Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Night ran away with the Moon

In this corner...Ding! I meant to go to bed early, but instead I went 4 rounds with my roommate's Epson printer and lost every round - ding! It wouldn't print without a color cartridge - even though it had a black ink cartridge, and was set to print in black ink. I checked every setting I could think of....9, 10! Epson wins! We finally decided it was a very clever - and very devious - marketing ploy by Epson to require consumers to buy color cartridges.

I went a second night of sleeping without sheets (hooray for being a bachelor.) On the productive end, though, I actually made myself dinner - stew with beans, carrots, potatoes, veggie sausage.

On the bus home I ran into an acquaintance who used to work at a bookstore with monthly poetry readings. She told me about moving to NY and looking for a job in fashion design. She wasn't worried about making it; she's got a good portfolio. I tried not to be the wet blanket on her parade, but I was thinking: ah, the early 20s.


I was born in North Carolina, lived an unextraordinary life, much like yours, I imagine. I like to imagine the lives of others, their thoughts, secret hopes and public failures. I suppose you could call me a voyeur, but that is only part of the story. No matter how many fragments a story has, how many roundabouts and detours and dead-ends, somewhere there is a whole. But that whole is different for different people. You participate in the creation of the story, make it unique, unimagined by anyone else. You are important. You matter. No matter how much events, people, and television will seem to add up to you being a cog, a little person, joe schmoe, jane doe. Go home at night and, lying in bed, whisper to yourself that you matter. I only give this advice because I care, because I have been there myself. And I promised I would tell you about myself.

It was a grey afternoon when I was born; mother was napping. It was before Thanksgiving. The house was quiet, no preparations yet in progress. Cypress trees watched over her from the swamp. Brown leaves gathered to muffle sounds, to protect us. I was born and I was loved, like we all hope to be. But there is the way things should be, and the way things are. And it’s not always easy to tell which is which. So I am on guard, watchful for indications that things are not what they seem.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Too Tired to Post

Do I contradict myself again? Alas. Don't want to be too predictable. We all hold inconsistencies, contradictions, and paradoxes within ourselves. There is more to write about my trip, but I have spent my energy doing other things. And my energy doesn't seem to last long, lately. So I leave you with this:

We were born on a November afternoon on a twin bed in North Carolina. Our story really begins, however, hundreds of miles away in a big city—about as different as you can get from the sleepy southern town where we were conceived. But what is a story, if not a journey from one place to another? And what, if not the journey? The end exists, but it is artificial, as we all know. Except for death, and whether that is an ending is still being debated. But I didn’t start telling you this to prosthelytize my point of view…or did I? I will leave that up to you to decide.

There is usually a moment when the course of our journey shifts. Or many such moments, really, but we often don’t recognize them at the time for what they are. Sometimes we do recognize them, feel the gathering force of their power, a giant cartoon snowball picking up everything in its path. I have mentioned some passer-bys, innocent bystanders, walk-ons, stand-ins, wallflowers, backgrounds, bit-parts, accompaniments, appetizers, condiments…we will come back to them. But for now, let’s start with me. No sense in false modesty; I would be lying if I said I didn’t like talking about myself; who doesn’t? Anyone who doesn’t like talking about themselves is hiding something. You can attribute it to whatever you like—being an only child, being the star of the school play, being a lonely person who lives alone, works in what, if not a dead-end job, is at least a detour, roundabout, one-way street or one of those subdivision streets where the houses all look the same. The point is, I will admit to things that many people think, feel, or do, but that they would never admit to. I don’t like lying and I usually don’t see the point. Remember that; it will be important later, when you start to doubt me, start to doubt my version of events.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Insubordinate Kneecap

A coworker once told me what she learned in her presentations class: public speaking is people's #1 fear. Death is #3.

If you are dead, do you need fear public speaking? Do the angels require you to give a weekly update of your activities in heaven to justify your presence there? Does the devil torture you by making you regurgitate in a position other than one of the four home base positions? It must be he didn't like the holy implications of the steeple posititon (fingertips touching, hands at waist level).

When I'm dead, I hope people remember that my shoe color was two shades darker than my hem and that I never showed an insubordinate kneecap in the office.

March Birthdays

Happy birthday, Erika, Jesse, and Hugh!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Nose to the smelling salt mines

I liked my metaphors mixed, not shaken.

I was going to go in search of a poetry fix tonight, but I ended up staying home and adding to my travelogue. My notes I kept in my notebook are a bit sparse, but I added some recollections of Prague online. It is easier for me to update the entries and keep them somewhat chronological than just add things willy-nilly as I think of them.

It was difficult to go back to work today, but I think I feel more well-adjusted now (as well-adjusted as I get, anyway).

It rained today. The pink cherry blossoms were all the more stunning against the grey.

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough

Ezra Pound (1913)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Jet Drag

Why does going west seem so much harder than going east? I found this to be true when I came home from Ireland, too. I'm usually worn out after these vacations; that probably contributes. I try to drink water and only enough coffee to keep away the caffeine monster. And, although they offer free drinks on international flights, I abstain (which goes against the principal of free stuff). When I get to my destination, I don't sleep until the local time zone says sleep. Tomorrow I go back to work; I hope I remember how to work.

I uploaded more pictures to Flickr: I am also going back and adding to previous posts. I've added some text to the Budapest entry, and will add more to other entries as time allows. I want to record it before it fades.

The night before I left for home, I dreamt that my cat died. Tamar and Alicia took her to the vet and the doctor told them that this cat had been neglected for a long time (Tamar laughed when I told her this; since I dote on my cat, the idea of her being neglected was funny). I awoke upset and anxious. When I called Tamar from Porland, almost the first thing I asked was, "how's Bird?". "She's fine; she's napping with Alicia."

But, in the area of animal news, there was a pet food recall on brands (that include the ones I feed my cat). Cats and dogs have died and they linked it to the pet food. For those of you with pets, find the FDA press release and links to lists of affected products: And sleep better ; )

Saturday, March 17, 2007


It is good to be home. I arrived at Sea-Tac around 4:45; Tamar picked me up. I made 3 phone calls, showered, ordered Thai food, visited Alicia at work, ate, and crashed at 9 pm. Now it is Saturday and I have had kava/kave/kaffee/coffee and breakfast and I am ready to go back to bed! But I won't, yet. I have errands to do and a new time zone to adjust to. But I will definitely nap before the party (St. Paddy's day, a friend of Tamar's) tonight.

David, thanks again for meeting me in Prague and Vienna. It was really great to see you again...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Arg! Blogger is in German. Don't want to bother trying to figure out how to change it. Internet not cheap heir. Ich habe less time in Wein than I wanted. \nothing went as I had planned on Tuesday, so I left Budapest much later than I meant to. Got to see Statue Park, with a collection of communist statues no one wanted anymore after they got rid of the Soviet government. It was an adventure/ordeal getting there on public transportation.

Tommorow I take the train back to Prague and Friday morning I fly home. David is going to meet me in Vienna, we think. I don't have any pictures of Vienna yet, but I will upload some later. When I get home I will most likely upload all my pictures and go back and update my entries. Right now I am too busy! If you didn't notice, though, I have uploaded some more pictures to Flickr. Click on the logo in the sidebar to view them. Miss you guys, but I am having a good time! Man, do my feet hurt at the end of every day! Finally got caught up on sleep last night, though.
Nein, Mutter, I did not post at 2 am- that is what time it was Pacific Standard time.

Monday, March 12, 2007

American in Budapest

Me after the night train to Budapest. Notice the hair.

Budapest is romantic. It is also busy and grungy, like a big city. Many of the buildings were stark (but still looked European) and covered in stoot. The higher up on the building, the less sooty it was. I saw many canoodling couples (a lot of PDA).

As you can see, I went to the zoo (on Monday). It was an Art Nouveau zoo, but I was distracted by the animals!

I also went to the thermal baths! Spent several hours there, getting all pruny and relaxed. Men were playing chess in the baths. They had many pools of different temperatures. A Hungarian man told me I was very beautiful; I think he was practicing his English. It was another sunny day. I spent most of my time in the outdoor baths, alternating between the 38 degree Celcius and the 36 degree pools. That's where I was when the sun went down. I also spent some time indoors, in various mineral pools, the sauna briefly, and the very hot steam room.

Tuesday was my adventure/ordeal/meditation in public transportation so I could get to...Statue Park.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Oswiecim is the Polish name of the town (pronounced, roughly, "os vee chem"). It was very confusing and frustrating trying to get the bus there. Ended up taking the train. Just getting the ticket took a long time, as I went back and forth between ticket windows, information windows, down corridors and back through them, up and down stairs and across platforms. Seeing and hearing the confusion of other English-speaking tourists made me feel better.

There were many people and tour groups at Auschwitz. Although I'm sure the guides give valuable information, it is still an intellectual experience, not that different from reading a history book. And people have the urge to talk amongst themselves, which also detracts from the experience. I think these things end up being distractions from really thinking about what happened--the most important part of actually visiting Auschwitz--and more, engaging our imaginations and emotions--the real triggers of empathy, and not just pity. To cruise through chatting about how bad it was is to miss the point.

Mostly, I tried to avoid the large tour groups and not be distracted by the talking of others. But it made me angry when a group a four people were talking loudly in the crematorium. I actually shushed them. One woman rolled her eyes. There was even a sign in three languages asking people to maintain silence and remember that thousands of people were murdered in this very place. Outside, another member of the party got more photos for her photo album.

I wasn't able to really grasp that thousands of people were gassed and burned right where I was standing. Where I did grasp the horror of the Holocaust in a way never before was at the exhibits of articles stolen from the prisoners--glasses, artificial limbs and crutches, shoes, pots and pans. I first saw the mound of glasses out of the corner of my eye, and I had to go to the window and take a few deep breaths before I could look at them--mound of mangled wire, glass lenses and gaps where lenses used to be--these once belonged to people who breathed, who ate and loved and lived their lives before their lives were stolen from them. The room of pots and pans made my throat close.

Everyone wants to know, "how could this have happened?" Can we all assume that we would never contribute, even passively, to this kind of thing? As I wandered on the grounds I wondered: why did it take three years to save the people of Auschwitz? why was it allowed to go on for three years?

Friday, March 09, 2007


The night train sleeping on "couchette" wasn't bad. Getting lost in the rain carrying my backpack all over town at 6:30 in the morning kinda was. But I found the main square and my hotel. Can't check in yet, though. I am the person you don't want to sit next to you in the bakery or internet cafe... I will check in and shower around 12, I think.

Showered, rested, and stretched. My room is beautiful!

I see why Rick Steves calls Krakow the next is definitelz up and coming, compact with lovelz public spaces.

Had a fancy late lunch on Friday: the meal started with a complimentary tiny glass of hot honey mead (which went to my head), then delicious wild mushroom soup and (avert your eyes, you vegetarians, vegans, and hangers-on) duck entree with veggies. I think the meal was around $15. It would have been a lot more in the States! Internet was also very cheap here, and prices in general were low.

Went to an art museum of the Polish Art Nouveau movement. Museum was a little funky--some exhibits were kinda boring and I wasn't sure how they were related, and the English translations, when they existed, were a bit strange (like the translations in the Prague Museum of Communism).

Afternoon, I walked to Wawel Hill and wandered the grounds around the castle. Apparently, according to believers in chakra, there are 7 places on earth that have convergence of energy, like the 7 chakras of the body. Wawel Hill is one (although it doesn't market itself that way and the guides are, I guess, forbidden to talk about it). People in the know, though, flock here, according to my guidebook. The place were the energy is most concentrated is a wall--it is covered in smudges from the hugs of kooks/believers. Just in case, I touched the wall. I didn't see anyone hugging it, though.

Went to a couple churches--St. Mary's and St. Francis. Services were going on in both when I was there. Poland is, I understand, devoutly Catholic and boasts a high concentration of churches. At all times of the day, it seems, you can find kooks/believers going to church to pray.

Praha, Thursday

I walked all around, getting lost, and taking much longer to find the places I was looking for. On the upside, though, I walked on some streets I hadn't seen before.

Finally found the Museum of Communism.
Met up with David for lunch. We had lunch at an inexpensive cafeteria, with the only English posted on a menu outside the door. We managed, though. I asked a man if we could share his table (and by this I mean I asked, "prosim?" and he nodded. "Please" comes in handy in many contexts). After a few minutes, I initiated conversation. The man turned out to be Russian, working for the Russian embassy in Prague. David and I enjoyed talking to him.
After a satisfying lunch, we went to the Mucha Museum...Alphonse Mucha was the guy for Art Nouveau in Prague.
Then we hit the Museum of Prague, but unfortunately, the model of Prague wasn't on exhibit!
Lastly came the adventures at the train station...the guy at the ticket window spoke some English and was very patient. I bought my ticket for a "couchette" on the night train to Krakow, Poland. It was confusing trying to figure out which car to board on, and the departure time was rapidly approaching, which made us nervous. This, and the hope that we would meet again in Vienna, kept the goodbye from being sentimental. We hammed it up, with me waving a tissue out the window and him running alongside the train.
General impressions...fantastic spring weather on Tues and Wed. Rained Wed night, but Thurs wasn't bad at all.
Women's high heels getting caught between cobblestones.
Surrounded by so many languages!
Even in March, Prague was crowded with manz large tour groups. I canät imagine what it will be like in the high season!
Prague has manz windy, narrow streets and hidden courtzards...verz European. So manz gorgeous buildings in the citz of a thousand spires. Unlike other European cities, it was not badlz bombed in WWII.
Service was often matter of fact more than friendlz, but people were nice.
It was fun and easy to be with David again, even after all these years.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Praha the Czech name for Prague.

View of Prague Castle from Charles Bridge.

Wednesday I went to the Czech Cubism Museum--very cool! Usually my response to art is based in emotion before intellect. Knowing little about art historz and technique, I usuallz onlz make basic observations. (This kezboard is funkz and I donät know how to fix it cause the menus are all in Polish! Bear with me.) But looking at the Czech cubism, I felt for mzself that it was another waz of perceiving realitz. At first, it seems fragmented, but the boundaries between things (say, a woman and a bowl of fruit) become interwoven, thus showing the interconnectedness of all things (as Buddists believe).

In the afternoon, David and I explored Prague Castle, the Old Royal Palace, Basilica of St. George, Golden Lane (where Kafka lived for awhile), and St. Vitus Cathedral. The gargoyles on St. Vitus Cathedral creeped me out!

There was much walking and I was very tired. A late afternoon sit and snack helped.

In the evening I saw Black Light Theater, which was fun, but went a bit long.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


I'm here. Man, that was a long trip. David picked me up at the airport and led me via bus and subway and foot to my hostel, Hostel Tyn (which he says is pronounced "hostel teen", but he's sure they're very mature). We were both very tired and neither of us hungry, but we still talked for a couple hours before we shuffled off to slumber.

This morning I have been trying to orient myself my usual way, by walking and getting lost. Choosing the perfect breakfast place quickly became less of a priority than getting some food--and kava (coffee)--in me right away. I woke with a bad headache. So far, I have walked to the river, around and around, back to the hostel, and to this internet cafe. I think I just accidentally said "thank you" to someone who said "hello". I can tell that I am going to have to be patient with myself and accept that I may look like an idiot. At least I feel less paralyzed than last night! I feel buoyed by a few positive interactions. A few phrases are sticking with me, even if they aren't necessarily the right phrases at the right time! David told me his first day here he accidentally asked for the street instead of the bill.

Prague is beautiful, and I haven't seen much of it yet. I am staying very close to the Old Town Square. The streets and the buildings look very European. I wish I knew more about what I was looking at. The architecture is lovely. And it is sunny today! How nice is that? David and I are meeting at 12:00 at the statue of Jan Huss in the Old Town Square.
I spent Tuesday orienting myself, wandering, strolling to the river and back, sitting in the sun with David, exploring the Jewish Quarter, practicing my Czech, strolling the Charles Bridge at dusk. The Spanish Synagogue was just beautiful. (We weren't allowed to take pictures inside.)
Here is a pic of the Jewish Cemetary, where Rabbi Loew is buried (he is associated with the legend of the Golem).

Ate a late supper of potato pancakes with cheese in a smoky pub. Tried a shot of the Czech liquor becharovka. Chatted with the international law students overflowing the pub (that's international students, not international law).

Check out the link to Flickr for more photos...