Category Archives: Running Commentary

Art and Ants

Post a 6 second video on youtube and nobody cares. “Why is it so short? They could have done so much more.” Post a 6 second video on Vine: “Wow. Look what they did with only 6 seconds!”
It’s funny how something like Vine can take off so rapidly. Youtube and video sharing has been around for quite some time. Have our attention spans gotten shorter, or are we just more efficient about filling our down time with entertaining snippets and having the ability to share them with anyone around the world with the touch of a screen?
…or is there an artist in everyone?
I’ve come to notice, through personal experience, as well as impersonal experience, that if you place a creative person in a big open room and tell them “you can do whatever you want as long as you reach the wall,” they won’t know what to do. They’ll start with an idea and walk one direction, like that band, and then maybe get another idea of equal merit and head off in another direction because “it might be worth exploring.” that phrase is the sappy goop that bogs you down.
From an artistic/creative point of view, literally everything is worth exploring, which gives you no better reason to go one way over the other. But the artist doesn’t know that, so they run around in circles going from one place to the next, running toward the wall, but never reaching it because they obtain this strange sense of empathy with the wall, that by touching one part of the wall they are also not touching every other point on the wall, and thus the artist is not living up to their potential.
The metaphor isn’t perfect, but it’s like an ant wandering around in search of food. It doesn’t know where it is, so it could be anywhere, so the ant goes anywhere. It cannot go everywhere — that is impossible — but the point is not to go everywhere. The point is to go somewhere. This is where Vine comes back into the equation.
What every artist needs, and may not be willing to admit, are restrictions. Restrictions are what force you to move with undoubting purpose. Restrictions are what force you to think creatively. The most common restriction we have are deadlines, and then of course you can go from there. Some people complain about them “…Ugh, and the whole thing has to fit on a 6×6 inch space! Can you believe that?” Yes. Yes, I certainly can. I enjoy these little restrictions because they provide a challenge, but even better yet, they provide a direction and get your mind to tick a way it wasn’t ticking before. Whether you like it or not, that’s called being creative. So as is the case with this whole sicks second video Vine thing, people might not know how to express their thoughts in video form about something ‘trivial’ that may be very funny or insightful, but doesn’t warrant ‘a whole video just for that.’ But then a 6 second restriction comes along, and here you are thinking about how can you condense your rambling, yet insightful, thoughts on breakfast cereal into a succinct and witty snippet. And best of all is when people normally wouldn’t do something creative, now feel as though they have an outlet for it that didn’t exist before, so they start making videos. It’s not that videos didn’t exist, but rather that that way of thinking about videos hadn’t existed to them yet.

“Get from A to B.”
“Okay, I’ll just walk.”
“Between A and B is all water.”
“I’ll take a bote.”
“You need to get there in 3 seconds.”
“I’ll take a jet powered hydrofoil.”
“Now that’s something I want to see.”

I don’t really know where I’m going with this, as I don’t know why I started writing it, but for some reason I want to end on the image of the wandering ant, and then you put a piece of food in that room and the ant heads straight for it. It’s a closed room with walls, solid construction, and locked doors, so you have no idea how a thousand other ants came out of nowhere and started helping this ant carry the food. It’s not that you gave the solitary wandering ant some food, you gave it a goal. Before, the ant traveled an aimless path leading nowhere, but now you can clearly see a stream of ants winding across the room, like a vine, showing you where it’s come from, where it’s been, and where’s it’s going next.

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January 30th

Wednesday, January 30th: We had a few hours to kill in the morning before getting shipped to the airport, so we walked into downtown for a bit of shopping and sightseeing shenanigans and shin-diggery.

The winds were calmer today –still biting—but I didn’t need to wear a scarf. There were only a few whitecaps, but I think the wind was generally confused – well, either it or me… and I’m never confused. Within about 50 paces down one stretch of sidewalk the wind blew from the left, then the front and blow my hood off, then the right, and then from the back and blew my hood back on and proceeded to push me along the sidewalk. It was indeed confusing. None of the locals wear hats or hoods. I think they’re tired of being confused.

We went in the Harpa, which is an awesome concert hall/foyer/and-some-study-rooms sort of place. The architecture in there is very creative in terms of depthiness and perspective, and the ceiling is mirrors. I suggest you quickly google image search “Harpa.” We walked around town blah blah.

Mumsy wanted to find a Christmas ornament. We searched all trip to find one, and when she finally did, we literally walked out of the shop and saw “The Christmas Shop” two doors down. Irony and such. It was worth a laugh.

We got fish and chips at a place that turned out to be all organic. We had “tusk” and “wolf fish.” They were fish (insert fish pun). I tried their homemade soda concoction of ginger, lemon, agave nectar, and some herb. It was very tart. Organic = no sugar.

It was very windy on the walk back that we were actually blown around a bit by it. Mumsy joked that there should be a net on the edge of town that catches all the people as they get blown off the sidewalks.

I’m tired so I’ll wrap this up here. (I can only imagine how you feel after slugging your eyes through this verbal swam of thickly sticky mud.)

We got in a shuttle that took us to another shuttle that took us to a plane that took us to Seattle where I parted ways with mumsy and headed back to lalaland to be thrown back into the real world, and the rest, as They say, is history in the making. However cheezy it may sound, whenever I feel lost without my possessions, couldn’t see what I was hoping to see, or if the wind simply gets too strong and knocks me over, I can always look back onto trips like this and let the net catch me, knowing everything works out.

…which is a horrible moral for a story, but whatever.

It happend.

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January 29th

Tuesday, January 29th: The day started by sleeping in, eating the familiar breakface, and grabbing a Subway sandwich, of all things, as a packed lunch for later; a small step down from last night’s dinner.

We met our guide for today’s tour, a bearded elf in his 30’s with a kind demeanor and a thirst for adventure. Well, I don’t know how thirsty he was, but we were going on adventure time regardless. We got into a van that has windows and seats 16 people (16 mann). For a second it looked like we were getting into the windowless can for a tour “without the hassle of having to turn your neck!” I imagined we would drive up to something and he’d say, “Oh wow, it’s beautiful,” and we’d all squirm with excitement and hand him our cameras, then look at the pictures and go “ooh, ahh.”

I don’t know… seemed post-modern enough to be true. I also thought that there ought to be a Dutch family out there somewhere in Dutchland that runs a minimal effort vanpool service, named the “VanTour” family (pronounced VonToor). So it’d be “The VanTour Service,” and you’d get in the windowless van expecting a tour and be disappointed by the end of the ride, and Mr. VanTour would turn to you and say, “What’d you expect?”

To quote our guide: “Anyhoo…” I learned many things on the two hour ride to Eyjafjallajökull (including how to spell and pronounce “Eyjafjallajökull”), all of which I will dryly recite in a blithering stream of bullet points throughout the following obtrusively droll paragraph. If you wishn’t to dry out, I would strongly suggest skipping this paragraph.

-Iceland has 320,000 pleople
-1871, guy builds first farm where downtown Reykjavik is now. Called the farm “Reykjavik,” which means “smokey bay.”
-We passed large holes in the middle of a lava field called ‘fake craters,’ created when a lava flow meets water, and explodes.
-Tap water is filtered naturally through lava in the ground. They don’t do anything to it except drink it. The tap is the same as the premium bottled water.
-It takes about 3000 years until trees grow after a lava flow. Iceland’s very green because moss is sometimes the only thing that’ll grow.
-11% of the country is lava field, like plain flat barren lava field, but everything is made from lava. The island is a volcano.
-Over half the country believes in elves. Like, actual elves. For real. It’s a bit silly, but it’s a part of their culture.
-We had to pull over to check our head lights. Sometimes it gets so windy your headlights will blow off.
-More often than not, when there is an eruption it happens in fissure line. All the mountains are made from fissures lines.
-Iceland is where the North American plate meets the Eurasian plates. They drift apart at 2 cm a day.
-There are small earthquakes every day, but since it’s a constant steady diversion, they’re rarely big and harmful.
-In the year 1000 the Elves were all pagans and the Danish royalty were trying to convert them to Christianity, but they wouldn’t budge. There was a big eruption and lava flow and all the Elves converted to Christianity overnight and were baptized.
-They use steam from hot springs to heat water; nothing else.
-After everyone converted, all the chieftains (farm owners/rich guys) built small churches on their farms and served double-duty as priests. That’s why there are so many churches in Iceland, and they only seat about 20-30 elves.
-Vatnajökull is the biggest glacier in Europe.
-The main requirement to be a glacier is that it must move.
-Eyjafjallajökull means glacier (jökull) on top of the mountain (fjalla) of the islands (eyja). The reference to the islands are the Vestmanneyjar (Westman Islands)
-The names always mean something; quite literally. The town of Hveragerði means hot spring (hvera) field (gerði)
-The town of Hveragerði dropped 10 cm in a 2008 earthquake. Many hot springs disappeared, and some new ones formed; one in a women’s backyard, so now they have a pool.
-Selfoss is the ‘water-most’ river in Iceland. Water is slightly green, which means there is glacier water present.
-Hekla is the most active volcano and holds the record for most ash produced over its life. It means “gateway to hell.”
-Elves don’t have the letter “W,” and instead say /v/ like /w/, which makes Vikings sound like ‘wikings.’
-two “L’s” together makes a hissing /k/ sound.
-“Foss” means “waterfall,” and the river Selfoss is named that because seals (sel) would swim up to its waterfall and sit there.
-The sagas are their written history. Often the truth is stretched, but they’re more or less accurate, kind of like a toned down version of the epic poetry of the greeks; history sprinkled with mythology.
-Ingolf was the guy who made the first farm in Reykjavik, and he left the location to destiny, picked by the gods. He had pillars with the gods carved in them and threw them into the ocean saying where they land, he will build a farm. His buddies searched the coast for over two years and found them washed up in Reykjavik.
-The town of Hvolsvöllur is where people are brought in an evacuation, but most eruptions are “tourist-friendly,” meaning people run towards the volcanos when they go boom, and not the opposite direction.
-The guide pronounces /sh/ like /s/, and most “a’s” like “u’s”, which puts the words “ash” and “factory” a bit out of context.
-Driving in ash is like driving on wet snow… you know, in case that ever happens to you and you’re worried about driving conditions and not the fact that mother nature is vomiting on you.
-The defense mechanism, if you get too close to the white birds that fly around the waterfalls, is to vomit on you. It would work on me. That’s just gross—and unprofessional no less.
-Skögalfoss (pronounced ‘sköwafoss’) means “waterfall in the forest,” but now the forest is gone due to lava flows… so now it just seems ironic and cruel.
-Sölheimajökull is the glacier we climbed, and is retreating 60m a year due to warmer climate, however it has scooped a ‘U’ shape in the valley; a telltale footprint of a glacier.

That was boring! Yet edjucational! …wow, I just spelled education with a ‘j,’ like ed-yew-kay-shun-ull… I’ve been staring at elvish words too long.

Driving around Eyjafjallajökull is quite a spectacle. The landscape is very flat, and then there’s this huge plateau with a glacier on top of it. The hillsides of this mountain are sheer cliffs, and around every turn there’s a new waterfall to look at. White birds speckle the green cliffs and dance around the waterfalls, and it’s just keeps on going, like some never-ending national geographic magazine.

So… now we’re on the glacier Sölheimajökull. I know this is getting long, so I’ll try to be quick, and probably fail miserably, but nonetheless I’ll try. We put on crampons (‘crumpons’) on our boots and got handed ice picks. The glacier was pretty amazing. It’s not ice because it’s cold, but rather because it has been compressed into ice… I worded that wrong, and there’s no backspace on this pen, but basically that’s why the bottom is liquid and allows the glacier to move. There are layers in the glacier. White is summer ice, and blue is winter ice. It’s whiter in summer because more air bubbles get trapped int the ice, which is crystal clear. I posed for a photo under an ice cave and the guide told me “next time you’re standing under 5 tonnes of ice: be quick.”

Walking on the ice was fun. Without crumpons, which are basically spikes the glacier would be one giant ash-bruising slip’n’slide, but with crumpons you can walk anywhere super easily. You have to walk flat footed, not rocking the usual “heel-toe,’ and have to kind of stab the ground as you step. The one thing to be careful of is to not fall down any crevasses or “swallower.” What swallowers are is when it rains and a stream flows down the glacier, it swirls like a drain and carves a funnel shaped hole all the way to the bottom of the glacier, sometimes up to 60 meters deep. It’s called a swallower because once you slip, you get swallowed in and don’t come out. Since the glacier churns and moves, they’ve found cameras and ice picks imbedded in the walls years later. What I found cool, is that looking at the walls you can tell where summer and winter were, and where certain eruptions marked the glacier, like rings on a tree. There was a thin black line through the wall which was a layer of ass from the 1918 eruption. Where the line met the surface we were able to collect some ass (don’t tell anyone). I felt like a spy and a geologist in that moment… a spyologist.

*clears throat* excuse me. I seem to’ve had a pun stuck in my throat.

So we watched the sun set frm atop the glacier, and got down. It was windy. We saw a waterfall at night. I for the name of it, but it was pronounced “SELL-you-Lance-foss.” It was pretty cool.

For dinner we stopped at a small restaurant in someone’s farm and ate lamb soup. It was good. We then drove back towards Reykjavik in hopes of finding the northern lights, which was basically the whole reason for the trip. The forecast for the northern lights said there would be a north-facing gap in the sky, but on a scale from 0-9, where 0 is just stars, and 9 is the sky is on fire, the activity was 0, so we just looked at the stars. Our guide kept us entertained/destracted by telling us stories, including one folk tale of how a girl, Ketla, had magic pants that would allow her to run without getting tired, and she ended up running off into the forest by a volcano because she was a rebellious teen or something, and disappeared because of some sort of moral in the story. But she didn’t die; she turned into a troll. So whenever she gets mad the volcano, now named after her, erupts. You could say the volcano is temperamental ‘period’ically.

That was tasteless. Moving on: So… No northern lights, but mumsy did point out a dull white spot throbbing gently on the horizon. You’d have to be crazy to see it. What I mean is it was so dim you’d think it was nothing, and you probably wouldn’t bother saying “I see them,” because no one would believe you. But she pointed it out and I stared in that direction. Through a diffusing layer of cloud cover I could make out the irregular white light. I’d like to think that it was the northern lights. I may not have seen their complete brilliance, but that’s just all the more reason to come back.

(next day)

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January 28th

Monday, January 28th: Our bags came. Yay! Now Curtis finally gets to wear shoes!

I suppose before going any farther I should make a few observations, or rather, state some trivia. 129 ISK (Icelandic Krona) is worth 1 USD, so 1000 ISK is just under $8, and 1.300 is about $10 (decimals are commas and commas are decimals, which I guess wouldn’t make them decimals, but kilomals or something. And I supposed commas would just be comicals. *slapping the knee*) Names beginning with the letter “C” are not recognized by the Elvish government, and are technically ‘illegal names’ because the letter “C” isn’t in the Elvish alphabet. If I was an Elf I would have to change my name to Kurtis. It kind of makes sense. The letter “c” kan always be replaste by an /s/, a /k/, or another gnu letter that makes the /ch/ sound… which phonetikally is really just the /sh/ sound with a quik /t/ in front of it. “Tshoo-tshoo goes the tshrain.”

The Elvish phonebook lists people by their first names. The sun rises in the SE, gets up to about two hands, and sets in the SW. And that’s plenty for now.

We broke fast with granola that you could put yoghurt, strawberry goop, apple goop, or figgy goop on, bread, cheese, hard boiled eggs, and ham; all cold. Knowing me, I made an Egg McGhetto and put the ham, egg, and cheese on the bread and consumed it suchly. The winds whipped white caps up from the bay, but the sun rose and calmed the weather a bit and we ventured by foot into Reykjavik.

The language is strange, and if you weren’t paying attention, sounds a lot like Dutch with some Russian sprinkled in. I thought about learning some, but gave up quickly after seeing the words “viðbjóðslegur” and “sérstærðarfarangur.” We walked towards Hallgrímskirkja, which is the big landmark in Reykjavik. It’s a church named after some guy named Hallgríms or something. I’ve seen quite a few cathedrals and churches now, and the one thing that set this apart, besides its modern appearance on the outside, was how plain it was on the inside. It was tall and vast and grand as could be, but they weren’t trying to show off, which was refreshing. The outside of the church paid tribute to the landscape by mimicking lava columns, where lava cools in hex/pentagon pillars (Devil’s Tower in Wyoming has the same columns), and the inside, at least in my opinion, paid tribute to the personality of the elves; open, welcoming, and down to earth.

Outside we tried to take a statue of the picture of Leif Eriksson, but a film crew whistled and yelled and told us to get out of the way. Spoiler alert: if you watch Top Gear, they’ll have an episode involving Iceland and three huge old all-terrain trucks.

We headed down good ol’ Skólavör¬ðustígur street down to a popular flea market, but apparently it’s only open on weekends. The wind was making my face cold so I got a souvenir scarf to wrap my head area in. We sought out the ‘famous hotdog stand,’ which was just a plain hotdog with some unknown Elvish sauce on it. Their claim to fame is that Bill Clinton ate a hotdog there once. It was good, but quite honestly Costco hotdogs are way better. The shops had really cool fur things though. If I had money to just burn and throw away, I’d use that money to buy furry Elf slippers. But after all – ‘what do I know about wearing the fur fox?’

We hopped a bus over to the other side of town (2 miles away—honestly, Bellevue’s bigger than Reykjavik) and walked on the icy paths to the local zoo. The sign said “HÚSDÝRAGARÐUR-FJÖLSKLDUGARÐUR.” Mumsy joked and said it translates to “zoo.” I laughed. However silly, she might be right. All the words and names for stuff are hellishly long around here. She said it’s an island, like Hawaii, where they have long names that sound cool because they have lots of time to talk. And they’re on ‘island time,’ like the sun, and get up late and go to bed early.

I suppose Iceland and Hawaii do have a bit in common. Both are islands formed by “hotspots” in the earth’s crust, where the earth essentially leaks lava from one spot, and new islands start popping up as the tectonic plates move. That’s why Hawaii is a trail of islands, and that’s why a new island formed off the coast of Iceland in 2010 or whenever that happened. I don’t know how Hawaii was discovered, but Iceland was discovered twice by two separate Vikings who accidentally drifted into it. the third guy went there on purpose and called it “snowland,” but left. The fourth guy went there to settle, and called it “Iceland” because he saw ice floating near the land… true story. Vikings weren’t known throughout history for being creative; they just went around claiming things.

We walked back to our room via good ol’ Kringlumýrarbraut street and took a brief nap before trying some exquisite Elvish cuisine. Cab fair is a bit pricey because gas is 2,58 ISK/liter, and if you’re keeping track at home, that’s roughly $7.68/gallon. The restaurant was called “3 Fakkar,” which I thought meant “3 friars” because the print ad had 3 friars on it, but when we walked in the menus had pictures of 3 guys in trench coats and seemed to use the character Rick from Casablanca as their mascot; so I didn’t know what to think. On the walls they had trophies of just about everything on the menu except for whale. That would be ridiculous. Some of the options of animals to eat were cod, halibutt (<–heehee. I said butt), salmon, shark, “wild seabirds,” puffin, whale, reindeer, lamb, and horse. So basically just about everything at the zoo was on the menu–Oh! I forgot to mention the zoo:

We saw animals. There were some pretty chill seals and two almost identical foxes; except one was snowy white and the other black like cooled lava. At first we only saw snow fox with its cute round fluffy face, but it quickly hid. We were turning away until I saw lava fox trotting towards us out the corner of my eye. It looked really curious and social, like it wanted to talk to us, probably because its camouflage is so good no one hardly ever notices it; everyone is drawn to snow fox instead. I wonder how many times people chase after snow fox because it’s beauty is easier to see, and don’t even notice the equally magnificent lava fox standing right in front of them? But enough about my personal life—back to dinner!

Mumsy chose the whale steak with pepper sauce, and I the wild sea birds with game sauce. They were delicious. We even had puffin as an appetizer. The meat is maroon colored. With mumsy’s wealth of knowledge she said it must be rich in iron. We figured the elves eat all these strange animals because what else are you going to eat on the island? There ain’t many choices. Even their potatoes are only bite-sized.

For dessert was Skyr brule, like crème brule with yoghurt, and a little fruit called a cape gooseberry, which ornamented a dollop of whooping cream. The berry was most intriguing having the size and bite of a grape, the leaves of a turnip sprouting from its top (possibly grown underground), the texture and color of a tomato, and the taste of the ripest kiwi with a bit of citrus. A very confused and contradictory berry… maybe it was adopted.

Back at the hotel we saw a post notifying today’s tour group that the northern lights tour was cancelled due to weather. We originally were going to go on our tour today, but changed to tomorrow because we didn’t know if we’d have shoes and coats.
On a quick side note, why is “þ” a letter? Let’s there’s the word “þear.” I want to read either “bear” or “pear,” but in Elvish it would be pronounced “thair.” This language is devilishly confusing.

(next day)

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Jan 27th

Sunday, January 27th: good news: didn’t end up in Scottland. Landed in Reykjavik as planned, but still without our bags (not as planned). So what that means, is since I like to relax and pack light on the plane ride by wearing slippers and light clothing, my shoes/boots and jacket are still in Seattle. Mumsy was smart and wore shoes and brought her jacket on the plane.

We de-plained and I popped my contacts in and we verified with the elves chich bus to take. We had to wait an hour and got to watch the sunrise before our bus pulled in across the parking lot. There’s something different about the sunrise here… it’s blue. Not orange, not pink, not yellow, not tinted the wondrous hues of pollution, just… blue. There’s something very simple about such a pure sunrise that I can’t help but feel clean and refreshed to some degree, regardless of how I’ve only slept 5 hours of the last 48.

We waddled out into the parking lot. There was some ice on the land. The temperature isn’t too bad, just low 30’s, but the wind is rather biting. I stepped around the puddles with my slippers and knocked on the door of the bus going to the blue lagoon. The driver was sitting where the passengers do with his feet kicked up.

We were the only ones to enjoy the flat drive through an unusual windswept terrain of jagged volcanic rock blanketed with thick green moss, and sprinkled with snow for texture. I’ve heard there was a volcano somewhere and really wanted one of the small hills to blow up and start oozing lava. However we drove by a Subway and a Taco Bell/KFC, which was surprising enough.

I’d say the Blue Lagoon is a mystical place if I was forced to describe it. Amidst this rocky wasteland of untraversable landscape sites a milky, neon blue pool, the same color as the sunrise, steaming with mineral enriched geothermally heated goodness. In other words, it’s nature’s hot tub. Naturally the temperature of the hot springs is actually unbearable, so they have to mix cool water in it to make it livable.

You walk out into the freezing weather with only your bathing suit and slide into the springs. The lifeguard is wearing ski pants, a ski jacket, and a face mask, walking around to stay warm. As long as you don’t pull any wet body parts out of the water, you’ll never get cold and could stay in there all day. I think we were in for about 2 hours. I got really wrinkly, like, puppy shar pei status.

Walking around in the pool every now and then you’ll stub your toe on something, but in one spot I was walking on what felt like slimey pillows squishing between my toes. The springs create a naturally occurring silica mud, which is white in color, and which you’re supposed to put on your face to exfoliate. I don’t even know what ‘exfoliate’ means, but I felt exfoliated. It was the most relaxing experience I’ve had, maybe ever. Our bags had been lost and we couldn’t do anything else, so all we could do is relax. I came out of the springs and slept for an hour on an indoor pool chair facing the sun. Nevermind that earlier statement: sleeping in that chair after being in a warm exfoliate natural hot spring was the most relaxed I’ve ever been. My body had taken the opportunity to remind me what clock I was still following, and I never really snapped out of that sleepy Blagoon-induced relaxation for the rest of the day.

We were driven to our hotel, took a nap, ate some food, and crashed. I don’t usually recommend things out of the blue, but the blue sunrise, the blue water, the blue lagoon; well, it blue my mind.

(next day)

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Iceland ’13; Jan 26th

Disclaimer: I have no idea if this is any good. I just typed it down and didn’t bother to read it. Don’t ask me how that works. It’s probably littered with typos and nonsense, but really—what’ snew?

Also, before I begin, I would like to pay respects to the two brave pens that gave their lives for this nonfictionalized account. They bled for this story, and it only seems fair to honor them with a brief moment of silence:

Thank you,
And now, if we could; a moment of screaming in gut wrenching guilt and agonizing mourning:
Much appreciated. They will be mist.
Now, lettuce begin…

Saturday, Jan 26th: The day started with the pissing down of rain at about 1.5” per day, and in O.C., that’s a debilitating amount. At the terminal the lady said my bags needed to fit easily into the little sizer box thing, and I thought “does it really matter if it fits easily? What if I have to kick it in, but it still fits?” There’s no point for style.

There was a lady and her dog sitting next to me. I was wasting time on the internet and thought she was talking to her whining dog about flight information, but she was actually on the phone; however she then hung up and continued to talk to her dog about people stuff. She told a random person “She wants to say hi to you,” and the person got out of their seat and went over to kneel down and kiss the dog’s ring, or whatever the hell miss dog lady was expecting them to do.

“He probably smells my dog.” How many times have I heard that? Or maybe he smells your fragrant pants area.
“Oh, it’s a she? Sorry, I didn’t know.” Ugh. It doesn’t matter what gender it is if it is going to keep whining and barking on the plane. However, miss dog said the furry thing curls up in a bag and sleeps stowed under the seat in front. Fair enough.

The PA system called “all passengers to board a flight to Phoenix, but I didn’t want to go to Phoenix, so I got on the plane to Seattle when they told “all passengers” to board that flight. I’m pretty good at remember faces, and I saw a flight attendant that I recognize from two previous Alaska Airlines flights. I didn’t look at her nametag because that’d just be weird. The strangest way I can put this is that she has really big eye-wells, like her eyes are sunken into her face by the gradual tug of gravity due to the weight of her brain. Another flight attendant zoomed down the aisle without pause and told me to turn off my book. Suffice to say I was confused, and closed my book anyways. It’s never given me confidence when they make us turn off our ipods and headphones on takeoff and landing, like listening to the latest hit by Taylor Swift will somehow send the plane into a tailspin. There are no babies near me. I am a happy man. I put on my noise cancelling head thingies and tried to nod off. It’s strange getting used to noise cancelling headphones because the way it works is it essentially blares silence into your ears, so there’s still pressure from sound waves in your ears even though there’s no sound, like the feeling that my ears are constantly going to pop… or maybe I’m on a plane.

I landed in Seattle. It was weird because I didn’t even step out of the airport. I didn’t even check the weather; it was grey (is it “grey,” or “gray?”). I rendezvoused rather seamlessly with mumsy and we checked the heavy stuff and walked through the non-existent security lines. For a moment I didn’t know what to do because there was no line to file into. I just kind of stood there expecting to wait. When we got to the terminal I had to clarify to the jovial “Runway Grill” guy that I wanted 2 cheeseburgers, not just one. Mumsy thought he was Jamaican, but he was just from the city. Maybe he wishes he was from Jamaica. Runway Grill sounds like they cook burgers on the tarmac, which fortunately they tasted like they weren’t. Initially I read “Runaway Grill,” which launched me towards a series of alternate themes for the restaurant.

While eating, Mumsy and I wondered what you are supposed to call Icelandic people. Is it “Icelanders,” or is it something random and cool, like how Netherlands people are Dutch, Belgians speak Flemish, and New Zealanders are Kiwis. A bit of googling revealed it’s just “Icelanders.” How disappointing. In the Iceland travel ads there’s a package where you can go on a six day excursion to go “knitting with the elves” –no joke– so I’m just gonna call them ‘elves’ to stay entertained. There’s a lot of folklore in them thar elfish hills, eventually leading our discussion to another important issue: what’s the difference between elves and gnomes? I’ve only known gnomes (knowmes?) as garden-dwelling dunces and have no knowledge of their folklore or mischeivery, but apparently google labels a gnome as a diminutive ground dwelling guardian of Earth’s precious treasures or something like that – developed in Renaissance times. I didn’t look up elves, but I’ve seen the Keebler commercials from the 90’s, so I’m pretty well verse.

Once on the plane and seated, the head of ground control got on the PA and joked that none of our bags were on the flight with us… except she wasn’t joking. She explained that weather was looking bad in Iceland and we had to carry more fuel in case we’d be forced to land in Glasgow instead. “In order to carry the extra weight, some luggage and passengers had to be eliminated.” Her exact words. I thought I was flying ‘Mafia Air’ for a second. She continued to inform us through the ambiance of sighs, yelps, and a few “F-you’s,” that our bags have been put on the next flight, and to make sure we fill out a lost baggage form when we land. I don’t know why they would hold Us accountable for bags we didn’t lose, but they are. The alternative solution was to stop in Canada for a refuel, but then people would miss their connections… I guess we night be going to Scottland.

(next day)

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Tuesday, 7th

We had to go through security again because I don’t know why. It takes an hour to get through, and so they started boarding at 8:55 even though the flight is scheduled for 10:30. Some girl was leaning against the glass wall to outside, but it was actually a door, and she tripped the alarm. I was loud, but nothing happened, someone just came and turned it off. You can trip a freaking alarm in an airport and everyone’s cool, but god forbid if you have some change in your pocket we’re going to search you.

I’m in the middle seat again, and oh look, threes seats to my left: baby. This one was of the screaming variety. It thinks everything belongs to it “Mine! Mine, mine, MINE!” Babies are selfish. Probably the worst part of the flight though, is that 2.5 hours into it we were still on the ground. There was a discrepancy with how much fuel was added to the plane and how much it said was added, so they wanted to make sure we wouldn’t crash somewhere over Greenland or something silly like that. The baby is screaming. I put my earphones in. For some reason only when I’m on a plane and listening to music with these particular headphones the treble comes out much more than usual and for some reason I can hear the back-up guitar/keyboard tracks that I’ve never heard before on the same songs I’ve listened to over a hundred times. It’s funny how you can know something so well for so long but still not know everything about it. I don’t know if that analogy could be any more transparent.

After two hours of checking the fuel levels manually, all they had to do was top it off for how much they burnt keeping the A/C and the advertisements on, and then we’d be on our way. They have TV screens to distract their customer and keep them in a bland and happy stasis, but they don’t turn them on ‘til after takeoff. Once we finally started rolling, the flight attendant said “We will show you a beef safety presentation…” she must have been hungry too after 2 hours on the ground. The baby is screaming. When food started coming out the vegetarians got served first without explanation. The flight attendants were really sassy during this flight, and seemed impatient. We were watching movies with headphones in because the baby was screaming, so I wasn’t paying attention to the aisle and didn’t hear him meekly whisper without repeating, “would you like something to drink?” I looked across the aisle and the other passengers had drinks, and the flight attendant guy was looking right at me and rolling his little cart away. I gave him a look like “what the hell, aren’t you serving drinks?” and he replied, “I asked you , but you guys were watching your shows, and I’m just they guy with the cart, so…” “Sorry, I didn’t see—I didn’t hear you.” “Well yeah. I mean, I asked, but you guys didn’t hear me.” “What?” “I asked but you didn’t hear me.” “Well, sorry, I didn’t even know you were there.” (I was waiting for him to offer, ‘would you like a drink now that we are all on the same page here?’ but he kept running in circles as if I just missed out on my one shot to get a precious refreshment and I did something wrong.) so I asked explicitly, “Could I get a coke and a water?” he seemed so pissed off, like he didn’t sign up for this or something. The next lady that came by for drinks a few hours later asked dad if he’d want anything to drink, and he was watching a movie, but by the time I tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention the lady already moved on. She didn’t even offer me a drink, or even look at me, even though I was staring straight at her. We got our drinks again, but it’s just kind of funny. I have to be on edge. The flight attendants are all acting like they’re in some big rush to get their work done so they can get off early, but I don’t know where they’d go. Even the trash collectors just crusied down the aisle from back to front, so by the time you see them they’re already passed you; you’d need ninja reflexes just to throw your drink away that you never got in the first place. The flight was actually quite nice despite being 12 hours. I’m just bored, so I’m picking nits. The baby is asleep. The weather in Seattle is 65 and over cast; perfect. The pilots always say whether the weather has good visibility or not, which really only matters if you’re flying a plane at the time, and none of the passengers ever are, so no one gives a care.

Apparently the last few days have been 80+, so I guess I’ve dragged the weather with me again. We chased the midday sun all the way home, having left at 1:30 and touched down at 2 at home sweet home. We just beat rush hour back to the house, and I sat and watched the Eagle’s play over the water, then passed out. And that, I suppose, is where the trip ends.



Monday, 6th

We had the whole day to kill because our flight leaves at 9pm with an 11 hour layover in Amsterdam. I guess we weren’t really paying attention to the whole am/pm thing when booking tickets. We had to check out and leave our bags in luggage starage at the hotel, but then headed out to a starbucks to start the day. It was just like our first day where we were on the internet at starbucks looking for stuff to do, except now we had energy. It’s nice how things come full circle. We didn’t have enough time for Stonehenge, which was a bummer, but we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is huge and ornate, and has one of the biggest domes I’ve ever seen, but it’s 15 lbs. to enter, so we saw what we could from the door and called it good. Walking around you see these red post boxes for the royal mail service. There’s two slots for mail that’s either “stamped” or “franked,” as in having either been stamped, or having received the services of a man named Frank.

There’s also a shoe place that measures your foot and makes awesome shoes that custom fit to your feet. We tracked it down and looked at it. It was shoes, and we left. We got gelato and chilled in Green Park on the grass. There’s a guy going around collecting payment of 1 pound an hour to use the lawn chairs, so screw that; grass is fine. We talked about how sports are a necessary part of civilization in that you need something to reach for, or at least something to distract us from wanting to kill each other. You need goals. Not everyone will have an impact of the world, and that’s a tough thought to deal with, so sports are a way to take our minds off life, and distress. That’s why people say “It’s just a game” when someone starts to take sports too seriously and gets really stressed out, because sports really don’t matter—the concept of sports matters—but the individual events themselves really don’t. We need sports and hobbies to give our minds time ti unwind, otherwise if all we did was work 24/7, we’d go crazy. Churchill always made time to play cards or relax at night to keep a sound mind; it was written into his schedule. The same thing applies to our civilization. We need sports so that we don’t go crazy as a whole. We need weekends, dinner and a movie, or any random activity that distracts us from work. Also, since we as people don’t want to be bored, and instead strive for perfection, we use sports as an avenue for discovery of the limits of the human body. We are running faster, swimming farther, jumping higher every year. We are breaking world records like it’s something that’s supposed to happen. We learn about how to eat right, exercise more efficiently, and put mind over matter. In sports anything is possible. A long jumper can jump 28 feet because he thinks he can jump 40. This applies to anything. We think we can live on Mars, so we put a man on the moon to test it out, and we gained so much progress as a civilization. So many modern things we use today are made because of competition and the desire to stretch the limits. A Nintendo 64 has enough brain power to run the Apollo 11 mission. Think about that… I’m getting a little side tracked, and this is turning into an editorial titled “Sports and Space,” and now my butt’s wet. I should’ve gotten a lawn chair.

Basically we lugged our luggage to the airport and got on a plane for a 45 minutes flight to Amsterdam, in the opposite direction of home. I just sat there for the whole flight because there wasn’t much time anyways. It was KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. When they switched back and forth from Dutch to English a few words sounded funny, and some phrasings/rules seemed a bit off. “Thank you for your corporation.” I forgot the others, but there was one rule in the safety video where if there is to be an evacuation you aren’t allowed to take any of your belongings with you… because of course amoungst all the chaos and frantic disorder, the flight attendants will stop what they’re doing and go out of their way to make sure you drop your bags. At the Amsterdam airport it was 11:00pm, and a ghost town. We thought we’d have no place to eat, so we thought about sleep. We’d heard there are “sleeping pods” so we looked for—oh, there they are. It was called “Yotel,” and they had little tiny rooms that resembled something you might find aboard the Star Trek Ship. The beds start upright, like a couch, and then slide out and flatten out. We’re in the Netherlands, so the beds are bigger, which is nice. The rooms had buttons on the side of the bed which would control the lights to different settings. If you pressed the sun it got light. If you pressed the computer it would get dim. If you pressed the book it gave you a reading light. If you pressed zzz it turned them all off. And if you pressed the heart a low fuchsia lighting would throb and sultry music would play. Well, that last part wasn’t true, but there was a soft trim of fuchsia lighting; however that doesn’t detract from it certainly being pictionary’s finest hour. Although there was some soft repetitive thumping from one room over. It’s one of those instances you’re not quite sure what you’re hearing, but you don’t know if anyone else hears it, so you don’t say anything, but then they’re hearing the same thing and don’t say anything because they don’t want to be the one that hears it first, and neither do you, so you both just ignore it even though you know perfectly what it is. They must have purchased the 4 hour stay option. Anyways, one of the walls was one giant mirror in order to make the 10×10 room seem bigger. I’ve seen this trick before, and it works every time; the only drawback with this one is that in front of the mirror wall is a large panel of glass, and between that is the sink, the toilet, and the shower; and there’s two of us. There haven’t been many awkward situation on this trip, just a few big ones, so let’s just skip through the night and get to tomorrow.

Next Day>>


Sunday, 5th

Finally, the singles final. The moment we’ve all been waiting for, but first I had to get my extra ticket to Chris, who was meeting me outside the ticket office at noon. We got going late and got to the arena at 12:45. I was trying to text but there’s no service in da chube, so I was kinda freakin’ out when I got there and he was nowhere in sight. AFterall I was 45 minutes late and he probably gave up. I waited there, and mistakenly had let my dad take the phone inside the venue with him. There’s a strict, “No one can re-enter the venue policy, so it kind of turned into a game at that point; If I go in Chris can’t see the matches, but if I stay out I don’t see them either. The match starts in 10 minutes and Chris could be either inside or outside. I figured I’d wait ‘til 12:15 and then go in if he wasn’t there; I just wouldn’t be able to give him the ticket. While I waited I thought about the weather because I opened and closed my umbrella 4 times in that span of time. I thought about the crazy lady this morning with a cockney accent and pajamas, yelling at the bobbies who were holding an assorted bag of medicine up to another sketchy character, “Idiots! oll—idiots! I foind it ‘ilarious!” I thought about how I got a raging sore throat overnight, and a runny nose, and wondered how I’m supposed to blow my nose when there’s no garbage cans anywhere. Why did people have to bomb the tube? I thought about how yesterday during the great sports exodus once on the tube a girl and her boyfriend got on after me, and there wan’t much room, so I had to grab the rail behind the guy’s head so we were face to face with his girlfriend uncomfortably squished between us. Probably the most awkward situation I’ve been in, especially because they were both facing me. It was either that or fall down when the train started moving. I thought about how I wanted some water and burger kind was the closest thing last night, and some guy asked me for the time. I didn’t have a phone, watch, anything. “what do you mean you don’t have the time?” “I don’t have it.” “You must have the fucking time.” “Well you don’t have it either, so… take it easy.” I think he thought I thought he was sketchy, so I wasn’t going to ‘give’ him anything, so he got all pissy. “I can’t believe you don’t have the—there. (he looks at the clock) ten ‘til twelve; geez.” I thought about how this city is one of the oldest in the world, ie: most experienced, but it still has its drawbacks. I thought about how I learned that the moats around castles were a big toilet, and that’s why they were so effective. The whole town would just drop trou and shit in the moat, and no one wants to swim through poop water no matter how badly they want your town. I thought of how I was ready to go home even though I’ve had a lot of fun. I thought of a lot of things to distract me from the fact that I was missing this singles match. I asked a man with a watch, “Do you have the time?” “quarter past.” I could see it was 12:18. I waited 2 minutes and went it. The score was 17-12 lee Chong Wei was up. There were a lot of Malaysian flags waving, and they weren’t just waving for Lee Chong Wei, they were waving for the world. Mike Evans, the man we met at USA House, said we should start cheering ABC! ABC! “Anyone But China!” It was a valid point. It’s always China against the world, and China’s winning 3-0 right now, but they’ll win the doubles easy, so this match is our only chance—“ours” as in “the word’s.” If you haven’t watched this match, a rematch of the Beijing finals, you need to watch it from start to finish. It’s probably one of the best men’s singles matches ever played. They were throwing their entire existence into every point, and when Lin Dan won the final point he ran off the court in pure excitement and joy toward where we were sitting, and fell down in tears of joy with his coaches close behind. You always see those guys win and stay so composed, like it’s just their job, but this was the happiest I’ve ever seen anyone after a sports match of any sort, and it was awesome; but as happy as Lin Dan was, was how devastated Lee Chong Wei was. All he could do was sit on the floor and do his best to hold himself together. He just sat there and breathed, staring blankly out at the last four years, at second place, at nothing. His coaches stood over him, not picking him up, not consoling him—what could they say? That was the image of defeat, and it was sad. Just before this my phone was ringing during match point. Chris was almost here. There was no one working at the ticket office to make leaving the ticket possible for pick-up, so I went towards the exit and found a lady who said she could hand him the ticket if he came ‘round the back, but if I stepped past the threshold of the door I couldn’t be let in, because somehow stepping foot outside makes me a dangerous man. She wasn’t kidding either. A man in front of me made that mistake and took a step outside, turned around, and wasn’t let back in. It’s a bit over the top, but whatever. I was able to make the transfer and we got back to out seats right as the medal ceremony started. Lee Chong Wei was crying as the Chinese flag was raised and the anthem played. Watching badminton, you get to know the Chinese anthem pretty well. There were tow American guys, older, about 60 or so, sitting to the right of us. The one guy apparently runs Koch Industries, which manufactures parts and equipment and instruments for chemical engineering stuff or something. Apparently this guy’s like a rock star in the chem E world, so dad just had to turn to me and whisper “This guy runs Coke Industries.” Unfortunately “Koch” sounds just like “Coke,” so I thought he ran CocaCola and wanted to make some crack about Pepse stepping on their coat tails. Thankfully I didn’t. Apparently if you donate $300,000 or more to the USOC they’ll give you a pass to all the events. He flew his own jet to London. The doubles wasn’t much. Cai and Fu dominated like they have been for the last 4 years. The crowd wasn’t even rooting for the Danes that hard. We left right after the last point. China got 5 gold medals in badminton. Ugh. It was expected, but still disappointing.

We saw the Churchill War Memorial after. Churchill was an interesting guy. All the helpers that were still alive describe in this one video that working for him was similar to working for Dr. House. Well, they didn’t make that comparison—I did—but that’s what they were describing. Churchill had his own gimmicks for sloughing off incompetency, and there was a whole museum devoted to showing how witty and smart and awesome he was. He ran the whole war from underground. There was a 6 foot thick reinforced steel/concrete slab above the whole thing, but they knew one bomb could take out the whole thing. It was more for peace of mind than anything. It’s remarkable, though. After the war there was no need for the bunker, so they just left, and then rooms were just left as they are. Churchill always had a cigar, but actually inhaled it infrequently. If someone brought up a bad idea Churchill would pretend to be deaf so the guy would have to repeat his dumb idea so the whole room could hear and his confidence could vanish. He was running a war, but he and the rest of the Brits still had time for style. Suit, hat, cigar, and entitlement; he wore all these things proudly. Even the pigeons here are entitled. I woulda stepped on one earlier had I not stopped quickly. It was walking directly across my path, and usually these silly animals see you and turn tail, but something was fowl with this one, and it just kept on bobbing its little birdbrain head with its chin held high and kept on going. I wanted to punt the little pecker across the footway. I was happy when one tried to walk in front of me one day and then slipped and fell on its little pigeon ass. Heh heh… anyways—They watch House in the UK, so it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that they love Chruchill, or do I have it backwards? Either way, he’s a cool guy, and I’m just discovering this now because I don’t read books. Even amidst the daily bombings Churchill understood the importance of recreation. He always ended the night with a card game or a movie. I believe the queen at the time said “Keep calm and carry on,” which has become an internet meme now. It seems after the war Churchill spent a lot of his time coming up with good quotes. When you first walk into the museum it says on a wall, “We are all worms, but I believe I am a glow worm.”

We were tired of walking so me and Chris walked to a pub to watch the fastest man in the world. They’re really fast. Bolt won again, but the world got faster.

Next Day>>

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