11/7/19: an idiot abroad: i am sated (literally and figuratively)

I really like and will highly recommend this apartment I rented in Madrid. Their slogan is “Be Mate: More than Apartments” and I find the whole “Be Mate” thing very confusing. Maybe it means something else in Spanish? It’s debossed on the towels, though, so they’re committed to it. One other thing weird is that the forks are really long, like Slenderman-style long. Everything else is normal-sized so…long forks. Okay, Spain!

Speaking of sizes my friend Clint kindly pointed out that the horses in Seville were likely Andalusians, which would make sense what with me having been in Andalusia and all, and I looked it up and while the backstory is too long to go into here it turns out there is (or many not be!) a special subset of horses within this bigger group and you can prove your horse might be one of the extra-special ones if it has warts under its tail and yes indeed I DO regularly contribute money to Wikipedia are you kidding me?

Still speaking of sizes, I am the kind of jerk who goe…

11/4/19: an idiot abroad: i go hungry

Okay, so Seville: BIG fan. HUGE fan. It’s absolutely beautiful here, all palm trees and fountains and these lovely buildings and sprawling gardens. I went walking around the other night and got lost in some maze of streets lined with shops and cafes and every so often a street would open up onto some kind of plaza with yet another stupidly beautiful…something, everything looks like some kind of church-ish thing but I haven’t actually tried to learn much, I’ve just been absorbing it all.

There are a million horse-drawn carriages here though unlike the ones that go by my window at home these are all the same carriage, very dignified and handsome, and the horses all seem about 85% the size of a regular/American horse. They move at a brisk trot, unlike the ones I’m used to plodding along, and I am glad not to see any of the ridiculous frippery we have at home, horses wearing giant sprays of feathers like we’re welcoming the queen.

I’m making everyone nervous here because I don’t know the …

11/1/19: an idiot abroad: i break things

I KNEW I was not going to bounce out of bed at 5:45 and be out the door by 6:30, I mean, EVERYONE knew that, and I’ve known it for years, but even still I did zero packing or other preparation for departure the night before my not unreasonably early but still somewhat early (okay, fine, 9:25 am) flight. Therefore let me be clear that I had only myself to blame when I was “sprinting” through London-Gatwick Airport just a few short hours later and the fact that a) I made it to the gate at 9:06 and b) they were of course still boarding only serves to reinforce my conviction that all this “arrive early” bullshit is exactly that. I won’t say I enjoyed the early morning workout, but…I made the flight.

Side note: I no longer find a British accent charming. At one point during my airport mad dash, I got caught in a bottleneck and was trapped next to a man and his two children and he was exclaiming to them, over and over again, about how they’d gotten to the airport EARLY, can you believe that…

10/28/19: I finally find some g-d birds

Highgate cemetery has more than 170,000 people in 53,000 graves and they put that fact right on the front page of their website like that is something to be proud of and not a really horrifying fact like are you just piling people in on top of each other, willy-nilly? That works out to be just over 3 people/grave, if I am understanding this/doing the math correctly (unlikely/I think so). What in the HECK.

Sunday here in London was a gorgeous day—mid-60s, lots of sunshine, and the Brits really turned out for it. I walked through a bunch of parks (Holland, Kensington, Hyde, St. James) and they were filled with people and dogs and—my heart, finally, at last—birds.

The first bird I saw was the one near this old man (he (the old man) was fine, that’s just how he was laying down to soak up maximum sun).

Angling around the old man, I tip-toed closer and closer to the bird, hoping not to scare it away, and when finally I crept up close enough? I realized it was a FAKE.

I walked away fuming be…

10/26/19: an idiot abroad: paris to london

So I just had to take a video of myself trying—and failing—to use a shower, and I had to send that video to a stranger. Well, I say “stranger,” but I’ve become very close to the Support Team for this AirBnB and am starting to think of them almost as a friend. I call them “ST” in my messages now, and while I am extremely nervous that this shower situation might be user error, I feel like ST isn’t going to judge me too harshly, at least not to my face, because it is literally their job to deal with idiots like me. Dirty idiots, even. Still, I have blisters forming on my right hand from the amount of time and effort I have spent trying to pull a knob up higher than it wants to go, trying to confirm that I have pulled it up as high as it will go, and I really should just settle for taking baths for the next week as there is something about videoing yourself failing at operating a shower, and then sending that video to really anyone, that just isn’t good for the ego.
Prior to the video I…

10/24/19: an idiot abroad, paris part deux

I’m on a steady diet of two croissants a day. I eat one “out,” and bring the other home to eat it there, like the gluttonous American I am.
My apartment is an old person’s apartment, and I say that with great respect and appreciation. I love it here, the fussy little armchairs and the weird art and the wall of bookcases, a big gilt-framed mirror in the dining room. Brandon walked in, took one look around, sighed, and said “Of course.” I had some Diana Krall on the hi-fi and he got all exasperated, trying to explain that “hi-fi” just means “high fidelity,” so a “hi-fi” isn’t a thing, it’s an adjective, and I should just say stereo, but non, monsieur, c’est un hi-fi!
One reason I like to travel is that it makes things hard. It makes my brain have to work wayyyyy overtime and turns the simplest endeavors (e.g. finding the bathroom) into massive challenges (despite what I may have learned in school, it is not appropriate to ask the bartender for le salle de bain because that’s like sayi…

10/23/19: an idiot abroad: paris

About a hundred years, or at least 6–8 weeks ago, I found a stupidly stupidly good deal on flights to Europe and, with my usual amount of forethought (none), I booked a trip to Madrid. I mean, $275 round trip, on my beloved Delta — I have spent more than that on an evening’s drinks (sorry, mother) and since I’ve never been to Spain, jumping on this opportunity seemed like a great idea.

I won’t say I forgot about the trip, because I didn’t, but having spent easily three whole minutes booking the flight I was pretty much done with travel planning for a while. It wasn’t until my departure date drew very very nigh that I figured I should find a place to stay and so I dragged myself to the internet.
A slight digression: I mentioned my destination to a couple of people — friends, family — and almost every time I got a horrified lecture about the evils of the Spanish people. Spain is full of criminals, I was told; they are “nasty” people, unfriendly and prone to picking pockets. There were w…

10/9/19: larry

Larry might have been twelve years old and blind but that motherfucker could eviscerate a squeaky toy in minutes. He had two methods. The first was to find a seam and pull relentlessly at the threads until it gave. The other was to pick a place on the toy and just chew and chew and chew and chew until he broke through. Both required single-minded purpose and to watch him go about his squeaker-related business was both joyful and a little terrifying.

Why did I keep buying him squeaker toys when all he did was destroy them? Meh, I was dog-sitting him for a week, they were often on sale at the Rite Aid, and I think they made him happy.

All it took was a squeak or two and his head would fly up, fine little nose in the air, ears swiveling, at red alert. Because of the blind, I would bring the squeaker to him but as soon as he ran into it with his head, there would be nothing on the agenda but unrelenting devastation, Larry definitely the type of small, old, blind, dog who would rain hellfi…

9/19/19: on leading a ride

Ever since we started going to Bikes & Breakfast, a very popular and happy event, The Market’s been our new meet-up spot and I gotta say it’s a huge upgrade from our previous spot, which was a parking lot outside a Starbucks in Edgewater, NJ. No offense to Starbucks or to Edgewater, but this place is much more charming and friendly, insofar as it is actually charming and friendly. The Market used to be a filling station and it’s got a homey vibe, amazing food, and excellent coffee. The guy who owns The Market is a rider so it’s a biker-friendly joint, but it’s also located along 9W up in the Palisades so outside of the motorcycle crowd, the rest of the clientele appears to be either serious bicycle people or seriously rich people from the neighborhood (or, presumably, both).

The area in front of The Market is unofficially reserved for people running in to pick something up, bicycles, and motorcycles. The bicycle people fascinate me. They congregate to one side of the building, the…