October 30, 2006

Stories and news

There is so much I've wanted to write in this past week, but lingering jetlag or adjusting to the early dark or just plain laziness have prevented me from doing so. But I have some quiet at work now which I'm taking advantage of.

A couple of stories about the US:

In light of the frustration every air traveler has felt over the past few months with the new liquids regulations, I actually have a positive story to tell.

(First, a digression to say how peeved I am to hear today that from 6 November, Europe will be also banning liquids on flights. Silly of me to think we'd have normality for within-Europe flights, of course the EU caved to the UK and US rules. I read the regulations on Schiphol's site and I'm curious now about the transparent bag thing. The rule is that containers of liquids and gels with 100 ml or less can be carried on board if they are in a transparent plastic bag which "must be re-sealable." As an American, I instantly think of Ziploc bags, but Ziploc bags, or something similar with the sealing top, aren't sold here. They even acknowledge this might be a problem: "Transparent plastic bags that meet the European requirements are still hard to obtain in shops. During the introductory period, free transparent plastic bags will be given out at all Dutch airports." Of course they don't say how long this "introductory period" is or what can be used after that time is declared to be over. I assume using a normal sandwich bag with a twist tie wouldn't be suitable, though technically it is resealable. God only knows, it's all such a bungled thing. I just read this page that has some stories, and you know if the US can't manage some consistency to the rules, imagine what it'll be like when 25 different countries are all meant to be enforcing these things.)

On our way home, at the San Francisco airport, we headed over to the dreaded security area and joined everyone else in the snaking line. There was this security guy yelling a bunch of stuff about what you should and shouldn't do as you go through security, but I eventually realized that he was sending out the message with a sense of humour which helped the situation greatly. First of all, the guy had a clear, booming voice that easily carried out over the crowd, and he seemed to be able to yell like that all day without his voice giving out. Second, he was actually helpful: "do take out your laptops from their bags"; "please take off your shoes before you get up to the x-ray machine, and yes, everyone's shoes come off"; "put your boarding passes and passports away, we don't want to see them, you don't need them out here, and it's common for people to lose their passports at security." But then he'd throw in humourous additions: "take out your laptops, but not smaller electronics. If it's a Blackberry, blueberry, huckleberry, whatever, please keep it in your bag." Or joke about people with stinky feet having to take off their shoes, or about people having to take off their belts and then walk around holding up their pants. It was "one of them" pointing out all the real annoyances of the rules, while insinuating that there's no way around it, so let's just try to keep things moving quickly and smoothly so we can get to our planes. I wanted to shake the guy's hand or give him a tip (probably not allowed), something to say "thank you for being one person in the TSA who's not an ass and/or moron." Just before O and I headed through the metal detector, he was taking a break from reciting the rules and asked if anyone had a birthday. He said he was serious in saying that if it was your birthday, he'd move you to the front of the line. No one came forward, so he proceeded to tell the story of the time when an old guy said it was his birthday, his 100th in fact, and he was flying out to be on the Tonight Show. The security guy said "Wow, 100... What's your secret to old age then?" And the 100-year-old pointed to his 96-year-old wife and said "I like younger women."

The other story is about O looking for some new Carhartt pants to buy, especially some to replace the ones he damaged when he fell off his bike. We saw some Carhartt jeans when we were at a sporting goods store and we were shocked at how cheap they were. Most were about 30-40 bucks, outrageously cheap when their jeans are usually at least 70-80 eur over here. But none were in a style O liked, so he said he'd look in other shops. We did see some more elsewhere, but they were always jeans made more for working, not the skater style that O is used to. So in San Francisco, we went to a Macy's and found the hip, cool "young men's" department (as opposed to the suits and pink dress shirts department) and did a circle of the area and didn't see any Carhartt stuff, so O asked the guy at the cash register whether they had any Carhartt pants. The guy furrowed his brow and said "I don't think so." Then he turned to his colleague and asked if they had any Carhartt stuff, and she said "Carhartt? I've never heard if it." Enh?! We left, wondering what the hell was going on. I'd never heard of the brand myself until O bought his first pair of Carhartt pants a couple of years ago in Antwerp. But in the years since, I've seen people wearing the brand more and more, and it definitely has a skater/streetwear look to it. It was nowhere to be found though amongst all of the similar brands at Macy's. It turns out, as I found via their website, that in the US Carhartt is strictly a worker's brand and even comes in worker's styles like carpenter pants or overalls. The streetwear style is only available in Europe. And this, despite the fact that it's an American brand. It's just so weird, that it has these two different sides and one is so completely unknown in the US. Maybe they feel they'd have too much competition in the US market, especially with brands like Dickies already making that worker/skater crossover, but O was certainly disappointed he couldn't get some cheap new pants.

In non-trip news, one piece of mail awaiting me when we got home was the letter from the IND saying my application for a permanent residence permit has been accepted. Yippee! At some point I guess I get a letter letting me know when and where I can pick up my card, which is a bit of a mystery at the moment because our local Bos en Lommer gemeente offices are relocated due to the Bos en Lommerplein closure.

We're so with things this year, we already have New Year's Eve plans... O bought tickets today for a Presidents of the USA show on 31 December in Paradiso. Yes, I find it a bit odd that I'll have seen this band 3 times in 2 years when I've not really listened to them since 1996, but they put on such a manic show that you can hardly leave disappointed. And it'll be even madder on NYE. I've never gone into the center of Amsterdam on NYE, and I am a bit wary of having to venture out, but it should be a bit more interesting than our usual night in watching tv til it's time to light the fireworks.

October 20, 2006


I had such a great time in the US. So many good things happened and we saw so many wonderful sights. Now that we're back all of the condensing and summarizing and boiling-down begins. Everything usually seems so long and expansive when you are actually on holiday, and then you get back and it begins to feel quite short. It's always a disappointing feeling.

O and I got back yesterday morning from San Francisco. We're very fucked up by jetlag at the moment though. We slept a few times yesterday then were awake in the evening and went to bed at 1. I was up in the middle of the night from 4:30 til almost 7. O was also up from about 9 to noon. We woke up at 5:30 after sleeping away the afternoon. I had tried to wake up at about 11:30 this morning when O was still awake, but it was hopeless, I was a total zombie and just aching to go back to bed. I hope tomorrow goes better and we actually start shifting to a proper schedule...

So, the trip. It was in three parts: Portland, drive down to SF, then week in SF, and by the time we'd been in SF for about a day, thinking back to our time in Portland already seemed like it wasn't even part of the same trip, and after we turned in the rental car it was hard to remember that we had been, just a few days before, been driving all day in it.

The weather was very good to us. Yes, there were some cloudy days and some rain, but the rain was confined to only a day or two in Portland, and there were only about 2 or 3 really cold and nasty days during the whole vacation. We had the sun when it really mattered: a day out to a farm and hanging around downtown in Portland, my friend's wedding (which was outdoors), the whole drive down to California (minus the fog and gray on the northern California coast), and a few days in SF, especially the last couple of days when we took boat rides and walked on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Some random notes about the holiday:

- In total, we drove 1435 miles with the car, but part of that was doing things around Portland. I said in my last post that we drove 1000 miles from Portland, but that's not entirely true because that included the drive we did down to San Jose to the Winchester Mystery House, and San Jose isn't as close to San Francisco as I thought it was, so that day alone was 117 miles. Portland to SF then was about 890 miles, in 3 days. On both days 1 and 3, strangely enough, we did exactly 285.7 miles.

- It's a good thing I'm not too susceptible to car sickness because day 2 and 3 of driving was nothing but curves, curves, and more curves. It felt weird after awhile to hit a straight bit. On day 2, we drove a bit more down I-5 from southern Oregon to Redding, CA, then turned off into the mountains and drove on 3 different two-lane highways. But even that part of I-5 was curvy because you hit some mountains and go very near Mt Shasta. But at least they are curves which, for the most part, you can still take at 75 mph. Once we went off onto the highways, I think we managed an average of 30, maybe 35 mph. O drove that whole part, and I just hung on in the passenger seat and yelled at him occasionally to slow down around some of the sharper curves he was taking a bit too fast. When we were still on I-5, we had already gone over four mountain summits, ranging from 3000 to 4300 feet high. On the highways, I don't know how many summits we hit because nearly the whole drive was going up and up, curving the whole way, and then finally heading back down only to do it all over again in a few miles. Only once or twice did we eventually bottom out in a valley, where there would finally be a small town and some civilization and some blessed straighter, flatter parts of road. But, despite my body getting tired of shifting around for the turns, I couldn't really complain because the whole drive was also incredibly beautiful. Sometimes we were in more typical pine forests which blanketed all of the surrounding hills. Other times the forest thinned a bit and became more dry and deserty, made up of scrub brush and a different sort of pine tree. There was the occasional lake way down below. I was glad O drove and I could enjoy the views. After one town there was one freaky section of highway where they decided to not put any lines in the center of the road. Fortunately there wasn't much traffic (there wasn't for most of the drive), but there was a truck going the other way sometimes, or someone who just didn't stay to his side very much, and the road also got narrower in parts, and it was all just a bit scary. I can't imagine having to drive that in the dark.

- We came back with decidedly more than we left with. I don't plan to bring back as much food as I used to, but I did end up bringing back a few things this time. I got some Halloween stuff to take to work: candy corn and mini Reeses peanut butter cups. I got some instant oatmeal (after enjoying having some for breakfast at our hotel), and also a bottle of bbq sauce. That was all really though, no graham crackers or cooking supplies which I often take back. We ended up lugging around entirely too many books. We bought 6 new ones in the US and had taken 4 with us, not counting the Rough Guide for SF I had. I also gained a bunch of maps for the drive down. I bought two pairs of pajama bottoms and at the last moment, in the SF airport, I found a Swatch watch which I instantly fell in love with. It has a suede brown strap with light blue and white stitching, then the face is blue and, along with having all the numbers (I don't like watches that don't have the numbers on the face), it has a date dial. I didn't know exactly what I was looking for when looking at watches, but this one is perfect. The main thing I didn't find in the US was a Jansport shoulder bag. I couldn't find a shop that really carried them, and then I had a look once at Timbuk2 bags, but in the end decided to wait and have a look back in Amsterdam. I really need a new bag though.

- Main attractions we saw and things we did, which I will hopefully write a bit more about at a later date: went through a corn maze in Portland; went to the Oregon Vortex in southern Oregon, which did not disappoint; drove through quite a few redwood forests, which were just unbelievably gorgeous; went through a drive-through tree; visited the Winchester Mystery House; went to Alcatraz; visited many neighbourhoods in SF, such as Haight-Ashbury, Chinatown, the Mission, and Castro; walked a bit over the Golden Gate Bridge (and walked all the way to the bridge from our hotel which was a long walk and my legs are still recovering); rode a cable car; and watched the sea lions that hang around near a pier on the waterfront.

So, I'm trying to catch up on everything now. I still have quite a few email newsletters to read. We are now watching the first 3 episodes of the new season of Lost. Just watched episode one and O is waiting for me to finish so we can watch the second episode, so I'd better finish this then.

October 14, 2006


I am currently in a cafe in the Haight area of San Francisco where a guy is singing songs and playing an acoustic guitar to a small audience of about 10 people. It's atmospheric. We've only really been in San Francisco for one day. We finally got rid of our rental car yesterday after driving it about 1000 miles from Portland. The drive was unendingly beautiful (well, until we hit the cities on 101 and got stuck in traffic jams) and I never got sick of the views and nature that we saw. I did get tired of the twisty highways that we were on, which were also unending. Anyway, just checking in... I can't believe we'll be back to the flatland in less than a week. L, I am reading Cold Comfort Farm, though I'm not sure if O will be getting to it.

October 1, 2006

Between trips

So, we are home for a very brief moment before setting off tomorrow for the US. We got back from London yesterday afternoon. London was awesome, we met tons of great people and had a fun time in the midst of the madness. It sad that it's all over now, but it was an interesting experience. O should be posting some photos from it once he's allowed to talk about it.

I'm looking forward to going to the US, though I'm kind of eager to get the Portland part of the trip over with. I wish I didn't have the obligation to see my family much, heh, I have so much else planned and we won't have much time to just enjoy things this time around. Yesterday I found out that the Decemberists are doing a signing at a record store in Portland on the 6th and we're free then, so we do get to see them at least, even if it's not for an actual show. Hopefully they remember O from the May Amsterdam show and he can try to get the photos he wasn't able to get then (he missed Nate and Colin). I am looking forward to my friend's wedding, I think it will be good. And then I'm looking forward to our road trip down to San Francisco and being able to do our own thing down there and see a wonderful city. Til my return...