Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A (Not-so-)Petit Euroecap

It's 70 degrees and sunnyish today in the Apple, and I smell like fresh cut grass. ...so why am I petit bleu? Because it's the first day back in the daily grind since St. Patrick's Day.

No, I haven't been drunk in a ditch in outer New Jersey. Or driving around providing impromptu and unwanted grief counseling, as I am wont to do. Neither have I been sitting in bed trying really hard to astrally project (I stopped doing that at 16). Nor have I been held hostage by some crazed ESRX fan à la Misery. None of those things. I, gzeepsters, have just returned from my and my roommate's European Excursion 2007.

Way, whahappah?! you say? Votes fer sleazleries!! It's true! The roomz and I blipped over to Amsterdam on the 17th, gwazzled over to Paris shortly thereafter, and returned just yestertag. And now I'm back in the daily grind. Which explains why I'm a bluelet. Because I'd rather be back on the Continent, eating cookies and frites in Amsterdam and speaking miserable, broken French in Paris. So needless to say, I've been sighing considerably. Here, why don't you sigh with me right now--[inhale, now go:] Siiiiiiiiiigh. There. OK, now that we have the sighing over with, I guess I should move on to the inevitable question: "How was your trip?"

I think I'm still processing the whole thing, because all I can really think of when people ask that is, "It was what it was." After that, I just mention a few anecdotes. I don't have a full narrative yet. I suppose that will come when I develop all the analog pix I took and sift through all the recording I did there. (Yeps, I took along two recorders and plopped a lot onto tape. I hope it's not all megaboring. Sometimes taping like that can snooze.) For now, however, since there are some pix up from the trip, because my roommate took digital (Amsterdam / Paris), I guess I'll give a teensy recap, and then prolly explore the topic more in depth in a show or something. OK, here we go...

Amsterdam was first. We arrived Sunday morning, and explored the city. It's a beautiful place--I wish we could have seen more of it, but we were only there for a few days. Navigating it was confusing, first because of the sheer disorientation of being in a different city, but also because every street looked so similar to me. By the third day, however, I felt much more at home and was able to recognize some places here and there. The city has a look to it, but I don't remember exactly what I kept comparing it to. It has lots of bridges and seemed quaint and rather quiet. Everywhere were people biking. Lots of blonds, shizznitloads of tourists (especially loud UKers), about as many sex shops and coffee spots as there were souvenir traps (but not ONE Starbucks or B&N!!!).

We saw the Van Gogh museum, the history of the city museum, the Anne Frank house (where I sent a video card to myself--I couldn't think of anything to say, so I just said 'Go wildcats!' Yeah.) and did some boat tour. We also went to a bunch of li'l bars and cafes and talked to people. We had our hands washed at Sabon. We ate lots of frites and McDonalds (I was on the chizzeap, bizzlio!). I tore a contact lens the second day, but was able to replace it without a prescription (I also got some Zovirax lip balm, which is available there--oh yeah, I had a bitchin cold sore, which is only now going away). I also got a cute li'l bag and the cheesiest umbrella you ever'd seen. I got some shoes in a department store where they also had light boxes. Light boxes!!!!!! I recorded someone saying douęche bågage, but for some reason it was difficult to get people to say fer reazlies (which morphed into fer sleazlies, then fer slizzleazlies, eventually to something like votes fer sleazlizzologies, before it broke under its own weight). Someone touched my hair, we talked to some rowdy UKers from the Midlands, it snowed, we ate at a froufroulala cafe and I watched a cracked-out German soap opera in which someone was raped and Ching was rejected. Yes, CHING!!! (If you know this show, please email me. We can talk about Ching.) AAAAAAAAAAAND I watched this most amazazing National Geographic special, which was actually one of the highlights of the trip, if not my life thus far. It was either about the Vikings or Stonhenge, but it was seriously life-altering. I realized while watching it that I WANT TO DO THAT!!! I want to make programs for National Geographic or the History Channel. Or at least voice them. So if you have an in for that kind of thing, e/myspace/facebook me. It's now on the list. Nearly everyone spoke English and was friendly (not so much for the cashier who was all snootylike when I took a picture of the "retard capsules" on the pharmacy shelf), and the euro coins were annoying. McDonalds had no breakfast sandwiches. Techno was everywhere, and mingled with 80s (Tell It to My Heart, I Heard a Rumour) in the bars.

And then after 3 days it was off to Paris. We arrived in the afternoon and took the subway to the hotel, which the roomz said was smaller than it looked online. Paris was much more like New York than Amsterdam--more crowded, faster-paced, ruder. I must have expected something different, because I was a bit disappointed initially, in addition to the new-city disorientation. Then I was frustrated when we went to an internet cafe and none of my passwords worked. Because the keyboard is different!! Whahappah?!?! I never did get used to the keyboard, but by the next day I felt much better overall. We walked the Champs-Elysées and stopped into a few shops (all the men who worked in Sephora were wearing makeup), saw the Louvre and Notre Dame, trekked to Versailles (it's just like Dangerous Liaisons, but HUGE), went to the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower and saw Montmartre. Far, far fewer people spoke English in Paris, so a lot of the time I had to make my cracked out attempts at French. For example, when we were in Montmartre, we couldn't find any of the places from Amélie (well, I couldn't--J kept saying, 'this is it--she ran up here' -- I don't think he even saw the movie), so I decided to ask someone. My broken French: Excusez moi--Savez-vous où le café de... Amélie?? The person [seemingly] didn't know. It was kinda fun being the stupid tourist that could only speak in tardo phrases. That said, I did better than I thought I would with the French, and I think I could pick it up in a couple months if I lived there, maybe sooner.

Unlike in Amsterdam, there was a Starbucks in Paris. Good thing, too, because those European sizes (yes, portions are smaller there) just weren't cutting it in terms of morning coffee. They were good, however, for through-the-day coffee, which apparently was pretty big in France. Coffee was everywhere--you could tell it was a way of life. Hint for travelers: "French coffee"=espresso; "American coffee"=espresso with a little milk (but not as much milk as an American would use). And on the food tip, one McDonalds had breakfast, but only one thing; yes, I had a napoleon and croissants; hellz yes, I had pastries; yes, I had escargot; no, I didn't have frog legs; yes, you should order a Cuba Libre instead of rum & Coke.

The subways were OK in Paris, but as in NYC, cabbing it would be better. Unless you really love those Madonna H&M ads, which seemed to be in every station. The buildings in Paris--take parts of the Upper East Side (especially Museum Mile) and extend them into an entire city. Lots of motorcycles. The catacombs are cool as hell, and much bigger than what you see on the tour. The Centre Pompidou, from what I saw, is cool. Frederic (who lervs WFMU, and was actually wearing the Ed Shepp Is Love T-shirt from the 2006 marathon) works near there, and we met up and ate in what seemed to be some weird hybrid of spaghetti restaurant and shi shi frou frou la la gay bar. I wish we'd known people in the city, because after 7pm we didn't know what to do except go to bars, internet cafes or watch dubbed-over American TV in the hotel. I know there was stuff going on, however, because when we were in the Latin Quarter one night, near the Sorbonne, there were zillions of young kids making a ruckus on the streets. Actually, there were zillions of younguns period. How do they all afford it?? I couldn't decide whether all the beautiful people in the streets were beautiful because they were: French, young or rich. The homeless people were charming and cute, but only because they were foreign and had things like "S.V.P. J'ai faim" on their signs. One of them had on better jeans than mine. The weather was kinda crapply, but who cares--it was Paris! There were too many Americans.

Then we flew back and here we are.

The whole time I was comparing the cities to what I knew here, and enjoying the whole being-a-tourist thing, which is a huge thing with me, having grown up and worked extensively in a tourism mecca. There were a couple times when I wanted to say, "I know I seem retarded, but I'm not actually stupid. It's just that I'm not used to this place." Also, I was always asking myself, "Could I live here?" Well, of course I could. I think I'd prefer the pace of Amsterdam, but I think there'd be much more to do in Paris. And I'd like the challenge of becoming fluent in the language--to really have to think on a daily basis. As for culture shock, there wasn't much of any. American culture was everywhere. In Paris the TV shows were dubbed, but apart from that, it saturated the place. That was kinda unfortunate, because I wanted to feel like I was a world away, in a strange and different place. Hard to do when the same stars are in the news, the same Renee Zelwegger poster is everywhere (with only a few words translated), the signs are in English, and Pizza Hut, Starbucks and McDonalds are all over. I was a bit disheartened that I wasn't blown away every second by the realization, "I'm in Amsterdam/Paris!!!!" I wanted to feel bowled over, to spin around the streets throwing random objects in the air, but it was more like when you meet a celebrity--you don't feel as zowied away as you think you will. I did, however, always enjoy the feeling that everything was "the same, but different," as in the street signs, the shops, etc.

And now I'm back. Did the trip change my life? Knock me out of that rut I've been in? Well, (surprisingly) I don't feel any different. Before the trip, I was a bit nervous that I was going to fall head-over-hells in love with Europe and become some insane Francophile or something, but no. I'm not buying any French language books or maps of Amsterdam or any of that. Perhaps over the week, as I get back into daily life, I'll see if anything in me has been shaken up. At least I have something new in my mind to reference, so maybe that will help me creatively or something. And at the VERY least I have a few things that I can say, "I got it in Europe," and that's kinda cool in a way.

So that's my not-so-petit recap of me and the roommate's trip to Europe 2007. w00t! Oh, and if you're reading from Amsterdam or Paris, or Stockholm, London, Barcelona, Reykjavik or a beach in Southern Italy, drop me a line (email / myspace / facebook)!!! Next time I go, I want to have peops to hang with n stuff. And that's all for the beep for now, gnooplets.

Hmm, I feel much better now.

Ed Shepp