November 28, 2005

Itchy... itchy.

My tattoo can be quite likened to having a sunburn. In the first day or two that area of skin was a bit warm and the skin felt very tight and painful when I stretched. Now it is less painful when I move (though still very sore when touched in certain parts), but my skin is starting to peel. I noticed it last night when I was just feeling a bit how it was doing. The skin was all rough, but not in a scab like I expected (except for a little bit near the bottom of the tattoo), it's all dry skin peeling off. Ew. And the bits that peel off have colour in them from the ink, heh. It's kinda freaky to have rather big bits of black or red coloured skin coming off me. And more and more today it's begun to feel itchy, which Claudia warned me about, telling me not to itch it; no matter how much I may want to scratch up against a wall, it'll damage my skin and the tattoo and prolong the healing. Fortunately it still hurts a bit, so I don't really want to scratch away at it, but I have a feeling it'll be even itchier tomorrow and will be quite a distraction. Gaaaaah.

November 27, 2005

Portland's film scene

I'm a bit late with this, but last Saturday (19 November) de Volkskrant had a full page feature on Portland in its travel section (thanks to my friend, Mel, for telling me about it). The centre of the page is dominated by a typical bit-of-skyline-with-Mt-Hood-in-the-background photo taken from the West Hills (though does this view even exist anymore? I remember taking O up to the Rose Garden 5 years ago and the trees blocked out what the smog didn't obscure). The headline of the story is "Geen industrie, wel een scene" (No industry, but there is a scene), and indeed the story isn't your usual list of touristy things to see, but rather talks about the increasing visibility of Portland as a hotspot for filmmakers, and how the city is occasionally a film location for big films (though they're usually flops, as a short list in a side bar points out. The three big movies that they list - Kindergarten Cop, Free Willy, and part of The Shining - weren't filmed in Portland, but elsewhere in Oregon). Portland's film scene now is compared to early-90's Seattle before the grunge breakthrough, pointing out how certain themes and styles seem to link the indie filmmakers in Portland and more of their films are being shown around the world at festivals. Gus van Sant is interviewed and credited with giving Portland a "film identity".

In another sidebar, some hotels, restaurants and places to see are mentioned, but they are all tied in with some film made in Portland. Stay in the posh Governor Hotel which was a dump full of homeless kids in My Own Private Idaho, drink a $8.50 Spanish coffee in Huber's which was also in that film, visit one of Portland's many stripclubs ("stripclubs are hip in Portland," says the paper) - this one with a sushi bar and which was featured in Mala Noche. And if you want to actually see a film while you're there, there's a list of the independent theaters that show the art-house stuff.

All in all, not a bad story and at least much more accurate than The Oregonian's coverage of Amsterdam. Though I must nitpick and point out that Mr Henk-Willem Visscher, who made the little map of downtown for the article, needs to check his work a bit closer - he spelled Willamette "Willemette" (thinking of yr own name there, dude?) and NW 21st Ave got labelled as "SW 11th Ave".

November 25, 2005

The Decemberists - Gebäude 9, 21 November

Finally getting around to writing about the Decemberists show, before I lose the will to anymore. This'll probably be quite long, so skip this one if you're not bothered about the band.

The show was in a place called Gebäude (Building) 9, in Cologne on the east side of the Rhine near the convention center. It was a weird, long, rather dark walk there, but we were mostly following a group of people who also looked like they were going to the show, so we weren't all alone. The venue was set away from the road and you had to walk through this potholed parking lot to finally get to the place. We put in our coats, got our hands stamped (aw, Amsterdam clubs don't do that. I miss that), and then I went past the bouncer. I then was in a small room with the bar and no stage I could see, but also no discernable entrance to where the stage was. So I was wondering where the hell to go and then I turn around and O wasn't there, so I was even more confused. I went back to the door to find him trying to convince the bouncer to let him take his camera in. The bouncer wasn't having it, nor was the ticket guy, so they made O check his camera bag. Fuck. He's never had this problem in a normal, small venue, but they said his camera was too professional and he'd need permission from the record label (not just the band) to use it. Whatever.

We went and found the stage (it was handily through a black door that sort of blended into the corner of the bar area) and O bitched about the evil bouncer and I said that if he'd taken his camera in his backpack, they'd likely not have known he had it, cuz it wasn't like they looked through bags. O then remembered that his earplugs were in his camera bag, so he left to go get them. As I stood on my own, I saw a woman in front of the stage who also had a Nikon D70. Well, way to be consistent guys. I knew O would not be happy when he saw that. He was gone a really long time, and when he came back, he had his camera with him. He had decided to talk to the guy selling the Decemberists CD and shirts, and see if this guy could help him out. And he did, going over to tell the venue guys that it was ok as long as O didn't take many photos and wasn't too intrusive about the whole thing. Cool. Thank you, Mr Merchandise Guy. There was another girl who was taking photos the whole time with an SLR, and god, talk about intrusive. She ran back and forth from one side of the stage to the other, used flash, and at one point, held the camera up in the air to get some shots. If O didn't have his camera during all of that, he would have been so pissed.

So before I get to the Decemberists, there is Two Gallants, the opener, a duo of two rough-looking guys on guitar and drums. I had read a bit about them, just trying to find out what they sort of sounded like, but I didn't expect to be blown away by them. They started sneakily enough, starting with a song that had a long intro that built up more and more. At first I was mostly watching the drummer, Tyson Vogel, who started off just tapping at the cymbals and snare, but when he started to add in the kick drum, he threw his whole body into it, which made him look a bit like he was imitating a chicken (which is kind of funny with his last name; "vogel" means "bird" in Dutch). But then the song built up more and he just started thrashing away, his long, stringy hair totally covering his face, except for the times when a drumstick would come so close to his face that it would flip up his hair for a sec.

In the meantime, the lead singer, Adam Stephens, was playing some bluesy guitar lines, and then he started singing. And wow. His voice was gravelly and almost screaming and full of pain. I was taken with them right then. He was also amazing to watch, he often spat out the words he sang with a shiver of his head, like he still couldn't quite get all the feeling out, even with all the emotion he sang with. I was seriously impressed, and usually I just can't get into bands that I don't know. The only other time I can remember being so amazed by an opener was when Josh Ritter opened for Damien Rice. The rest of the audience seemed to be pretty impressed as well, and it was only when they were playing their last song, which was rather quiet, that I realized how quiet and attentive the audience had been during their whole set. It was such a contrast compared to shows here, though to be honest it must have helped a lot having the bar out in another room.

After the show, I wanted to see how much they were selling their CD for, and as I came up to the merchandise table, I realized that Adam was sitting to one side of the table, hiding under a hoodie. I couldn't get up to the table because of some people adding their names to a mailing list, and I didn't see any price labels, so I asked Adam if he knew how much they were selling the CDs for. He said "15... euros? Is that what you have here?" I said "Yeah, 15 clams, thingamabobs, whatevers..." (It's like Monopoly money anyway.) He said the price was negotiable though, they only said 15 cuz that's what the Decemberists table was doing, heh. So I said "15 euros, that's like 20 bucks, that's so expensive." So he said I could have it for 10. The merch guy though pulled out a CD with a broken case so they brought it down further to 5 euros if I was willing to take damaged goods. Whoo! In the meantime, Adam asked if I was American and where I was from. They're actually from San Francisco, even though they sound like they should be from the South, and I told him that. O laughed though, which kind of pointed out that some people could take offense to such a comment, but Adam said no offense was taken. I told him how much I enjoyed their songs, and when he found out we were actually from Amsterdam, he told us they'd be playing some radio show thing there in a few days. I couldn't find any info online about it though. I assume it would be 3 Voor 12, but there was nothing on their site, nor on the band's site. So I dunno what happened with that. I still haven't listened to the CD, but I recommend it already. ;)

Right, so onto the Decemberists. For reference, the setlist:

(segueing into) July, July
Legionnaire's Lament
Los Angeles, I'm Yours
Both Go Down Together
Leslie Ann Levine
Engine Driver
Bagman's Gambit
Eli the Barrow Boy
Apology Song (Colin solo)
Sporting Life
16 Military Wives
California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade

Mariner's Revenge

Of Angels and Angles

Before they even started, Colin said that things were going a bit weird for them and they don't normally start "this way," whatever that meant. To me, the boys especially looked a bit glum, I didn't see Nate (the bassist) or Chris (the guitarist and other random instruments-ist) smile much, which lead me to think something bad had happened, but things seemed to go ok. Also Colin was quite scruffy and later this was explained, that apparently the guys were having a tour beard contest, though the drummer already has a full beard, so he's either ahead or disqualified. Colin pointed out that Chris was sadly behind in 4th place, but hey, at least he was ahead of the two girls.

After July, July, Colin said "We are the Decemberists, and we hail from Portland, Oregon," to which I let out a massive yell (and um, stuck two devil-horn gestures in the air. Subtle, I know. I couldn't help it), and the girl in front of me turned around, but the band seemed to take no notice, probably because the crowd was still applauding. Damn. Later a girl "whoo"ed at the mention of Missoula, Montana, to which Colin said "yeah? um, okaay..." At least he noticed...

He described "We Both Go Down Together" as a "romantic little story about a double suicide" and I felt very dumb for not realizing there was suicide in the song. I think the bit about suicide I had thought was about the couple making love, even though the second verse is also about that. Hmmm... I need to pay better attention.

Before Eli, Colin was tuning the 12-string guitar again and was saying that he always has such problems with keeping the guitar in tune when they're in Germany and blamed it on the German climate. Actually he later said "I blame Germany" which I'm not sure won him friends... Then he noted how, for some weird reason, he seems to stand on tiptoe when he tunes. Petra (the violinist) started laughing and managed to spit out that it was funny cuz she stands on her tiptoes too when she tunes. This made her break into uncontrollable giggles and then it must have just been a threatening look from Colin that made her start begging "please, no! Please!" But Colin had nothing of it and started playing some simple blues chords and explained that when Petra giggles and can't stop, her punishment is to stop what she's doing and give everyone in the front row a high five. So she put down her violin and started high-fiving. O by this time was at the front, he'd left me to get better photos, and he was the first to get a high five. Later, before they started the Mariner's Revenge Song, something set Petra off into giggles again and the bluesy song started. O stuck his paw up already, like "c'mon, you gotta do it now" and another round of high fives followed. It was so cute.

Also cute was one point when Nate started poking at a cymbal with his bow, so John (the drummer) defended his drumkit by fighting back with a drumstick and there was a little duel back there for a bit...

Before Apology Song, Colin told a more detailed version of the story already in the song, plus added "an epilogue" to it, telling us that in a random coincidence, his friend's lost bike was seen again about a year later, being ridden by another friend, and so Colin took it back and gave it back to the original owner. But then the owner was moving and the bike was loaded on the back of Colin's car and Colin backed the car into something, crushing the bike. You would think the bike owner would have learned his lesson and not put the bike in Colin's possession again... It was a nice little story time.

I think we unfortunately missed out on the great Chimbley Sweep experience that I've read about (as well as Billy Liar), due to Colin breaking a string during 16 Military Wives. The broken string was on the 6-string guitar, and he still had the 12-string, which to me is fine, but I don't really know the subtle nuances of these things. So instead they played California One.

There was a big set up for Mariner's Revenge. Besides Petra's second high-five punishment, John (who I hadn't really noticed til now, but who was drunkenly funny during Mariner's) brought his floor tom out to the front and grabbed himself a tambourine as well, the others did a lot of setting up it seemed, and then Colin and Chris had to teach us how to scream like we were being eaten by a whale when Chris made jaw opening motions with his arms. We weren't very good at the screaming at first, we kind of peetered out after a bit, but it was better during the song. And the song was so fun, all the acting out and being silly and swaying to and fro. Dangerous too; someone in the front row nearly got beaned by a tambourine when Colin tried to toss it over to Petra.

The big story was over and they left but we kept cheering and cheering, so they came back and did Angels and Angles. Petra didn't come out at first because she didn't need to play violin for it, but Colin asked where she was, and this little voice floated out from behind the curtain towards backstage saying "I'm here in spirit." hehe. But she came out and sang back up. And then it was all sadly over. It goes so quick.

After talking to the Two Gallants guy, and me going to the bathroom in the guys' toilet because I didn't realize there was a girls' another flight of stairs up and there was a girl in there already and another coming in when I left, we hauled ass back to the tram, running for the one that came which then was the wrong one because it went away from the center of town, but we couldn't figure out what went wrong, we just got off and caught another back to the hotel. It was all so worth it to make the trip, and I hope to see both bands again soon.

And, oh yes, photos here.

November 24, 2005

I be inked!

Yes, indeed, last night I finally got my tattoo, after many weeks of waiting and waiting for the appointments to come up. I am quite happy with it, though frustrated that since it's on my back I can't see it close up, but others can and I'm jealous. Really the only way I can look at it in close detail is by looking at a blown-up photo.

But anyway, I shall stop delaying and present the tattoo:

She's like the hottest librarian you've ever seen. The idea behind the whole thing is that she's a sort of alter ego, the indie retro chick I'll probably never be, but it's still an image I love. It actually came out much different than I first imagined, but that is due to the limitations of tattooing, that the lines can't be too close or they'll bleed together over time. So instead of having the glasses on, like I pictured, she's holding them, and I imagined her with long, straight, black hair, but it wouldn't have looked very good in a tattoo, blending into the body. I also thought she'd be standing, but this position works better for where I placed it, on the left side of my lower back. If she was standing, she would take up too much of my side and go up under my bra strap or a bikini strap. Her shoes are cut off in the photo, but they're these cute red pumps.

I think it's really cool how Claudia, the tattoo artist, got a light-black effect for the stockings and gloves. The hair is highlighted with an inky blue, which gives it more depth than just making it all black. And she has her own skin colour, it's not just me showing through (which would be kind of funny, that the tattoo would tan with me, if I ever got my lower back tanned, which I don't really).

As for how it all worked, we got to the shop (House of Tattoos) around 5:30 and Claudia showed me her final drawing and it looked really good. The only thing I asked to have different was taking out a heart she'd put on the front of the dress (now it just comes to a point). Then Claudia had to set up all the ink and stuff, which took about half an hour (mostly because she was talking on the phone at the same time to a guy who was going to get a tattoo from her, which was fine, it just took a bit longer). Then she pulled out the massage table they have, covered it with plastic wrap and paper, and then made a transfer version of the design. She ran it through some machine and it makes it in mirror image on a paper that transfers the design onto your skin in purple removable ink that the tattoo artist can then trace over for the outline. She put it on my back and made sure I was happy with where it sat. Then I climbed onto the table, laying on my stomach, and she got ready to make the first bit of line. Here's a photo of the tattoo early on. She's done a bit of the hair, but all the other lines are the purple from the transfer outline. (It's upside down here.)

Here is the outline finished, before she started adding colour. (Sorry the angles are odd, O couldn't really get a straight angle without being in the way.)

Claudia had already sort of worked me up about how much it would hurt, saying that going there right above your kidneys is really painful. I thought she was just making a joke at first, but she wasn't, heh. I guess I'm glad she didn't tell me about that 3 weeks ago when I decided on where I wanted the tattoo. But she first made just a little bit of a line, for me to feel what it was like, and it was fine, about what I expected. She must have done it on a less sensitive part though, because it hurt a lot more later on. The worst areas were the head, cuz it was the highest and the most off to the side, and the feet because it was nearest my spine. A couple of times she hit a spot near my spine and it would really tickle and my leg would twitch, heh. Kinda like testing your leg reflexes.

Sometimes I could lie there and feel like a few minutes had passed and I'd forgotten about the pain and what was going on, other times I was gritting my teeth from it hurting so much. But as soon as she took the needle away, it stopped hurting, so it was ok in that sense. And she didn't constantly have the needle on me, she would pick up to get a different angle, or to refresh the ink, so just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, she would stop and move to a different spot or have a few seconds pause. A lot of the time it wasn't the tattooing causing me problems, but just the ache of being on my stomach and getting my arms and neck comfortable.

The colouring was different, mostly because she was moving the needle around in a circular motion instead of making lines. It still hurt, though she said it should hurt less because the needle for doing colour is less sharp. But it still hurt plenty to me, heh. And it did feel quite sharp at times, especially when making the outline. Since I couldn't see what was going on, I just had this image that she was cutting into me with an old, ragged needlepoint and that I must be bleeding everywhere, but I was overdoing it a bit.

And I'm not bleeding everywhere here, it's just the red ink.

We did take a couple of short breaks, but in all, it took about 2 hours to do the whole tattoo. I wasn't sure what to expect, really, so it felt both long and short. After getting to have a good look at the final product (well, as good of a look as I could get while twisting and trying to look backwards at the mirror with a sore neck), Claudia put a bunch of cream on to protect the skin, and then she bandaged me, but she didn't use a bandage like I thought she would, she taped a big piece of plastic wrap to me, heh. It was a bit odd, but it kept the tattoo protected.

She's in there somewhere...

I wore the plastic overnight, which was kind of funny because I made crinkling sounds whenever I moved. I was glad to take it off this morning. Now it's rather sore, but it can go uncovered with just a bit of cream on 2-3 times a day to help it heal. It was a real pain in the ass to try to clean the tattoo and put more cream on at work today because I had to do it all in the bathroom stall without a mirror. It should be all healed in about 2 weeks though. I can't wait til it really feels a part of me. It's weird to think of now, but I'm sure before long I'll not be able to remember not having her on me. And I am considering giving her a name. Nothing right has come to me yet though.

Mmm, pastry

I'm just finishing off this very yummy apple-raisin pastry that I bought in Cologne on Tuesday (yeah, it's a couple of days old, but it's still really good). German bakeries rock, especially if they are also marked as a konditorei, which the place where I bought this apple-raisin thing was. They had soooo much good stuff packed into their tiny shop. I could hardly decide what to get. They had huge brownies with cherries, strudels, things I couldn't even tell what they were exactly, but they still looked damn good. It's probably a good thing I don't live there.

My neck is still stiff from the worthless feather pillow that I had to sleep on in the hotel. It was a wonderful hotel, but the beds sucked. The mattress was too hard for me and the pillow did nothing to support my head. About 20 minutes after waking up Monday morning, the stiffness settled in and I could hardly turn my head to the left for two days. It's better now, but I still have to be careful about it. That's why we stood where we did when we went to the Decemberists; I planned to stand to the right side, in front of the bassist and other guitar player, but with my neck this way, I wouldn't have been able to turn my head to the left to look at the others on stage. But it's fine really, where we stood, the girls are quite lovely.

Besides my neck, my lower back is a bit sore because of the slight incident of being stabbed a lot by an inky needle last night. I want to write more about it, but I want to post photos as well, of course, and they need to be chosen and edited first. We didn't have time to do that last night. So I hope to write about it tonight. And then I'll be calling my family for Thanksgiving and they won't know what now lurks on my lower back. Mhuahahaha!

November 22, 2005

Cologne in brief

Just a couple of hours ago, O and I returned from our long weekend in Cologne. We had a great time, though that was mostly thanks to seeing the Decemberists, which was the point of the trip anyway. We didn't really do much in the city, except a lot of wandering around, which isn't bad per se, I'm just glad we were there a day less than we were in Glasgow. A review of the Decemberists show will be posted as soon as I can write the damn thing.

November 18, 2005

The AMA comes to Portland

In the midst of some research at work recently, I was flipping through an issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association from January of this year. There is a one-page section in each issue where they look back on some news in the Journal from 100 years ago. The main piece in this look-back was titled "The Portland Session as an Attractive Vacation." I had to check that it was actually referring to Portland, Oregon, and not Portland, Maine, and it turned out that, indeed, from July 11-14, 1905, the American Medical Association held its annual meeting in good ol' Portland, Oregon. Considering I can't even imagine them meeting there now, let alone 100 years ago, is quite remarkable. And the article points this out:

This place of meeting—far to the West—will require a journey of unusual length for those living east of the Mississippi, and especially for those in the New England and Atlantic Coast states. Many who are in the habit of attending the Association sessions will naturally hesitate before deciding to take such a long journey simply to attend the session—valuable as that privilege is—but the occasion offers an unusual opportunity for a splendid vacation, and this was one of the reasons why the date was made a month later than usual.
I wonder how many people ended up attending. I can't imagine how long a cross-country journey would have taken in those days, with the train being the only speedy option. Granted, in Devil in the White City, which I'm currently reading and which takes place in the early 1890s, certain organizers of the World's Fair seem to travel quite often all over the East by train. Not much mention is made though of how long it took them, so it makes it sound like it was quite simple, when, in reality, it probably took at least 2-3 days just to get from, say, Chicago to Boston. Portland must have seemed like it may as well be in Europe in those times. As the JAMA describes, "The vast territory west of the Missouri River is an unknown country to the majority of the members of the Association." It was downright frontier land out there.

I thought that the article would have some insights into 1900s Portland, talking about what was attractive about the city to lure you all the way out there, and also perhaps mention where the meeting would be. But no location is given and unfortunately the news item hardly talks about Portland and instead offers all the things you could see on your way there as the bonus for making the trip:

The railroads of the West are much more liberal than are those of the East in allowing passengers to break the journey at attractive points, and each road is already making preparations to accommodate and to please those who patronize it... One of the great attractions, if not the greatest, will be the Yellowstone Park. If a sufficient number can be secured, The Journal proposes to arrange for a special train to start from Chicago June 30; this will stop six days at the park, arriving in Portland Monday morning. We can promise those who patronize it a most enjoyable outward journey.

And for the particularly travel-eager (and rich, I assume), they offer the following trip options (since you're way out West anyway): "The possibility of visiting Alaska, northwest territories, Hawaiian Islands, California, Mexico, etc., on this trip is also worth considering."

So no mention of what wonders might be awaiting you in Portland, though I don't know what sort of state the city was in at that time. Probably a quite different one than I could ever imagine from its current form. I wonder if many of the attendees got so caught up in the vacation aspect of the trip West that they never even made it to Portland. Their loss.

November 16, 2005

Wagging their fingers

At my work recently we’ve gotten a couple of emails cracking down on everyone in general about a couple of things. The first one really sucked because I thought it meant that I wouldn’t be able to listen to music any more at work, at least not via the computer. Our internet had been having problems for months where a few times a day it would have these hiccups and be a real pain in the ass. It wasn’t that a page would load slowly, it’s that it would never load, even if you left it forever, and it wouldn’t eventually give up and give an error either. The only solution was to hit stop, and reload or reclick the link after a few minutes once the hiccup was over. It meant though that if you were doing something entirely on the internet, like I often was, you had nothing to do but stare out the window until it was over because nothing would work. So we finally get an email about it from IT, who decide that the main cause of the problem is all of the people who are streaming audio over the internet. I immediately had my doubts and sent O the email we got. He told me that if a small amount of people were taking up 1/4 of our internet traffic (as the IT email claimed) with their streaming audio, then our large office building was woefully underequipped because streaming audio shouldn’t be such a problem. So with that, and the thought that if the problems always happened at the same times each day how could someone listening to the radio on the internet all day be the cause, I continued to listen to music streamed from O’s server-in-a-drawer. And it worked great! No more internet problems, and no more occurrences of the CD I was listening to stopping a bunch of times partway through. So maybe the streaming audio was a problem. But will I be caught for carrying on with it? O doesn’t think so since I’m not getting my stream from an obvious source like Skyradio or something, and he said it’s likely my traffic would just look like I’m download a file for a long while. Plus I don’t have it on all day, or even everyday, so I think they won’t notice an hour here and there. What is has meant is that my two middle-aged co-workers who I share a room with are no longer subjecting me to the crappy pop radio stations that they used to listen to without headphones. Talk about air pollution…

We received the second email yesterday regarding our cafeteria and the fact that we ring up things ourselves in a lame chipknip-based system that is meant to be faster, but really just saves them from having to employ people to run the registers. They’ve done some number crunching and finally figured out that not everyone is being honest in what they pay for, and some people seem to not even pay for their lunch at all. So now everyone must take with them the receipt that comes out after you pay (I never take it because I didn’t ask for it and didn’t need it). The purpose for this being that one of the employees can then stop you and see if you paid for everything you took. Oy. Last week, before this announcement, I already got stopped by some overzealous cafeteria worker who ran after me with the receipt I didn’t take, telling me “You have to take your receipt! We need to see what you paid for!” The thing is, overall I am honest and would never steal a bunch of food, but I do admit that I do not pay for the little packets of condiments they insist on charging us 9 cents for, which I think is a ridiculous setup, they could save money anyway by using the large bottles and allowing us to take as much as we need. I don’t use sauces often anyway, so I suppose I could pay the 9 cents when I do take some. In the meantime, we’ll be occasionally randomly checked, which should be fun. Though so far they’ve only been making sure we take our stupid receipts and not actually looking to see if it matches what we bought.

November 13, 2005


O and I returned this afternoon from long-November-weekend number one. We had a wonderful time in Glasgow, it's a quite lively city, especially since we were staying in the area near the University of Glasgow, the West End, so there were lots of students and places that cater to them. That area of the city is also quite beautiful with a lot of small residential streets full of old houses. I wish we had had the time and energy to explore more.

So, a trying-to-be-brief rundown on the trip...

It's a miracle we arrived in Glasgow on time because we were flying there on Easyjet, but via London, and since Easyjet doesn't do normal airline things, you can't check in ahead of time for another flight (we're probably the only ones mad enough to try transferring with Easyjet, but hey, they're the ones who dropped the direct flight. Which was pointed out to us in a lovely way by the Dutch woman checking us in on the way there. She asked why we were doing it in such a difficult way, "why don't you just fly direct? Oh wait, you can't, the Glasgow route ended last week..." Yes. Thank you.) Things already were not off to a good start on the train ride to the airport. We bought discounted tickets because I have a voordeelurenkaart, but they weren't actually valid because it was before 9 am on a weekday. I completely forgot that though, and then we get on the train and were immediately checked by the conductors. O actually was given the ok even though that conductor didn't even ask to see the discount card, but then the guy checking my ticket said it wasn't good, it was before 9, and told me to get off at the next stop and buy a full price ticket. I said "ok, fine" but was thinking, "yeah right, we don't have much time to check in, I'm not getting off the train." We couldn't get away with it though, at the next stop the conductor came back to the door we were standing at and he told us to get off. O pleaded with him saying we'd miss our fight, but he said get off and buy a ticket or pay the 35 eur fine for not having a ticket on the train. So we got off. But didn't buy a new ticket. We waited nervously for 10 minutes for the next train, made it to the airport, and were lucky enough to find no line at check in. Everything went smoothly until we were on the plane, waiting to leave, and there was some fuel pressure problem and we ended up sitting there for almost an hour. (There was also the lovely announcement that we should leave our seatbelts unbuckled because they were refueling the plane. So in case of an explosion, we'd have a better chance of survival by being able to get up faster to run through a packed airplane's narrow aisle.) To make an already-long story short, we made it through the London airport fine, thanks to a short line at immigration and no line again at the Easyjet check in. So, though we felt rushed and had barely any time to grab food even, we arrived at the expected time in Glasgow.

We checked into our B&B (which was on a small side street that the taxi driver couldn't find, leading him to pull over at one point to consult the A-Z) and found an ok room that was certainly not the worst I'd seen, but it wasn't what I'd hoped for from the impression I got on their website. The room was just a bit rough around the edges and the bed (which was really two twin beds pushed together) was pushed into the corner so you could only get in on one side or at the end. Yes, the rooms were equipped with nice new LCD tv/DVD players, but it seemed incongruous with the rest of the room. And there was a DVD library of sorts, as advertised on their site, but it mostly consisted of very obviously pirated DVDs, in a pile next to a computer that had stacks of blank DVD-Rs sitting around it. Could they make it any more obvious? Breakfast was also quite disappointing and we ate a cafe the 2nd morning, especially since breakfast in the B&B, in typical fashion, was served way too early for us to handle. But I thought, well, the hotel's in a great location, it's clean, the owner is nice, and it's quiet. That is until last night, when we went to bed early to get up at 7:30 to fly home. We were woken up at 11:40 pm by what I later figured out to be some people only just arriving and being shown into the room next to ours. There was a lot of noisy talking and I couldn't really figure out what was going on. I did hear some Asian language at one point, which, with my groggy mind combined with reading quite a few chapters of my current book before bed, lead me to think that someone was arriving with some Asian people that they were going to exhibit at a fair, or perhaps a circus, and they were passing through Glasgow and quickly needed a place to stay for the night, thus the late arrival. Well, obviously. In reality, the guests were a Chinese or Japanese or something couple who I guess weren't very tired because they then proceeded to go in and out of their room to the bathroom down the hall and clean things and talk as if they were the only ones in the place. For about an hour I would dose off, only to be woken up by them talking or shutting their door loudly again. Finally at 1 I went out there and told them to please be quiet. When I went out into the hall, their door was already open, I caught sight of some socks or other clothes lying on the heater drying, the woman came to the door fully dressed with a bowl in her hand, and she had been saying some stuff to the man, with the door open, presumably as she was on her way to the bathroom. At 1 am. I mean, geez. I can understand being a bit thrown by the time difference, but you might expect others are sleeping at that time. So then I couldn't get back to sleep for an hour and ended up waking up just before the alarm, so I didn't get much sleep. O uncharacteristically slept through the whole thing and didn't even know I had left the room to tell them to be quiet. The bastard.

The weather while we were in Glasgow was about what you'd expect for Scotland in November. It wasn't too cold when we got there, but we had to battle with wind and rain on Thursday and Friday. Saturday was dry, but gray, but at dusk the clouds broke up and there was an amazing sunset. Which then produced a clear and cold night so that it was freezing this morning when we left. The predicted high for today was 5 C. But we survived, though the wind really got to me.

Our hotel was just off Great Western Road, which runs east/west through the West End. We were about halfway between the nearest subway stop and Byres Road, which was the other main street we wandered in and hung around. It was very studenty, but not as cool as I expected from the descriptions in travel guides. Still, it had loads of sandwich shops and cafes and coffee shops and pubs. Our first night we ate at an Indian place called Ashoka just off Bryes Road. The 2nd night we ate at a nice little cafe called Whistler's Mother. As we sat there waiting for our dinner, I noticed a big poster on the ceiling that was talking about acid rain - in Dutch. And another poster next to it that was in Dutch, and another one in Dutch under it.... The whole ceiling was covered with all of these Dutch ads and public service posters. It was really weird, especially since, as far as I could remember, Whistler was American, so how did Dutch posters fit in? So we asked the waitress and it turned out that the cafe, in its previous incarnation about 15 years ago, was owned by a Dutch guy and he put up those posters and they were left there. It made sense especially to O since he recognized the posters as being from the 80s or so. I highly recommend the cafe, by the way - the staff were really nice, the food was good, and it was a nice, laidback atmosphere.

As for things we saw, on Friday we ventured into the centre for a little bit. We walked along the River Clyde briefly and wandered through a nice little market that was next to the St Enoch subway station. It started raining more, so we took our soggy butts back to the hotel.

A little bit later we met up with Steven, who had also made plans to come to Glasow to see Sleater-Kinney but couldn't cancel his travel plans after they cancelled the tour. At least Glasgow is his hometown, so he didn't have to pay for a hotel. He showed us around the university and we went to the Hunterian Museum. We then saw our first sun in Scotland as it cleared up a bit. We went up to the Botanic Gardens and puttered around, though, while it was dry then, it was really windy and I was getting sick of it. The cold makes my ears hurt and I was just tired. Steven showed us a cool area though in the Gardens where there used to be an underground railway, but it closed in the 60s. You can look down on it and see the platforms still. I would love to see what other old stuff might be hiding down there.

On Saturday we went to the east part of town to go to the cathedral. What I was mostly interested in there really was the necropolis, a cemetery around the cathedral that was opened in 1833 and is filled with thousands of graves and memorials and tombs. I definitely wanted to visit it. It was quite interesting to walk around, plus it's on a hill so you get some good views of the city. I think we got a lot of good photos from there, especially since it was a gray, gloomy afternoon, so it was the right atmosphere for it.

Later in the afternoon there was a friendly football game between Scotland and the US, so we went to a pub to watch it, me being careful not to talk to loudly. I figured if anyone asked if I was an American, I'd say "hell no! I'm Canadian!" in a very convincing manner and we could all take a good piss out of Americans and sing Scottish songs together. Fortunately it was a very big, very loud pub, so I don't think anyone noticed when I was yelling my drinks order across the bar, or they were too drunk to notice my accent. Watching football in a Scottish pub though was brilliant. O and I kept giggling at each other over things we'd overhear people around us yell. I'm sorry to any Scots reading this, but the accent and the phrases and everything, it was all very "they really do say that and sound like that!" A guy in front of me kept yelling "go on! Go on, son!" every time Scotland got close to the goal, just like O says his Scottish co-worker does (and which O does a pretty good impression of). The game got a bit boring, tied at 1-1 most of the game and with no real push later on, but around the 91st minute, Scotland landed a goal. Except they didn't because the guy was off sides. So the whole pub was all "Yeaaaahhhhh! Nooooooo!" Heh. It was funny and not just because I was meant to be cheering for the other side.

This morning we discussed the game with the guy driving us back out to the airport. He was brilliant to listen to. He first commended the English on their win against Argentina and said they have a great team, but when O told him how the pub we were in would cheer when Argentina scored (they had many a tv in this pub, and 2 football games and some rugby were on at once), the driver said "Aye, we don't like the English. No one likes the English." Later we were talking about how difficult it is to find the hotel we were at and that the streets don't make much sense. The driver told us "if you want things that don't make much sense, all you have to do is look at the Glasgow City Council. Some of these roads... I think they were smoking some wacky backy when they were planning 'em." Ah, I wish I could tape conversations sometimes...

I think that the impression people have of the English being polite goes double for the Scottish. People in shops and restaurants, even strangers, are in general so kind and helpful and sweet. Sometimes it can feel a bit overboard, like when I was purchasing some stuff at Marks & Spencers and I swear the cashier must have managed to say thank you to me about 10 times in just our little interaction. But then there was our first morning when a woman passed by as O was taking a photo of some graffiti. She asked if we were design students and when we said we were just tourists, she told us about the graffiti artists in the neighbourhood and how they do art, not just tagging stuff, and she's tried to get in touch with some of them. We had this nice little conversation with her, and then we went on our way. It makes me think how, yeah, I get random people talking to me here sometimes, especially at the bus stop, but when I think about it, it's usually to complain: "This weather, it's been so cold/wet/windy." "The bus, it's always late, especially when I really need to get to work." "The bus driver was so rude to me yesterday..." Glasgow in that respect was a breath of fresh air. Cold, soggy air, but the people made it worth it.

November 8, 2005

Random pieces

First of all, Portugal photos! For those not keeping score, we still hadn't gotten around to getting our photos from Portugal online. O's taking care of the final steps right now. When it's all ready, which he says it is now, you can go here and click on the Portugal 2005 link to see the gallery. I had hoped, after the US photos took a month to get online, that these would go faster, but instead it's taken two months for these to be done. Pretty soon we'll give up all hope as another vacation comes up before the last one's been taken care of.

And in fact another vacation is coming up, but it's a small one. We leave Thursday to go to Glasgow to not see Sleater-Kinney. I'm still disappointed about that, but I am looking forward to visiting the city and taking a break, though I hope it's not too wet and cold.

One final bit of news is that I've made a new appointment to get my tattoo, really and truly this time. It's not for two weeks though, on the 23rd. But I can wait, due mostly to the fact that we have these two little trips before then, so I have other things to look forward to. Otherwise it'd be an eternity. I keep trying to imagine how things will be once I have a fairly large drawing on my back. Like I was doing my yoga class Monday evening and realizing that with all this bending forward and over and back and upside down, you'd see it pretty often. And my first reaction is to wonder what people would think of it, but I can't worry about what people might think about it. Unless those people are my parents, and I can imagine that some part of the tattoo could easily peek out between my shirt and my jeans and my parents are going to see it and the resulting freak out is rather inevitable. But again, I can't, as a 28-year-old who see her parents on average for a week and a half once every year and a half, worry too much about how they'd feel about it, if they happen to see it. And I won't see them for awhile still, so in the meantime I get to just get used to it and enjoy it for myself.

November 3, 2005

Scotch ostrich eggs and jack o' logs

Some links to share... I just read this, about someone making a Scotch egg with an ostrich egg instead of a chicken egg. I shouldn't have read that right after lunch (not that it's particularly gross, it just makes your stomach go "oof").

I wish the Netherlands had forests to go off and do cool stuff like this in. Those logs rock.

November 2, 2005

Not yet inked

Sooooo... I was supposed to get my tattoo done tonight, but it has been delayed. Basically, the initial design she showed me had some things I didn't really like, so we worked on it a bit, changed it a little this way and that, and then she sent me home with photocopies for me to edit further if I wanted, and for me to get used to. I'll call or email her tomorrow to give her my further thoughts and we'll make an appointment for really doing it this time. She said she should be able to do it next week, but I probably won't be able to due to previously planned stuff on Monday and Wednesday, and then leaving for Glasgow on Thursday. So maybe the week after that. Bah. I was majorly depressed and deflated on the way home; the date finally arrives after 5 1/2 weeks of waiting, and then it doesn't go quite as I had hoped and I have to wait maybe a couple of weeks more before I actually get it done. I'm trying to be zen and patient.

Another disappointment this week was that our jack o' lantern didn't quite survive til Halloween, which sort of defeats the purpose. O came home Monday night and he told me on the phone that the pumpkin had gone all squishy and he tried to move it, but now it was sinking to one side. It looked like this when I got home:

I had already thrown out the lid because it had mostly turned to pulp and wouldn't stay in the top anymore. The paper it was sitting on was soaked with nasty rotting-pumpkin juice, which you can see also puddled a bit behind it and to the left. So I was throwing out a smelly, mushy jack o' lantern on Halloween, rather than setting it out, lit, on the balcony. I learned my lesson: next year I'll buy one much closer to the date, and hopefully one that doesn't look like it was actually picked weeks ago.