Thursday, March 08, 2007

European Adventure - London Town

After our decision to leave France behind, we woke up refreshed, and still determined to depart France faster than Mexican laborers depart a construction site when a truck from Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows up. We made our way to the Paris train station, and went through the now familiar typing, writing and stamping procedure as described earlier, until we were anointed to leave the country.

I realize that many if not most of my readers have never had the pleasure of visiting a European train station. Let me try to describe it for you. First, imagine any lower-class truck stop you’ve ever seen. Make sure that the truck stop you are imagining sells pornographic videos, and has a few ladies of indeterminate age, some missing teeth, and a tendency to place their hands on the arms of similarly dentated overweight truckers while asking if they are lonely and want company.

Insure in your imagination that you add a lot of diesel engine exhaust fumes and the resulting greasy film that coats everything the fumes contact. Add a public address system that always rings a bell before a string of incomprehensible syllables issue forth. The language itself is not always recognizable, even in England, due to the distortion. Think of it as a Jack in the Box drive-through order speaker, but with loud speakers increasing both the volume and the distortion.

Add a constant rumble, hum, and buzz from the crowds and arriving or departing trains, as well as a few news stands as you would expect to see in a New York subway station. Further add a few stairways going up or down to the platforms that access the tracks, and arrival/departure boards such as you would see at a relatively large airport in the 1970’s (the mechanical, flipping letter type that reminds one of an episode of “Wheel of Fortune” playing in permanent fast-forward, without a pretty girl there to distract you from its lack of content or entertainment).

That is what a European train station looks like.

We went to our platform, to catch our train and make our way to the English Channel. The Channel Tunnel, or “Chunnel,” between England and France had not yet been built, so we were going to ride a ferry across the channel. This ended up being much like any other European train ride. The accommodations inside the train cars themselves are fairly clean and comfortable, especially after one has been exposed to the train stations themselves.

We made it to the Ferry terminal on the coast of France, and I got to ride on a hovercraft for the first time in my life. The accommodations inside this state-of-the-art, water-borne conveyance were first rate, but we had to pay a few dollars as a premium, since our Interrail passes didn’t allow for this conveyance by themselves.

Mark and I found ourselves in a cabin with two sisters. We immediately ascertained that they spoke English. In fact, their father was English, and their mother was French, so they were truly bilingual. They were 16 years old and traveling back to England to visit their father. They were twins, you see, and cute.

Now, let me repaint the scenario in more direct terms: There were two 18 year old American guys, on their own, trapped for a few hours in a small cabin sitting across from two cute twins. Yes, this was the kind of European travel we had fantasized about. Unfortunately, fantasy was all we ended up having, although we continued to engage the girls in conversation, displaying our wittiness and verbal prowess at every opportunity in our quest to impress the friendly girls enough to get them to become friendlier, if you catch my meaning.

They did offer one sage piece of advice that I pass on to you, now, having found for myself that they were 100% correct. English cooking is even worse than its reputation. If you don’t eat bacon & eggs, or fish & chips, you are going to starve in England. “Bacon” is more what we would call “Canadian Bacon,” rather than the little brown and fatty strips that are fried to a crisp, like we have in the US, but it beats the heck out of spotted dick, bubble & squeak, or any of their other dishes. At least they make the names as unappetizing as the food itself, so you are forewarned.

We made it to the English shores, having crossed the English Channel at night. I can’t tell you if the Cliffs of Dover are white, as conventional wisdom says, but I can say that they aren’t luminous, as I couldn’t see them, and have no idea when we passed them, if we passed them at all. My attention was concentrated on cute girls, and therefore my brain was not absorbing details that I might have otherwise noted.

Early the next morning, we arrived in England, and found our way from the hovercraft to the train station, which, not so coincidentally was the hovercraft terminal itself. I don’t even remember transferring, so we may have stayed on board the train, but we were girlless in the cabin after crossing the Channel, so there must have been an opportunity to leave the train, or, at the least, they had a chance to leave our cabin.

We continued on the train to London, and found, yet again, another cheap hotel with hallway-accessible sanitary facilities. Soon after we were settled in to our room, we made our way out into town and did the traditional tourist things like visiting the Tower Bridge and the London Tower, as well as Trafalgar square. One thing I have that is now a collector’s item is a picture of the statue of Admiral Nelson with a Concorde SST passing in the sky behind it. It was one of the few decent pictures I got.

We also visited Big Ben. Big Ben is actually the bell inside the tower, but we Americans don’t care, and call the tower itself Big Ben, anyway. There was a large park-like field across from Big Ben, where we rested for a bit before deciding what to do next. While there, I grabbed a few more photos. I am not sure what happened, because the day was a dull gray color such as one normally associates with foggy London, but one of the photographs I took had a brilliant blue sky, and the tower looked gilded and golden. In person, though, I never noticed this. This and the previously mentioned up-the-side Eiffel Tower picture, and the Admiral Nelson/SST photos were the three that came out the best of the several rolls I shot.

After the normal tourist visits, we went to a British Pub. I don’t remember the name of it. We drank warm beer, or ale, or stout. To this day, I have no idea why any of those names apply to what is pretty much the same liquid, in my eyes. Warm, though, I do know about. The beer was warm. Apparently the English DNA has mutated to the point that there are no longer taste buds in the English mouth. Nothing is more vile than warm beer, with the exception of English food. I also noticed something else while in the pub; English women come in two varieties: disgustingly ugly and ravishingly beautiful. There is no middle ground where English beauty, or lack thereof, is concerned.

Back in the hotel, I struck up a conversation with the male receptionist. He was, like the predatory American-French translator, in his mid-twenties. He had the intermediate length hair that in the 1970’s denoted him as a guy who wanted to grow long hair to impress the girls, but had to get a real job to eat without any real skills, hence, his place as a scruffy hotel receptionist. It is up to the reader to determine if “scruffy” applies to the hotel, the receptionist, or both.

I asked Mr. Scruffy if there was anything interesting to do in town that weekend. I’m not sure what day of the week it was, but the weekend was upcoming. He grabbed the local “weekend entertainment” variety of newspaper and skimmed it rapidly. Almost immediately, he announced that the Sex Pistols were in town. I have never been a fan of Punk Rock, and the Sex Pistols were synonymous with the genre, but this was an opportunity not to be missed. I asked him where one could get tickets to the concert, and he grabbed a handset. Within a few minutes, I had arranged for a ticket and transportation to the ticket-buying location. I was on a tight budget, but this was one expense that was going to be allowed to bite into the remaining funds.

Well, the concert venue was not the glass-fronted megaliths that present today’s concerts. It was more like a big concrete building designed to hold as many people as can be crammed into the space. I don’t remember where my seat was, but that was academic, as almost no one was sitting down. Reflecting back on the moment, I don’t even remember if there were seats. I learned a few things at the concert: bright flashing lights don’t really add to the entertainment if you aren’t zonked out of your skull, “louder” is not synonymous with “better,” and punk rock was worse than it was cracked up to be, even though I would not have considered that possible before attending the concert.

I hate to say it, but I left before anyone in the crowd got urinated or spat upon. I don’t think I stayed through 10 songs. This is not to say I was disappointed. It was everything I expected, and less. Punk Rock was definitely a style of music that was invented just to prove to our parents that heavy metal wasn’t so bad after all. Later, Rap Music took up this role, in regards to Disco.

Upon leaving the concert, I wandered in the general direction of the hotel. London is a very big city, with a lot to do. What I did was to make my way to a rather crowded up beat British Pub, once again, and ordered a beer. It was cold, as well, to my surprise. Once again, I learned something. “Up beat” and “up scale” both mean “costs more than you think for a beer.” I paid for my one beer, which was all I was ever going to have at that pub, and sat drinking in the atmosphere as well as the over priced refreshment. There were mostly post-college preppies in there. This is the breed that was later labeled “yuppie,” the post-baccalaureate preppie. I didn’t like them after college any more than I liked them pre-college or during college. There is just something about their fraudulent plasticity, false laughter, and constant one-upmanship that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I’m just strange.

Anyway, it was obvious that an 18 year old American in jeans and a t-shirt was not going to be able to impress one of the “birds” in the pub, especially given the one-beer-only handicap I had already imposed on myself. I left shortly after arriving.

Now, it may seem that I’m painting a picture of how much I hated London, but this is not the case in the least. I enjoyed almost every minute that I was there, including loud concerts and preppie/yuppie pubs. It was just that I was a fish out of water in London. London is for people with money, people trying to get money from the people with money, and people who are never going to have money but are going to be treated as if they are invisible by the other two groups. I fit into none of these groups, so was more of an observer during my time in England than a participant.

We spent several days in London, and continued to do any tourist things we could do, the type where you didn’t have to pay money to do it being preferred. I got to see some punk rockers walking in one of the many London parks. They had the fluorescent panty hose, spiky hair, and generally “look at me, I’m strange” attire that had come to be associated with punk rockers and other people in society who are training themselves for failure and ostracization that they are certain to achieve for themselves. Goths, potheads, and others who intentionally handicap themselves with numerous piercings and tattoos that cannot be covered without gloves and turtleneck sweaters fall into this category as well.

The four of us continued doing tourist stuff, until we felt we should leave England, having gotten our additional value out of the slightly higher priced Interrail passes, as compared to the non-British Isles Eurail passes. We went to the train station, which was like almost any other European train station, and did our typing-stamping-writing best to avoid paying for a ticket. We ended up crossing back to the mainland in a more conventional ferry, and ended up in Belgium.

I had never even heard of Belgium as anything other than a small European country. Since this trip, though, I have found that Belgium is a great country. It looks like it is in the corner of Europe, but in reality is in the heart of Europe. Had I to do this trip over again, I would have spent more time in Belgium. I will relate more about Belgium in future posts, but at the time of this trip, we just continued through the country into Holland, which is really called “The Netherlands,” but nobody but the Dutch call it that. Note, also that “Dutch” has nothing to do with either “Holland” or “Netherlands,” which shows just how strange this country is.

Continued in “The Lowlands.”

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I shoulda known

Well, I am on my trip back to the US, now, and I want you folks to know that I'm going to have buy a new bag to carry all the crap... I mean "all the great stuff I bought" over here for yall.

It seems that $20 t-shirts cost a lot more when you add in the excess baggage costs.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

New Blog In Town

Yep.. FauxNEWS is up and running, but still in the testing phases. It should be ready for everyone soon.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Not Quite the Best Buy

How would you like it if you went on the internet and found a really good buy, only to find when you went to the store that the price on the website was more than you thought? Maybe you should check for yourself when you get home again, if it happens.

Best Buy admits to having a fake website with higher prices, but only accessible to its employees.
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal ordered the investigation into Best Buy's practices on Feb. 9 after my column disclosed the website and showed how employees at two Connecticut stores used it to deny customers a $150 discount on a computer advertised on BestBuy.com.

Blumenthal said Wednesday that Best Buy has also confirmed to his office the existence of the intranet site, but has so far failed to give clear answers about its purpose and use.

"Their responses seem to raise as many questions as they answer," Blumenthal said in an interview. "Their answers are less than crystal clear."
I don't like buying appliances at Best Buy because they don't deliver what they promise, plain and simple, but I never thought they'd stoop to false advertising.

Caveat Emptor... But from a national company like Best Buy? Who would've thunk it?

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And the Winner Is....

Congratulations to Emmekelley for her come-from-behind win to take the Saudi Harley Davidson T-Shirt Contest in Wino's Second Periodic Giveaway!

I'm not certain if I'm going to allow clown threats in the next go-round. It just isn't right for folks to do evil, dastardly stuff like that.

Smacktle will receive a consolation "Excellent Blog Pimping Award" T-shirt from the Bahrain Hard Rock Cafe.

Next Giveaway will be for a big prize. Only folks who have already posted will be eligible, so let your friends know to get over here to be in the running. Rules will be announced when I think of them.

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The Second Periodic Giveaway - Updated Again

I'm keeping this post on top until it closes. Look below for new posts.

There are no anonymous votes allowed. If you're signing in as anonymous, please send an email to file(underscore)temp(at)hotmail.com I will receive your email, and make a note in the comments that your vote has been approved. As of this writing, I have received no email confirmations for anonymous votes.

The reason I do these giveaways is so that you tell all your friends at work and around your neighborhoods, schools, and churches to come here and vote for you to get the free shirt. Then they vote for you, and a few of them read my blog. Once they read it, they can't help but notice my brilliance, phenomenal insight, and abject humility. Once that happens, they're hooked.

Now, to sweeten the pot, I'm going to declare bigjolly the de-facto winner as of post number 34. I am now opening up this voting for someone who wins to pick out the size and color they want, and I'll also mail or hand-deliver free of charge (hand-delivery is at a pig race or bhh or shake fest or similar in the Greater Houston Area), depending on the person's preference. In addition, it needn't be a Saudi Arabia Harley shirt. I can also get Bahraini Hard Rock Cafe shirts this trip. Voting will close in time for me to grab the gift before I leave here on the 6th of March.

To further sweeten the pot, I am going to use "previous comment posters" as the nominations for the "next giveaway," when I do it. (Yes, it's a bribe). I am going to post names of everyone who has commented up until the time of the next giveaway, and only those folks will be eligible for the prize. Read the comments to this post to see if you can catch what I'm thinking about for the "next prize." I think it'll be worth it, to most folks. This is even more incentive for you to get friends and loved ones to post here. (The next giveaway prize will be what is more-than-hinted in the comments if it is legal. I'm going to read the rules and see if I'm permitted to give it away as I've planned to do. I think it is legal, as of this writing.)

So, voting is re-opened to everyone. Any previous winners are still out of the running for this shirt. I try to be fair in my giveaways.



I'm in Saudi Arabia. I found the Harley Shop. I got three T-shirts, each with Saudi Emblems. One is XXXL, two are XXL. All the designs are different. All are black in color. One of them is already going to Neo. She gets first choice on size.

Of course, they are all official HD merchandise. I don't do counterfeits.

I don't know what I'm going to do with one of them. The other one is being given away to someone who gets the most votes here. Katfish is out of the running, since he already got one. Neo is out of the running, since she's already getting one. Anyone else I already gave free toys to (cigars are NOT toys) is out of the running, too.

You can only vote once.... You can vote for anyone at all.

Put some legal stuff here, so I can't be sued for this.

Vote's open!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Even More To It

This kid probably killed his mother and brother, and probably tried to kill his father as well. But the Chronicle Story doesn't tell everything that is involved.

Let me tell you something that isn't reported in the papers, and something I've seen nowhere else.

Bart's girlfriend was my daughter's roommate at Sam Houston State University around the time of these slayings. She was a very sweet, beautiful girl who had just a week or two earlier donated her very, very long strawberry blonde hair to the Locks of Love nonprofit organization, for no other reason than she wanted to help those who are disadvantaged. Her hair was down to her waist, and afterwards, it wasn't much more than just a shag.

Anyway, her truck was mysteriously run off highway 45 and rolled over, killing her instantly about two or three weeks before this occurred. I think Bart was involved in this, too.

This kid is plain evil. His father doesn't want him to get the death penalty, but I hope he does. Evil like this shouldn't be allowed to exist.

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