Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Koh Samui

So I booked 3 nights in Koh Samui, and while it rained non-stop all 4 days, I was enjoying the town so much I decided to stay put for the remainder of my stay.

Sure, I would have liked to do Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, but I was simply running out of time. (I hate myself for forgetting those plane tickets and cutting my trip short a full 6 days)

But Koh Samui was just so darn laid back and relaxing. Up to this point, I was feeling a bit like Goldilocks. Bangkok and Phuket were too wild and seedy, while Koh Kho Khao was too quiet, and Koh Samui, well it was just right.

But bears and porridge aside, what a freaking great town! I had heard it was far too touristy, but I disagree. Sure there are lots of tourists, but the annoying ones are in towns like Phuket. Koh Samui is a perfect mix of all ages of people, and there are a ton of fun bars and interesting places to see. Sure, it rained entirely too much, but staying 8 nights there was an excellent idea.

Why? Well I don't know, but it was the closest I have felt to "living somewhere" in my entire trip. Of course, the time flew by but I had an awesome time.

Met LOTS of people. Many Australians, a couple French dudes who were a blast and an Irishman who lived next-door, and I even settled into a favorite bar, as that is required in any town I decide to take residence in. "The Three Monkeys" it was called. Made friends with the staff as well, no not hookers as this bar, along with most in Koh Samui, are free of the sex trade.

I stayed a bit off the main strip on Chaweng beach but close to it. Chaweng beach and Lamaii beach are the two main party spots, and while I never did catch Lamaii, I loved Chaweng.

My favorite part of the trip, and frankly my entire journey, was hitting a Full Moon Party, as most of you have probably heard about. In case you haven't, it is a gigantic bash that happens on the island of Koh Pha Ngan, which is a 30 minute motor-boat ride from Koh Samui. It
occurs every full moon night (about once a month) and it's been going on for decades, originally a party where people dropped acid and danced to trance music.

I took no drugs, and frankly saw very few people engaging in it, but we were certainly all in a trance as it was simply AWESOME! Boozing and dancing along the beach with 10,000 people all in a good mood (and covered in face paint, like myself) is VERY cool.

And while I had planned on hitting the party, when the day finally came to hit the party, I was beat and frankly didn't want to go as I didn't know what to expect. Well, I decided to buy a ticket after talking with my neighbor buddies (since I at least knew I wasn't going alone) and I'm quite happy I did!

I had so much stinking fun I wanted to shit.

But that is figuratively speaking. Literally speaking, I absolutely DID shit, and I did NOT want that at all! And not in a toilet either. I shall not admit to details, but it certainly cut the evening short, which means I got home at 6am instead of 8am.

Why even mention this? Well, I have no shame, and it isn't my fault as you may not know that when God made the McDermott males, he contracted out the creation of our bowels to a Minneapolis bridge designer. Seriously, we have major issues.

But if you ever get the chance, hit a full-moon party once in your life.

And now that I'm on my last day and I have to go home, I must say I'm totally depressed. Sure, I look forward to seeing my friends and family, but I'd give anything to have those 6 days back that my idiocy cost me!!!!!

And to be honest, I'm actually writing this in Bangkok before my flight leaves for the states.

And the depression might actually be a concussion, as last night while walking back from the hotel, I bashed my head into a sign that no Thai person comes within a foot of hitting and I have an alarmingly large gash on my pate that probably requires stitches, but I don't care. People like me, along with others like Eric Stoltz's character in The Mask, find it pointless to have that kind of cosmetic surgery.

I'm just angry I had this injury in my LAST night of the trip, and now I have to stand at Matt's wedding in 3 days! Oh well.

Okay that's all for now. Since I still have the travel bug, know that I am NOT finished with my journey, though I have no clue what is next. Argentina? Costa Rica? Back to Asia? Trailer Park? We shall see!

Massive Head-wound Groomsman

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Phang Nga Bay, Koh Kho Khao Island

When I first pictured my unemployed life of nothingness, I simply wanted a beach, a hammock and perhaps the co-star “Wilson” from Castaway.

I absolutely found that in Koh Kho Khao. Wow , words can’t describe how awesome these 5 days were. Sure, I’ve had no epiphany on what to do with my life (other than stay here, as I could probably afford another year at these prices) but it was exactly what I wanted.

The soon-to-be-married and doomed Matthew Ward suggested Phang Nga Bay as a quiet alternative to the more crowded beaches. And had I listened to that advice properly, I have a feeling it would have been far too touristy.

But luckily I am a moron and TRIED to take that advice, by booking a hotel in the Phang Nga province, but that is like booking any random hotel in the state of Massachusettes in hopes of hitting Boston.

What I booked was nowhere near Phang Nga Bay town, and frankly wasn’t very easy to get to, but I credit google with finding me this small resort in a tiny island off the very large province.

I had to take a 2 HOUR taxi from Phuket to find the place, which cost me a whole 40 bucks. (!! This would have been about 500 bucks anywhere in America !!)

When I finally got to the island (by taxi then ferry), I found a very nice resort with 24 separate bungalows, complete with air conditioning and TV but with your very own beach to venture onto.

And get this: only 2 out of the 24 rooms were occupied! I essentially had the whole freaking island to myself. Apparently people stay away from this place during the rainy season but I had pretty darn good weather so I totally lucked out. Seriously, if you ever need peace and quiet, come to Amandara Island resort here. I also recommend quitting your job though so take that with a grain of salt.

The only bit of discomfort came from the fact I was 100 feet from the Andaman Sea, and this island apparently was leveled in the 2004 tsunami. But really, that never worried me much. But believe me, had I felt the slightest quake, I woulda been darting up to the hills like Gump away from Napalm.

And despite how desolate it all was, and that it was me, some couple, and a hotel staff of about 10, I managed to have a nemesis.

And this was no human foe. No, this adversary came in the form of a Toucan.

So there I am reading a book on my bungalow porch (after reading another couple hours in the hammock) and it is more than a little awesome and I’m repeatedly thinking things like “This is the life!” and “I could not be more at one with nature than this moment” when out of nowhere this Toucan flies onto the porch.

I’m no ornithologist and can’t be SURE it was a Toucan, but that doesn’t matter. At that moment I only saw it peripherally and it looked like a pterodactyl or possibly a dragon. It was huge!

Being the unmanly mess that I am, my arms flew up in despair while I let out a shriek and darted inside like a distressed Orangutan.

And after I realized it was just an innocent Toucan (or exotic thai bird thingy), he wouldn’t go away and then tried to come inside. This would have been cute but darnit that thing was pecking at the window with such force it was unsettling.

And as I watched from inside, the Toucan flew right into my porch chair, pecked my beer over on the floor, looked back at me and then, almost gleefully, shit onto my chair.

You are NOT one with nature fat bald one. At best you are…ummph…number two!

And what a turd it was! I can safely say a Toucan eats a LOT of berries and very few Fruit Loops. I actually had to pick it up with TP and flush it down the toilet it was so large!

Then he flew off, and I resumed my awesome lounging.

Up until now, I had been doing a LOT of partying, but this was nothing but relaxing. Amazingly, I wasn’t bored in the least. Read 3 books cover to cover.

What did I do? Well, I’m not ashamed to say I mostly engaged in clichés like long ponderous walks on the beach, skipping shells into the water, and swinging for hours on the hammock. Had there been wooden posts in the sand, I surely would have practiced my Crane Technique as well.

And having 10 bored staffmembers of the hotel waiting on you is pretty darn cool. They would call me in my room to ask if I wanted any food, as they were likely surprised by my odd eating habits. (I only eat twice a day at best) And when I would eat in the restaurant (usually for breakfast), I must say it was kind of alarming as they watched me eat. And you knew they were watching as the SECOND you finished, they were right there clearing the table. But really they were all extremely nice, though I’m fairly certain they were quite curious with me and whispered about me as I ate.

Who is the Toucan-fearing American?
I don’t know but he is one lazy bastard!
I cleaned his room today. He has a helluva lot of toiletries for an unattractive male.
That is because he smells like a musk ox without them.

Another reason they hardly saw me eating is I had met a restaurant owner named Kokai on the ferry and he invited me to his restaurant my first day. I enjoyed myself so much I went back another time my third night. He owned like the only restaurant on the island and he would snag a fish from his nets adjacent to the restaurant and cook it fresh. And since I was the only tourist customer, I got special treatment.

Kokai had a great family too. His kids would come to my table and do magic tricks and play cards with me. After the seediness of Bangkok and Phuket, this was a most excellent change of pace. It also made me miss my nieces and nephews terribly. (Yes Eggy, I know you hate when I speak mush, but it is true. I also missed you...and wondered what you might be wearing)

On my fourth day, the Toucan returned! Only this time he had a friend with him. It once again scared the shit out of me as I read on the porch. This time I didn’t get up though. He and his buddy landed on opposite sides of the porch, as I watched, half amazed and half frightened. THEN, a third Toucan flew in!

“My God, they are descended from velociraptors and travel in 3’s! I’m doomed!”

And I know you are tired of me talking about the Toucan, but do you realize what he did next? He SHIT ON MY TOWEL that was hanging up outside! While I should have shooed them way (or perhaps used the Crane Technique), I instead ran inside frightened again. He and his buddies then pecked at my window angrily for 10 minutes.

I don’t know what I did to that Toucan, but I concede defeat. (Eat your heart out Hitchcock!)

But make no mistake, I absolutely freaking loved these 5 days. Why didn’t I stay longer? Well apparently the resort was about to get much more crowded with the rainy season ending, and it wouldn’t be the same if I had to share my island. (okay the Toucan’s island)

Plus, I’m ready to hit a bit of a party again. While I mentioned that one beer the Toucan ruined, I’m not kidding when I say I had TWO other beers the entire time I was there. There was no need. Just an excellent, excellent time.

Next is Koh Samui!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Before describing my 4 days in Phuket, let me say this is the second time I have visited here. The first time was for a very large business conference of 800+ employees, and while we were allowed to stay an extra day or two and have some fun, and our conference schedule was hardly demanding, I felt like I had to return and experience it on a vacation-only basis.

What I remembered was beautiful beaches, shady but fun beach bars, and lots and lots of expats from all over the world, most not even expats but people who simply retreated to Thailand for a few months to become lazy bastards. It was then that I knew I should someday follow in their footsteps!

But I realize now that one of the reasons I had such a great time in Phuket the first time is I had so many work buddies to hang out with, from my friends in AZ to meeting the new people in my new (now old) group, including what would be the first of many recorded nights boozing with the ever-excellent MMG. When you are with these types of crowds, it is easy to meet new and interesting people.

This time around, I must say it wasn’t quite the same. But I still had fun.

I couldn’t decide where to stay, as the first time I stayed in the Laguna area, which was a bit too far from the fun in Patong beach, and I knew it would be filled with couples and not what I was looking for. I assumed the same for many other remote beach resorts, so I decided to pick a hotel NEAR Patong, but just far enough away to be relatively quiet.

Somehow I got this ALL wrong, as I booked a hotel smack dab in the center of Patong. Not just central but on the most infamous party street around: Bangala road.

I also paid extra for a beach-side room, and obviously that was false advertising as I was still a 5-10 minute walk to the beach.

Oh well, at least the hotel was rather nice for 60 bucks a night!

But I also knew this about the main drag: Every fun bar that exists is inevitably FULL of prostitutes. This was fine when I was hanging out with the gals from my company as the hookers left you alone (for the most part). But when by yourself? Yikes.

At first I tried going to bars and restaurants not on the main street but I soon realized they were full of couples and families, and when I would return to my hotel, walking down the main stretch, I was pretty much running back to my hotel, with a swarm of hookers noting my presence and following. It was not unlike Rocky when he approaches the Museaum of Art, only if Philly were represented by Thai prostitutes, lady-boys and hermaphrodites.

But I do maintain that this town is a freaking blast regardless. If you don’t think guys picking up prostitutes isn’t the most interesting people-watching possible, you are crazy.

I couldn’t believe how many people must be “renting” the services of gals for the day, and how many of them were holding hands with their “dates”. I came to realize it was the girls, not the guys who demanded this affection, which was especially perplexing when it was a 60-year-old Guy with a twenty-something gal/lady-boy. (I mean, this gals MOTHER was hardly a zygote when these guys were 20!)

And much like Bangkok, I was pretty masterful at conveying to the girls that I wasn’t looking for sex, often having pathetically philosophical conversations on why Americans frown upon it. (The real reason is all prostitutes in America are either emaciated smack-shooting hags or rotund rednecks sporting femullets, but I didn’t want to sully the Thai side of the profession by saying that)

I found myself paying to NOT have sex, as you can have a pretty fun time with a gal by buying them drinks (which they get a kick-back from obviously) and eventually if I talked to them a while, I’d give them a hundred baht or something before leaving, almost as an apology for the imminent fear they must have felt had I accepted their offer and became naked.

But one thing that terrified me, while hanging out in these areas, especially since I was smack dab in the middle of it even when I returned to the hotel, were the mosquitoes. Wow I got bitten a lot! And the fact that these mosquitoes were feasting purely on prostitutes and their Johns was more than a little unsettling.

Oh well, if I did catch VD from a mosquito, they likely had one helluva hangover after sipping my veins.

And on this hooker thing: While most of you know I am a fairly perverted guy and I proudly agree, I must say I was surprised before I left how many people made comments like “Oh, you are going to Thailand to bang hookers” comments. That shit bothers me.

Why? I consider myself perverted in the “I like strip clubs a little more than I should” sense and that does NOT mean I pay for sex. There is a difference. (Kind of like how The Killers have soul but are not soldiers...only if that lyric made sense)

My biggest disappointment in Phuket was I didn’t meet people like I thought I would. Sure, I talked to some people here and there, but I guess the fact I was by myself and not toting a prostitute really made me seem creepy, ironically enough.

Seriously, the Europeans ignored me, Americans were non-existent and Australians just smiled (but gave me no vegemite sandwich).

I probably had the most fun (yet again) at one of the strip-clubs. These places were full of male AND female tourists, all having a good time, mostly because of the crazy shit the girls would do on stage. I shall not go into details, but let’s just say the stage shows involve “vagina tricks”. It is in no way a turn on and basically it is kind of a freak show. But darnit it if it isn’t fun!

I hit 2 such clubs in Phuket, and the first one was rather fun, and as usual, I had bought several drinks for ladies to leave me alone. One of the girls (not attractive at ALL) tells me she has to go up on stage, and sure enough, she does one of the “stunts”.

Laughter ensues, a few moments pass, and she returns to my table, where I sit slightly horrified, and we have the following conversation:

Skanky Stripper
You like my show?


Skanky Stripper
Why not?

You just shot 5 goldfish out of your vagina.

Skanky Stripper

Wait, I only saw 5…never mind.

Skanky Stripper
You give me tip for show?

I’d rather give the goldfish a warm bath and a group-hug.

Skanky Stripper
Okay you buy me another drink?

Of course!

So my second day, I went up and asked the front desk gal where I should go to have fun but avoid the hooker scene. She told me “have you tried ‘Tiger-Bar’ across the street?”

And yes I had, and this had more hookers than Times Square in the 80’s, so I figured she misunderstood the question.

“No! I said NO hookers.” I responded.

“What? Why you not like Tiger Bar? It is fun!” She said.

This blew me away, as this girl was sweet and clearly not involved in the sex trade. It was if she was being patriotic by pushing prostitution, as if to say “Buy war bonds!”

So I asked her directions to a club I remembered called Banana, which we tore up nicely 2+ years ago on our conference, but once I found it this time around, it kinda sucked and was no place for a creepy loner who doesn’t dance. Plus the beers were 200 baht a piece! (like 7 dollars, which is more than I even pay in NYC…well at my dive bars at least)

My third day I took a day trip to Kho Phi Phi, which was pretty awesome I must say. Some amazing beaches there, but be warned it was a long day of driving/boating to and from there, only to spend 2 or so hours on the beach. (wish I had done this my last day and stayed a few nights but oh well)

So after my 3 nights in Patong, I was more than ready for my quiet destination. No real regrets on coming though. Had I had a friend with me, it would have been excellent. Shame on you all who thought of coming but didn’t!

(And Diane, no I did not see Lyle Lovitte, but I saw lots of lady-boys!)

More later from Kho Kho Khao in the Phang Nga province of Thailand.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I’m here in Bangkok after 2.5 nights. I call it 2.5 nights because I arrived VERY late/early on Wednesday and was extremely jet-lagged after 19 hours of flying, after an early wake-up in San Diego and 3 hour train to LA to catch the first flight.

When I traveled to Asia for business 2 years ago, it wasn’t a problem. I’ve decided the solution for jet-lag anywhere, especially for a night-owl like myself, is simple: Ignore your fatigue and get hammered the first night and fall asleep at an hour that fits the time-zone.

On this trip, I didn’t do that. I also paid for it. (The lesson? Drinking is useful on at least 3 continents, probably 7)

I slept a whole 1.5 hours on the flight(s) and when I arrived in my hotel room at 4 in the morning, I decided to stay up even later watching a terrible Wesley Snipes movie on some action movie channel. (I loved it of course).

But lets back up. When I arrived in Bangkok, it was 3 in the morning and the airport was surprisingly quiet (and clean) and before I reached any kind of taxi stand, a woman asked if I wanted a private van, and when I asked how much, she quoted me a price a bit too high so I scoffed. She asked “how much you willing to pay?” and I kept walking, but then she pointed me to another guy that quoted a price which seemed more affordable so, being a proud gullible moron, I followed him.

We proceed outside and wait for 15 minutes, where he appears to be telling me a driver will pick me up, and a sign in front of this stop says “drop-off only, no pick-up”, but I wait since that’s what idiots do and eventually a bus shows up.

I realize it is a bus to off-airport parking, where his car may or may not be parked.

When we arrived at the parking lot, there were some relatively nice looking vehicles waiting. Of course, he walks right by them and walks 5 more minutes to his “car”. It is at LEAST 30 years old, has no air-conditioning, and has tires more bald than me.

Oh and the brakes were suspect as well…and I’m fairly certain it was running on 1 cylinder, though he still managed to drive like a complete lunatic.

You would think I had a bad time with this. Of course not! After 30 hours of travel, I enjoyed the shot of adrenaline! After all, I had embarked on a new region.

When I finally got dropped off at the hotel (which he couldn’t find, even though it is rather popular) the bell-hop guy heard me arguing with the taxi-driver, as he was trying to swindle me for more money since he didn’t have exact change.

I eventually gave him more than he quoted (like $3 dollars, which I had planned to give him anyway as a tip…damnit it’s the principle!)

The bell-hop was cool and after dropping off my bag, he gave me a lot of advice on things to see in my short trip to Bangkok. Sure, I had my Frommers guide, but I like to hear it from locals.

(And you know what? I continue to hate travel guides of any kind. It helps to read them here and there, but living and dying by them assures you have the most touristy itinerary possible, sights and lodging included. No thanks. I’ll just rely on google and the wonderful benefits of being totally uninformed)

Lec (Leck?) the bell-hop even invited me out with him on his day off to see some sights and have beers at some truly local watering holes. But that would be 2 days later. (And no he was not hitting on me)

Anyway, after Wesley Snipes tucked me in at 5:30am that first night/morning, I woke up bright and early 3 hours later, wondering how I could possibly feel well-rested.

I caught some sights but not many, as I really just wanted to walk around a few miles like I have done in many cities on the first day. But here’s the thing in Bangkok: They have NO sidewalks!

Seriously, no semblance of sidewalks, and my hotel was in a very nice area. I was wondering why so many shady fellows were stopping me and asking “where you going”, all waiting by their 0.005 cc motorcycles.

I soon figured out that not only are these guys not altogether shady, they were more expensive than regular taxis since the traffic in Bangkok is TERRIBLE. You sit in a car for at least 10 minutes on any given mile traveled. The motorcycles can weave in and out, which makes them a premium ride. (Note: I have yet to take a motorcycle as I would have to sit perpendicular to the driver and I’m convinced I would break a tibia)

Anyway, after my minimal touring my first day, and some excellent Thai food, I was incredibly tired come 9pm and I decided to take a nap.

I slept until 2 in the morning, which left me with another evening with the action channel and yet another series of cat-naps to get me through the night.

The next day, I got fitted for a suit, since it is the thing to do in Thailand, and frankly I don’t own a suit and haven’t bought a suit since 1995. (actually my parents bought that suit)

I agreed to buy a suit and 3 shirts, and the price seemed pretty reasonable. (I have since found out I paid about twice as much as I should have, but frankly that is still a 4th of the price that you’d pay for a custom-made suit in the States)

Later on, I once again got tired as hell after dinner and took a nap that lasted far too long. I woke up about 11 this time and called down to Lec the bell-hop to ask for a place a bit closer than the areas he had suggested since it was getting late.

I specifically asked for places not wrought with hookers, as I’m sure you know is a big part of Bangkok, even if you’re knowledge doesn’t extend beyond Falco music. (actually "One Night in Bangkok" was not Falco but Robey. I suck)

Somehow Lec interpreted “I don't want hookers” as “I want strippers”.

He had suggested Patpong, which I thought sounded familiar, but it is basically an entire road of seedy strip-clubs and NO regular pubs.

So it being midnight, of course I stayed!

And worse, I had a pretty good time!

However, I quickly realized the strippers were prostitutes as well, as the first conversation I had with a “dancer” that approached me went like this:

Where you come from?


Oh! American! You so handsome. Why you not married?

I am a loser.

You want suckie fuckie?

Hey, what kind of place is this!?! I don't know what kind of sleaze you take me for, but I just came in here for a table dance!

Joking aside, I was truly in no mood for this kind of place. However, after shooting down the first 3 gals, word spread that no profit could me made and instead I began making friends with the waitresses, who really weren’t hookers(I think) and were pretty wholesome gals.

Before you know it, I was buying rounds for all the waitresses, who were sitting with me as the place closed down. It was a darn good time.

And no, I didn’t hook up with any of them, as it wasn’t really like that. I couldn’t be sure if they weren’t hookers and I was a bit off by this point (read: “completely hammered”) and after a night of buying them drinks and ignoring the dancers, they simply found me fun and harmless (read: “gay”).

The last day…

As promised, Lec the bell-hop took me around. We hit two Buddhist temples, which were pretty amazing and then went to the mall of Bangkok, where I bought very little but everything was amazingly cheap. I expected something like canal street, but this was pretty much a very nice mall complete with every knock-off fashion accessory you could ask for.

After that, I went home and showered and ate, then met back up with Lec, who took me to some local nightlife spots, and later his friends joined us.

It was rather excellent having this inside track. Sure, we first hit Khao San Road, famous for being filled with hippy backpackers and tourists, but we didn’t stay long (thankfully) and then we went to the authentic Thai hang-outs.

I was roughly 3 feet taller than everyone else, and the beer was much cheaper than what I’d run into at places near the hotel. There was also a band that was covering rather terrible American music, which surprised even Lec, as he thought it would be a DJ. But there certainly weren’t other westerners there, which I loved.

And the women wanted nothing to do with me. (How authentic indeed!)

The most fascinating aspect of the evening may have been Lec himself. While touring during the day, we took subways and taxis everywhere and he basically seemed like a relatively cool local.

When he picked me up in his car after I washed up, I got to know a different side of him. Not a dark side, just the fact that as far as I can tell, Lec is living a life remarkably similar to American life in 1990.

While he’s my age (okay 4 years younger), his car, a comically souped up Mitsubishi Lancer, complete with chrome rims, side-curtains and spoiler, is his pride and joy. I don’t say this to make fun of him (okay maybe) but even the way he drove, hunched to the left (they drive on other side of the road here) with the underside of one wrist slumped atop the steering wheel, really took me back.

He was even sporting a hat cocked on one side, with absolutely no bend in the brim, and a pair of Nike hi-tops.

Had he played Vanilla Ice, I would have been certain we were on the way to basketball practice, where my pedophile JV coach awaited with whistle in mouth. (No, my coach never molested me…but it would explain a lot wouldn’t it?)

Lec did love his hip-hop though, and I must say his knowledge of the genre is better than mine damnit.

After going through a mix-CD or two, he threw in some local hip-hop artists, most notably “Thai-tanium”, the most famous Rapper in Thailand.

While I didn’t rush back to download Thaitanium, it wasn’t bad and was darn interesting to hear Asian rap, especially with Lec keepin it real next to me. And please google Thaitanium, as he looked like a Thai Little John.

I can’t remember any of his songs, though I do remember one chorus repeating “We gettin Yaki!” over and over again (which I can only guess means Titanium really enjoys Japanese noodles)

(quick note from the last day: I even caught Thaitanium on Thai MTV just now, performing a single I can't even do justice called "Do the Duck Walk". Please google that immediately as well)

So I consider Bangkok a success, though reading above I complained nonstop. Call it cranky jet-lag. Next is Phuket! (a beach for sure!)

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Past 2 Weeks & The Reverse of "Return to Paradise"

Hello there,

I couldn't bring myself to put an exclamation on that greeting, as I'm just not feeling as such.

I'm writing from my friend Eggy's house in Chula Vista, outside San Diego.

Why am I not in Southeast Asia? Well I'd like to blame the airline, or Expedia, or even Gypsies, but the clear culprit is a miserable unemployed idiot who goes by the name "Myself". And not just one idiotic mistake but many that leave me sitting in a very nice house in sunny California but still annoyed, as when I first summoned the heroism to quit my job, my only thought was retreating to a very cheap destination with a beach, whether Thailand, Costa Rica, Panama, you name it, my demands were simple.

I have not hit that destination yet, over 3 months into my extended leave, save for a family vacation in Ocean City, Maryland, and a weekend on the Jersey Shore.

But honestly, I'm not TOO bothered by this, just very angry at myself for the incredibly inept sequence of events that had to occur to get myself in this situation.

But first, let me bore you with what I've been DOING since my 2 sentence update on Spain.

I flew from Madrid to London, Gatwick Airport, and since I had to leave the next day (sept 25th), I booked a hotel right near Gatwick and planned to have a decent meal (tough in London...sorry Marion) and a decent night's sleep and nothing more.

The hotel was pretty crappy and their courtesy vehicle at the airport didn't even have their hotel name on it but another hotel and then a tiny piece of paper with the actual name, so either I missed it 3 times and waited over an hour or they simply didn't send it in the first place. I think the correct answer is somewhere in between but oh well, I made it there at 9pm.

Annoyed with this hotel and the shady staff, they pointed me down a dark rural road and told me to walk for 10 minutes to find the nearest cluster of restaurants.

I find the restaurants and was pleased to see one of them was a Thai and Vietnamese restaurant and walked in and sat down.

I immediately notice a large table of people boozing nearby and from the looks of the crowd, 8 fairly cute Asian gals ranging in age from 20ish to 40ish and 2 shady looking fellows in their fifties, one American and one British. The American was making totally crude and creepy jokes to the gals, like when he took a picture of the group he said "smile...and take off your shirts".

Not to sound racist or anything, but I could only surmise that these two dudes had invited the entire staff of the nearest massage parlor out to dinner. Seriously, they didn't match.

From the moment I sat down, a few of the gals kept turning around and checking me out, and when the waitress came by to take my order, she told me "the girls are being naughty and want you to join them".

Still puzzled by the dynamic of the table, I politely declined and noted that there wasn't any room at the table for me. (This is reason #865 why I never get laid)

But a few moments later, the couple next to this table gets up to leave and then the American, feeling PITY on me, insists I come join them and pulls the extra table in with theirs.

Normally, my pride overrides any pity another might feel for me, but when a fifty-year-old perverted ugly guy feels pity on me, I know enough to reevaluate things.

So of course I joined them!

I learned that they are not from a massage parlor but gals that work at this restaurant and have the night off. They were celebrating the birthday of one of the girls, and the 2 guys happened to be dating 2 of the gals.

The American was a pilot who works for some airline I'd never heard of and the British guy, well I forget.

To stray from my normal self-deprecating ways, it would not be conceited of me to say I was considerably younger and possibly even better looking than these 2 fellows, and since I wasn't making perverted comments every other second, I very likely came off as a bald Brad Pitt to the girls. (okay maybe a white Brad Daugherty)

Once I unleashed the information that I was traveling the world and technically living in Manhattan, they were swooning.

Actually they were just hammered, but let me stick with swooning and stone-cold sober.

The restaurant closed about 10pm and then the party started. By this point, I'd caught up pretty nicely on the boozing front, and I must say I was sporting a charm and confidence I've never quite had.

I think even the pilot wanted me. Well maybe not, but his girlfriend sure as hell did.

And while the rest of the evening was fun, it did not quite head in the direction I would have liked. How could this lead anywhere but a legendary night of lust? Well, remember the "reasons I never get laid"? Well, I think I broke rule # 1, 2 AND 3 this evening.

Rule #1 is "never, under any circumstances, break out your dance skills. You are 6'5" and uncoordinated, and the only dance moves you have were picked up from gangster rap videos." Well these girls all picked me up out of my chair and started hopping up and dancing around me like I was the lead in the "Safety Dance" video and they were the giddy midgets. After exhausting my dancing repertoire of a wooden Flavor Flav and then a mix of the lawn-mower and the dance Terence Howard does in "Hustle and Flow" while singing "Whup that Trick", I knew I was only losing points and decided to sit down.

Rule #2 is "do not drop your drink or break a glass", and while I didn't break my glass, the birthday girl herself came over to drag me back out on the dance floor and knocked over my glass of wine, which shattered into a Chirazzy mess on the floor.

I could have mooned the birthday girl while flatulating and it wouldn't have halted the celebration as much as this development. She spent the next 10 minutes cleaning it up and the owner of the restaurant (who was also hot by the way) started to check her watch like perhaps the party should end soon.

I suck.

Rule #3 is "do not waste your time on a gal with a boyfriend when there are other available gals just as attractive". Yes, I am a self-destructive prick, as I did exactly this.

And how could I forget rule #4. "Do not eat ANY garlic under any circumstances. While most people can pop a mint to deaden the effect, your Irish roots will quarrel with the herb so viciously, you will smell like a homeless guy in 30 minutes or less and it will last 3 days." Well, I probably smelled like a dead homeless guy after mistakenly ordering a dish with garlic AND curry.

It wasn't a total failure however. Not to give any details (as that would please my guy friends who ONLY want to hear such stories too much) let me say that the hotel bell-hops think I quite literally went to the Thai and Vietnamese restaurant for take-out. But on the whole, I really have no game.

So anyway, that was my last night in London.

I flew to New York the next day without a problem, picked up 2 bags I had left at my old place and brought them to Guy's to clog up his apartment, and then hopped on a flight to Phoenix the next day.

The weekend of the 28th, I headed with buddies to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for a bachelor party. Man Law prohibits me from discussing much of the weekend (which was really quite innocent but it is still a rule not to discuss it), but I will say I was VERY psyched for this weekend, since it was at a beach, it was a bachelor party for my good buddy Matt, and this happened to be an excellent group of friends that are drunken, immature thirty-somethings like myself.

We had a blast Friday, up until the end of the night when the monumentally corrupt policia in Cabo planted drugs on one of the guys and hauled him off the jail for what would be 20 hours! And yes, he was actually PLANTED with drugs! I will not disclose what it cost to get him out, but lets just say it was much higher then the 500 bucks most people guess.

We got him out though, and while that is a good story, it really killed our momentum and we never could quite recover. Oh well. Was good to see the guys.

Also, the rip-tides in Cabo are so strong you are pretty much prohibited from entering the water, and since Saturday was spent waiting on a sleazy couch in the jail entrance, and Sunday was rainy, I ONCE AGAIN failed to hit a beach properly.

Oh well, I knew in my heart I would soon make it to Thailand.

Wednesday the 3rd I made it to the airport nice and early to start my long journey.

But there was a problem. I forgot it wasn't an e-ticket and that I had received tickets 2 months ago and I had stashed them in one of the 2 bags I left at Guy's place in NYC. Argh!!!!!

The guy at the ticket counter tried to help me but it was my own stinking fault. I called the airline and they said to buy another ticket and that the airline would reimburse me on the ticket I didn't use.

I decided to stay another night in Phoenix and fly out the next day to LA on southwest rather than Delta, and then buy my ticket in LA to Bangkok.

Made it to LA fine and then the ticket-counter guy tells me the ticket will be $3,400!!! I stormed out, nearly weeping at this point, and eventually after calming down, decided I would postpone the arrival to my hotel by a few days, spend the weekend with friends in San Diego, and then fly out Sunday or Monday. This would also give Guy time to overnight me my tickets, as get this, you need to have your return tickets as well to even enter Thailand (so they know I'll leave) so I would have had to buy another round trip ticket otherwise.

I had a pretty great weekend, and I got the tickets fine from Guy, but honestly every day I'm not in Asia pisses me off, as this was what I planned to do a full 3 months in the first place! And since I leave Oct 31st to come back for a wedding, my time is dwindling!

So on Saturday I booked a flight for Monday morning out of LA to Bangkok. Yesterday (Sunday) I logged in to check my confirmation number and flight details. I was more than a little horrified to see I had booked the flight for a friend of mine and not myself! How did this happen? Well, not long ago I had booked a flight for a friend as a gift and she was on my list of travelers and somehow it defaulted to her.

SOOOOOO, I had to call expedia, and they told me to simply cancel the ticket and buy another, and I canceled the ticket fine (cost me like 5 bucks) and then when I tried to rebook, flight was full amazingly! Yep, I am a fucking idiot.

So, I write you rather angry and yet somehow not too angry that I'm still in the states. Good news is I'm saving some money I suppose. (though probably annoying Eggy & his wife, as well as Lance, another buddy who's place I stayed at Thurs through Sat)

I'm willing to bet I never get reimbursed, which frankly I'm fine with, and honestly? I still don't even believe at this point I'll EVER set foot in Asia before Oct 31st. I've made so many idiotic mistakes, I firmly believe I will not be on the flight I booked tomorrow.

And if I am? Well, please God let me get an exit row or bulk-head seat as it involves 19 hours of flying!

Okay I'll stop bitching now. But be warned, my Asia trip is going to involve a lot less trips to Buddhist temples and cultural tours up the river and a LOT of sitting on my ass at a beach. Hell, if I like the first beach I hit, I'm staying there! After all, as Jack Wager says, it is "ALL I NEEEEED"!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Well I must admit I was VERY lazy doing enough documentation on Spain. I hit two locations, what I THOUGHT was the Costa Del Sol area in Malaga, and then Madrid.

I hit Malaga since I simply wanted to hit a beach, whether the French Riviera, Costa Del Sol or anywhere, the only requirement was a beach.

I failed of course.

I booked a hotel in Malaga, which was indeed interesting as a city, but it is by no means a beach town. I tried booking something in Marbella or the many other beach towns but they were surprisingly all booked up.

And I went against my rule of booking a hotel a max of 2 nights and booked Malaga 4 nights. Crap!

Oh well, got to relax in a very nice hotel, and I liked that there was a conference or something going on from some random company. I enjoyed that I didn't have to attend a single meeting and I know a couple people were glaring at me with looks suggesting "what is up with that guy? And why doesn't he ever wear socks? And why is he spending so much time on trying to shorten a reservation?"

Actually no one paid attention to me, not unlike every conference I've attended myself.

And OH Yeah, while the hotel in Malaga was nice, there was deafeningly loud construction going on that started at 8am every day. Now I know most of you rise before 7, but I DO NOT. And I can sleep through most anything, but this was LOUD. I don't know my machinery, but it was much louder than a jack-hammer and throw in the maids that love to knock on the door at 8:30 AND EVEN TRY COMING IN (even with the do not disturb sign up), and it was not a good time in Malaga. But it could have been worse I guess, like if the hotel wasn't so nice, or if it wasn't construction but a James Blunt concert outside.

So I had 3 nights left before heading back to the States and I decided to salvage the Spain portion, give up on the "beach," and hit Madrid.

And that was an excellent idea it turned out, for when I arrived Saturday, slightly annoyed I STILL wasn't sitting in sand, I basically stepped off the train and into one of the biggest parties of the year held in Madrid. Seriously, it was hopping, and at first I just thought Madrid must be a year round party, and frankly maybe every Saturday is totally wild, but there was indeed a festival going on.

(Sadly, I never did figure out WHAT THE HELL IT WAS on Saturday? Sunday there was a rather large cycling event but I don't think that was the reason for the big party Saturday. I'd check the internet but I have little time. I'm sitting in an Arizona Starbucks trying to write this before heading to Asia tomorrow, and I spent the weekend at a bachelor party in Mexico, so Spain is not exactly "fresh" in my mind in many areas)

The hotel I stayed at in Madrid was full of Americans, as was much of Madrid oddly, the most I had seen in Europe really, but those in my hotel were almost ALL over the age of 70. Seriously.

The hotel was on the Gran Via, and until the wee hours of Sunday, people were walking along the road and were fairly loud, and seemed to be walking up and down the street simply as though they were supposed to, like to feed off the energy of the city or something.

I didn't mind the noise at all, and I rather enjoyed soaking in the energy outside my window, especially since I felt like I was getting a double dose since I was staying in the hotel with the full cast of "Cocoon". (I am going to hell)

You know what though? I think if anyone follows in my footsteps and finds themselves "ambitious" enough to take extended leave, my advice is to spend less than a month in Europe.

I wasn't homesick as much as ready for a new region, or just ready to return to see friends or whatever. I didn't give Spain much of a chance as I was a tad bit tired of sightseeing, and as you can tell, I was really ready for a beach and nothing more!

Cry me a river though!

Perhaps I will write a little something on the last night in London (which was surprisingly fun considering I stayed one night in a shit-hole hotel near Gatwick airport) as well as the bachelor party in Cabo San Lucas this past weekend, but I just don't have time now.

But I mention that as I am very much rejuvenated travel-wise and am ready for Asia!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

France (okay Paris and wine country for now)

So I write you in Paris, after a full week in France, in an apartment that Guy swapped with a French couple in a neighborhood I frankly don’t know how to label.

It is a great area, don’t get me wrong, but since they don’t label towns like “the upper west side” or “the village”, all I can tell you is it is in arrondesmont (neighborhood) 12, and I can best liken it to an up-an-coming area in Brooklyn, although Paris seems much more compact on a map since it all seems connected, save for the river Seine splitting it down the middle. I am quite happy with the apartment since I’m nowhere near a touristy hotel and I’ve experienced Paris like a true Parisian, a very stupid and totally incommunicable one!

Backing up, I decided to book a flight from Prague to Paris as the train seemed a bit too long and I arrived in Paris relatively late Sunday Sept 9th. I took the bus from the airport and then a cab and found Guy at this apt share without any difficulty.

I was worried I ruined Guy’s day by the late arrival but since he had gotten in 2 days earlier, he was just getting over his jet-lag and really only managed a couple of sights in that time and no real partying.

We looked at our maps and took a subway to the nearest area that might be hopping on a Sunday night, and while we had little luck, we found an Irish pub and drank overpriced beers until 3 in the morning. (hey, we didn’t even make it OUT until 12:30!)

Also, let me add that France in general is all about the World Cup of Rugby, and all the pubs are chock full of Irish, British and especially Scottish people…yes, with kilts.

Screw it, rather than this boring diary shit of dictating what we did, let me speed up and say Guy and I spent 3 nights in Paris, and since he was here 2 days before me, I’m fairly certain I annoyed the shit out of him since, as I told you, it takes me 3 days to understand my way in a town, and he was hoping I’d get up to speed and help out with the navigating.

On the contrary! The fact is I put myself on autopilot and simply followed him around like a ritilen-sedated child and learned less than if I had been by myself. Oh well, I we are best of buddies so he’s well aware I bring nothing to the table in any area, travel included. And if you choose to read well on, you will see I found my way in Paris on trip two!

I shall let Guy tell you the story of his heroic drunkenness Tuesday as well, but let me say that it involved him drinking an ENTIRE bottle of Absynth, and amazingly he didn’t lose his composure AND didn’t murder me in my sleep. I had no Absynth, but I did have many beers of course.

Guy and I were amazed by how freaking clean Paris is, as I have noted in many cities, but Paris is REALLY clean, and the subways are otherworldly clean. No rats. No brown sludge and stalactites growing on the 80-year-old supports like in NYC, just very clean and well-decorated platforms to see. And I wouldn’t have noticed if Guy hadn’t pointed it out, but the trains run on tires so you have a very smooth ride. Worth mentioning I suppose.

While we enjoyed Paris for 3 nights, the fact is Guy had this place for 2 full weeks but wanted to hit wine country before he hit a wedding in Toulouse for the weekend.

I figured I’d join him on the trip to Bordeaux/wine country and then head back up to Paris when he went to the wedding, which is exactly what I did. (geez, why am I so boring tonight? Oh, because of the $8 bottle of French wine that would’ve cost me $150 in the states…sorry about that)

Let me just paste comments from wine country:

(2 nights into wine country)

I sit in the hotel lounge in Saint Emilion, roughly 20 km due east of Bordeaux, recently having uncorked a 2001 bottle of Chateau Bigaroux, which I learned was a very good vintage here in Saint Emilion on my wine tour today, and the region of Saint Emilion is where the absolute best wines in the world are made. (including the bottle of Chateau Chavel Blanc Paul Giamatti covets in “Sideways”, if you care to know)

The wine tour also made me very interested in wine-making. I have to say, I never got into the beer-brewing craze, only because I've always liked simple beers that don't have fruit and shitloads of sugar thrown into them. Also, the first time I ever got "drunk", (okay buzzed) was from my older brother's friend Vince's home-brew, and I'm not even certain it had any alcohol in it.

But I'd like to take a crack at bottling my own wine...of course, the only grapes I have access to are in my parents back yard. I learned that while wine has a hell of a lot to do with climate, it also has to do with the soil and factors such as growing grapes atop a limestone deposit, where the soil retains all of its nutrients and isn't washed away.

Of course, my parents grape-vine is situated atop our septic tank, which isn't quite as temping, but in 2008 look for my premier bottle of "Chateau La Merde".

But back to this bottle I have in front of me.

No, I didn’t buy this at the vineyard tour, though I did buy one bottle, but I’m letting that age a bit. (translation: I HOPE to have it 2+ years but know I will probably drink it in the next 2 days)

And how much was the bottle I’m drinking? (which is f#*king awesome, by the way)

15 Euro!!!! (about $22…it would be at least $100 in the states, and the 25 euro bottle from Chateau Mauvigne would be roughly 6 million dollars)

If that doesn’t piss you off, know that 2 hours ago I had a 4 course meal of foie gras and pinapple, filet mignon, salade, cheese and meat platter and crème brule for desert (with more fantastic Bordeaux throughout of course).

We don’t know exactly when we will die, but I feel very privileged I know the APEX of my life, and this is it. Sure a hot chick would have helped, but creepy American loner beggars can’t be choosers, you know?

But seriously, in Ireland, my general reaction was “wow, this is cool”, and then in Norway and Germany it was “this is the life!”, and then Prague “it will never get better than this!”.

But France? Here in wine country? Well my reaction has been simply “wow, now I’m just being an asshole.”

With the endless supply of affordable wine and amazingly good cheeses and food in general, I have a shit-eating grin on my face that only swiping my badge to enter work could remove.

C’est horrible!

And by the way, let me say that the foie gras wasn’t very good. Sure I am the pickiest eater alive but I DO like liver, and I DO like Duck, but force-feeding a duck to achieve this taste doesn’t seem worth it. I’ve been force-feeding myself for nearly a month now and my liver probably tastes of tobacco and booze, and it recently inspired a new measurement on the Moe’s Hardness Scale as it is harder than diamond. (huh?)

Guy only spent one night and a day in Saint Emilion before he had to head down to Toulouse, and I was enjoying myself so much (seriously, look at the pictures) I stayed another night.

While having yet another glass of wine and a plate of cheeses at a random cafe at lunch today, and marveling at just how FRENCH it all felt and how relaxed I was, Freddy Mercury started screaming ominously through the speakers, threatening to rock me. Now, let me say Freddy Mercury is one of my top 5 favorite vocalists, but at that moment, it was a little jarring.

A few songs later, and I shit you not, Alanis Morissette’s “Isn’t it ironic?” came on, and while I wasn’t drinking Chardonnay and it wasn’t a black fly, a freaking gnat flew directly into my Bordeaux. Mon Dieu!

The worst part is I spent at least 10 minutes trying to decide if that really WAS ironic, contrary to Alanis’ widely regarded misunderstanding of the word. I eventually decided it STILL wasn’t, just a coincidence…(do you agree?)…and then I fished the gnat out and drank it anyway. (Isn’t it pathetic? Don’t you think?)

And you will note from the pictures (which I haven’t uploaded yet of course) that it was a bit of an older crowd, but I didn’t care in the least as I needed to relax and enjoy a non-urban area.

Paris Trip 2: Final 4 days in France:

I took a train from Saint Emilion to Bordeaux and then hopped on a train to Paris without a problem. Would have liked to spend a night in Bordeaux, but I must say the Gypsy in Prague really threw off my budget and did I mention, GUY HAD A FREE PLACE TO STAY!?!

Friday night I was a bit exhausted but still rallied enough to hit the town for a while, but at this point I was getting MIGHTY frustrated at how terrible my memory is of the French language.

Let me back up and say that I took 2 years of French in high school, and unlike many subjects, I always got straight As. I THEN took 1 semester in college as the 2 years wasn’t enough.

THEN, over ten years ago I dated a French-Vietnamese gal who insisted on giving me refreshers in French and for a while there, I must say I knew French pretty well. Okay not well at all but I could read 70% of it and speak and understand about 30% of it.

But I forgot nearly all of it since then. Luckily Guy bought some “learn French in a week” type books and I refreshed some of my knowledge, but on the whole I am useless.

Terribly useless.

Anyway, Friday was uneventful, and after catching a couple sights Saturday day (yes, I actually did the Eiffel Tower after dissing it, and it was very cool I must say) I hit the town again Saturday night.

I really didn’t feel like doing a pub crawl, which I could have, just felt like hanging out in the immediate area of where the apartment is. I grabbed some French bread and a much needed salad (although the salad had loads of ham and eggs in it, which was fine, as long as I can say I had a salad!) and hit a couple local bars.

The second bar I went to, after noticing it was full of guys, many of whom were drunken train-wrecks and some slurring so much I almost understood their French, I decided to stay!

It turns out this bar was full of French-Algerian dudes, and they all were very nice. Okay 3 of them were nice, the others were totally hammered vegetables, but this fit all my requirements of a shady dive bar so I was happy.

The bartender was the nicest guy, but another guy Bruno (yes Bruno), was the one who decided to take me under his pungent wing for the evening.

He spoke English very well, although after reading up on the French refresher books again, I really wanted to speak some French as most of the guys spoke little English, but Bruno wasn’t happy with me butchering his language.

This is not because Bruno was practical, but because he was one of those “randomly angry drunk guys”. Seriously, he was nice as can be for about 20 minutes at a time, and then out of nowhere, he would call me a prick or lambaste me for something. It was not tourette’s syndrome but just the fact he was an angry drunk I guess.

I of course found him fascinating, and I’m fairly certain if I wasn’t a menacing looking fellow he may have beaten me up about 5 times.

He also hated that I couldn’t say his name correctly, as the French pronunciation would require me to have 6 shots of Novocain and 20 beers.

But after 30 minutes in this place, noticing there were NO women to be found, I asked Bruno “Ou sont les femmes?” (where are the girls?…well I think that is what it means)

He seemed angered by this as well, not because it was a gay bar or anything but just because Bruno is an angry guy (and I think his parents knew this, thus the name)

All of the sudden, a very cute French gal who I learned was a regular walks in.

At one point, when all of the bar was talking to me, I mentioned I am from New York and live in Manhattan and work for blank (all lies technically, but GREAT to have in your arsenal) and from that moment on the cute French gal was eyeing me like Oprah eyes Haagen-Dazs after a fight with Stedman.

But Bruno, angry drunk connoisseur that he is, proved to be an even BETTER cock-blocker, for while he was the first to point out the cute gal wanted me, he put on a show of cock-blocking like I have never seen, by not only ensuring I didn’t talk to her, but by eclipsing my view of her so impressively, I barely got to SEE her.

You are probably thinking like I was that perhaps since she is a regular that all the guys look out for her, but hey, the whole rest of the bar seemed to understand I’m an okay guy, and probably knew I’d strike out with this vixen anyway, so what was the big deal?

I’m divulging too much here but basically Bruno wasn’t really blocking the view as much as happy to have a friend I guess. After at least 30 minutes of this, I juked Bruno like Tim Duncan avoids a pick and roll and found myself next to the French gal…but it was too late as she had JUST gotten her tab and was headed home. (She was also probably horrified by the vision of me up close, but lets say otherwise)

Oh well, I am useless.

Bruno then took me out to a couple bars, okay only one really, and at this point I was thankful for his efforts but he was rather unstable and I was getting tired. Seriously, red wine at dinner sucks the energy out of me…in a good way as going to bed at 3 or 4 am is NOT healthy. I made it to bed before 1am that night! And no, Bruno was not sleeping with me.

Come Sunday, as I write you now, I was eager to hit a few more sights, like the Louvre and Versailles, but I found myself unable to get motivated. REALLY unable. Sure I did some laundry and organized my travel a bit, but I was alarmed at how fatigued I was, despite no obvious hangover.

I had a serious bout of “the stupids” as well.

Like I said, I’ve been learning more and more French since I arrived, but on this day I couldn’t speak a damn thing.

For instance, I told a convenience store clerk “good night” at 1 in the afternoon.

And when a fellow said thank you after borrowing my lighter, I told him “see you tomorrow!”

I realized I was in a funk so impressive I had forgotten the most basic of exclamations, and frankly, I’m fairly certain I would have had the same responses in English.

It took me a while to realize it had been a full five days since I went for a run. And since I have been eating out every meal, and the French deep-fry almost everything that isn’t already fatty meat, my veins were pulsing with blood as viscous as play-dough.

I’m telling you, since I’ve grown to enjoy running, NOT running, while fun in itself, really puts you in a funk. (You were right Joe, running is oddly enough like smoking, you only do it since you feel odd if you DON’T do it)

Anyway, I put my sightseeing off for the day, laced up my hideous jogging shoes, iPod with distance tracker chip and terrible red shirt and made my way toward Lake Daumesnil, and before you know it, I was running like the wind, though totally without energy.

Well, sure I started off terribly, and the sand/gravel path only made me more miserable and thirsty, but pretty soon I was loping along gracefully, with a stride best likened to an effeminate T-Rex with an equilibrium disorder, and after 5 miles, I was a new man!

At one point in the run, forgetting which direction was north and south, I stopped and asked directions to a couple cute gals and I must say my French was not too shabby. The lesson? Running is good and I only talk to gals when smelly and covered in sweat.

I came back, showered, and was ready to have a nice meal and then see my friends at the bar from the night before (and yes, I was fairly certain Bruno would not be there).

Well, either the bar was closed or I totally forgot where it was in the first place so my evening involved a great meal, some wine of course, a beer at an equally shady bar without the friendly/angry patrons and then I’m back now writing you.

Since I know my last 36 hours in Paris will be full of sights and planning my next destination, I shall end my France blog now. (I think)

From what I have written, you would think I’ve found Paris so-so, but that isn’t the case!

I haven’t met many friends in Paris but this town is simply awesome. Hell, I lived in New York a good 5 months before hitting my stride, and I HAD friends when I arrived.

And I didn’t even want to come to Paris in the first place, as I thought it would be touristy and essentially is a place you come to if you have a significant other.

And as I walked along the river Siene at night, I must say it was indeed romantic. I was all over myself. Okay just kidding, but I could definitely see how it would be romantic with a gal, if I weren’t a lethal combo of hideous and unable to commit.

As for tourists?

Well it wasn’t too bad, and I actually liked that the French don’t bend over backwards to cater to tourists and certainly don’t feel the need to learn English, so they have their very own attitude that is different from the rest of Europe.

But make no mistake, I didn’t encounter a single episode of “rude” French people (Bruno excluded, but he was a fantastic outlier) and on the whole the French are very hospitable and a genuinely cool bunch of folks.

Let me also say that as well as Europeans dress in general, the French are some well-dressed cats, whether male or female, gay or straight, we ain’t got shite on them in NYC.

Oh yeah, and in case you are wondering why I didn't hit the Riviera, well, I decided I was running out of time and to utilize the free place in Paris. (there are worse places to extend your stay!)

I also was so impressed by France that I want to fully refresh my French and become fluent (mostly) so I can return and hit the south of France! (Steph, I will need your help here! And no that doesn't involve you being the miracle worker, just making sure to test me once in a while!)

Also, I decided to squeeze in another destination...but since I'm sure about 2 people have read this far, no guilt on keeping you in suspense!

Paris (& wine country) Ratings:

The scenery: 10 (as impressive as Prague, though their buildings are more 18th & 19th century impressive, as opposed to medieval and baroque-design impressive…and yes, the man who still proclaims Airplane is the best movie ever just typed that)
The "local feel": 9
The bars: 6 (truly was hoping for more, but I think I was VERY malinformed here)
The food: 9.5 (holy crap, the food is amazing, and I only shaved off half a point since I was kinda tired of “jambon”, but only because I kept picking it as I couldn’t remember much of the other menu option meanings)
The friendliness of patrons: 9
The ladies' presence: 8 (very, VERY cute and sexy gals of all ages here…no clue how they stay so thin with all good food, good food that ALWAYS involves something deep-fried)
Desire to return 10 (not until I learn French! And I want you, my friends, to hold me to this, if in 1 year I haven’t become markedly more fluent, please kick me in the balls forcefully)
Value for Money 10 (they get this on the fact that I have eaten in a French restaurant 3 or 4 times in the states, and my whole trip has cost me less in Paris…seriously, never once felt like something was overpriced)
Opinion of Americans 6 (I didn’t help here…the guy who borrowed my lighter is probably still wondering why I would intend to see him tomorrow)