Posts Tagged ‘caligula’

I guess it would be good to establish the scene.


I’m sitting in a freezing tent overlooking Rome’s Tiber River.  The time is hovering around 1:00 AM.  It has been a drizzly day, a rainy week, and a boozy binge.  Wine is cheap in Italy, but its quality is not.


I’ve been going at this trip for three months now.  Grazing glaciers, inside ruins, under seas, over seas, through valleys, above mountains, 12,000 kilometers by rail, boat, bus, bike, plane and foot–this is the easy part of my plan.  I never, ever know where I will be two days from the current day.  I usually don’t know what day of the week it is.  Sometimes I’ve had to sleep in a different place every night.  I’ve woken up once and forgotten which country I was in.  People I meet along the way ask me what my plans are, where I’m going, or how long I’m going to do this.  I just don’t know.  There is no hint in my answer as to whether this is a good or bad deal; it is the deal, and I neither mind it nor relish it.  I appreciate the rush of cultures and the chance it provides to meet the world on my own terms.  I regret the missed opportunities to stay and learn more.  I am very fortunate.  I am whittling away mispent youth.  I am happy.  I am happy.


They ask me if I’m traveling alone.  The most common question.  They look at my backpack and ask.  Well, yeah, I am.  Of course.  Except that I’m not.  Physically, yes, but I’m connected with friends old and new, the people I’ve known and the people I’m coming to know.  I’m always missing people.  The pattern: I meet people, get to know them, escalate a friendship, we have fun, maybe some mutual epiphanies or two, then abruptly separate.  This trip is supposed to help me connect with people, and every day, it is.  But I guess I never stopped to think for how long I could be connected.


Then there’s Caligula.  They always ask me about Caligula.  I enthusiastically explain that he’s a 1979 historical pornography.  They invariably knod their heads in silence.   It makes me think I’m the only person who can appreciate Caligula for who he is.

 

 

“This place has really gone to shit.”

 


I stand in front of ruins, or, if I’m lucky enough, in them.  I think about the people who used to stand and walk and talk where I am now, and how much we would have in common.  But that’s just the effect of ruins: by definition they evoke thoughts of the past and a future without us in which everything we’ve ever known will have similarly eroded.  I think about the people I’ve met and I wonder what they’re doing right at that moment.


Like now, my host in Reykjavik.  What’s she doing?  Scuba diving?  She was an instructor.  Or Ewen in Dunoon?  He fucked up his leg.  Probably having sex with sheep.  Taro in dirty Wales?  Could be watching Ewen’s sheep sex via camchat.  Kristina in London?  Reading would be a good guess.  Friends from Amsterdam?  Back to real life.  And the Erasmus students, my God, the students from Brno!  They’re probably just getting really drunk or dancing, but definitely not dying anywhere.  The Japanese friends I met in Prague?  Back in Japan, but doing what?  Karaoke?  And this one other guy who got banned from Europe.  Not any specific country, but Europe.  The whole thing.  How much of a badass do you have to be to get blacklisted from an entire continent?  Apparently, as much of one as he was.  The Slovenian who designed a spaceship powered by bearshit and hosted me for a week?  Moving on to the building phase?  I wonder.  All these things, I wonder while I wander.


It’s freezing in this tent.  I don’t know why I thought this might be a good idea.  The tent, I mean.  I also don’t know why I wrote this out, but then again, I still don’t know where I’ll even be tomorrow.  Taking a cheap train south, but then what?  I’m running out of Europe; only Greece is left.  I have to climb Mt. Olympus in a Kratos costume and topple Zeus before I start to enter the long string of countries I couldn’t even place on a map.  The main part of the trip.  The long part.  Then, finally, at the end where these sorts of things tend to be, is the goal.


And I wonder what will happen then.

 

The most common first language within the European Union, German is spoken by nearly 100,000,000 people.  Not limited to Germany alone, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and tiny Liechtenstein all feature large contingents of German speakers and varying degrees of official state recognition.  With a hefty alphabet just foreign enough to throw umlauts over three–count ’em–THREE vowels, one can only imagine that they must have simply run out of elbow strength by the time their pen reached the letter ß, thereby saving it to be mispronounced in an entirely different manner.  Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in Germany, the eighth country on my trip around the world.

1. Hello.     “Hallo.”     [HAH-loh]

Dutch, German, English–all the same, save for a few scrambled letters.

2. Yes/No.     “Ja/Nein.”     [yah/nine]

Very similar to Dutch, nein?

3. Do you speak English?     “Sprechen Sie Englisch?”     [SRAHK-en zee ANG-lish?]

It works more often than you’d expect.

4. Where is…?     “Wo ist…?”     [voh ist…?]

Now wait a minute–this is just a poor man’s Dutch!

5. How much?     “Wie viel kostet das?”     [vee feel KOS-tet das?]

Uncanny, once again.

6. That tastes good!     “Das schmeckt gut!”     [dahs schmekt goot!]

German food is meaty; vegetarians need not learn this phrase.

7. Thank you.     “Danke.”     [DAHN-kuh]

You’ve just been helped and/or fed. Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized. If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, give one to your new friend.

Notable customs:

  • Germans often tip by rounding up the bill, but rarely bill by rounding off the tip.
  • Don’t drink until a toast has been said, and stay away from Heineken, because PABST BLUE RIBBON!


 “Heineken?  Fuck that shit!  PABST BLUE RIBBON.”

Honorable mentions:

Bless you!     “Gesundheit!”     [geh-soond-hait!]

“A cataclysmic downfall or momentous, apocalpytic event!”   “Götterdämmerung!”   [goy-te-deh-me-rung!]

Happy Hanakah!      “Glücklicher Hanukkah!”      [GLOOK-leesh-er hah-na-kah!]

“If only all of Rome had just one neck.”

 

“Order my army to attack and destroy that papyrus!”

 

“Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

 

There was a time when the sun was said to never go down on the British Empire; today, it is due to set at approximately 5:10 PM.  A shadow of its former imperial glory, London however remains a world financial capital with a population more than that of Scotland and Wales combined–excluding sheep. The economic and cultural juggernaut of Great Britain, England is home to 84% of the citizens of the entire United Kingdom.  Infamous for its unpredicatable weather, King Charles II argued that the English summer is actually very consistent, marked by “three fine days and a thunderstorm.”   

An island nation with no point more than 120km from the coast, England was reliant on its powerful navy throughout much of its history.  In 1994, England was linked to Continental Europe via the 50.4km underwater Channel Tunnel yet remains distinctly independent of the European Union.  As England and the United Kingdom evolved from a naval power to an imperial power to a financial powerhouse, chivalrous English tenacity has evolved as well, from the timeless literary contributions of Chaucer and Shakespeare, to the scientific theories of Darwin and Newton, to the strategic alcoholic combativeness of Winston Churchill and Oliver Reed.

 

Early English tenacity.

 

Modern English tenacity.

 

Local Name:  England (United Kingdom)

Language: English

Capital: London; most of the country’s population centers in this southwestern region

Population: 67,446,000 (remarkably, 16,000,000 are sheep)

Area: 129,720 km2

Government: Constitutional monarchy; England has had no government specifically of its own since 1707, as the Parliament in London administrates for the entire U.K.

Currency: British Pound; symbol GBP. 1 GBP = US$1.60 (Feb. 2012)

Economy: Post-industrial; exports music bands; services; tourism; finance; pharmaceuticals; luxury cars

Notable International Enemies:  Roughly the entire world at one point or another has either been subjugated by, adverse to, or actively at war with England; recently, the Falkland Islands dispute has ruffled Argentina

 

St. George’s red cross on a white background, an emblem first used during the Middle Ages.

 

Famous For: Shakespeare; the Royal Family; consuming moe tea per capita than anyone else in the world (2.5 times as much as the Japanese); fish and chips; unwieldy British Imperial units of measurement; natives Sir Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, the Beatles, and the Spice Girls 

Not Famous For: Being the home of the mousetrap and rubber band; speaking French from 1066 to 1362; having the highest obesity rate in the European Union (~23%); building the Lincoln Cathedral in 1280, the first building larger than the Pyramid of Giza; losing a war; high cuisine

Obligatory Tourist Detours: Monuments near Stonehenge; Big Ben; Buckingham Palace; a pub

What US$20 Can Get You: A few pints in a pub; ~3 meals of fish and chips; ~8 subway rides on the London Underground if using the Oyster Card

Quick History Recap: England initiated a drawn-out process of colonial catch-up in 1587, having granted a hundred-year headstart to the rest of Europe in a display of typical English chivalry.  As England evolved into a unified United Kingdom, the Industrial Revolution took root here and its colonies began throwing off yokes, but being proper fair-playing Englishmen themselves, calmly explained themselves to everyone first.  The British army, ever keen on leveling the playing field, adopted bright red uniforms for use in the wintry, woodland skirmishes that characterized much of the Revolutionary War in the eastern United States.  A century and a half later, fair Britain would provide Adolf Hitler ample time to establish a Fortress Europe prior to military engagement.  Despite Winston Churchill’s best efforts to single-handedly buttress the British wartime economy by buying and consuming more alcohol than any other Englishman living before him or since, by 1945, with its economy raved by World War II, Great Britain would begin a slow decline in international prominence, its own imperial sun eclipsed by the rising stars of the USA and USSR.

 

You wake up just in time to be late.  Very late.  The alarm clock is buzzing, but not as loudly as your headache.  Why are you sleeping in a toga, anyway?  You have little time to reflect on the poor choices of yesteryear because suddenly it hits you like Liza Minnelli scolding David Gest: you never packed your world travel kit, and you leave within the hour.  “Hypnos,” you blaspheme, “Kratos may have spared you, but I offer you only sleep eternal!”  Rolling out of bed and into a puddle of vomit, you throw open the doors of your closet with a sense of focused urgency.

Your results may vary.

In front of you hangs a series of decisions that you have to make, fast.  Hypnos has taunted you with fifteen (15) minutes to fill a small backpack with everything you’ll need for a trip around the planet.  Can’t you just dump it all in your bag and leave to topple Olympus?  No, because that would weigh too much!  You take a deep breath–and what is that, is that smoke you smell?  Yes, because your house is on fire!  Holy–oh man, the pressure is really on now, champ.  And did you just remember that you live on a houseboat?  Yeah?  You did?  Good, because it looks like it’s sinking!  ACK!  Get out of there!  What do you save?  What do you take with you?  Why is Hypnos singling you out for destruction?  It’s all enough to make you want to scream.

If you were like me when I was in this exact situation, you’d grab the following items, keep your cool, and casually walk out the door as your houseboat explodes in a searing fireball.

“Fire on my sinking houseboat?  Better pack my umbrella.”

Securing everything inside your waterproof backpack, you then leap off the starboard railing into the morning waters as the fireball erupts.  Blue consumes you, filling you, cresting within you; a baptism of resolve.  Your home, a charred husk of particulate remains, slowly wafts to the sandy bottom.   The prospect of twirling in tandem crosses your mind, sinking together as one, resigning yourself to the whims of the Knight of Nightmares.  You feel a joy you’ve never felt before as you relax, close your eyes, and descend under the waves.

Can you see her? 

“Who?”

The goddess, Isis.

“So you’re one of those who believe…”

Do you see her? 

“No.”

Are you sure? You’re almost dead! What’s it like, what’s happening to you? 

“Slowly drifting, like sleep…”

Liar! You can see her, I know you can! What is she like? 

“No… who are you?”

I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night.  Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula, I am all men as I am no man and therefore I am a god.

A flash in your eyes.  You fight to surface.  A deep breath.  Only the sun is there to greet.  You forgot.  You weren’t alone.  Caligula leapt with you!  Your hand has been dealt.  Together, you will haunt Hypnos with nightmares the likes of which he cannot fathom.

You have everything you need.  Your journey begins now.

No use beating around the bush.  I see no better place to begin my story than at its ending.

“Today, I docked in Osaka, aged years by months of exhausting overland travel. I turned to my only constant companion during this continent-crossing journey–the classic 1979 histoporn, Caligula–and smiled.”

For every Phileas Fogg, a Passepartout.

At least, that’s how I imagine it’ll turn out. Not like I know one way or the other. That part is months down the road–literally–and Caligula may not be much for conversation by then.

My name is Reverend Josh Yager.  Most of my friends know me as Joshu, since when I lived and taught in Japan, that’s what they all decided to call me.  I’m 24-years-old, budget-conscious, and the only direction my life has now is slightly east-to-west.  Unlike the early modern European explorers in their mad quest for the mythical clitoris, I will have a map to assist me in my own journey, but I’m not bringing much more than that. It’ll really be a lonely road for me and Little Boots.

At least he’ll get to invade England for real this time.

See, I had the idea to get from Memphis to Japan, and maybe even back again.  If that map is any indication, efficiency is not what this is all about.  In fact, if anything, the theme is always finding the most roundabout means possible.  In the loosest sense of the word “plan,” I “plan” to cross the planet entirely overland; you know, by bus, boat, bike, beast of burden, and train. Sadly they can’t all be alliterative, no matter what I tried.

I will use this site to tell my story from a radically different narrative springboard–the beginning.  I have cynical, highly offensive reflections and facts about each farm, city, and country I pass through along the way, to be balanced with the 6 Friendly Phrases that I might need in every local language to get by.  And of course, I’ll not only adhere to but embrace and maybe even deep kiss a tight budget; one which can often approach completely free.  I’ve gone on record in front of 700 Japanese students stating that travel is more about the people you meet and less about the things you see.

Above: Travel.

Most importantly of all, I hope to be able to use this as a way to stay in touch with friends and explain why I decided to abandon “real life,” hit the road with an anthropomorphized DVD-ROM, and go back to a place that I once swore to never revisit.  That’ll be my story.  That, and getting really drunk and stumbling along the way.

And I can’t even find out the moral of my story until I make it to the beginning.