Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

My goodness, my Guinness August 19, 2008

I imagine tourists have always been a hazard: Looking up when they should be looking for traffic, stopping suddenly when they spot a souvenir shop, clustering together in large, slow-moving groups. All of this was enough. But give a tourist a phone and the ability to text message their friends back home while walking slowly and ambling into traffic…and they’re practically a deadly weapon. Who knows? Maybe I’d be just as obnoxious if I still had my Blackberry. But I don’t. And I can’t figure out how to work my “fun phone”, so I guess that makes me neither part of the problem, nor part of the solution!

There is a peculiar thing in our society of wanting to go somewhere different, but not really want anything to change: not the food, not the language, not even our habits. I was at a hostel here in Ireland a few days ago where a guy from New Zealand spent all day, every day in the common room working on his laptop. When I stopped in and started looking around for an electrical outlet, he pointed out every single one in the room. Kind of makes you wonder why he bothered to leave New Zealand, where it might have been cheaper, easier, and even more scenic to surf the web all day?

As for me, I don’t need things to stay the same, but it turns out I’m not all that interested in shelling out pound after pound (now euro after euro) to see faux entertainment drummed up for the tourists. Case in point, my visit to the Guinness Storehouse. I don’t have any hard facts on this, but I would guess it’s the number one tourist attraction here in Dublin. I can’t imagine what would beat it. Anyway, I’m not sure why I was gung ho to do this. I know how beer is brewed. In fact, super thick dark beer is the easiest kind to make! I would know, I made some as part of a class (earned chemistry credit for it, in fact) in college. Overly sweet wine is pretty easy, too.

Anyway, now I know how Guinness is made (roasted barley and the water does NOT come from the River Liffey, which is good news because that water looks pretty dubious. The guide had to answer this question TWICE, by the way (?) ), and I got my free pint at the Gravity Bar. Although I suppose it was semi-interesting and the view from the bar was nice in a gray, cloudy, rain-soaked kind of way, I couldn’t help but thinking that for the price of admission, I could have had five pints of Guinness and needed someone to carry me home. Maybe next time?

If nothing else, it was kind of amusing to see all the people coming out with giant shopping bags branded “Guinness.” At any given point, it seemed like a third of the town was carrying one of those bags. One is left wondering if Guinness might make more money off merchandise than they do beer here in Dublin? Sadly, I have not room in my backpack to load up on Guinness t-shirts, magnets, bottle openers, signs, posters, plaques, sweatshirts, and glassware. However, and again I don’t have any hard facts, but I bet they’ve got a web site where I can order up memorabilia to my heart’s content once I get home! Now I have a way to get the matching Guinness leather jacket, pants, and baseball hat combo I was eyeballing!

 

Another day, another downpour August 18, 2008

All these floods are starting to piss me off.

It’s hassle enough as it is. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that all the arrangements and traveling and lugging o’ the stuff and planning and plain old logistics weren’t utterly exhausting. They say getting there is half the fun. If that’s true, then I’m having -33% fun. Add into that the complications of the Irish weather (and the extreme complications of all the flooding – I’m currently writing from a train bound for Dublin. The journey typically takes 2 hours. Today – due to high flood water on the tracks – it’s taking six), and I’m having -75% fun. The other half had better be pretty darn good to compensate for all this!

Regardless, I’ve settled into the backpacking experience a little better, and am starting to develop a groove. There’s a ‘set’ way I pack my bag now, which makes it easier to get everything in quickly, and to find things in near silence and darkness. The hostel experience is made or ruined by your roommates, so I’m hoping to win a nomination – or at least honorable mention – as hostel roommate of the year. Thus, I always try to create zero disruption those times i share a room with early sleepers– which requires getting to critical items without actually being able to see them.

Meanwhile, I bought a ‘pay as you go’ phone, but no one seems to be able to call it. They don’t actually make phones that place calls and but won’t receive them…do they??? If they do, I’ve bought one. Moreover, whenever I turn the thing on (or it turns itself on, which it’s prone to doing), all sorts of bubbles dance around and spell out the words “Fun Club.” I could be wrong, but it makes me think maybe this is a phone geared toward the pre-school set? In that case, you’d think the opposite would be true: It could receive calls, but it wouldn’t be able to place them. Talking to preschoolers can be entertaining, but you wouldn’t want them calling you all day long, telling knock, knock jokes that they can’t remember the punch line to.

Otherwise, I’m in Dublin. It’s wet. I hear Portugal is having a heat wave, and I CANNOT WAIT…

 

Now I know why the ancestors left the old country August 17, 2008

By the Peace Wall (three stories high, and built to keep the Protestants and Catholics separate) in Belfast, Ireland

By the Peace Wall (three stories high, and built to keep the Protestants and Catholics separate) in Belfast, Ireland

Riding through river-deep floodwaters, trying to get to Belfast
Riding through river-deep floodwaters, trying to get to BelfastBy the Peace Wall (three stories high, and built to keep the Protestants and the Catholics away from one another) in Belfast, Ireland.
Where to start? My flight into Belfast was delayed a couple hours, and I kept hearing whispers with the words “torrential” and “flood.” As we’re landing it’s more of the same – rain, clouds, gray, blech.
I get my bag and head out to wait for the city bus. And wait. And wait. And wait. It’s Saturday, so the sign says it comes every half an hour. An hour and fifteen minutes passes…Nada. We hear that the roads are flooded, and perhaps the bus can’t make it? Thus – abandoning all logic that if a fairly tall bus can’t make it, what can? – a few of us band together and hire a taxi. It’s a really nice one, at that, a new black Mercedes. Maybe it has special waterproof powers installed by crafty German engineers?
It didn’t, although we did avert any true tragedy. There are something like five routes into Belfast, and after crossing veritable rivers, but ultimately being turned back each time, we went to attempt the last possible (way out of the way) route. The passengers consisted of me, an Australian, a couple from Belfast, and the driver, also from Belfast. The locals made comments upon seeing lakes (that apparently weren’t lakes the day before) and rushing rivers (ditto) like, “That’s scary.” Although I originally expected to be at the hostel around 5pm, I got there – tired, hungry, cold, and emotionally drained – at 10pm.
Everything was closed, so I had to fix dinner from my emergency rations – powdered lentil soup – and it was every bit as bad as it sounds. I got about 1/4 cup through and could bear no more. Budget travel through Europe could be the hot new diet you’ve been looking for!!!
Speaking of which, I am DYING for a salad. I haven’t seen a healthy looking or desirable vegetable in two weeks. What I wouldn’t do for one of those giant Olive Garden salad bowls (the size intended for the whole table). My kingdom for some iceberg lettuce and Italian dressing…
Anyway, since they owed me one, the Celtic gods smiled and delivered up some glorious sun amidst the rain. I took the Black Taxi political tour, which goes to the Catholic and Protestant sides of town, where you can see the (edited) murals painted by each during The Troubles. Or not. That’s why the ‘edited.’ Apparently what was once a listing of every catholic who died, when, and how old they were, is now an oddball mishmash of pro-Palestinian, pro-Cuba, Picasso’s Guernica, and a whole lot of anti-Bush rhetoric (which is pretty funny.) Regardless, it was a fascinating look into a terrible and somewhat senseless period in Irish history.
Perhaps if you catch me in a different mood, I’ll share my theories on the potential influence of the famous Irish temper. Being the daughter of a full-blooded Irish woman (and  thus, obviously, half-Irish myself), I know of whence I speak! Let’s just say, in the words of Bruce Banner, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…”
Tomorrow
 

Pity the shattered nerves of the University of Glasgow student August 15, 2008

The Elephant House in Edinburgh - where J.K. Rowling scrawled the original ideas for 'Harry Potter' on napkins. I took a handful of napkins - and scrawled a few ideas of my own - for good measure!

The Elephant House in Edinburgh - where J.K. Rowling scrawled the original ideas for

It's like a Westhighland Terrier convention in Scotland and Ireland! Here's a little one (Honey) on her way to go camping in Glasgow.

It

I’ve been staying in their (extremely) modest dorms for about 24 hours now. First off, it’s convenient to nothing. Well, it’s close to the University of Glasgow (duh), but otherwise nothing. And then they’re kind of Nazis. Its a baby blue room with full-on Ikea furniture – twin bed, desk, wardrobe – and a single felt covered board with the following posted on it, “All notices, posters, etc. should be placed on this notice board. The occupant will be re-charged for bedroom redecoration if notices/posters are elsewhere in the room.” Naturally, I went out and got my hands on every Hannah Montana poster in the country and covered every bloody square inch with the things. I paid cash for the room. Let them figure that one out…

Actually, the strict “do not decorate your prison cell” directives aren’t the half of it. The place has some INSANELY sensitive smoke alarms. As in, think about smoke or smoking or the smell of smoke or how you’d like a smoke and the whole joint erupts in ‘end of the world’ blaring and general pandemonium.

There’s a little sign by the sink (on the sacred blue wall, no less!) alerting you that the following inocuous activities could lead to  yet another 3am fire drill:

  • aerosol sprays
  • hairdryers
  • ironing
  • heavy breathing (okay, I made this one up. But why not???)

As I mentioned, I have been here a mere 24 hours. We have had FIVE or SIX (I lost count shortly after my ear drums melted) fire drills. And I haven’t exactly been here a consecutive 24 hours. I did actually leave for a while and wander around (yawn), and I went for a run this morning. And I went and got some dinner.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that no one will ever die of smoke inhalation or severe burns while studying at the University of Glasgow. They may go deaf and their nerves may be so shattered that they can never relax for the rest of their life without fear of blaring alarms going off for no reason. But no one will die of a fire or anything closely resembling a fire. Ever. You can bet your life on it. Or trade in a good night’s sleep. Either way…

 

inadvertent adrenaline rush August 14, 2008

London (Oxford Circle area) street scene

London (Oxford Circle area) street scene

Victoria Street in Edinburgh at night

Victoria Street in Edinburgh at night

It’s probably a good thing I’m by myself, because the amount of trouble I cause would no doubt cause anyone unwillingly subjected to it to have an aneurysm. That stated, let me share the tale of today’s misadventure…

After an admittedly brief stay in London (a great place that strongly reminds me of my beloved NYC. However, much like NYC, it’s somewhere I’d rather be with someone else and with some disposable income), it was time to head up to Scotland. There’s an overnight train, but it was stunningly expensive and, I’d read, quite noisy. The reviews were mixed as to whether it was a ‘civilized’ or ‘uncivilized’ way to get there. Thus, I decided to avoid the debate and booked a flight to Edinburgh instead.

So this morning at the hostel, I used my overpriced 30 minutes of Internet access to update my blogs, make sure I knew where I was going tonight, and get the lowdown on getting to the airport. Then I went out and meandered down to Westminster and the Thames. After a few hours of wandering, it was time to head back, get my stuff, and get on the road. My flight was at 6:30 pm, and I headed to the underground station around 3:30pm. Because my credit card doesn’t have a chip in it, I can’t use any of the automated subway ticketing stations an require human intervention. When the ticket clerk saw me lumbering up like a beast of burden, she asked if I was going to Gatwick. I was confused by the question, but she explained that I could buy a combo subway/train ticket that was cheaper than purchasing the two together. Fantastic! What a coup!

With that, I boarded the subway (so much fun being twice my usual size from the stupid bag on my back and having people ram into me every which way), got to Victoria Station, found the Southern Train to Gatwick, got on, put my bag up with the others, found a seat and – feeling pretty efficient – relaxed for the first time in half an hour. I glanced at my watch and realized I was going to be about two hours early to the airport, but oh well.

It was at that point that a strange dialog started up in my head. Basically, I vaguely wondered to myself, “Are you sure it’s Gatwick? What if Gatwick is the wrong airport and you get there and realize that and miss your flight and can’t get to Scotland and don’t have anywhere to stay tonight?”

“I don’t care,” I thought back, “I’m tired. Whatever. I’ll just stay here or take a train or …”

However, now that the thought was in my head, the slow burn of panic started to spark. I grabbed my bag and started digging furiously through it, looking for the print out of the ticket I’d made in the U.S.

I found it, unfolded it, and to my complete and utter horror, it said STANSTED AIRPORT. On the total and complete other side of town. At least a solid hour from where I was currently sitting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was now 4:01 p.m. I was sitting on the 4:02 Gatwick-bound train. I flew out of my seat. All I knew was that I needed to get OFF THIS TRAIN BEFORE IT STARTED MOVING!!!!! I ran up to the luggage, and for reasons I can’t quite comprehend, a passenger was standing there holding my backpack (probably to put his luggage in the spot mine occupied and do god knows what with my bag). I grabbed it from him, but he didn’t want to give it up. I yelled, ‘It’s MINE!”, wrenched it out of his hands, threw it on my back, hit the “open doors” button, and jumped off the thing 5 seconds before it started moving.

From there, I found an employee, got instructions as to how to get to Stansted (another subway ride to Liverpool Street, and then a train to the airport) and made it an hour in advance – just enough to get through (the very slow – Great Britain makes everyone take their shoes off like in the U.S. That stupid step sure does slow everything down) security and walk up to the gate during boarding. So I’m here! Edinburgh!

First off, what a GORGEOUS town. Seriously. Amazing in a ‘best of what you’d expect’ kind of way (cobblestone streets, little shops, castles, crappy gray weather). I’m waiting my turn – as always – to use the hostel computers. Oh yes. It’s the Edinburgh Festival all month in August, which means half the population of the planet is here. Which also means rooms are scarce. Which finally means I had to stick with my original hostel reservation. As always, the top bunk. However, in stark contrast to my night in London where every person in the room was lights out, stone cold asleep when I walked into the room at 10:15 p.m. (!?), the folks in the last room where no where to be seen when I crawled into bed at midnight. Not a good sign.

Sure enough, around 3am, some of them started to come back – drunk, loud, tripping, lights on, and debating whether to go back out for one more hour. Some guy must have asked, “Where’s an ATM?” fifteen times. Not in this room, dude. Go back outside…and stay there. That’s my only advice. I’ve heard marching bands that were less noisy – but not by much. Needless to say, this nonsense went on until 5am, and I am not nearly so well-rested as I deserve to be. Oh well. The next two nights I have a room to myself at Glasgow College.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned, I’m waiting for the pay-by-the-half-hour group computer (no wifi, unfortunately), sitting next to a guy cradling a ten pack (minus two) of Carlsburg beer, and studying the posters for the zillion shows in town this month. While waiting forever for the Heathrow Hoppa to my hotel a few days ago, I met a guy from the U.S. who was on his way back from Oslo. He was a comedian who just played a big show there, and he was telling me, “It’s a great living.” Sounds like it! Where do I sign up?

Sadly, I don’t think I’m funny enough – or not that kind of super-sharp one-liner funny. I have my moments, but Kathy Griffin I am not. Meanwhile, I’ve noticed that I’m on the same tour schedule as Henry Rollins. He played in London last night, and will be up here in a few days. I had a friend in high school that more or less worshiped Henry Rollins. I probably listened to whatever spoken word he had out at the time once a week. It was good storytelling. What I recall is stuff about his obsession with Daryl Hannah and some issues getting through airport security being 6’3″ (or whatever he is) and covered in tattoos. In truth, I wish my schedule synced up with his a little better, because I’d love to see him and brush up on the latest version of his craft.

THAT is what I’d like to do – storytelling, spoken word, entertain. And I suspect I’d be damn good at it. Admittedly, I’m not the former front man of the band Black Flag, but I’m willing to get a few tattoos if that’s what it takes. Any storyteller job openings out there? Just let me know when you need me to start…

 

A free bit of pre-marital counseling for you August 13, 2008

V by church outside Bath, England (apologies to the owner of the tombstone I had to use to prop up my camera)

V by church outside Bath, England (apologies to the owner of the tombstone I had to use to prop up my camera)

Bath, England street scene - a rare sunny moment

Bath, England street scene - a rare sunny moment

If you are considering proposing to or otherwise permanently committing to another person, take a trip to England, rent a car without a navigation system, print out some spotty Google maps directions, and navigate your merry way to Swindon, Bath, Stonehenge, and Avebury Circle. Feel free to grab a map at the rental office, not that it will help.

Then, assuring neither of you is left-handed or originally from Great Britain, take turns driving and navigating (unless you enjoy migraine headaches and near-death experiences, do not try to do both). Then, sit back and take turns raging, criticizing, and generally freaking out on one another. Enjoy!

If you can make these journeys WITHOUT that happening:

  1. You are saints

  2. You are not human

  3. You should definitely get married

  4. Hell, write a book on how to be more like you while you’re at it.

Fortunately for me (and anyone close to me), I am on this voyage on my own, so I had only myself to blame. Further fortunately for myself, I am pretty supportive of my own efforts much of the time, and try to self-soothe with such banter as,

  • “You’re doing great.”
  • “Lots of people drive around with the emergency brake on.”
  • “Hey, you’re American. It’s a wonder you haven’t injured anyone. What more do they want?”
  • “So you had your high beams on the whole team. Nobody died.”
  • “Way to work that roundabout – and in third gear, no less!”
  • “You’re fine. Ignore them.”

Otherwise, I might still be pulled over on some English country road shaking and crying and considering slashing the tires so that someone will come and get me and drive me back to Heathrow. Let me just say, I regard it as a minor miracle that i somehow managed to get back from (truly) the middle of nowhere (if no street anywhere is identified with a name of any kind and it’s all just country roads, stone houses, and lush landscapes, you’re nowhere in my book), return my car, navigate the train and the Tube and be writing you now from London. Whew!

BTW, London (at least where I am – West End) is so much like Manhattan it isn’t even funny. Next door to the Gap is the H&M and Urban Outfitters. Don’t forget the Black Angus and Pizza Hut across the street.

Anyway, before I get any further into London, let me finish up my Bath misadventure story by noting that it’s truly a gorgeous city. Amazingly, stunningly so, I would know because I drove every square inch of it – twice – and got myself cornered in every dead end in town. At the same time, Bath also has THE LOUDEST pigeons on earth – Insane, rowdy, ridiculous, raucous pigeons. It sounded like a pigeon orgy out there: They were screaming, moaning, shrieking, cooing, and caterwauling all night long. I don’t know whether pigeons can have orgasms, but based on the noises I heard, I’m going to go with “yes.”

Of course, all this was only augmenting the ambient sound of people coughing and a guy that would work up to a snore so loud and annoying I thought I might have to climb out of my top bunk and kill him, and then he’d spontaneously fall silent for a few minutes.

This brings us to the subject of hostels. Six, eight, ten people in one room. Zero privacy. Group bed times. The weird freaking noises people make. The AWFUL beds – basically chicken wire with a few cotton balls on it. Yes, they’re damn cheap…and they should be.

Having had to quit my job to make this trip, I’m on a serious budget. The young version of me – the one that slept on trains every night so as to avoid spending any money – still lives and breathes. On the other hand, I’ve learned a thing or two. And if you don’t give the universe a chance to provide for you, how can it?

Thus, I’ve realized, to get all chummy with strangers and expose yourself like that when you’re young is one thing. I, however, am really not all that young. Which is why I’ve determined that there will be no further hosteling unless it’s a town that I’m passing through for just one night and if it’s f-ing close to the train station (this shit on my back is heavy). On the other hand, why am I making myself run around like this to a town a day? If there is anything worse than hauling your every belonging on your back like a gypsy and vagabonding to a new country every day, I don’t want to know what it is. Thus, the one-night stays will also be reduced if not outright eliminated.

A new era of sanity has begun! Amen.

 

 

Is the “thumbs up” gesture obscene in England? August 12, 2008

Street scene in Bath, England

Street scene in Bath, EnglandStonehenge, England

While driving – probably poorly – on England’s M3 today, someone in a delivery truck (lorrie) pulled up  alongside me, honked a couple times real quick, and gave me a thumbs up. Did I piss him off somehow? Was he encouraging my virgin efforts with the left-handed shift (the second-most confusing part, topped only by the endless roundabouts)? In the U.S., people don’t pull up next to you and make hand gestures to wish you well or say hi, so I’m a little confused. Chances are I weaved into his lane or went too slow or too fast or who knows (I never once saw a  posted speed limit!?!?), particularly after realizing I was supposed to be on the M4.

 

 

 

Actually,  I was doing alright and feeling pretty darn proud of myself for a while. I pulled onto the shoulder, studied up on the rental car map, and got myself onto the correct freeway relatively smoothly. I was tooling around like a regular Briton..until I got to Swindon and later Bath. Since they don’t feel inclined to mark the street names, my Mapquest directions became very useless very fast. And then irritation set in. And then annoyance. Then I realized these were no small towns, and felt the first twinges of despair. Around that time, all the energy I’d put into remembering to stay on the left side of the road and yield to others coming from the right…started to go by the wayside. On a high note, if there were any fatalities in Bath tonight, I didn’t cause them.

 

Stonehenge, England

Stonehenge, England

Moreover,  I’m still doing better than the defeated-looking American guy in the rental car office. While I was checking in, a woman came up and interrupted because they didn’t quite know how to process his issue: He’d wrecked his car before ever getting it out of the rental car lot!! Apparently, a combination of shifting and left-handed driving sent him careening into a guardrail. Picturing a likely wife and three kids smoldering out in the lot, I tried to lighten the situation. “Things could be worse! Hang in there!” I told him. He looked at me sadly, and went back to filling out his paperwork.

 

Here comes the sun August 9, 2008

What is it about sunshine that always makes me feel optimistic? I remember the first time I went to San Diego. It was Christmastime and warmish, and I was wearing shorts. And as I was walking into El Indio, I remember thinking to myself that if I lived there, I’d probably be a better person.

So, sufficed to say, it’s a sunny day in Iceland. In about half an hour, I and a group of my closest tourist friends will be taking the “Netbus” over to the Blue Lagoon, which from the pictures appears to be a giant hot spring/mud bath/natural pool thing – like Disneyworld’s River Country, but without the slides. I was feeling a little down to learn that it’s sunny and 90′s at home, and the realization that I left a fair amount of creature comforts (including a swimming pool!) behind to freeze my behind off and slum it up in Northern Europe was bumming me out. Actually, I’ve been down on myself altogether – fantasizing about return tickets home – but I’m determined to tough it out a little more than four days!

The odds that I will hunker down and write the great American (or wherever) novel go up the more I subject myself to extreme alone time (and occasional loneliness)! Plus, this little experiment wouldn’t be much of a story for the grandkids if I bailed after four days… And perhaps most importantly, I’ve done this to give myself a shot at making a career as a writer rather than a banking consultant, and although I’m arguably going about it the hard way, I still want to follow the yellow brick road and see what happens.

Meanwhile, and unrelated, somehow yesterday’s post generated an (allegedly randomly) link to a trailer for a documentary called “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” which – in my opinion – looks fascinating. I watched it (trailer) twice. I particularly like the little guy grooving to the music at the end! Worth checking out if you have two minutes to spare: http://cnettv.cnet.com/9742-1_53-12299.html?id=12299&tag=sphere_mrss&clientid=sphere&part=sphere

In other news, Iceland is expensive. Goddamned expensive. A thing of yogurt clocks in at around $2.30. A beer – a SINGLE beer – at the pizza place by the guest house was almost $15.00!?!? No wonder Icelandic women have a reputation for being casual about sexual relations – you more or less have to put out after someone spends $600 buying you dinner and drinks!!!

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous place and all, but I’m getting antsy to move on. I was in the lobby looking at postcards and there were a few of glaciers floating in the water, and I thought to myself, “Glaciers. You seen one, you seen ‘em all.” As a result, I’m starting to worry that something said to me recently is true: Nothing impresses me.This was said sweetly, mind you, even affectionately, but about six weeks ago, I distinctly remember Brad remarking that – through no intention or conceit – I remain unflappably unimpressed. True, I have subjected myself to more insanity than most people, and I have a tremendous capacity to attract extraordinary circumstances and bizarre people, but is it possible to have really been there, done that to the degree that there’s nothing left to do, see, or be!?!?

Is this the fate of the examined life? Total and complete nonchalance?

 

On second thought, maybe naming it ‘Iceland’ wasn’t all that deceptive? August 7, 2008

Boiling pool of Icelandic mud

Boiling pool of Icelandic mud

I’m here, and I have the freezing cold feet and frizzy hair to prove it. It’s almost 12:30 a.m., and having failed to enlist anyone on either U.S. coast (where it’s 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., respectively) in an e-mail conversation, I realize I’m sleepy. I should probably ride that wave, but in the interest of a quick post, I’ll share my first impressions:

1. Colder and wetter than I anticipated. I bet they make a killing on those handmade wool sweaters…

2. Despite my best efforts on neutral clothing, the second I open my mouth I am branded “American girl” – but not in a mean way or anything. In fact, the man who rang me up at the little grocery seemed positively delighted that I was from “the States.”

3. Somehow it’s so very European here. Every nook and cranny. It’s hard to explain, but if I were kidnapped and drugged and came to in this strange place (and said strange place happened to beReyjavik), I have no doubt I would know it was Europe somewhere (not that that’s a terribly specific insight). It almost has its own smell.

4. Forget Southern California, if you’re looking for blondes, this is your mecca.

 

Drama galore redux July 21, 2008

I feel rather like I’ve been I’ve hit by a truck, rolled up like a pancake, smoked about halfway down, stubbed out on a gas station toilet seat, flushed down said toilet, backed up onto a city street, and rolled over by a truck one more time. In other words, it’s been a really long and pretty awful 36 hours. However, in the net, things could always be worse. In light of my emotional and physical exhaustion, I’ll do my best to succinctly catch you up:

I need to call the vet and get a report, but to the best of my knowledge, Pixie is still alive. I’m a total coward, and when it turned out she had cancer, I just couldn’t pull the trigger. She was so happy to see me and looked so lively and so NORMAL it seemed unfathomable to have them kill her. Moreover, my own vet told me she’d had dogs who lived through this same ordeal (small tumor on the spleen – in this case 1″ x 2″ - rupture and then be removed) go on to live another year or two.

The big problem here is that (to quote the emergency room vet at midnight last night) when the spleen tumor burst it “showered her abdominal cavity in cancer cells.” This is pretty much hands down the worst image ever conjured. I friggin hate EVERYTHING about the idea of that. In reaction, I am conjuring up every new age defense in my arsenal: showering her in white light, filling her with golden light, laying on of hands (not that I have any special talent or anything, beyond maybe sheer will), pseudo-Reiki (see again, no real talent or training. I just focused and tried to make my hands get hot. No idea if that’s even a technique). I’m also researching every alternative, far out, and plain old wackadoo theory on cancer. If there’s a supplement or vitamin or diet that can spare her more suffering, I’m bound and determined to find it.

As a side note, here’s an interesting little assertion I found. I have no idea if this is true or anything, just thought it was kind of wild, “

Some doctors implicate fungi as a cause of leukemia. In 1999 Meinolf Karthaus, MD, watched three different children with leukemia suddenly go into remission upon receiving a triple antifungal drug cocktail for their “secondary” fungal infections.

In 1997 Mark Bielski stated that leukemia, whether acute or chronic, is intimately associated with the yeast, Candida albicans, which mutates into a fungal form when it overgrows.

Milton White, MD. believed that cancer is a chronic, infectious, fungus disease. He was able to find fungal spores in every sample of cancer tissue he studied. Some other doctors agree with him. Such as the Italian doctor who has his patients take a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, baking soda, in a glass of water half an hour before breakfast. This alkalinized the digestive tract so that it would help eliminate candida.”

Anyway, I had the vet remove her tumor, and she told me that if she got in there and found any signs that the cancer had spread, she’d put her down. She didn’t. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the removal of her spleen and the general stress of it all has caused a myocardial something or other. Her heartbeat is 240 beats per minute. I felt it with my own hand as I transported her back to the emergency vet for observation tonight. On that note, it’s just wait and see and continue praying that she not only makes it through this, but that I’ve done the right thing and she truly does live another two years or even more.

In other news, I *think* I’ve managed to keep my job for the trip. On Wednesday after resigning and hearing nothing, I called my boss and left an angry (for me) voicemail. I told him I deserved better than this, I’d never felt so disrespected, I was ‘deeply, deeply disappointed’ and closed with ‘is this really what you want?”  He called back shortly thereafter and said, “Do you really want to quit!?” I told him no, of course not, but then relayed the conversation I’d had (presumably at his bidding) with E. His reaction? “That’s ridiculous. That’s a ridiculous conversation.” Yeah. No sh!t. Thanks for having her call me.

Lastly, I’ve spent entirely too long booking rooms for the first few weeks of my trip. I figure I need to nail things down through the end of tourist season (August), and I’ll wing it from there.  Thus far, for anyone interested, the booked itinerary is:

  • Iceland
  • London
  • Bath
  • London
  • Edinburgh (flying there)
  • Glasgow
  • Belfast
  • Dublin
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Blarney/Schull
  • Cape Clear Island
  • Dublin
  • Lisbon (by plane, obviously)
  • Madrid
  • Valencia
  • Barcelona
  • Lourdes

WHEW!!!!

Until tomorrow…

 

 
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