different directions, Mike in search of the Colosseum, and I in search of myself. This is a poetic lie, for we were headed in the same direction, I am just prone to metaphor. We passed the remains of several celebrations on our way to Rome’s icon, an overpriced train wreck of a tourist attraction re-ruined by renovations and archaeologists but pretty and colossal regardless. I felt alone with my awe that night in Rome, yet I was intensely aware of Mike’s presence next to me. When I travel alone, I wish for someone alongside me especially at night, sharing in the experience. My own thoughts play a weak second fiddle. Mike and I conversed sparingly; we did not need conversation, which is to say I think he enjoyed the silence, and I tried to keep quiet.
A few nights later I found myself alone with my thoughts and Maren in Venice, the city of love. Love not for a friend has never been with me on these otherwise amorous nights, an issue Venice could only accentuate. I was amazed by how a city so populated with tourists could become my own after dark. Its pavement was as empty as its canals were still, and all that stirred were Maren and I, lost in the winding corridors of Venice and ourselves. We eventually found our way back to the hostel, but both our searches go on for the greater endpoints in our journey.
When I visited Prague for the first time my expectations were not fully met; I wanted a five act play but found one. Walking on Prague Castle’s terraces at dusk in December, I believed I had found “my” Prague, but it was an unstable victory. Prague has presented me with a conundrum; it is a city of beauty, but I remain unmoved. Licensed merchandise proclaims “Kafka wandered these streets,” yet I did not feel his dark, isolating surrealism in Prague. Nighttime grants majesty to places I visit, but it does not explain them further. Mysteries escape my grasp and become enlarged. Even if I could arrive at some meaning on sublime nights, the readings would be false. Dream logic does not apply to the waking world. Perhaps my experience with Prague is marred by an incomplete nighttime experience; did I leave before intermission? My vista above the city was breathtaking at dusk, but I was asleep at midnight. I went on one of the city’s ghost tours, but even the supernatural could not win my admiration.
Despite my inability to connect to Prague, I found the surreal performance I was looking for two months later on a winter’s night in a February Berlin. Walking amongst the untouched snow which clung to dirty pavement in a deserted east Berlin filled me with awe. I was once again in the isolating presence of Mike. While the past New Years had been an exercise in outrageous excess, this night was an experiment in subdued minimalism. It made me want to spin around with arms outstretched and collapse. I did this in the Lustgarten, a modest city green tucked under a bleached down of fresh snow. As I spun, my vision filled with monuments on all sides: to the north the Berlin National Gallery, to the east Kölner Dom, to the south across Under Den Linden the DDR Parliament building, and to the west the bank of the Spree. I am amazed by how much there is to see on the eastern side of Berlin. The communists may have crushed up the old Prussian palaces to build their ugly Deutsche Demokratik Republik parliament, but they left the paradoxical Protestant Cathedral and museums untouched. Following this dizzy blur of history, Mike and I strolled along snowy Unter Den Linden, Berlin’s main boulevard, and marveled that things were still open. England changes one’s world view of “late.” Arriving at the Brandenburg Tor I was again forced to spin around and collapse. I forgot to bring my camera, but the cool stillness of the evening freezes images in my head I could not have captured any other way. The living image of the Brandenburg Tor, larger than any picture frame or canvas, will stay with me, not some detached sunshine version sold on postcards.
Somehow snow makes things feel more secure. I doubt my paranoia would have allowed such wanderings on the back streets of Berlin otherwise. The orange ambiance of the night made Berlin’s wooded city park especially dream-like. A lurking fountain set behind the trees appeared to possess moving figures. In this forest, I later learned, Victor Nabokov encountered a stranded bathtub amongst other refuse in a Berlin experienced before World War II.
My silent trek continued past the new Holocaust memorial made eerily poignant by the snow, through the failed bit of city planning known as the Sony Plaza, past the seat of Berlin city government, alongside the last standing bits of the Wall, through Checkpoint Charlie, past the Luftwaffe Headquarters, and around so much more, somehow seeing almost all of the Berlin sites in one late night journey on foot. We had come full circle and arrived back at the Lustgarten where we were faced by the unexplained sight of rave lights in the Kölner Dom’s cupola. Pausing to observe the strobing colors dancing across the windows, Mike and I thought we might have heard music, but one does not really hear the ocean inside a seashell. We stared for a while longer, pondering the aberration which would be more at home in a dream. We even circled the building in attempts to find an open door or foot prints. I wondered what Martin Luther would have thought of the while ordeal.
Some nights, I think, are meant to be simple acts of beauty, adventure, and confusion. Nights are the playgrounds of dream, which allow the false logic of dreams to escape into reality. I find my experiences in the twilight are often much stranger than my dreams. I dream of mundane days at school yet wander at night pajama-clad and in a state of waking disbelief.
Before venturing back to the hostel, I saw a statue of a woman in front of the Kölner Dom wink, and all I could do was blink and rub my already open eyes in response. No alarm clock woke me that night, for I was already awake.
Written in 2005 for Art of the Memoir
For the month of November, I’ll have a selection of my internet eikon GIFs hanging at Knockbox Cafe (1001 N. California Ave, Chicago, IL). Be sure to check ‘em out if you’re in town.
(For Love Nothing Day 2013, I’m reposting the piece I wrote for Art of the Memoir in college in 2005 for the first Love Nothing Day).
Saturday, 12 February 2005
On a train leaving wintery Copenhagen, it becomes my desire to attain the poetic. Plush blue seats, violet headrests, and a woman smoking helps set the mood; I feel as if I must be close to poetry. I have opted to skip headphones in favor of the train’s own music: the soft hum of the wheels on the track, a ‘whoosh’ of automatic door between carriages, a phone conversation in Danish to my left .
I feel serene amongst the blanched plains. It is obvious why the Swedish chose Minnesota as their home away; there is comfort in uniformity of environment, regardless of its misery. I do not think I would be happy in a warm climate, and even in England the absence of snow has made itself known. Spring in February is not a delight.
At each new station we arrive at more and more snow, allowing me to feel closer and closer to home. A home. Sweden and Denmark have too many trees and hills for them to be the expansive nothingness of eastern South Dakota; rather, it is closer to my intermediary home in Duluth, Minnesota, yet it is a place viewed from the context of my newest home in England. Even as my homes increase, I find my families fewer in number, or perhaps that I find myself distanced from them is a more apt. Distance has made it easier to forget.
I am unsure if my heart is growing fonder, but my nostalgia does grow larger. I want the past, but I do not want to return as I am now. That would be impossible and unsuitable; knowing what I know now, the present is still the best. Snow is always more romantic when it falls. A parallel to memory could be drawn here, but it is weak. There is romance as the event happens, but it is upon recollection that it grows, expands, and changes. Old snow only grows dirtier and becomes blinding on sunny days.
Sunday, 13 February 2005
In an art museum in Odense, Denmark the day before Valentine’s Day, I have just paid the equivalent of $5 USD to glance at paintings I barely appreciate. I recognize no artists, and even the styles seem different somehow. The titles are an incomprehensible mash of a language I do not know; however, I must confess an element of awe at this scene. Placed throughout the museum are terra cotta sculptures: the busts of priests, women preparing for a bath that never comes, and best of all—the little boys. Boys who stare inward and peek around corners; they move when I cannot see them. They appear sullen, but I sense their jubilance. Is their melancholy an act, begging for the reward of attention (is my melancholy an act?)? With their innocent bodies, I imagine this museum is perfect place for them. They are kept warm and dry, free from the harsh Scandinavian winters–they are loved avidly by some, but left to themselves by many others. Imagine their delight when groups of marauding schoolchildren invade during the week. It is at those times they must be the most alive.
In a gallery on the main floor, there is what I interpret as a satirists response to the melodrama of plains and prairies in the works of Harvey Dunn, an artist whose works rarely escape the boundaries of a small gallery in Brookings, South Dakota. In the Danish painting I speak of, the artist has rendered the same drab, bucolic scene exaggerated, but placed in the foreground is not a mother of prairie. Rather, it is an apparent grandmother, hunched over her now dead husband; the scene is true pastoral angst. Land worked so hard to sustain has finally killed. The farmer’s wife, abandoned, looks off the canvas to the right. Is this the future she sees, or is it the void? Emptiness? Or simply nothing? The scene is tragicomedy, and I am overwhelmed by its meaninglessness.
Monday, 14 February 2005
Sometime between one and two am, Valentine’s Day. Hour three.
Ryainair flight document:
From Aarhus (AAR) to London Stansted(STN)
Sun, 13Feb05 Flight FR715 Depart AAR at 22:45 and arrive STN at 23:23
I have underestimated the power of the word meaninglessness. I am now stranded in Århus Airport in the middle of nowhere, Denmark. It could be days before I get back to England. For now my travelers, Amanda, Cindy, and Dominique, and I huddle together on two rows of airport seating we have pushed together. This is our ship, our fortress. We have no roof but that of the open airport, and our floor is a hard steel covered by tightly worn blue fabric. Cindy and Amanda huddle together, but I am alone on the side. I curl up in an attempt to get comfortable and prepare for the long wait ahead of me.
Eight am, Valentine’s Day. Hour eleven.
Sleep was only a brief respite, for it seems that in the morning the small regional airport of Århus springs to life, and in its exhalations grows cold. I would be miserable if Cindy had not the foresight to bring blankets with; it is one of our few concessions in this situation. Since we are awake, we begin to hope we might catch the Monday morning flight. Our hours in the queue the night before earned us numbers 16, 17, 18, and 19. Poor road conditions gave me hope. I crossed my fingers in anticipation of more people stranded outside the airport; this was my subtle revenge. When the time came, there seemed to be promise. Not that many people appeared to have arrived, and one unlucky family was denied access to the plane because they had come too late.
It was to our horror that the group learned waiting list numbers go by booking—several entire families had boarded by the time number eight was called. I ready myself again for the wait, perhaps we can make it onto the Monday night flight.
Past six pm, Valentine’s Day. Hour nineteen.
Unsure of how we were getting to the airport, I elected to call the bus company. One prophetic line from the telephone conversation sticks with me, “there may be delays.”
I remain in the Århus Airport. Cindy, Dom, Manda, and I have taken up residence in the Chauffeur Lounge of the upstairs restaurant. No one has asked us to leave yet, but we remain certain we are trespassers into the Pilot’s Lounge. Our bags sprawl across the room as Cindy and Manda imitate them on the couch. Dom writes postcards and I just write. It took an unreal effort to bring us here, yet it may take several combined acts of airport and weather gods as well as smiles from the fates to get us out of here before Wednesday.
We felt lucky to have been promised a free cab to the airport when we heard the bus was not coming. We would still make it to the airport! When all the free cabs had come and gone, we felt relieved to pay our cab driver 700 kr to ferry us to the airport. It was retribution when we ran the final 100 meters across an unplowed road littered with hopeless other taxis and stalled vehicles. Most cars had given up the struggle. We were happy to pay the cab driver an extra 200 kr because we had at least made it this far, our excesses would soon be over. Traversing the last few hundred feet to the airport, we ran, we fell, we drifted into thought. The check-in desk was still open. Once again, we believed ourselves lucky.
Now, we are overjoyed (perhaps a stretch) to find we might fly out as soon as Tuesday evening. That discovery came this morning at three am, long after I was supposed to have been on a coach from London to Birmingham. I failed to phone this coach, and I lack faith in National Express’s ability to understand my situation, but what is £19.50 to them? At this point, I do not even know what it means to me.
Our 46 kilometer drive through mountainous snow drifts, half plowed roads, and inexplicably stopped vehicles had been for naught (assuming the going price of naught these days is 900 kr, $150, or £75). We had not failed, but our coach had. Our flight had too.
We have effectively been ryanair’d–the torturously low fare airline as I call it. Cindy opts for the moniker “the unfair airline.”
Valentine’s Day. Hour 21.
We are unsure of our fate. We have not been offered compensation for the taxi, for sleeping in the airport, or even for food. We are too weak to fight it. Victor Navorski in The Terminal at least started out with food vouchers. It is with great regret that I must admit I am not Tom Hanks. His fictional political coupe reminds me there are worse things than being snowed into a Danish airport, regardless of the inconvenience. My struggle will not end here. I must grow and learn to play the adult game. Groups of students fail to evoke pity or attention; an inability to e-mail parents concerns none. I sense distrust caused by my increasingly greasy hair. My t-shirt, a souvenir from the trip, is literally a red flag (“DANMARK”) alerting tired airport employees to my tourist status.
By covering my shame with a German thrift-store sweater and by attempting to cover the mess of strands on my head, I can approach the customer service desk of destiny alone and coax information out of them with a smile. I have not yet made any kills with kindness, but I have gained information. I must stick to the childish hope that I can trust what they tell me; otherwise, the whole process begins anew. Even so, an “adult” brush off is infinitely more satisfying. It is certain that the adult game takes money, and I have never been good at budgeting.
My one hope is that the group’s perseverance has earned us spots three, four, five, and six on the waiting list for tonight’s flight. It seems almost certain we might make it onboard.
Valentine’s Day. Hour 24.
I shook with nervous anticipation when I was finally called forward to check-in. The waiting list had paid off, but this triumph seemed dreamlike. I beamed as I went through airport security for the second time in as many days. The four of us laughed and joked; it became my new mission in life to eat Manor House breakfast on Tuesday. When it neared the time of the flight, things started slipping into the past. A sense of dread, deja vu, and existential giddiness filled me as the departures screen changed our flight’s expected time of arrival later and later. Then came the same announcement as the night before, “we at Ryanair regret to inform you that Flight 715 has been cancelled…”
Knowing what awaited, our group sprang up and ran back to security. Those unfortunate enough to have been there the night before did the same. It would be a hellish ordeal to reschedule. We were stopped and told to wait, how many times does an airport try to keep you in? Once freed, we ran to Ryainair’s customer service desk, despite several airline employees desperately pointing us to our returned luggage. For the Tuesday morning flight we secured numbers eight, nine, ten and eleven, but the roads are clearing, and with them, our hopes of reprieve quickly blow away.
Much to my chagrin, assurances made during my dabbling in the adult game were false. We had lost our seats on the Tuesday evening flight when we boarded the Monday evening fiasco. Our sprint to customer service hopefully saved us the embarrassment of another day in the airport.
Tomorrow is Love Nothing Day. What won’t we love?
Tuesday, 15 February 2005
Love Nothing Day. Hour 35.
Those boarding from the waiting list ended at number six. So close, but so far from home. The prospect of flying out tonight, on a flight we now have actual bookings for, seems like a last hope. The group has decided if we do not fly out tonight, we will live in the Århus airport indefinitely. We can remember no other home.
Love Nothing Day. Hour 37.
How many kroners are you willing to pay for a large plate of pommes frittes, inhabited with salt and bordered by a rogue state of ketchup? After so long, these are the things that become good ideas.
Love Nothing Day. Hour 40.
It seems Mary Shelley saw this coming:
“…and my voyage is only now delayed until the weather shall permit my embarkation. The winter has been dreadfully severe, but the spring promises well, and it is considered as a remarkably early season; so that perhaps I may sail sooner than expected.”
Love Nothing Day. Hour 42.
It is almost certain that Purgatory for me would take the form of an airport—Århus Lufthavn to be precise. There I would wait endlessly for my sins to be absolved and for my flight to Heaven to board. Every misdeed would take the form of a waiting list, standby for a flight I could not hope to catch. Greater sins would be the cancelled flight, taunting in its promise.
Love Nothing Day. Over 49 hours after our scheduled departure time.
More than two days in a small Danish airport were penance for misdeeds. I was taken to this place not by Virgil, but by a cab driver who succeeded in navigating the icy wastes.
Love Nothing Day. Over 50 hours after scheduled departure time, somewhere over Scandinavia.
Once airborne, the journey already seemed unreal.