Posts Tagged ‘travel’

When I was in Amsterdam, I tried mushrooms again.  And again.  I don’t want to say too much about the second time, though.  Here’s a visual approximation:

Right around the 29-second mark.

 

About that other trip: I brought my pen and paper and took notes at every stop along the way.  Later in the evening, I typed these hand-written scribbles and, finding them to be mostly nonsense the next day, thought it would be harmless to share.

3:30 PM:  Ate the mushroom while walking in the street.  The taste once again fills my nostrils after chewing. Caustic shit-taste fungus.
My body is beginning to heat up, as usual.  This seems to happen whether I’m exerting myself or not (i.e. walking or sitting still).  Ate more mushrooms.
Went back to the hostel a few hours later, left again, and suddenly I realized I was walking around in the rain aimlessly. I was crying. Strange.
Passed a KFC restaurant earlier, and stared up at the image of Colonel Sanders. He started crying blood.  Black streams of crusty blood.  I felt bad for him.  I think I will buy some of his food to cheer him up.
I went inside KFC and tried to order some food.  Thought I saw a rat scurry across the floor behind the counter. I looked over my shoulder at everyone else in line, but no one else seemed to have noticed.
I sat down at a booth and think about the rat.  Wonder if he escaped from their holding pen in the kitchen before they could batter him into a crsipy chicken tender.
I’m aware that other people in the restaurant are looking at me now.
World begins to spin at 1046
Colors are kind of breating
It’s like being drunk, and once again, my lungs feel heavy, like it’s hard to breathe
Slight shimmering
Legs feel like jelly again, but that could be because I’m just tired, as I was the first time when I tried this
World only tries to close in on it if I don’t pause to think about it and “hold it at bay”
Staring at a bouquet of roses and I just realized I think that they’re moving like they were squid arms, though I know that can’t be
My pupils are dilated
When I walk around is when I realize something is definitely out of the ordinary this time

Right here, I returned to the hostel again, and everything after this was typed into my laptop.

my desktop background is a photo of betty white holding twin lightsabers on the forests of Endor while the deceased cast of “The Golden Girls” looks on proudly, like blue Jedi ghosts.
This is important only because Betty White is currently melting.
1058: Just like it was when I tried the first time, my attention is turning more inward and my body feels almost numb and I almost lose the ability to see colors unless if I focus harder; it’s a slight numbing of colors
The flower stalks are still kind of just moving in the periphery for some reason.  Sitting in a coffeeshop.
I can type without any problems.
I wrapped heat around my body like a pyromancer

What happened after that?  I sat down in a dark alley under a large church steeple.  It continued to rain the whole night.  I slept it it off.

It was late Sunday evening, and me and Sejin were hungry.  Receiving no answer after phoning a local Sharjah Pizza Hut for delivery, we visited their website and lodged a light-hearted complaint.

Sent: Sunday, June 24, 2012 11:16 PM
To: MENAPAKT PH Customer Care
Subject: Customer Feedback

From: Madam Josh, Yager

Comments : 11pm no delivery? ㅋㅋ I am disappointed. This is infuriating. If you don’t want my money, you should have just said so on your website. Now I have to go eat my money because I can’t have any pizza tonight!

It was Sejin’s quick thinking that cleverly disguised me as a woman.  In the end, I did not follow through on my threat to eat my money that night.  We had some Trix cereal, fell asleep, and generally did everything outside of thinking about Pizza Hut.  The next morning, Sejin found this in her work inbox, since we had regrettably provided her real e-mail address:

Sent: Monday, June 25, 2012 9:57 AM
Subject: FW: Customer Feedback

Dear   Madam Josh,

Thank you for bringing this feedback to our attention and please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience brought by this situation.

Please be informed that by copy of this message, we are forwarding your comments to Mrs. Faten Sabek from Kuwait Food Company, Americana   our Pizza Hut franchise partner in UAE who will be contacting you to discuss further the issue you have raised.

Please do not hesitate to contact us again in the future.

Thanks and regards,
Pizza Hut Customer Care
Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey

It was clear that upper-level management of Pizza Hut felt genuinely hurt that I had chosen to consume my money out of spite.  But they weren’t about to let me keep eating my money, not when they could conceivably convince me to trade it for one of their marginally less nutritious pizzas instead.  I have to commend their business acumen; a lesser company would not have made this connection.

Later in the evening, Sejin received a new e-mail from one Mohamed Yakout, whose mail signature revealed that he was a rogue operative working outside the Pizza Hut bureacracy:

Sent: Monday, June 25, 2012 6:04 PM
From: Mohamed Yakout
Subject: RE: Customer Feedback

Dear Ms. Josh,

Thanks a lot for bringing your feedback about Pizza Hut to my attention but kindly email your contact number in order to get more details from you and take the necessary action.

Best regards,

Mohamed Yakout
Kuwait Food Co. (Americana)

“Take the necessary action?”  My blood ran cold.  I immediately established that the executive bigwigs at Pizza Hut had gotten wind of my complaint and wanted to silence me for good.  Shit, I had gotten in too deep!  They knew they should have made delivery available until at least midnight–they knew it!–but now that I had the power to topple their empire, they had no choice.  Had Pizza Hut really just outsourced a hit on me, Ms. Josh, using this Kuwaiti hired hitman?  Curious to a fault, I told Sejin to go ahead and e-mail her home telephone number to this corporate assassin.

Sejin left for work the next morning.  After she closed the front door, the phone rang down the hallway.  I walked to it, reached down, and picked up the receiver, expecting Sejin had forgotten something.  Maybe she wanted to take some Trix cereal for the work commute.  Maybe she liked Trix as much as I did.  Instead, I was greeted by the raspy voice of Murderin’ Mohamed.

“Hello, can I speak to… Madam… Joshua Yager?”

To be continued…?

 

“Take care of these two girls,” the hostel owner pulled me aside as we walked into the bar.  This was my job for the night, helping these guests have fun in Istanbul.  Not a serious responsibility, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

After drinking beers and booze and more beers with these two kids in the hostel before we all stumbled out into the night, I had gotten to know a few things about their lives.  They were gap-year girls, traveling from Australia around Europe, sharing costs and experiences.  They were nice kids–just graduated high school, even.  Their plan was to linger in Europe for months, staying with friends along the way.

I hung around outside on the club’s balcony while they danced inside.  It was the usual Turkish fare, astral music sounding more appropriate for a bar on Tatoonie.  Between glasses of raki, Turkey’s national stiff drink, I stared at the city, blanketed in light.  I downed another glass of raki and walked to the bathroom, checking on them as I left.

I didn’t even have time to wash my hands before they approached me in the hall.  They announced that they wanted to go with me to find “bread.”  I looked them over.  There was no hint of joking.  They really wanted bread, and they wanted it now.  We hiked six floors downstairs to the entrance, passing a gay bar outside.

“Josh, can we go to the gay club?”

“No, I’m not gay yet.”

“OK, we’ll go tomorrow.”

Out on the street and on the hunt for “bread,” I led them to a nearby buffet restaurant.  After three weeks in Istanbul, I’ve learned that it’s a cheap place.  More importantly, they also serve bread, the holy grail of our misguided crusade.  I’m a very frequent customer–I eat there almost every day, returning for the low prices and good quality.  It’s a favorite of mine.

“You can look around and see if you like anything. There’s a lot and there’s the bread so maybe–“

“Josh, this food is all shit.  I want a kebap.”

“…OK.  Yeah, let’s go find one.  That’s easy.  They’re everywhere.”

They were everywhere and nowhere.  We weaved through Istiklal, the main thoroughfare for night-life boasting 3,000,000 visitors daily, but nothing seemed to be open.  In the meantime, the girls bargained with an ice cream vendor for a deal, then asked for an extra empty cone to really sweeten the pot.  We took to the sidestreets, the meandering dark alleys and cobblestone paths, hunting down a local shop.  Along the way, one of the girls discovered she had the innante ability to speak to cats, so she made sure to chat with and throw ice cream cones at every stray animal we saw along the way.  With all of this going on, taxis harassing us, drunk men following us, and a litter of cats mewing for more ice cream, our cat whisperer announced that she had to wee.

“Go in the corner next to the cat you fed,” I helpfully suggested.

“That’s not nice.  Oh, there’s a bar here, let’s go in!”

Before I could say no, I was walking into a smoky Turkish lounge bar.  The lighting was subdued candlelight.  A female singer was on stage, surrounded by several local couples enjoying a romantic dinner.  We were seated in the very front of the room, immediately in front of the singer, who smiled at us.  While Catwoman used the restroom, I looked around and surveyed the room.  The cuisine was overpriced finger food.  All the couples I had seen when we walked in were definitely staring at us.  Staring us down.  I started to wonder if they were really couples at all.  The men seemed much older than the women accompanying them.  Was this one of those scam places that slap hapless foreigners with overpriced bills at the end?  I competed with the amps to communicate with the kids.

“Shit guys, I think we need to get the hell out of here.”

“WHAT?”

“I SAID WE SHOULD GO!”

“WHAT?  WHY?”

“BECAUSE THIS PLACE COSTS A LOT AND THESE WOMEN LOOK LIKE THEY HAVE FATHER ISSUES.”

We ran out with our heads held low, following the increasingly dark alleys until we stumbled on the light of the main strip.  Now near the hostel, a line of kebap restaurants were hustling.  The girls’ eyes lit up with joy.  We sat inside a restaurant with a particularly hawkish waiter and ordered meals; he took it upon himself to sit at our table and flirt.  Only not with me, so that was a bit off-putting.  It wasn’t long after the kebaps arrived that the girl who had started this nonsense announced she wasn’t all that hungry.  In fact, she seemed so not hungry that she couldn’t wait to get all her food out of her body, throwing up more colors than can be found in a bag of Skittles.  The manager rushed over with a plastic bag.  Catwoman and I each held one handle of the bag in front of her face like she was a horse feeding at the trough.  Both the bag and my hands were filled with bile.  Before the liquid could dissolve my skin, I handed it off to the hawkish waiter who had brought us inside, the poor fool.  The manager pointed outside, making vague promises of a bathroom, and ushered the girls out personally.

They all left for the bathroom, following the manager’s instructions.  I continued eating my kebap, because, shit, it tasted good, and the waiter was staring at me from the corner, the frown on his face not turning upside-down anytime in the near future.  I looked down at my food.  Then I remembered the mission objective from before we entered the bar and grudgingly left to follow them.  I told the waiter I’d be right back.  His eyes were a thousand-yard stare; I don’t think he even heard.  It didn’t take long to find them; instead of a bathroom, the girl was leaning over a public trash can.  Tourists were taking photos.  They noticed me approaching.

“Josh!  What are you doing?  Go back inside!”

Dry heaving.

“What the hell are you talking… what?  She’s sick!”

Choking.

“Yeah, but our food’s alone in there!  Go save our food!”

Gurgling.

“The food!”

I looked at her.  She was serious, again.  I couldn’t find fault in those priorities or that level of resolve, so I turned back to the restaurant.  I immediately heard the manager from across the square.

“My friend, you catch!”

Without warning, this middle-aged man threw an indeterminate object across the entire line of kebap vendors.  My first instinct was to cringe, anticipating a tomahawk.  In its mid-air tumble, I gradually worked out that it was actually just a water bottle, and that this was a good thing, since it was something I could give it to the girl.  Unfortunately, even with all these calculations running, I didn’t have time to process how to catch the damn thing, so it smacked me in the head.  The vendors cackled.

“Sorry, my friend,” the doubled-over manager huffed.

I trotted over to the girls and waved the water.  But the kid refused, assuring me everything was wonderful. 

“Are you OK?”

“…yesh.”

“Try again.  Are you really OK?”

“…yesh.”

“…cool.  Well, let’s eat.  This night is weird as shit, huh?  I just got hit in the fucking head by…”

“Josh, we don’t have money.”

“YOU WHAT?”

She explained that she meant she wanted to take as much of the food as possible back to the hostel to save on eating costs.  That’s admittedly better than the beating I assumed we’d all be getting from the manager.  I was already well-versed with the strength of his throwing arm.  We entered the restaurant and were greeted with smiles.  We took our seats.  My meat had already gotten cold.  The ill girl decided it was as good a time as any to take a nap, so she laid her head in a puddle of spilled lemonade.   Me and Catwoman began chatting some more, sharing travel stories, pilfering chicken kebap morsels from the napper.  Suddenly the girl sprang up, motioning for a plate.  Her friend held a dish in front of her mouth, and a most disturbing deluge of stomach juice was unceremoniously deposited upon it.  The waiter, who had by now snapped out of his existential crisis, ran over with wetnaps.  Catwoman looked at me.  I looked at my food.  Then we all looked at the manager and pleaded, almost in unison:

“Check, please.”

“I’d like this to go.”

“BLEEEEEEEERGH!!”

GRAVE STONE OF THE DOG PARTHENOPE

“His owner has buried the dog Parthenope, that he played with, in gratitude for this happiness (Mutual) love is rewarding, like the one for this dog: Having been a friend to my owner, I have deserved this grave:

Looking at this, find yourself a worthy friend who is both ready to love you while you are still alive and also will care for your body (when you die).”

I’m still working on it, Parthenope.

 

GRAVE OF TRYPHAINE AND EPAPHRODEITOS

“Onesime [has erected this] in memory of his daughter Tryphaine and her own husband Epaphrodeitos: If someone [steals this], may he also be smashed completely with his family. Philippos has (also) erected this stele for his wife Tryphaine, who was his heart’s content.”

“I’m with stupid.”

Istanbul Archaeology Museums

After hanging out exclusively with goats for a week on the very off-season island of Santorini, one day I wondered how I would react if one of them began to like me as more than a friend.  Initially shrugging off the thought of something so unlikely, I found myself more wrapped up in it as the lonely days progressed.  Finally I decided to sit down and write this power ballad, sifting through my own feelings and hopefully explaining them to the amorous ungulate.

I call it “Bleating Heart.”

 

Oowee girl. 

 

Laughing in the fields with mouthfuls of oats

You were my favorite goat

Spring days spent running back and forth

The me of then did not yet know

 

I’m not sure how to break it to you

But I just came to play with you

And I really don’t mean to gloat

To me you’re just a goat

 

I mean, sure I think you’re cute and all

But it’s not worth the life I’d give up

Love for a small-town grazer

Me, out there a world player

 

I’m not about to let you convince me to

Even though your friends thought I’d want it too

So I really think you should know

To me you’re just a goat

 

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.