Italy and the joy of other people’s weddings. Seriously, there is free food.

I can never live in Italy*. Which is a source of some regret for me, because I absolutely love Italy. I think it’s fascinating, and it both looks and feels ancient and beautiful. The weather is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but without the severe humidity or blasting freeze of New York. Even in early February Italy was crisp and refreshing, with occasional bursts of warm sunlight.

I was in a small town called Orvieto (about an hour and a half outside Rome) for the wedding of a friend of mine, which was the entire reason for being in Italy in the first place. This friend is Irish as is her now-husband, but they had been to Italy on holiday, loved it, and decided to get married there. I thought this was a perfectly brilliant idea for the following reasons:

If I have to fly thousands of miles to attend a wedding, I am delighted when that wedding is actually somewhere interesting rather than the charming Irish countryside. I go to lots of weddings in the charming Irish countryside not to mention having lived there for quite some years, and having maintained a fairly low level of enthusiasm for either fields or sheep and a distinct dislike of cows (things that big should not be able to walk up behind you so silently), I see no need to go there unless pressed.

The plusses of a foreign wedding are obvious. For a start the food is better, quite frankly taking Ireland generally as a whole it would be fairly difficult for it to be worse. It is almost inevitably cheaper than the Irish alternative, and perhaps the best reason of all, only the people who actually give a shit will bother to fly there. All the hassle of politically correct guest selection is reduced dramatically. Our friends make it, your distant family members who are only attending to cash in on a free dinner and some wine are immediately out of the running.

Orvieto was perfect. I did the things I do in Italy, namely eat pasta, buy the same pair of fingerless leather driving gloves I keep bloody well losing and never find for sale anywhere else,  drink excellent wine that costs very little, and overall just enjoy the feeling of being back in Europe. I enjoy the certainty that everything I just walked past is at least a hundred years old, that the hot chocolate I order in this coffee shop will be a molten cup of thick chocolatey goodness instead of flavoured milk, and that no matter how terrible I look some man will at some point try to talk to me (I look about as Italian as a baked potato, so I am clearly a tourist and therefore according to all men in Italy officially easy. I think they assume I am American and that some “in my country, we write poetry for eyes like yours” is going to actually work).

It felt good to be in Europe, I’ve missed it. The occasional visits to Ireland and England were always amazing, but not quite the same. I have really missed being able to fly to another country in a couple of hours (Canada doesn’t count). Now that I’m finally back 3 months feels like a blip on the radar and I can’t imagine how I will have time to do all the things I want to do. Then again I am not dying, presumably I will be back after the crazy adventure of this summer.

Though right now, I like the thought that I really do not know.

——————————

*there are two reasons for this. Firstly that I cannot imagine being able to find any sort of job there, I do not even speak enough Italian for the crappy kind. The other reason is that I would eat myself stupid on amazing pasta every day and soon be so fat I could not fit through doors or get up stairs without one of those chair lift things. Which I couldn’t use, because I wouldn’t fit into it.

Zurich

I’m going to do this in reverse order, mostly because I took enough notes in Australia to merit several posts and that will take more time to organize.

When I was in Sydney I was horrified by the price of everything. Then I went to Zurich and had my view of global economics readjusted with the mental equivalent of a large mallet. New rule for happiness: Never offer to buy anyone dinner in Switzerland unless you have already had the loan approved.

Switzerland is weird. To a certain extent everywhere that is not the place I grew up in and am entirely used to the particular customs of is weird, and yet I continue saying things like this. But Switzerland is unique in its eccentricities. It is renowned for neutrality, impartiality and its extraordinary independence. I was broadly aware that it is one of the few countries that could survive without importing food/fuel/pretty much anything really necessary for human survival. I was less aware how much effort the Swiss put into this. It’s a rich country, so I suppose it can afford to maintain crop growth and production at a loss solely for the purpose of ensuring a consistent internal supply should imports become unavailable.  Switzerland refuses to weaken itself for cheaper foodstuffs, and to be honest I find this kind of laudable. It is determinedly independent regardless of convenience, and I have to admire it. New rule for happiness: When the zombie apocalypse comes, be visiting Switzerland.

Public transport is incredibly efficient in Zurich. If the tram says it is coming at 17.23 then goddammit, that tram will surely arrive before the digital clock readout on every station reaches 17.24. The convenience offset to this amazing accuracy is that trams have right of way. Over cars, buses and most definitely humans. If you are hit by a tram in Switzerland it is your fault. You are liable for all damage to the tram and yourself as a result of the accident, and not only that but you are also liable for all associated costs. So for example the cost of re-routing other trams, clearing away your severed limbs, calling in the police to redirect traffic. It can run to literally millions, with the result that every Swiss resident is legally obliged to take out full personal liability insurance (EDIT: Lies! I misinterpreted a conversation. Personal liability insurance is not mandatory, merely very sensible and rather widespread). New rule for happiness: Do not get hit by a tram in Switzerland. Or anywhere, really. But especially Switzerland.

Zurich is clean, it is beautiful. It has mountains and a huge lake. It has sailboats on the lake that move at a rate of about .002 knots because it has no fucking wind. Which actually makes the city brisk and refreshing in February as opposed to vein-chillingly freezing. Taxes are low, wages are very high. The cost of living is also very high, but quality of life is frankly impressive. It is a city, in short, in which you could settle down, get married, and raise healthy Swiss children, who will at the age of 18 will be up for their mandatory military service to Switzerland’s standing army. Unfortunately I tend to find that when looking at cities, standard of living is inversely proportional to entertainment value. The streets of Zurich are spotless, the quality of food is excellent, but a drink in a club is US$20 and everything closes on Sundays.

Zurich is filled with attractive, fit-looking central Europeans and has some incredibly good cheese-based food, which I can only approve of. But it is essentially a bit too bloody boring. You get the vague feeling walking around that doing anything significantly weird on the street might land you in a nice brightly lit room where they kindly and patiently explain to you how vee do sings here. But thats probably just my basic paranoia kicking in. As an Irish person places with an infrastructure that actually functions make me suspect the Borg have infiltrated earth.

A book by any other name

Sometimes I run out of things that annoy me. It’s a weird feeling, when you’re me and you suddenly realise that for 6 months you’ve been writing about things you actually do rather than those that irritate the hell out of you. Suddenly you wonder if your purpose in life has evaporated like a damp annoyed mist in the radiant sunlight of a world filled with things that actually work.

Then you have the same conversation you have had 40 times already, the unjustifiably emphatic irritation resurfaces, and the world makes sense again.

I have a kindle. For anyone who does not know this because they have spent the last 2 years hiding under a rock with their eyes closed and their fingers in their ears humming a jaunty Broadway tune they have not yet seen the Glee version of, a kindle is an e-book reader. It uses a technology called e-ink that means the display screen looks identical to a paper page. It is not backlit, and looks nothing like a computer screen of any kind. Because as previously stated it looks like paper, goddammit.

I love books. But much more to the bloody point I love reading. People for some reason view kindles as soulless objects that simply do not have the touch and feel of real books. To me this is akin to eschewing mp3 players because vinyl had character. Yeah, it did. Records are lovely, books are beautiful. Technology is BETTER. Unequivocally, totally, definitely better.

Kindles are not perfect. I will grant you that a book does not run out of battery, even after a whole 3 weeks. On the other hand, a kindle involves cutting down no trees, is the size of a small notebook, and holds three thousand books. Ah but wait, it does have a major flaw. One glaring, massive issue that I shit you not every single person I have ever talked to about a kindle has said to me. Every. Single. One.

It doesn’t smell like paper.

Yes, this is what we want from technology. That it smell different. Because Alexandre Dumas clearly has less insight into the human psyche when his words are transferred via a medium without that crisp new-book odor. Are you people fucking serious? This machine is amazing. It is compact, pretty, doesn’t strain your eyes, and can be held in one hand while lying in bed about to drop off to sleep. And it holds 3 thousand books! Is that not wondrous and amazing? Is it not lovely when you finish a book in the middle of a long train journey and just flip to the next one in the series, or switch genres because you felt like some Isaac Asimov before bedtime.

The books are cheaper, you can lose the device itself but not the data if you bought it from Amazon. You can also manually put books on it without going via the official site. I guess I am just curious as to what the hell it is you want from the damn thing. I mean granted it is not actually a flying car, but I am pretty sure its one of those “yey! We live in the future!” things. No, it doesn’t do what an iPad does. Then again it also doesn’t have a monthly bill or a battery life of 10 hours,  or cost $600 dollars.

Perhaps I am just biased. I fly constantly, I read very fast, and I have an exasperating habit of moving to a new country every few years. The kindle is not perfect, for a start it doesn’t support graphic novels and about the 17th time I drop it from a height tends to start rattling scarily when shaken. But then I am reliably informed it is not ideal to drop expensive electronics on the floor. Despite its fairly minor shortcomings though it has been one of the best things I have ever purchased, and should I lose/break/donate to Will-It-Blend a dozen more of them I will probably still buy another one.

Someday, someone will whine that those new hyper efficient skull implants that interface directly from your brain to the internet just don’t have have the feel of freshly molded matte plastics.

I aten’t dead

As usual the presence of vast quantities of material to write about goes hand in hand with having no time to write any of it. I should probably provide some sort of update on what has been happening over the past few months. Hurray, it’s bullet point time!

(Hint: bullet points are a cool way of making it sound like you have done a pile of stuff when really it’s a little bit tragic that 6 months of your life can be summarized in the equivalent of a paragraph).

  • I made some really amazing friends in Philadelphia
  • I went to Burning Man, and had the best burn ever
  • I had an epiphany (complicated, but boils down to my life being a bit too fucking boring).
  • I navel-gazed for a while about the epiphany  (yeah, shocking)
  • I decided to quit my job
  • I went to Australia for work
  • I wavered about quitting my job
  • I quit my job (thank fucking christ)
  • I went to Thailand on holiday with the Polish girl, missing christmas at home for the first time ever
  • I had another epiphany (Also a tad convoluted but basically I realized I am too much of a jerk)
  • I went to Australia again, for work again
  • I met Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.  (I also regressed to about the age of 12 at this point, but let’s not dwell on that)
  • I went to Italy for zemphis’ wedding to a Dub
  • I went to Zurich to see diamond and eat cheese. Diamond was alright, cheese was phenomenal.
  • I moved to London (epiphany 1 side effect)
  • I accepted a contract job identical in every way to my previous job but with a defined end date. I decided this was not selling out (internal debate still rages on this one. But hey, if I’m wrong I will only be wrong until May 31st)

What am I doing after May 31st, one might ask if one gave a shit. The answer is “something really cool”. Seriously, that’s the only part I am entirely sure about. There is a definite plan A, but I can’t be sure it will work out – too many feckless hippies are involved. Which hasn’t stopped me telling everyone I meet about it, but telling everyone I meet what I am doing is just one of the many vexing personality flaws I shamelessly flaunt on a daily basis.  As is referring to people as feckless hippies even though I plan on willfully making myself unemployed in a few months. Oh yes, that’s the other part – whatever I do for the summer will not involve making any money whatsoever. Try not to faint on anything really uncomfortable in your deep and abiding shock.

Summary over – more details on Australia, Thailand, and possibly even the epiphanyX2 will be forthcoming very soon. I have been writing over the past few months, just not very frequently or particularly well. But fuck it, I don’t have to read it.

“The term ‘carbon footprint’ is redundant in relation to you. You’ve your own football pitch sized personal hole in the ozone layer”

This September when some friends and I found ourselves in the San Francisco Science museum (a building so ecologically sound the roof is made of grass) we decided to play with the carbon footprint measurement thingy in the main area. This was basically a large interactive scale, one end of which held your carbon footprint heavy activities and one end of which was for offsets and other measures like double glazing, energy saving lightbulbs etc. So if you used public transport instead of driving you moved a weight along the line towards the offset side, further along if you walked, etc.

I was the last person to take part in this game, and was leading a balanced and wholesome life up until the last question, which was “How many flights do you take a year?” This was a heavier weight than any of the others and extended farther out towards carbon footprinty evil the higher the number. When pushed all the way to the end my life landed on “planet-destroying bastard” with a loud clunk. To be fair I was expecting this. One of my friends rather industriously pushed the carbon offset weight the other direction until I became a reasonable human being again (all the way to the end, yes), and concluded from this that if I were to contribute $3,000 per annum to buying carbon offsets then I would mitigate the damage.

At this stage I felt compelled to point out that this would not work, as the original guage for how many flights a year only went from 1 to 10, thus probably taking into account less than a quarter of my flying activity even assuming they factored in length of flight and assumed an average of at least a thousand miles each.

Conclusion: I am single-handedly destroying the earth*. As I write this, I am sitting in Vancouver airport having flown here from New York via Toronto en route to Sydney, which appears to back up this theory. I spend small quantiities of my time reflecting on the fact that essentially the amount I fly is a $badthing and that I should probably try to be less insane. My job is certainly a good excuse, but even if I stopped doing this job I don’t know if I could stop travelling like this. Well, probably not 10-days-in-Sydney type travelling, it would be more spaced out due to lack of infinite funding. But I have too many friends spread in too many different places, not to mention all the countries I still haven’t seen.

So far it seems to fall on the list of things that can probably be best described by “I should perhaps stop doing this. But I don’t want to. Maybe I shall revisit this question again later in case I have changed my mind to maintain a more convenient stance”. It is now on ongoing if minor mission of mine to find a line of reasoning which either justifies my carbon emissions or gives me a reasonable metric by which to decide how much destruction I am willing to wreak.

This dilemma would be greatly reduced if everyone I like could just move to the same place and/or all interesting places could magically become easily accessible by eco-friendly means. Get on that, universe.

*note: this is a lie. I have several friends who deserve credit for enthusiastically helping. Earhart and NYCDubliner for a start.

For all those who doubt my ability to integrate into american society

American Colleague – “Why do you have a burgundy passport?”
Me – “It’s irish, only american ones are blue”
AC – “Yeah but, why do you have it?”
Me – “….. seriously? You think I’m american?”
AC – “You like, totally found it under a chair didn’t you.”

I shit you not

Semi-tropical Police states are more fun when the booze is cheap

Singapore was once described to me as being a bit like a small version of London, but really fucking hot. I can now with some actual basis state that this is absolute and total bollocks. Singapore is what you would get if you reduced the size and population of Hong Kong by factors of respectively 4 and 40, taught everyone slightly better English, and did a really really thorough cleaning job. And by cleaning job I mean also getting rid of most of the more crammed in and unsightly buildings filled with live chickens and frogs, and somehow making the streets stop smelling like fried rice soaked in soy sauce. Into this new city you would drop a load more white people, 80% of whom work in banks, and a bunch of spacious apartment buildings with pools in order to accommodate said white people, whom you would then proceed to pay too much. And there, aside from the occasional monsoon and drug-trafficking related execution, you have Singapore.

Things to do in Singapore include sweating profusely and developing acute paranoia. Most of the cops are plain clothes, and instantly converge on law breakers with the fiery righteousness of a thousand suns, so you really don’t want to jaywalk, accidentally litter, or illegally import chewing gum. You cannot bring duty free cigarettes into Singapore, and should you by caught smoking said cigarettes the Singapore police can fine you not by the carton or packet, but by the individual stick. They can tell too, by the fact that every stick is stamped as duty free individually. Common sentences for a legal infraction in Singapore read like “30 days in jail and 10 lashes of the whip”. Which I am guessing at least intimidates the natives and puts the slightly incredulous fear of God into the westerners.

The city Is spotlessly clean, presumably due to fear. The crime rate is apparently very low, presumably due to abject terror. From what I have heard from the inhabitants though, the Singaporean government (in case this was not already glaringly obvious) are a rather scary bunch of sociopathic opportunists who have no qualms about obstructing the freedom of the press. So anything reported on to indicate Singapore might not be an oasis of harmonious crime-free living does not get reported on for long.

Of any Asian city, Singapore is the most westernized and the easiest, as it is quite evidently designed to be. The standard of living is very high if you can afford it, for the amount I pay to live in my apartment in NY you could share a bigger newer apartment complete with washer/dryer and outdoor pool. But you would be living in bloody Singapore, a city the size of an enthusiastic fart. Don’t even get me started on the weather. From what I can tell, Singapore has two settings for climate: extremely hot and humid, or extremely hot and humid in the pouring torrential rain.

Poor people exist here, but you can’t really tell from the outside.  Local wages are a fraction of expat wages, but there are so many expats that the downtown areas cater to them almost exclusively. Personally I find any country where a wage like mine enables you to afford a live-in maid mildly worrying, and this is definitely one of them. Not that I can even imagine creating enough personal domestic mess to ever justify a maid.

I definitely don’t hate it here, in fact its rather an interesting place. But I can’t imagine living here for more than a few months. I think on the whole while I like Asia in general as a holiday destination I can’t imagine it as a home. Then again, you never know until you try.

Singapore from inside a hotel room at 4am. Fucking jetlag

Walking outside of Singapore airport was like walking into a New York august afternoon. With respect to heat and humidity anyway, I can’t say with any degree of accuracy that Singapore looks anything like NY except in the standard way that all airports look like all other airports. This is a problem. Because I still after 2 years have not acclimatized to being baked alive during the summer? No, actually I have gradually been working my way to finding it almost pleasant most of the time. It is a problem because this New York summer afternoon temperature is in fact a cool Singapore 2am. Oh how I fear the dawn.

Things I have observed about Singapore since my arrival about an hour ago include a complete lack of any buildings under 30 stories high, and an absolutely astonishing caliber of hotels. I am staying in the Hilton Conrad Centennial, and good god it is fantastic. I think perhaps the fact that people rarely travel to Singapore on anything but business has definitely had an effect. The logic runs something like this: All of the people who stay at our hotels are staying there on the company dime. Therefore, we will make the room exorbitantly expensive (because they are not paying and don’t care) and just provide lots of complimentary perks so that they will stay at our ludicrously expensive hotel instead of one of the other ludicrously expensive hotels available. It is a giant conspiracy to get big companies to spend a fortune, but it is from my perspective totally ok because it means I get free stuff. I may not have particularly elevated moral ground here, but I do have complimentary dry cleaning and a fruit basket. It’s the little things.

Things that have impressed me about this hotel include:

  1. When you walk in the sound system is playing classical music at a pleasant but unobtrusive volume, it kind of makes you feel like you just walked into a state room in the Titanic.
  2. Free food – Not just a mint, but a box of Godiva chocolates and selection of fruit
  3. Doorbells. Yes, when the dude came to pick up clothes for my free dry cleaning, he rang the pleasantly melodic doorbell. Brilliant
  4. All of the light switches are labeled. Why the hell does no-one else do this?
  5. Toothbrushes! Hotels tend to provide absolutely everything necessary to clean oneself in small pre-packaged form except fucking toothbrushes, the one thing I will almost certainly forget if I am to forget any toiletry.
  6. A fucking laser printer. How incredibly useful.
  7. Universal sockets. No bullshit fiddling around with adaptors, the sockets themselves actually accept a variety of plugs.

And of course there are a couple of features that just made me laugh a bit. They provide you a knife, fork and napkin for consuming fruit (we are talking apples here, not sliced grapefruit or anything). The remote control comes in a leather case which you do not even have to extract it from to use it through the protective layer of plastic. I am not certain if they are protecting me or the remote. There is a small leaflet offering me my selection of 16 different types of pillow, delivered to my room with compliments should I desire one (when I was a kid I used to think “with compliments” meant that when they gave it to you they would tell you your hair looked great).  And finally my absolute favourite thing in any hotel ever – The Conrad Centennial provide their guests with that most essential of bathroom amenities, a small yellow rubber duck. It squeaks.

It is astonishing how much joy an adult human can derive from the presence of a squeaky bath toy.

Rules for happiness – Long Haul Flight Survival

My company, for various reasons which presumably seemed like good ideas at the time, decided to send me to a client in Singapore this week. Now, it is my general policy when presented with the option of going somewhere I have never been to immediately accept and possibly jump up and down a bit depending on the destination. This one was slightly controversial however, because there was a bit of back and forth on how long I could stay, what kind of flights I could get etc. The trip being on very short notice, even when this was all decided finding a flight and accommodation proved slightly challenging. Upshot – no direct flights, and I have to change hotels once and rooms once in the second hotel. My life is a cornucopia of mild inconvenience.

I have just finished the epic 23 hour journey required to arrive here from NY, and my sleep pattern is how shall I put this… royally buggered? It is 3am and I am catching up on my blog entries because I am apparently wide awake. So I guess I may as well try to make some relevant observations while I am at it. Business class travel rocks. Ok, that was fairly obvious and probably did not require stating. However I am currently evaluating in terms of the relative shittiness of flying economy, because I am going to be doing pretty much the same trip to get my butt to Thailand for Christmas this year and you can bet your left leg I didn’t fork out for a business class seat.

I am pretty good at planes. By which I mean I am pretty good at suspending my consciousness for long stretches enabling me to sleep/fall into a trance-like state, ignore everyone around me, read a book etc, for time periods of anything up to 12 hours or more. However it’s a hell of a lot easier to do this when your personal space consists of a surface you can stretch full length on rather than 2 square feet of noisy cramped horribleness. So my 14 hour flight to Tokyo followed by a 7 hour flight to Singapore was from my point of view a fucking dream. The food was good, the booze was free, the blankets were warm, overall in comparison to my standard flying experience it was approximately king size bed compared to hammock which breaks occasionally. What I am trying to convey here is that it was really fucking easy. I hope I don’t get used to this or I will go soft. Anyway, here follows my list of recommendations for long haul flight survival, none of which I have had to use today:

  1. Do not drink excessively in order to fall asleep. Classic rookie mistake. There are worse things than being exhausted after a flight and one of them is being exhausted and dehydrated with a headache after a flight. You’ll sleep eventually. Or you won’t, live with it.
  2. If you can’t sleep, stop trying. You will just get annoyed. If you are tired and find it restful to lie back with your eyes closed then do that, sometimes you drift off without realizing and actually pack in some shut-eye without even being aware.
  3. Sleep if you are tired. People sometimes try to adjust their sleep patterns en route to maximize enjoyment of their destination. This just leads to excessive grouchiness and misery, you re-adjust a lot better when sunrises and sunsets are involved again.
  4. You do not have to use the inflight entertainment system. Sometimes its really great, sometimes its absolutely shit. Sometimes the unit for your seat breaks inexplicably, evoking zero sympathy from anyone. Do not rely on the plane to entertain you. Bring books, bring a DS, bring music. Try to bring things which have a battery life beyond the flight.
  5. You do not have to be doing anything. I have spent 4 hour flights just thinking, processing. Its not a waste of time, plane time is dead time.
  6. Do not plan to do anything on the flight. Whether its planning the trip or some work, you will probably not feel like it. Its important to just do what you feel like doing. Read when you feel like reading, sleep when you feel like sleeping.
  7. Do not eat the food. Seriously. Bring your own. I have brought boiled eggs, chopped mushrooms and peppers, sliced cheese and prosciutto onto planes. Or gotten quesadillas in the airport just prior to boarding. Strictly speaking you are not meant to do this but no-one has ever complained.  This only applies to economy, business class food is great.
  8. Wear comfortable clothing, wear your hair down. It really does not matter at all what you look like when you get on or off the plane, everyone will be a damn zombie anyway. Anything that hinders sleeping at all is a bad thing.
  9. I assume everyone in the universe knows this, but take off your shoes
  10. Do not encroach on another person’s personal space, wear headphones that enable everyone around you to hear your horrible RnB music, bring a baby, have a loud conversation, or smell bad.  All of these deserve the death penalty.
  11. You do not have to be buddies with your neighbor. If they are disinclined to talk, shut the hell up. Not everyone wants a single serving friend.
  12. It is ok to hate flying, it is not ok to whine about it. If its so goddamn awful don’t go, or take a boat/train/car/mule to wherever the fuck you are going. Don’t bitch about the food, the price of drinks, or the lack of available legroom. You have gotten what you bloody well paid for.

Air travel is conceptually an amazing, excellent thing. The implementation of air travel is a tad painful for those of us too cheap to fly anything but livestock class, but this does not make the speed and ease of flying any less amazing. 24 hours will get you round the damn world when one hour of walking only gets you a few miles. Marvel at it, appreciate it, and maybe it will see you through the agonizing ordeal that is long-haul flying.

Or hell, just take the sleeping pills. Let me know how that goes.

Texas y’all

At the end of the road trip of incredible length and foolish decisions (well one foolish decision, namely Shreveport. All other decisions were of practically genius level excellence) we finally arrived in Austin. Austin is like San Francisco, but in Texas. So its filled with hippies and vegan ice cream parlours, but also with people in cowboy hats wearing blue jeans and covered in tattoos. Personally, I find the combination most refreshing. Perhaps as a result of living in the wanky part of Brooklyn, which is filled with the kind of hippies that spend an hour on their hair to make it look suitably messy and live in dread of breaking a nail, and that’s just the men.

I have been informed by pretty much everyone who has spent time in Texas that Austin is the cool bit, and by all accounts resembles the rest of Texas about as much as Milton Keynes resembles a real city. I don’t know how true this is, as so far that is the limit of my Texas experience. But though I was in hippy central Texas-wise I still felt a very strong vibe, Texans are very proud of their state and definitely have their own idea about affiliation. As I was informed by multiple people, Texas used to be a country, and while in Austin there might be a lot more liberals that is still a popular statement.

I found people here absolutely amazing. Adjectives that come to mind include polite, hospitable, helpful and just generally incredibly friendly and considerate. These appear to be generally southern traits in any case, but frankly I just found everyone on the whole damn trip so charming I nearly puked. Contented charmed puke made of rainbows, naturally.

Mostly the GG and I just chilled here. We hung out, we ate, we went to bars, we ate more, went to more bars. The weather was mild but warm, the city was awesome, and personally I did not want to go home. We got the dueling piano dudes to play Bohemian Rhapsody, the German got hit on by a multitude of people she found unattractive (though I think this happens every day – why do I have so many attractive female friends?  Couldn’t just one of them be less attractive than me?? Alas, my tastes in women are too discriminating for my own good), and we had great Mexican food and amazing Brazilian barbecue.

On my last night my traveling companion had already departed, and so I decided to venture out alone. My general policy of finding the dirtiest bar available and talking to random people until I get bored paid off handsomely, and I ended up drinking with a metal band, their girlfriends, and the Austin 6th street sex shop employees. I also ended up with a rather compromised liver, as it was one of those nights when you just forget there is a tomorrow, that hangovers exist, or that you have a plane to catch. Some hours later these 3 forgotten pieces of data combined in a crashing symphony of suffering and despair – never have I been so close to fainting while standing in line to check my bag in. I vowed never to drink again, which lasted the 5 hours til I arrived back at home and found a branch of the Cuban’s extended family partying in my living room, which is not a recipe for abstinence.

Someday I will take a holiday from which I do not feel like I need to recover using another holiday.

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