Wide Awake in Wonderland

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

Vienna waits for you October 1, 2008

Long train rides require protein...like the leg of what was hopefully once some kind of fowl. My Slovenian isn´t great, so I´m not all that sure.

Long train rides require protein...like the leg of what was hopefully once some kind of fowl. My Slovenian isn´t great, so I´m not all that sure.

Although she doesn’t have to wait too long, as I’ll be there in time for dinner.

 

Meanwhile, I can’t remember if I told you this already, but my iPod wigged out somewhere around Ireland. Since then, I have been reduced to a crazy and highly selective mishmash of music. Of 725 songs in its memory, it chooses to play only around two dozen of them. Truthfully, I find the particular lineup mysterious. Is my iPod trying to TELL me something???

 

 

 

Anyway, I used to have playlists to avoid such juxtaposition as Patty Griffin’s heart-breaking “Top of the World” fading into the rocking guitar intro of AC/DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long”. Now such moments are common place.

 

There are artists I miss that my iPod has decided I didn’t need to be listening to anymore – Ani DiFranco, Tom Petty, Damien Rice, Kathleen Edwards, Bob Marley. Of those it will play, I am allowed only one little taste. However, it has magically preserved some of my favorite songs like Goodnight Elisabeth by the Counting Crows, Ootischenia by The Be Good Tanyas, and Pale Moon by Shannon McNally. For those small wonders, I am grateful.

Lovely Ljubljana

Lovely Ljubljana

 

At the same time, as this short list is in regular rotation, I get plenty of chances to really hear each and every word. Again and again and again. Maybe this is just the madness talking, but it’s funny to me how some of the lyrics seem really apropos to me and my life right now.

 

  • “I was wasted in the afternoon, waiting on a train.” Granted, I’m almost never wasted in the afternoon and certainly haven’t been on this solo journey, but I do wait on a lot of trains.

 

  • “Little sad with everything around me. I hit the floor and my feet kept moving. I look forward, and never backwards. I was out the door like a Roman soldier.” (Kind of like this trip)

 

  • “She had sightless eyes, telling me no lies, and knocking me out with those American thighs.” (kidding about that one – although climbing four and five flights of stairs with a giant backpack is good toning for the American thighs)

 

  • “Where are you going? Where do you go? Are you looking for answers to questions under the stars?” (This is when one of my less-aware multiple personalities tunes in and is like, “What the f**k are we doing in Slovenia?”

 

  • And from Billy Joel’s Vienna, “Slow down, you’re doing fine. You can’t be everything you want to be before your time.” and “And you know that when the truth is told, that you can get what you want or you can just get old.” (These are the kinds of things I tell myself when I get to worrying about the future or ‘should I have left my job working for the biggest dickhead in America? Except for maybe Rush Limbaugh. And Dick Cheney. And Michael Vick. And Larry Craig. And, the big kahuna, George Bush.’ I don’t worry as much as some people, because I’m easily distracted.)

 

 

On the other hand, maybe I’m getting all deep about these song lyrics because it’s all I have to drown out the sounds of all the loud talkers. Good lord, in what twisted laboratory are they breeding these people?

Outside the Ljubljana castle

Outside the Ljubljana castle

 

I can tell you for sure that there’s one in Greece. On today’s train from Ljubljana to Maribor, near the Slovenia/Austria border, there were two Greek guys (according to them) who carried on so loudly that I thought maybe it was performance art. One of the guys was named “Alexandre”. I know this because the other would open every sentence by more or less screaming this and waggling a finger at him. He also gave him the ‘evil eye’ for like three hours. I don’t know what they were discussing (it was Greek to me! Ha ha), but they seemed so furious at one another, I couldn’t really fathom why they were traveling together. Thus I figured they had to be related.

 

Meanwhile, despite the infernal ruckus (even with my 20 songs – detailed above – playing at levels certain to damage my eardrums and render me deaf long before my time), the other thing that made these two buffoons a particular spectacle was that the primary screamer was also a big eater. A big – no HUGE – eater endowed with what seemed an endless supply of pastries and Red Bull. It was like the Mary Poppins bag. He kept reaching in, and stuff kept coming out.

 

Thus, he would cram an entire croissant in his mouth and then pound his fists and scream (as much as you can with a face full of dough) at the other guy. I actually took a short video of this it was so disturbing…and yet compelling. It was definitely a moment you wish you had someone there to nudge and say, “Hey, get a load of the furious primate with half a bakery spewing out of his mouth…”

 

 

Finally, a big thank you to all my friends who so kindly and generously offered to wire me money during my Bank of America ATM non-working debit card nervous breakdown. I am relieved to report that I actually spoke to a real, live human today and (theoretically – I didn’t do a trial withdrawal) the problem is solved!!!

Unlike the Lithuanians, the Slovenians don´t want you bringing your gluttonous three-scoop icecream cones onto their public transit.

Unlike the Lithuanians, the Slovenians don´t want you bringing your gluttonous three-scoop ice cream cones onto their public transit.

However, please make a note that my birthday is less than two weeks away – October 13th – and don’t feel shy about lavishing your beloved friend on the occasion of her birth. True, she’s a little horrified about the number associated with this birthday, but such is life. Nevertheless, perhaps a little something something at the Western Union office or direct deposited into her bank account might help heal her pain? Or fund an evening drowning her pain in booze? Either way. It’s all good…

 

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You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave September 30, 2008

Eating a banana, and glad to be getting the hell out of Pula.

Eating a banana, and glad to be getting the hell out of Pula.

So if it’s Tuesday, this must be Ljubljana…er….Pula? Again? Say it ain’t so.

 

It goes like this: It’s hard to get out of Pula, Croatia. According to the tourist office there, it’s easy: I could take a bus to Pazin (cash only, of course! What is it with all these cash only bus companies?) and switch to a bus to Rijeka and then either take a bus to Ljubljana or the 1pm train. That was a six-hour adventure that gets you in at 15:35, OR there’s a train at 6pm that gets in at 10:20p.m. Plus I have a rail pass, so it’s free (in a manner of perspective). So minus having to store my bag at the bus station with this incredibly rude jerk of a guy, and figuring out how to entertain imyself for one more day in Pula, the train seemed ike a no-brainer.

 

By 5pm I’d completely run out of things to do, went and got my stuff and hoofed it over to the train station (about 15 minutes away on foot). I was early, but I was getting out of there, so I was happy to be waiting. At 5:20 this ridiculous tiny one-car train (COVERED in graffiti) loaded up with people and left. And then around 5:50 it was back from the opposite direction.

 

At this point, I had expected to see my train pull up, so I went up to an employee to inquire about where I should wait for the train to Ljubljana. He repeated the question back to me about three times in what sounded like German, but I suppose must have been Croatian. He frowned, and motioned that I should come with him. In my experience, these moments rarely end with news you want to hear.

 

We went into an office where he got some paper and wrote some things down. Then he frantically rattled a bunch of stuff in Croatian (German? It sounded like German, and I could almost swear I kind of understood it. Maybe this is what’s happening when people tell me they don’t speak English, and I keep talking to them anyway, and they get it? Some sort of cosmic translation?)

Anyway, I kept the paper, so I can state with 100% authority that it looked like this:

  • Pula – Lljubljana

  • 15/09/08

  • Autobus Rijecka

  • Rijecka – Ljubljana

  • 20:45 – 23:45

 

Basically, that train that the tourist office told me about stopped running two weeks ago. Nice.

 

 

Long story short, there was no getting to Rijeka in time for the evening train., so Pula and I spent one more magical night together. It’s a brand new day, and I am now on the bus that takes me halfway to Rijecka (at some point, I apparently change buses, just to make it more of a hassle and to aid in wrestling some extra “baggage” fees out of me – about $1.50 per bag). Actually, it’s more like a mini-van than a bus. An overpriced mini-van full of loud talkers wherein every other word seems to be “dobre” or “da”. There’s a girl who looks amazingly like Thelma of the Scooby Doo cartoons. She even has the hairdo and the turtleneck/skirt combo. Her voice, although equally grating, is twelve times as loud. She also pulled my hair. Probably by accident, but whatever. This bus is too small for the both of us.

A girl and her crap.

A girl and her crap.

 

So while we’re on the topic, why don’t buses have seat belts? If it’s so dangerous to ride without one the police will pull you over and give you a ticket…how come it’s okay if 25 people do it together? I can see in the mirror that even bus driver isn’t wearing one. But there’s a rosary hanging from the same mirror, so I guess we’ve got God on our side.

 

Okay, so super weird, but literally FIVE minutes after I wrote that we nearly had a car accident. There was some kind of truck stopped on the side of the road, and I guess our driver was taking a nap and letting Jesus do the driving, because he noticed it WAY TOO LATE and came to a screeching halt. We ended up sideways in the oncoming lane, but we didn’t hit anything and no one hit us. I guess this sheds some light on the cash only policy: No paper trail. Just shove the bodies over the side of the cliff into the ocean and get a new load of victi…passengers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what 60 euro a night buys you in Pula, Croatia...although you really can´t put a price tag on peace of mind like that.

This is what 60 euro a night buys you in Pula, Croatia...although you really can´t put a price tag on peace of mind like that.