May 4, 2005
Past Presents Future
In the US, the rare sight of cobblestones is a glimpse of the past. In Europe, it's also a sign of the present. Pavement and the Internet haven't yet hit in as big a way, but Europe does have its own clever minutiae.
Many subway stations display the estimated arrival time of the next train. While you're waiting, you can watch TV on a projection screen or flat-screen TV. I'm not a fan of the advertisement avalanche that descends upon the idler, but the potential use of a literally public television as an additional place to spread information across all socioeconomic classes is powerful.
There are buttons or handles on the subway cars to open the doors when the train stops. Door handles have been around for a while, but opening the train doors only when necessary saves electricity and reduces noise pollution.
Some escalators slow down when not in use and speed up when a pedestrian jumps on. The teeth at the end of the escalator will still eat you and your beloved child or pet.
The EXIT signs often show a stick figure booking for the door opposite a fire, or a box with a missing side and an arrow pointing in the direction of the exit. Symbols reach everyone.
It's even common to greet friends with a kiss on the cheek -- gets the pressure of a first kiss out of way quickly. They've thought of just about everything. The cobblestones give the cities personality. All the Europeans need, the pompous American said, is an omnipresent and stable Internet conne-
May 5, 2005
Gracing the Bottom
There are people who drink bottled water with ice cubes. Each fragment of the preceding sentence itself is nothing extraordinary, but their combination leaves me confused. Part of the point of purchasing purified mineral water bottled at the source is to appreciate its purity. Ice fucks that up.
I went skydiving for the first time in February with my friend Emily. The chaos of the first 30 seconds of freefall was juxtaposed to silence the instant the parachute deployed. Arriving in a new city without lodging reservations, especially as tourist season picks up, is like skydiving: you don't know where you'll land and you can only hope you'll land safely.
(Anyone with a hint of foresight makes reservations ahead of time. I don't. My hindsight has become impeccable.)
I arrived in Seville, Spain at 1:30pm this afternoon. I took bus route C-1 toward the Santa Cruz area and perused the hostel and hotel signs until I found a place I liked with room. In the process the insides of my elbows sweat under the midday sun like an extra set of armpits. I found a reasonable hotel and the silence set in.
I showered and walked around the neighborhood and sat down at a typical cafe. I ordered a coffee with milk and bottled water to drink. The waitress kindly brought out a coffee, a bottle of water, and a wine glass with two large ice cubes gracing the bottom. I poured in the water, lifted the glass, and tilted my head back.
May 17, 2005
History in the Making
I've lived the majority of my life unable to see clearly. Literally. In high school I was too insecure to wear the glasses I was given. When I turned 18 I got my driver's license and wore my glasses in the car. But the chalkboard was still fuzzy.
In March 2004, I put on contact lenses for the first time. Actually, the first time I put them on they didn't really stay on. I pushed and I pushed into my eye with one finger and lifted my eyelid with another and eventually the lenses stuck. When they stuck, the world turned into an animated fractal. My perspective shifted.
My mother died three days after my birth. Last Father's Day my dad died in his sleep. I have no frame of reference for the feelings I've had in the past year. Undoubtedly, since Father's Day, my perspective has shifted further.
I like to travel; traveling is truth. You could argue that a lie is truth in that it is a fact of life, but most lies are unnecessary, and that entire topic is a tangent. What I'm eloquently building up to is that Europe is opening my eyes when I open my eyes in Europe. By that I mean that now I understand that Europe exists, that foreign languages are more than required classes, and that's there's no denying that history happened: the evidence is everywhere. Only now am I beginning to understand how environments shape people and how people can shape their environments.
It's also easier for me to comprehend here, surrounded by centuries-old architecture and traditions, that our present lives are history in the making. With that thought follows the question of how history books will describe our generation. 20 years from today, will I have wanted my perspective to shift even further?
May 22, 2005
Zurich Bar Potential
Baby, c'mere. Have a seat while you're waiting for your drink. Whoops -- let me get my hand out of the way. There.
Now let me talk to you about that guy you're with over there. That waif of a man -- is that a man? Nevermind. You don't like him, do you? He can talk to you in German, but can he speak your language? Can he play with your words and his to make your angina climax? Well that's good, you don't want your angina to climax. I hear it's painful.
The point is -- what? Wait, you're talking too fast. Okay, you. Don't. Speak. English. That's okay, I don't speak German. Wait -- what's "tschuess"?