Monday, June 30, 2003

I'm A Dick

I've broken my no-money vow, because here I am, at an internet cafe, a slave to blogger. Fucking addictions. I'm a dick. Brendan, (fake Aussie boyfriend, ex-boyfriend now?) used to always say that to me.

BR: "You're a dick!" while simultaneously howling with laughter over my ridiculous life. Barely knew each other for a week, and we had a verbally abusive relationship. I suppose sharing beds and bathrooms that don't have doors can do that to a couple. Another favorite phrase from him was-

BR: "I just can't be asked", when asked to do, well, pretty much anything.

Brendan would be laughing right now at my ridiculousness. I'm sitting at an internet cafe, having bought an all-day pass (serious writing to do today). Anyway, not only does this place contain extremely irate workers and very crappy computers, but it's inside a futuristic shopping mall, fully equipped with escalators that go nowhere, strange lighting effects, and a general labyrinth of shops. (Trust me, it's not nearly as complicated as I'm making it sound.)

I get off the computer for lunch, and decide to leave the building. Easier said than done, the first fifteen minutes of my lunch break is spent wandering up and down and up and down and back up again looking for the exit, and finally realizing that it's been right in front of me the whole time. Dick. (Lunch break? What? Has blogging become my personal job now?)

I wander out and the first thing I see is... TGI Fridays! I start thinking about their chicken finger BLT with honey mustard (a condiment that apparently does not exist in greater Europe). But I have to contain myself, even though I haven't eaten yet today, because it's expensive. I spy a Kentucky Fried Chicken, and I know I can get chicken fingers there, for cheap. In the window they're advertising meal deals for 2.99, marvelous! Here's the part where I earn my stripes as the most-annoying-customer-ever. You would hypothesize that my past spent working in customer service jobs would've cured this tendency. Not so, my friends, I wasn't this annoying until working said jobs. Because I'm good at them, I expect everyone else to be as well. And they're not. Maybe that's why the internet workers got irate on my ass for the seventh time today. Then again, I'm used to getting yelled at by authority, so it doesn't even bother me. Wow, that was a rather long and ridiculous aside. Moving back to the topic at hand.

I'm standing in line at KFC, realizing that I don't want fries. I guess that means I don't want a meal deal. Although, maybe I could still get a meal deal, but replace those fries with popcorn chicken? It's my turn, and I'm trying to explain this brilliant notion to the poor cashier who barely speaks English. On top of that, it's so noisy, I can't hear the response. She asks me if I want the fries, to which I answer, "no". She rings me up, 5.68. I want to check my receipt, but they don't issue them, and it's so crowded, it's impossible to straighten out anything. I pay, grab my food and go back to my seat to think it over. I realize I accidently bought a meal deal AND a box of popcorn chicken, and then I turned down the fries I was paying for. Crap! I paid for those fries! Not that I want them, but shit. Next I realize that I spent the same amount I would've had I just gone to TGI Fridays. So much for saving money. Dick.

I couldn't have gotten the same quality entertainment at Fridays, though. I'm amused by a kilt-clad cell phone conversation going on at the next table. A burly, fully-grown man shouting into his cell phone on the verge of tears,

BM: "No Ma! I'm not the arsehole ye thinks I am! Not the arsehole, not an arsehole!"

I decide this is my cue to leave the man in peace, and I return to the labyrinth. (And yes, I accidently take the wrong escalator, and have to go up and down and around before reaching the cafe). Dick.

I'm sitting on this computer, and "soccer dude" keeps IMing me. I just ignore him, obviously the person before me didn't shut off their IM. I'm about to click the X on the corner of the box, when I notice the messages get more and more frantic.

IM: "It's me, Dad, I love you, Dad. Did you check your email? Just do it, Dad. Are you there, Dad? What time is it over there, Dad? Please email me, Dad, Puh-leeeeeezzz!"

Christ, I'm smack in the middle of some serious family issues. Apparently, it would be normal for Dad to be ignoring soccer dude. I don't want to embarass the kid and be like-

Me: "Look, I'm not your dad, fuck off." But I can't pretend to be the dad either, can I? Hmmm, maybe I should've written back-

Me: "I love you too, son." You know, help patch things up a bit. I suppose I should stop interfering in people's relationships. I should probably also stop broadcasting them to the world, eh? I can't help it, I'm a dick.

I Need a Wonder Bra

Mike is back at work, so I'm roaming the streets on my own, and getting back into the groove of sleeping during the dark and rising during the day. (Hey, I'm an Alaskan, it's easy to get confused. I'm from the land of six months light and six months dark.) I decide to go shopping, in an attempt to externalize all the internal changes I've made this year. And, let's face it, I've been wearing the same three outfits all year. I need something new!

This is all fine and dandy, except that I am, without doubt, the retail customer from hell. Particularly in a large, discounted, confusing store like H&M. Various morons put full-price clothing items on racks that are marked as discounted. By the time you bring all your prospective purchases to the register and they tell you the "real" price, you've become attached to the clothes. Jerks. So here I am, holding up a huge line of people, because I have to protest the price of every single item of clothing being rung up. Needless to say, mass confusion prevails, and mistakes are made. I end up buying a dress for 19.99 instead of 7.99, because I just can't give it up. Dress 2 was on the 9.99 rack, and it's actually 34.99, so I reject it. I'm overcharged 2 pounds on a shirt. I figure this all out when I was consulting my receipt after the fact, getting upset at the deceptive 19.99 dress, and the 2 pounds overcharge. That's when I discover the cashier accidently folded and placed Dress 2 in the bag, without charging me at all! And she forgot to charge me for a bra too!

Mike, of course, being the sensible one, thinks I should return Dress 2, say I lost the receipt, and pocket the 34.99. But I can't, not because it's immoral, but because I like the dress. I don't feel too bad about the mistake though, I gave the store 100 bucks, they could at least give me a free dress in exchange.

I'm wandering around Picadilly Circus at night, looking like a hoodlum in Mike's too-big-for-me sweatpants and Bulgaria t-shirt. (Mike has a thing about getting a shirt from every country he's been to). I'm accosted by a scary street artist man who wants to draw a portrait of me. My shirt is written in Bulgarian, and he's from Bulgaria. He's so ecstatic to see the language, that he takes me to show all his artist friends. While they're sitting around, arguing over whether the map on the back of my shirt is showing just Bulgaria, or all of Europe and Asia with an arrow merely pointing to Bulgaria, (well, duh, look at the shape of the land, people!), an old English guy is mumbling under his breath-

EG: "Don't let 'em touch ya! They're not right in the head, the lot of 'em. Run girl, run!"

This freaks me out a bit, and I mumble something about having to go home, mid-heated discussion, and take off quickly in the other direction. Bulgaria man and his portrait friends are yelling after me-

BM: "Hey wait, we draw you picture of yourself with Bulgaria shirt on!"

As I'm making my getaway, I realize I will have to double back and pass them again because I'm walking in the wrong direction, away from the tube. Damn, I hate that. So much for a smooth exit.

Now I'm wearing Mike's "Polska" (Poland) shirt. I'm pretty excited to see what stories I can conjure up. When I was wearing the Bulgaria shirt, I thought that either my breasts were very attractive, or the shirt itself served as an attention-grabber, because EVERYONE was starting at me. When I asked Mike if it was me, or the shirt, he tactfully replied that he received simillar responses sporting his country shirts, because London is such an international town. Damn, maybe I should have invested in a wonder bra.

Time to go home and eat whatever food I can find, since I'm too poor to buy food. This proves to be an interesting experiment. I cook pasta, chop up a ton of leftover kebap meat, (scary, I know, I actually put the leftovers in the fridge), add cream cheese, add pasta sauce, and stir them all together. Then I cook this weird mixture of ingredients, and realize how Hamburger Helper was born.

A Kebap from the Land of Suck

I've gotten onto Mike's schedule, which means we stay up all night, and sleep all day. By the time we're ready to go out, everything in London is closing down, since that happens around 11pm. I don't get it, it's a big city, there are tons of tourists, wouldn't they be making bank if they cranked the 24 hour dial, the way Las Vegas does? We go to a party downstairs briefly with Mike's roomates, and I'm pleasantly mauled by one of his bosses. We decide not to stay, as neither of us are in the mood for socializing, and I have a stomachache from the recent kebaps we ingested.

I need to explain the phenomenen of kebaps a bit, since they also play a feature role in this blog. They are my new favorite food. I don't know why Americans haven't discovered them, or why there isn't a kebap stand on every street corner. Manhattan knows about kebaps. Sheesh, spread the word, people! Maybe it's because kebaps aren't uniform, unlike fast-food chains. Americans do like their "quality guaranteed!" And there's nothing guaranteed about a kebap. All kebaps are not created equal. No one really knows what the meat actually is. But it doesn't matter, because the whole point of the kebap is to watch them shave this huge, scary, greasy, rotating blob of skewered meat that is suspended vertically from the ceiling. Then the falling blobs of meat are stuffed into a sandwich for your consumption.

I know people who have turned aside at the sight of a kebap establishment in fear, unable to sample the goods. And so they go on, living in ignorance, to the world of kebap wonder. My philosophy is that you have to beat the meat, even if it comes from a horse. Resolve to mentally put yourself in a happy place, so you're not contemplating the origins of the meat too much. Also, an understanding that no two kebaps are ever the same is essential. You have your good kebaps, and your bad ones. When a good kebap is consumed, there is no food equal to it in the world, but a bad kebap can turn you off forever.

The kebap at hand consists of; an expensive pile of meat, no mysterious kebap sauce (which, I might add, makes the kebap world spin, a dry kebap is totally gross), a light sprinkling of lettuce, tomato, and some other weird ingredients that I picked off the top. How upsetting. A kebap from the land of suck. And now a stomachache to boot!

Mike, the Sleeping Giant

Mike and I have been slaving away like house elves to make my site pretty. (Yay, Harry Potter reference!) This html business is rather difficult for me. I'm convinced I should have been born in an earlier generation, with Thomas Jefferson as my husband, dipping my quill into ink and filling a scroll with writing rather than a computer screen. (I just had to throw Thomas into the equation, because I'm in love with him, despite the fact that he owned slaves.)

We're riding the ferry from Calais to the beautiful white cliffs of Dover, on our way to England. I'm giving my fake Australian boyfriend, Brendan, a haircut, with a pair of minature Swiss army kinfe scissors, in front of an audience on the upper deck. This is interesting because a) I cut hair like Edward Scissorhands. The process is a bit abstract and modern, but the end result is always a classic masterpiece. I've never had an unsatisfied customer. (But there's a first time for everything.) b) The scissors are a serious handicap. c) Genius, such as mine, cannot be rushed, nor deal with the pressure of everyone oohing and ahhing while I'm doing my work. (Ha ha). d) His chunks of hair keep blowing all over the boat, and into such places as my mouth, which is really annoying. After the freak show, we hop back on the bus, and roll into London.

I love London! The dichotomy of it all! What other city contains; Wimbledon, home to tennis champions, Fleet Street, home to Sweeney Todd, and Drury Lane, home to the muffin man? I head to Drury Lane, unfortunately, not meeting the muffin man or his wife.

I purchase my tube pass for the next seven days, and head over to Mike's place, arriving three hours before I told him I would. I pound on the door, receive no response, drop my bags, and head to the kitchen, where I crack open my current book. I have read a mere page when I am interruped by Ariel and Shane, Mike's co-workers that I met on my previous trip to London. They assure me, (in a somewhat intoxicated state) that Mike is home, he is just asleep, since he worked the night shift last night. They pound on the door and scream "Mike!" at the top of their lungs for a full minute, while I cringe.

A word about Mike, as he plays a feature role in this blog, and everyone should be as happy as I am to make his accquaintance. Mike is currently an "employee of the month", a chronic saver of random scraps of paper, a tall indivicual with large feet posessing a tendency towards worrying, a silent film buff, and one of my very best friends. We met in Vienna, studying abroad together fall semester 2002, and our friendship is cemented in eternity. Mike is an army brat, whose family is living in Pennsylvania. He's taking the semester off and working at a swank hotel in London, that's seen the likes of Billy Crudup and Claire Danes. Mike is also a very private person, who will probably kill me as soon as he realizes I wrote this.

Mike also happens to be an insanely scary deep sleeper. He surrounds himself with no less than five alarm clocks, all synchronized to erupt at the same time. He also has to torture himself by sleeping on the floor, with the windows open to allow cold gusts of air, for the sole purpose of making himself uncomfortable enough that he will awaken more easily. Rousing Mike from his sleep have been some of the most frightening encounters of my life, as I have attempted it on numerous occasions. But I have learned my lesson, and now refuse the challenge whenever it is offered.

I stand at the door, shrinking a bit from view, as the slumbering giant approaches. He cracks the door, surveys the scene in front of him, breaks into a wide grin, and becomes the sweet, peaceful Mike I know and love. He ushers me inside, and showers me with gifts. I crack open the long-awaited brand-new Harry Potter, which Mike snagged for me, as it went on sale the night before at 12:01 AM. Time begins to pass in a blur of wands and wizards. The next 48 hours are spent reading Harry Potter, trying not to read Harry Potter, thinking about Harry Potter, thinking about reading Harry Potter, and reading Harry Potter.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

My Passion for Priests

I am losing all concept of time. I don´t know the date, I don´t know the day of the week, my existence is spiraling into a never-ending flow of transportation, siestas, and various sights. My bag is a disaster, I am now atttempting to undergo deep-duct-tape-surgery, and line the entire interior with duct tape.

I'm in San Sebastian, and I get on the bus for the fourth consecutive day in a row. For the first time, I feel truly and utterly sick of it all. Luckily, I only have two more legs to go until I reach London, and can crash with Mike. Finally, a resting place!

Have I mentioned that I'm thoroughly sick of people? Sometimes I can't get away from them on busabout! It's like high school every time we stop at a service station. The cool kids are sitting together, certain people are supposed to sit at certain tables, and heaven forbid you sit by yourself! So even though I don't feel like talking, I get sucked into the same fucking conversation with everyone. "Where are you from? How long have you been traveling? Where have you been?"

We stop in Bilbao for an hour and our guide gives us a quick tour of the cathedral (third largest in Spain). There is a freakish crucifix which contains real human hair, skin, and fingernails adorning the body of Jesus. Sick! I finally get away from the crowd of medically-inclined Aussies and sit on a grassy knoll to eat my bag lunch by myself. Then a hot, young priest approaches and starts to speak...

Turns out he's from Dublin, he thinks I look Irish, and he just moved to this parish, is rather lonely, and wants to have a chat in English. (A lonely hot priest, does it get any better? Oh wait, it does, because he´s the SMARTEST MAN in the world!) This crazy fella was so intelligent as a youth, that he used to read encyclopedias before he got the call to the church. He's impressing me with his brain, and his accent, quoting all these little known facts about Juneau, Alaska to me. We start to talk about deeper topics such as; faith, his parish, daily conversations with God, and his path to the church. I realize I've never conversed with a priest like this in my entire life, which is saying a lot, because I was raised Catholic. They're all holier-than-thou crusty, older men. They don't seem like human beings, do they? Unfortunately, I got the call to go back on the bus, so that was the end of that.

Hot, young priests are my new fantasy, because they're so unobtainable. Maybe it's because "The Thornbirds" is my favorite book, or maybe it's because they are passionate enough to dedicate themselves to the church. Imagine if that passion was transferred to me... What an attractive thought.

We arrive in San Sebastian, and there's a big shuffle for hostels. They're splitting us off into homestay groups, and for some random reason, they assume that the guy sitting behind me on the bus and I are a couple. We end up thrown together in a room (we've never met), with one big, double bed. Well, there's a fold-out couch, but we find girl's underwear and money (yay, 20 euro cents each!) inside, so we're both a little scared of it. Looks like we're sharing a bed. We both start laughing, introduce ourselves, and the next thing you know, we're best of friends, trading travel stories and continuing on in our journey to London together. Maybe I can even convince him to come scuba diving with me in Australia when I go there in the winter.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Abscessa the Great

I'm taking a break from trekking and basing myself in London for a week or two to ¨process¨, (you'll understand after I relay the following story.)

The trauma-induced Portuguese hospital experience, not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

As you all know, I was growing an alien love child, affectionately titled Albert, in my armpit. Miraculously enough, while in Morocco, Albert felt it was time to take a leave of absence. I couldn't have been happier, until a few days later when his cousin, Abscessa the Great rolled into town with a vengeance, making a new and far more terrible home in my pit. This was Albert's revenge- he didn't feel I gave him a fair shot for a permanent residence, so he sent in the big guns. But now I have had the last laugh, because I had the bastard surgically removed. Little bastard. Or rather; great, big, horrible, bane-of-my-existence bastard.

Abscessa, of course, was a humongous abscess (in case I didn't make that clear, an abscess is a fancy word for boil from hell). She started out as your usual boil, me feeling the hard lump in my armpit, about the size of a pea, with a general feeling of violence and trepidation (Why god, WHY!) Because of my previous experiences, I knew I had a ten-day period of pain awaiting me. But oh, how sad and wrong I was. The pain I was anticipating, was not even close to the pain that was to occur...

So Abscessa, in the matter of five days, (while I was conveniently vacationing in Seville) grew to be the size of my head. Sadly not too far from the truth, Abscessa was a carbuncle (a full family of boils- Albert and Abscessa mated and had three kids) that grew together to be the size of a tennis ball. Needless to say, I could not put my arm down. Try to picture me, looking completely ridiculous, with my arm extended above my head, my freakish medical condition on display, as I go through the normal procedures of the day. There I was; shopping, eating, sightseeing, and talking to people, all with my arm elevated above my head. I looked like a school kid on crack. ¨Pick me teacher, I have the answer! ¨ Or worse, I looked like a third-world specimen of suffering, hosting the type of pitiful skin disease that makes people throw alms while averting their eyes. People volunteer to donate two cents a month to children who look like me.

So there I was, in a miserable state of condition, walking around Seville with my arm above my head, causing heads to whip around mighty quickly at the sight of Abscessa. I grew tired of the sympathetic, sharp intake of breath, and the rapid-fire Spanish comments. I could only imagine the Spanish translated something like this: (Judging by how the men were still leering and standing too close for comfort.)

"Ouch, that hurts seniorita! Don't worry; I can make you feel better. Why don't I distract you with some sex?" To which my imaginary Spanish reply goes; "I'm contagious, people! How can you still be hitting on me?"

To my immense chagrin, I also discovered that everyone on busabout is a surgical nurse, vet, or doctor. Fuck me. The last thing I want right now is an endless array of know-it-all platitudes or advice from so-called doctors.

¨Oh my god, it’s an infection!" (Really? Are you sure about that? Of course it's an infection, that's what an abscess is, and that's why it's huge and red and protruding from my skin!!!!!)

"Wow, you need to get to the hospital right this instant, I’ve operated on things like that before, and if you don’t, you might get blood poisoning and die!!! ¨ Bollocks, if I had a nickel for every time someone said I would get blood poisoning and die...

Now I'm starting to feel more than a little irritated by all these ¨comments¨, especially when people decide to get all ¨Mommy on my ass. (As most of you know, this is my greatest pet peeve, I don't even let my own mother get "Mommy" on my ass). Prissy lips were pursed, and I overheard more than one statement of:

¨Who do you think you are, living with that horrible sore? If I was you, I would've gotten that thing taken care of days ago, and I would be demanding that I sleep at the hospital tonight. You shouldn’t subject us to such an abomination¨ at this, I retort,

¨Calm down, I get these all the time, it's no big deal. I’ll lance it myself when it’s ready to pop in a few days. You don't have to make me feel like such a freak. Besides, I've stared to take a liking to my boils and name them as I would children." And finally, "At least it means my immune system is working, right? ¨

Instead of taking their advice, I took my elephant-man-self to a bullfight. I figured the suffering of a noble animal might put my pain into perspective. Skewed logic, I know, and I can admit that I’m a sick puppy. After all, these same doctors and vets were absolutely abhorred by the concept of a bullfight. "Murdering an innocent animal is such a show of male superiority." But I found myself getting really into it. (Can I at least disclose that one matador had his hand slashed by a bullhorn and it was gushing blood? And another matador definitely tripped and fell after stabbing his bull. I thought he was done for! The bull literally gored him in one butt cheek, but the other matadors stepped in before the bull finished him off. Too bad.)

As I heard myself shouting out with the crowd, ¨Si si, kill that mother fucker!" as they were slaying the fourth bull, I realized that maybe I was getting blood poisoning after all, in my brain, and it was time to leave the bull pen.

The elephant man decides to go to the Internet cafe to do some research on "circus freak" afflictions. Stowing it away into the "shit happens" file in my brain, the web informs me that 10% of the population carry the staff infection on their skin and it can "boil" (literally!) into something quite nasty, when given the opportunity. I blame my mother; she's had staff infections before. I knew I was turning into her!

Problem solved, I went back to my hotel room, to spend another sleepless night, as horrible stabbing knives of pain course through my veins and pressure mounts from all directions. I continue to prick my armpit senseless with needles, but nothing will drain. Abscessa the Great has taken hold, she's got roots, and she's not going anywhere, anytime soon. In the middle of the night, in a fit of rage, I realize that I can't live like this, and dramatically throw open the window to my bedroom, contemplating jumping to my death. After I realize my room is on the first floor, I decide to throw myself in front of a moving vehicle. I need to experience anything of a greater magnitude of pain, so I can no longer feel my pit. I settle for a night of constantly changing positions and wanting to cry.

The next day my armpit has expanded yet again. This crazy beast has a mind of it's own, and it's only getting worse. With my arm still extended above my head, (yep, I've now mastered the skill of getting dressed with one hand, try it, it's more difficult than you think), my guide, Shane, screams when he sees it and says, ¨We are finding you a hospital as soon as we get to Lisbon. ¨

After far too many hours, we arrive in Lisbon. The Portuguese ladies at the campsite were clucking over me like sympathetic hens, and calling me a taxi for the local hospital (because I refuse to pay for the expensive Brit hospital, seeing how I don't have medical insurance.) Shane offers to come with me. Feeling dread writhe around in my stomach, I remembered how it had been six months ago when I had a repeat of this same experience in Budapest. These memories include, a) being naked in a room full of strange people. b) Various instruments being jabbed into me, with no question of anesthesia. c) Me, screaming and kicking. (While being naked with my boobs flopping around.) d) The "frau" was there, clinging to my hand, teaching me the German word for ¨brave¨. Doesn't get much worse than that, I can't believe I am willingly repeating this experience. Do I want Shane to come? Let’s see, he's hot, nice, and Australian. Hmmm, the answer is a resounding no. I'll save special one-on-one time with him for one of my finer moments.

Good thing too, because the second I get into the taxi, I have an anxiety-filled emotional breakdown, and burst into tears. I am going to a hospital where no one speaks English, by myself, and the worst part of it all is that I know exactly what is going to happen to me, and it will be hell.

The taxi driver looks at my armpit with sympathy and hands me a Kleenex, so I can snuffle away and continue crying in the back. We pull up to the emergency room, he hands me the whole box of Kleenex (like I said, we're talking major break down here, to necessitate the needs of an entire box), and then he says a bunch of supportive words in Portuguese. (Although come to think of it, he could’ve been saying, ¨good riddance, elephant man¨, in a supportive tone of voice.) I mumble my thanks and walk my crying self into the emergency room.

Easier said than done, as there are a mob of people waiting, and a confusing labyrinth of desks. I pick through the crowd, tears streaming down my cheeks, holding out my American passport, and pointing to my throbbing pit. I'm waiting when I hear, "Ann Colleen!" Crap, they've flip-flopped by middle and first name, hope this doesn't turn into an international security issue.

Panic mounting, I get completely lost, hearing the incessant droning of "Ann Colleen!" over the intercom. I don't want to miss my turn, so I keep gesturing to my armpit, with a wild look in my eye, and someone finally takes pity on me and escorts me to an English-speaking doctor. He closes the door, leads me into a frightening operating room and sits me down, asking,

¨What’s your real name, Ann Colleen? ¨ This question, and the stern way he is regarding me, spooks me. Does he think I'm an American spy, with a kilo of crack injected into my armpit? If at all possible, I start crying even harder.

¨Don't worry, it's just that they've gotten your name wrong off of the passport; I see that you are in a lot of pain. ¨ Good call Doc, could the bucket of tears streaming down my face be any indication of that? "I can give you some anesthesia, but you breathe it in, and you have to have not eaten for the last six hours¨ Damn the man, if it wasn't for that meager handful of cheats two minutes before, I would've made the mark! Since there's no way in hell I'm spending another six hours with Abscessa, who's getting angrier by the minute, I tell him to do what he has to do, pain or no pain. He agrees to attempt to freeze my pit instead, to aid with partial pain relief.

He gently prods the wound and I'm already screaming, as he's attempting to apply the freeze. ¨This is like magic", he informs me, as he completely misses my pit and sprays it right into my face. ¨Whoops¨, he tries to distract me by asking me questions about opera as a needle and a thick drain are burrowed into the wound. Then he starts squeezing it, like he's trying to pop an overgrown zit. I'm kicking my legs and yelling violently, and the nurses are trying to soothe me by telling me that I am ¨so brave¨ over and over again.

I wonder why nurses always feel the need to say this. Maybe they think by presenting this idea, you'll realize how NOT brave and annoying you are being, and you'll take a moment, mid-surgery, to ponder this comment, and think, ¨Now I must be brave, so I will not let the nurse down, I will model myself after my ancestors, who bore the lash, but made no sound. ¨ And then, with a mighty lift of the chin, you become silent and noble. Sorry, but that's not going to happen, my nurse friends, so just give it a rest. Maybe you have to make yourselves feel useful, after all, you're pretty much handing the doctor the torture devices, yet at the same time trying to soothe me. It's just not going to fly. I'm sure patients before me have felt this way, maybe together we should form a support group for psychological abuse, being belittled by nurses while under the knife. Poor things, I know they are just trying to help, and here I am, being a sarcastic bastard.

Back to the surgery, where the doctor is screaming, ¨Shit, oh SHIT!!!!!!!! ¨ While trying to remove the drain. I look up, in alarm, and the nurse jerks my head back down, kindly reassuring me, "There's no need to look, it will only make you vomit." Then she mutters to the doctor under her breath, "You could've at least said that part in Spanish." I realize, (after seeing the state of the room) that my pus and blood went a-flying´; it was positively coating the walls and the floor. The doc wraps me up, and tells me to change the bandage every day.

To be honest, we're getting on thirty hours, and I haven't changed it yet. I don't want to vomit.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Albert, My Alien Love Child

Words cannot describe the pure awesomeness of the world's only albino gorilla, housed in the Barcelona zoo. We head to the zoo to explore this phenomenen. As we're attempting to walk there, we encounter several signs, some helpful, some unhelpful, some just plain weird. Like the one with a dog lifting his tail, taking a shit, and a happy person, bending down to retrieve the shit, with a smiley face. Written across the bottom, are the bright words, "Gracias!"

We reach the park and chance upon some signs of the unhelpful variety. There are a mish-mosh of them, pointing every which way. It looks like something out of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" or "Alice in Wonderland." Determined to encounter my gorilla, Amanda and I attempt to ask the Spanish men at the lake for directions. They don´t understand a word we're saying, even though I'm acting like a gorilla, grunting and swinging my arms wildly. They still don't get it. (And they should, because not only was I a theatre major, but my impression of a gorilla once landed me the role of Martha Cratchit in "A Christmas Carol"). While I'm running amuck as a gorilla, my intellect briefly sparks, and I pull the phrase, "Donde estas el zoo?" out of my ass. This is impressive, because I speak zero Spanish.

Having finally understood me, the man gestures broadly with his arm in the general direction of the zoo. It turns out the gesture was a bit too broad, we realize, after trying to follow his vague sweep of the arm, which somehow encompassed the entire park, perhaps even the entire world, in the way one gestures, when talking about world peace "over there". We don´t find the zoo, we end up back on the street somehow, where there is a sign pointing to the zoo in the middle of the highway, and another sign pointing to the zoo in the direction we just came from.

Why we decide to head for the highway, I have no idea. Maybe because of the charming picture of the elephant on the sign. Sure enough, we are suprised and disapointed to discover that there is no zoo in the middle of the highway. We return to the park, find a map, locate the zoo, and damnit, we miss half the dolphin show, as a result of our wanderings.

Now that we're in the zoo, we pass a gigantic mastadon. Well, all right, a statue of one. We aren´t even talking, but some kids playing on the mastadon spot us, and immediately begin conversing with each other in English. Apparently, my clothes still scream out "American". The disturbing part is while we're walking away, they start shouting-

Kids: "Down with the war! Down with the war!"

I want to politely remind them that their country supports the war as well, and that I (even though American) happen to be anti-Bush and anti-war also. Before I have a chance to do so, I spot a sign for the gorilla and become distracted. Besides, I don´t need to start any more fights with children, it always ends with me flipping them off.

We're waiting for "Albi" to wake up. All we can see is a great, white lump lying in the corner of his cage. We decide to re-name him, since his real name, "Snowflake", is simply not manly (or gorillay) enough. We consider "White Lightning" or "White Terror", but decide they're a little intense, and we're not sure we like the political undertones. We think about "Al", "Snowball", or "Whitey", but they're just plain dorky. Albi decides not to wake up for 20 minutes, but when he does, it is well worth the wait. He puts on a complete show for us. So much to the extent that we are worn out, and call it a day.

We get up at the sick hour of 7am, in order to take the metro to catch the busabout bus at the pick-up point. The metro says it opens at 6am, but there is a sick conspiracy concocted by taxi drivers, that whenever someone attempts to leave Barcelona, the metro gates magically close. I seem to have forgotten this conspiracy, as the exact same thing happened when Lace and I were in Spain last time, and we had to take a taxi to catch our early morning train. We do the same thing again, and are only 2 euros (the cost of a metro ticket) poorer for our trouble.

After everything I've been through independently traveling, it is an immense relief to be sitting on an air-conditioned coach bus, watching a movie, stopping at a variety of charming villages to eat lunch or use the bathroom, having a hot guide give talks, and (the best part) inquire if we need him to arrange accomodation for us in the city we are arriving in.

We stop in a town named Peniscola. Giggle.

We arrive in Madrid, where we are spending one night before rolling out the next day to Granada. We party, and I have a blurred memory of free shots of apple-tasting liquors, Shakira singing in her native language (thank god), and me, waking up in the bathtub.

Amanda, aka "Captain Control", wakes Steph and I up, because she wants to get a jump start on the Alhambra palace. Wincing at the bright light and flinching because of the pain in my armpit, I get myself together. My boil has drained, but what remains in it´s place is a disturbing, slimy growth. Perhaps I was abducted last night and had a love child with an alien; in my armpit. I keep my eye on this strange and disturbing growth all day, but it's not going anywhere. I shall have to accept it as part of my life, and name it Albert.
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