Thursday, September 29, 2005

So, What Do You Do?

I had such a big weekend starting last Friday, why has it taken me so long to write about it? I don't know....

So last weekend was my birthday weekend. Shame on you if you forgot about me ;o) . Actually, I just use my birthday as a good excuse to go out and have a good time. So Friday, Sean emails me this invitation to a publicity thing that Volkswagen was having down in the Meatpacking District at a place called APT. Now, I've never actually been to the Meatpacking District. As Alan says, you have to take a "road trip" just to get down there because it's in the opposite corner of the city of us east-siders. I also know that it is a super, super trendy area of town-this can be a good thing if it's the right kind of attitude or it can be a bad thing if it's too pretenscious. But, heh, free drinks for three hours!! We decided to give it a try. Naturally, I went ahead and invited everyone I knew, as did every other person who sometimes got on the list, thereby ensuring that the place would be packed and it would take three hours just to get a single drink.

After splitting the taxi with Alan, Andrea, and Sean, we made it down there at about 8:00 at night. They gave us cool little Volkswagen necklaces that glowed fluorescent blue and we went in to find out what kind of whore d'houveres (I don't know how to spell in French) they were serving and get a drink. At first, we tamely ordered something quick and easy since we knew they wouldn't serve anything good like a martini (Sean's favorite drink, no surprise there). But after we ordered, we realized that they were serving up top-shelf booze and would make whatever you wanted! So the orders soon turned into "order as many drinks as you can hold in your hands and figure out who wants what later". But the line was still terrible and it just got worse as the clock ticked.

I knew this area of town was more pretenscious than the areas that I frequent, especially by the question that I got asked several times by just about everybody I started talking to.

"So, what do you do?"

Seriously, what kind of question is that? It's so cliche and it assumes that you must be someone that works all the time. And since it's usually the first question that people ask you when they meet you down in the Meatpacking District, one can only assume that they are essentially saying "So, do you make a lot of money?" I've always hated this question, and I usually try to come up with something quick and witty to reply with and I fail miserably, usually saying something like "Well, sometimes I work." But as I sat in the steam room today trying to recessitate my respiratory system (I'm still suffering from a +1 week cold), I've decided to put an end to the frantic digging through my mental database trying to come up with something funny. From this point forward, I do the following things (the order may vary depending on the person asking it and how many drinks I've had):
  1. I write. (this is true, as evidenced by what I'm doing right now)
  2. I track and follow European and South American football. (no need to distinguish from American football)
  3. I travel around the world. (duh, at least twice a year)
  4. I host international dignitaries. (I consider all my friends important and/or influential people)
  5. I'm a New York City travel guide. (those of you who have visited me can attest to this)
Alright you gold diggers, come and get me ;o) !!

Anyway, at 10:00, we were cut off from the open bar so we headed over to Markt to eat some dinner. It seemed to be a seafood place of some sort, so I got myself some linguine with crab marinara sauce and a beer. My new German friends from the previous weekend decided that their budget couldn't support such a nice place, so they went out to find fast food and ended up finding a deli somewhere in the neighborhood. Gotta feel bad for the poor guys, living in the city and working at an unpaid internship. But they still have their fun.

Dinner was fantastic (as it should be at those prices) and we were off to hit the streets again soon after. Alan was our resident guide, even though he'd just returned from London that night and hadn't slept in almost 24 hours. He's a soldier, though, and he took us down to Automatic Slims which supposedly had some dancing and was a good place to chill. It was 11:30 by this time, however, and the area was packed - especially places like this. The bouncer said that he could let us in if we paid him $10 each, so we laughed at him and headed down towards the West Village and ended up at a place called The Town Tavern that was just hideous. I felt like I was in middle-America at some college bar.

Niko and Soenke met some girls earlier at the deli they had eaten dinner at and they wanted to meet up with them again, so we called them up and they said they were at Cielo, but they didn't know where it was - that should have been a red flag. Except for the fact that I carry Google in my pocket by way of my cell phone. So I looked up this place and Google gave me the address of a place called Cielo Azteca up in Spanish Harlem. Sound sketchy? Quite. But hey, Google knows. So we went outside and were talking to a German and Belarussian that we met outside before we split up and headed up to Spanish Harlem to find these girls. Something just didn't sound right though, so we called up these sketchy ladies again to find out if it's in Spanish Harlem alright. Nope. Turns out it was right around the corner from where we were down in the Meatpacking District! The people in the other cab were clueless and were too intoxicated to respond coherently to our phone calls. Last I heard, they ended up somewhere on the East Side, penniless and alone. Oh well.

We found this ueber cool club Cielo in the Meatpacking District, but the cool bouncers at the door wouldn't let us in because we were three guys. The girls waiting for Niko and Soenke even came out but didn't try hard enough to get us in. After waiting around for a half hour, they decided to be nice and let us in. When we went in, we found out that they wanted to charge us $20 each just to get in! And it was only open for another hour! Gimmee a break. Forget the Meatpacking District. That'll be the last time I go down there....

Saturday, being the night of my Geburstag, I picked the east side as my hood of choice. I found a place in my dining guide that I'd highlighted sometime in the past, though I don't remember when. It was an Italian place called Assenzio, which is Italian for "Absinthe", the liquor that is illegal in the U.S. and is only legal in places like the Czech Republic and Spain. Apparently Picasso used to drink it and would start hallucinating from the stuff. The stuff this place served didn't have the illegal ingredient (wormwood?) so they could serve it there. In any case, Alan, Andrea, Cathy, D, and Niko joined me down there for a little Geburstag dinner. After the previous night, and because of my impending cold, I wanted to take it easy that night and this place was the right environment for that. It was on a quiet street in the East Village, we sat next to a huge, open window and enjoyed the second-hand smoke, darkish atmosphere and great food. I had an absinthe cocktail (absinthe and water with two sugar cubes, all of which they set on fire and serve to you) that tasted exactly like anise/black licorice. The food this place served was pretty interesting, they served stuff like wild boar (which actually looks like pork but tastes like beef!).

After dinner we scrambled to find a bar to have a toast to my Geburstag at midnight. Obviously, since we were in the East Village, this was not a chore. We walked down a street and found a dark door that sounded like there was crowd behind it, though there were no windows or sign to indicate that this was a watering hole of any kind. Nonetheless, one tug on the door and we were inside a loud and boisterous place that we could hang out in.

So we had a toast and lounged around on the couches listening to the old school rap playing on the stereo and chatted a bit. There was a group of girls celebrating a bachelorette party that looked like they'd been out for a bit that night. After we were there for a bit, a guy came in selling roses and I shooed him away before it dawned on me. So I bought a red rose ($3) and went and gave it to the bachelorette. I was chastised by Andrea for doing that because she apparently knew one of the other girls there, but there was no choice about who to give the flower to. Come on, she's the focus of attention, right?? I said something about me feeling sorry for her that she's getting married (talk about cliche!) and she misinterpreted me and told her friends that "he said it's too bad I'm getting married to someone else. sweet." I was like "uhh, yea, that's what I said" ;o). Whatever! In any case, they were clearly impressed with the flower....

It was a very mellow night and one that I would consider to be the first of the fall. It was almost cold enough to necessitate a sweater - that's a bad sign. The nice thing about it is that I can finally wear jeans comfortably, leaving behind the awkard semi-baggy shorts that require me to wear an equally semi-baggy t-shirt rather than my preferred tight jeans, tight shirt combination. Thank heavens for spring and fall!

Speaking of tight jeans, I bought myself a new mobile phone (LG VX5200) on Sunday. Actually, Verizon bought it for me because I've had my other one for over two years. It's nice because it's much thinner than my old one which means that it fits in my jeans much much better ("is that your old cell phone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?") I'm not too stoked on it yet (other than it's size) but hopefully I'll just get used to it after a while.

So, now the next weekend begins. Time to get ready for dinner!

J. Riley, so what do you do?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Bye-Bye Spacers....for now :o(

I had the spacers removed from my upper teeth this afternoon, so there's no more pain there. I only have braces on the back five teeth on each side of my lower jaw, and they are pretty straight as-is. Problem was that they were starting to tilt towards the inside of my mouth in order to match my upper jaw, so the braces are there to pull them back out (however that works). You can't even see them, really, and the spacers in my upper jaw were the only things causing a lot of pain.

But with my vacation to Brazil in a month and a half, I decided to put off the surgery on my upper jaw until afterwards. For three reasons, really 1.) the doctor says the few weeks after the surgery are crucial and they want to keep an eye on how things are going, 2.) I want to be able to eat in Brazil! The recovery would probably be a few weeks and it looks like I wouldn't be able to do the surgery until mid October at the earliest, and 3.) I'll probably need to fly someone out here to take care of me for a few days and the flights would've been outrageous on such short notice. I have Summer lined up for that, though. So it just made sense to put it off, even if it pushes my completion back another month or two....

J. Riley, welcome home mom and dad!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

World Cup Finals

In 2002, Germany played Brazil in the World Cup final. How amusing that I can relate a lot of the past week to this very match!

Last week I made reservations for my trip to the World Cup in Germany, 2006. I've been thinking about the trip a lot, trying to figure out how to make the logistics work out for me and the rest of my friends around the world who are planning on meeting up there. I mean, there's going to be millions of people going to visit the country, how are we supposed to find a place to stay and when are we going, etc. Especially since I only have a week off of work at that time! Well, technically I will have zero days off of work at that time, but hopefully that can be negotiated with el hefe. Or I guess I could just quit ;-) . In any case, the flight is reserved and I haven't heard back from any of my friends on what they think about my master plan - ten days in a rented apartment in Bamberg, Germany (a small college town where Alex studies) that has awesome pubs and is near Nuernburg and Frankfurt and being in town for the Quarter-, Semi-, and Grand Finals. So I might just book it and worry about the logistics later....

While we're on that subject, my Brazilian friend Daniel has put together the master plan for International Club Reunion Part Deux in Brazil this November. There will be seven (hopefully!) of us in Brazil for his wedding and following that we will be travelling to Fortaleza, Brazil. Some of us have heard about this place and it has been described as being the most beautiful spot on earth by some of them - paradise. Daniel did an awesome job the first time we travelled to Brazil and I for one can't wait for November to get here. And another wedding? A Brazilian Catholic wedding? With 300 guests (most are his brothers and sisters ;o)? Kick-ass! Their wedding planners have some big shoes to fill from Poland, but I'm optimistic that they can handle the challenge!

This past weekend was the Deutsche Steuben Parade here in NYC, celebrating American-German friendship and, more importantly, the beginning of Oktoberfest. There's a club that meets monthly to get together, drink beer, and talk German (practice!) that I've been wanting to attend, but they meet on Thursday nights and I just can't miss my cardio class or I'll...well, I won't gain weight or get fat, but something bad would happen. My zen would be messed up or something like that :). Anyways, they were marching in the parade this year and since it was on a Saturday, I figured I'd show up and meet some of the folks and maybe become more committed to practicing my German. So we hit up 5th Avenue and headed up from 62nd Street all the way to 86th St, a stretch of just over a mile. And it was HOT out, especially with black t-shirts on :o| . I met an opera singer on the walk who has travelled all over the world to sing opera (including Germany) in addition to several ex-pats who were in America for school or whatever. In general, it was a good crowd and I had a good time on the walk. I never woulda thought there were so many Germans in NYC, but they were all there, lined up along 5th Ave showing their colors....

Naturally, at the end of every event that is German related, there is beer. At Summer Stage in Central Park they had a gigantic beer tent set up and were serving quality German brews by the half-liter (or two-liter pitcher) along with lots of wurst (sausage), sauerkraut, and spaetzle (a potatoe-pasta made in the region near Stuttgart). I met up with Niko and Soenke, who are friends of Alex's who are in NYC working at an internship for the summer, and their friend Jonas. They were very outgoing and enjoyed the beer and German party - even if it was traditional Bavarian music. I guess going to this event is like going to a county-fair in the countryside in the US with live country music and cowboys everywhere :).

We spent several hours there consuming beer by the liter until they kicked us out at around 6:00pm. We met some dirndl girls (well, not really, just normal girls) at the party and were planning on meeting up with them at Libation in the Lower East Side later that night to continue the party.

A few hours and a few minutes of sleep later, I found out that the Germans had changed plans and were going to a mega-club called Underground down on 21st St. I don't frequent mega-clubs, mostly because me and my friends prefer more loungy atmospheres but also because I don't really know where they are. They tend to be dark doors on dark streets with lines outside at midnight waiting to get in. They also draw a beautiful crowd and I've always found them intriguing. I had a great time with them earlier in the night so I figured I'd finish the night off in style downtown. Indeed!

After getting home at the wee hours of the morning with my ears still ringing and sleeping until around 9:30, I had some cleaning to do. My apartment has been trashed since.....well, pretty much all summer. It needed a thorough cleaning, especially since a friend of a friend (yes, another German) was coming to town and needed a place to crash for the night and was looking for someone to hang out with in the city. Guests (and phone calls??) always provide good motivation for some superb house cleaning, vacuuming and all! This was a friend of my half-German friends Daniel and Sandy who had travelled for four months through Asia and onto California for a few weeks. Those crazy German travellers! She was great, though, and had hundreds of stories from her trip. We clicked quite well and ended up staying up until almost 2:00am Sunday night talking about the differences between Germans and Americans and everyone in between. My kind of conversation partner! She left the next day for a youth hostel but we met up on Tuesday night at DTUT to have coffee and listen to some awesome live acoustic music at the most bohemian place in the neighborhood. Most of the people look like their fresh off the boat Brooklanders or from the East Village. Awesome place!

Finally, my eyes. I hate my eyes. I hate my eyelids. I hate my doctors who can't figure out what the hell is wrong with them. I've been to five or six specialists now and everyone has diagnosed me with something different, but none of them have been correct. Or at least none of them have provided me with a viable solution. So, again, I have inflamed upper eyelids on both sides. Guess it's time for my monthly steroid shot :o| . What does this have to do with Brazil or Germany? Ummm....because I don't want to have problems when I'm there, I guess?

J. Riley, Geburtstag Wochenende!!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I've graduated to water-soaked carbohydrates

I've graduated to water-soaked carbohydrates as essential elements of my thus-far inhibited metal-faced diet. Much better than soup

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Cure For A Common Habit?

One of the benefits to having a sore mouth everyday appears to be the fact that I no longer bit emy finger nails. Looking down at them, I notice that they are already much longer than they typically are. Guess I'll have to get used to trimming them with nail clippers rather than using my central and lateral incisor teeth, which are pretty much the only teeth of mine that touch. I guess in 18 months, when I have normal teeth, I will have a whole new range of upper-maxilla and lower-mandible tooth options for trimming my nails ;o)...

Vince is in town, so last night I met up with him and Sean (who I haven't seen in about a month) for a little margarita drinking and Monday Night Football watching. That's probably the first football game (other than the Super Bowl and college football) that I've watched in years! I had to miss yoga, partially because of it. I ate soup for lunch (not many options for me these days) and thus was starving by the time I got home after work. So I stopped by my favorite Italian grocery store and picked up some pasta dishes for me to devour. By the time I was done (suffice to say that I eat even slower now than I did before), yoga had already started and I was stuck with unaltered energy for the rest of the night. Friday, however, it's on :) !

J. Riley, planning for the World Cup next June/July got started today with my flight reservations!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Kick in the Teeth

Yesterday I got some braces put on the back five teeth on each side of my lower jaw - the first step towards having good tooth structure. While they certainly are annoying (and I keep getting food stuck in them), they haven't caused me too much trouble yet. In addition to those, I also had four spacers put in between teeth on each side of my upper jaw so that the orthodontist can anchor an arch expander next month. These things have been the biggest pain in the teeth, so to speak, because they are putting major pressure on every tooth on my upper jaw and hurt like hell! I ate sushi for lunch yesterday, which wasn't so bad because uncooked fish is nice and soft and my teeth hadn't started hurting too much at that point. Last night I tried to eat some potato salad and couldn't hardly bear it. Shooting for the soft foods, I ate oatmeal this morning but I couldn't even chew it, I just swallowed the oats whole. It's really annoying. If it doesn't stop hurting, I might have to break my personal covenant and actually use tylenol or aspirin or whatever for once.

I guess next month I'll be having the first of my two jaw surgeries, where they split the bone in my upper jaw down the middle so they can widen everything (with the arch expander). Uggh. I guess things will get worse before they get better. One day down, 18 months to go....

As part of my recovery, I went shopping afterwards down Fifth Avenue. I was actaully on my way to the library to return my Eastern Europe travel books (R.I.P), but couldn't resist stopping into Mexx and H&M to see if there were any good deals for me to squander my hard-earned cash on. Of course there were - $9 long sleeve shirts at H&M and a neat, textured, white button-up short-sleeved shirt for me at Mexx. As usual on the weekends, there was some sort of parade happening on Fifth Avenue, but nobody seemed to really know what was going on. Another day, another parade on Fifth Ave!

J. Riley, liquid diet for me!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Return of the J. Riley

Ten days, five currencies, eleven passport stamps, five languages, four flights, and one awesome vacation later, I'm finally home.

Pictures (and videos):
Slovakia and Hungary

J. Riley, journal entries are being added this week and will appear on the days that they took place (i.e. they will show up below this entry, so check back if you want to read them)

(Edit 9/7/05) All my posts have been published! If you're looking for a novel to read or something to put you to sleep, scroll down the page!!


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Slovakia - The Grande Finale and Csilla's Birthday!

And on the seventh day, we rested.

I woke up at around 2:00pm in the afternoon. I looked around my hotel room, which looked like a rock star had been staying there because it was trashed. Had someone come in and robbed me??? No, wait, I'm just a slob. I wearily got up and took a nice hot shower and had cleaned up just in time for Roland's phone call to my room. They were downstairs waiting for me. I headed down and chatted with Csilla and Danissa for a bit while Roland took some of the "party flavors" back to the train station so they could go back to Budapest. We had decided to skip breakfast (the leftover chicken wings at 3:00am did the trick), so Csilla and I decided to meet Roland at the restaurant his brother-in-law manages, Cleopatra, which was on the other end of the park outside the hotel.

It was another gorgeous day outside, perfect temperature, no clouds to be seen. In fact, it had been that way all week. I assumed it was like that all summer, but it turns out that before I came, the summer had been overcast and raining every single day. One of the worst summers that they've had. I guess the California weather travels with me every once in a while ;o).

I had come down with a bit of a cold by this point (gee, maybe the lukewarm hot tub and lack of sleep?), so I had some soup to start off lunch - traditional Hungarian bean soup. Another great meal starter, except that it came with some oily onion/garlic bread that was heavy. Filled me right up! But I still dabbled in my entree, which was chicken cooked in a paprika sauce along with gnocchi, or potato pasta (different than the Italian gnocchi).

After lunch, we leisurely went back to the hotel and lounged for a bit before Roland and Csilla took off. I found out later that they were going to clean up the club from the night before. I felt totally useless since I was perfectly capable of helping out! Instead, I sat at home, watched some more Curb Your Enthusiasm and made blog notes. Afterwards, I decided that I didn't want to waste any more time, so I headed downstairs to find out what downtown Komarno was like. The last time I was in town (five years ago), there was a lot of construction going on, so I knew that it had changed.

After getting some orientation directions from Danissa downstairs, I struck out for a little walk on my own. I walked through the small town to an ice cream shop, where I made a purchase using my fluent Hungarian (Kawa. Straciatella. Eegan! Kussy!). Downtown Komarno has a place called the European Center, which has a lot of buildings that are designed in architectures characteristic of the other members of the European Union. That was an interesting place to check out. On the way there, I came across a store called "Rifle". What was funny about this store is that I actually have a pair of jeans that are made by Rifle, but I have never seen these jeans anywhere other than Macys, where I bought them. And this tiny town has a store full of Rifle gear?? Too bad I had slept in til 2:00 and it was already closed!

I waltzed back to the hotel after my little tour and Agi (another hotel worker) was at the hotel hanging out with Danissa. So I decided to chill downstairs with them and talk about the night before (Agi had been there and reminded me of some things that I supposedly did ;o). After a while, Roland came by and picked me up and we walked to his apartment to chill for a bit while his girlfriend got ready for her big birthday night out on the town. We watched a cheesy movie about an American girl that went to England and became a princess and then watched a bit of some of the World Cup qualifiers and Real Madrid TV's interview with Robinho in Portuguese with Spanish subtitles (that helps).

Once everyone was ready, we went back to Grand Central, the hotel ;o). I got dressed up in some warm clothes and then we got a ride from Agi's boyfriend to Roland's brother-in-law's parent's house, where he was having a BBQ. He had grilled up some really tasty chicken (it was as tender as free-range organic!) and beef for us, along with a salad and fresh bread. I found it interesting that both of the salads that were made there were different than our typical salads. Whereas our salads tend to be lettuce with other items mixed in, their salads tend to be other items (tomatoes, onions, etc.) with just a few lettuce leaves. It could have been an anomaly, I'm not sure.

After the previous night's fiasco and because of my imminent cold, I decided to hold off on the beer (his brother-in-law had encouraged me the previous night by continuously filling up my glass with a new beer) and instead drank a "Frösse", which is glass of half white-wine and half sparkling Euro water. I kinda liked them because they were very light and refreshing, so I stuck with those for the evening - mostly.

Some other friends came over, including a Slovak guy who was a cousin of another guy. He lives in Florida now and he looked like a party animal with his full goatee and greasy hair. Sure enough, he offered me some good stuff to smoke if I was interested. After I told him I wasn't, he said if there's anything else I need, he has a connection. I laughed and said that I just stick to the booze, but thanks. He said that he hadn't met his cousin before he was picked up at the airport by him two weeks ago, but they soon found some activities that they both liked ;o). A couple of them had a shot of some nasty stuff called Pitu, and I agreed to have one with Csilla since it was now past midnight and officially her birthday :o)

After the BBQ, we walked towards the Komarno discos which were nearby. Apparently they were at some forts that were part of the ancient wall surrounding Komarno. I never knew that Komarno was an important town a long time ago and had walls all around it. Interesting. A new disco (Royal) had just opened up next to the other disco (Castello). We checked out the new one and it was TIGHT! Hip-hop and electronic music blasted the dance floor and the lights were going nuts. Pretty Eastern Euro girls were in abundance and the fashions were very Euro-centric. This is what I was looking for! We did some dancing there for a bit until we were drenched and headed next door to the old club (the name escapes me!), which was much larger and more spacious. The music took a while to get into, but I liked them both because they were both predominately loud and electronic! We also met up with one of Csilla's friends (gorgeous Hungarian who didn't speak English :o( ) and hung out with her for a bit.

But, we had to leave a bit early. We had to leave at 7:00am for the airport, so we decided to be responsible and leave the discos at a reasonable hour - 3:30. We had to be fully rested for the long drive to Vienna :o) !! Needless to say, we weren't!

After getting packed and getting my three hours of beauty sleep, I was whisked away in Roland's car by him and Csilla and en route to Vienna to leave. Due to time limitations and limited options, we stopped at McDonald's and I begrudgingly ordered hash browns just so I could get something in my stomach. I was not happy about that, since it had been almost three years since I had last eaten there (in Sao Paulo, when there was nothing else open) and the second time in five years (previously in Prague, again, when nothing else was open). Oh well, it was bound to happen. And, no, the hash browns weren't good! ;o)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Slovakia - BBQ Party in Komarno

We got up bright and early Friday morning in Budapest and made our way out of bed at about 8:30 in the morning - very slowly and not so surely. But we had a barbeque to prepare for back in Komarno for some people that were coming to town from Budapest and other areas of Hungary. Roland had sent out an invitation a few weeks back, cc'ing me on the email. Of course, it was all in Hungarian, so I perused the email looking for keywords that I could decipher, but to no avail. Anyone know anything about the language? The closest thing it is related to is Finnish and it is derived from something similar to Mongolian. Yea, not so easy to pick up on, that's for sure. I did, however, manage to master four words in Hungarian - Hello (or Goodbye), Yes, No, and three variations of Thank You.

Anyway, we had expected good attendance, but several people canceled at the last minute, so we had massive excess of food. But everything turned out fine food wise, more people would have been a bit more difficult to manage. The event was held at a sports club that Roland is a member of. We had nearly complete dominance of this place and it's patio, grass, volleyball court, tennis court, pool, jaccuzzi, sauna, and refrigerator. We arrived at around one o'clock and people began to trickle in shortly thereafter. Roland and Csilla took off for the store and returned with excess everything for the party - wine, beer, water, snacks, plates, cups, etc. etc. They did a great job organizing everything that evening despite the lack of sleep the night before, the travelling during the day, and the sudden cancellations.

Most of the visitors were friends of Roland's from his days at the prestigious International Business School in Budapest, so these people were clearly priveleged and on the high road as far as their careers are concerned. I had met one of them briefly about five years ago when he was a roommate of Roland's on my first trip to Budapest, though I didn't recognize him until later. Besides him, there were several very cute girls, including one that was apparently from a noble Hungarian family. I haven't come across any of those here in the states! She was an exchange student in Wisconsin who had an interesting experience here in the states. She had some bad stuff happen to her but, despite that, she still admired the US and wanted to eventually live here. I traded thoughts with her for a while and had a nice intellectual discussion about the differences between the places. Very interesting stuff.

As the night progressed and tongues got loosened, bellies got filled, and temperatures outside dropped, I was taken back to the hotel by my chauffer (Csilla ;o) to get some warm clothes for later that night. When I got back, there were rumors of jaccuzzi usage being thrown around. I jumped at the chance and plunged into the luke-warm water for the first of many soaks. After a bit of time in the water, it became quite frigid and I think that these trips led to my nasty cold that I carried for the next few days. But trips to the jaccuzzi were seperated with trips to the hot (wet!) sauna on the premises. I love my saunista sessions and did them frequently that night. I always kept a cold beer on hand to keep me sufficiently hydrated, which I'm sure helped, albeit in a negative way. People were flowing in and out of the jaccuzzi, pool, and sauna (not to mention closets!) throughout the night, so I got to talk to lots of people and have a great time entertaining people with my Hungarian and my dance moves in the jaccuzzi ;o) .

At some point during the night, I changed into my warm clothes in order to raise my body temperature and prepared to head home. Apparently I fell asleep on the leather couches while waiting for Roland to get back from his house, which is about five minutes away at turbo-Roland speed. While I slept and snored on the couch, Csilla, Agi, and Roland (NOT Vas ;o) cleaned up the mighty mess that was left. They should have woken me up, I'm sure I would've helped out one way or another! In any case, after waiting and sleeping for about an hour, I woke up and ate some more meat from the BBQ. Where was Roland???

Another hour went by and Csilla was pretty annoyed at this point. Roland eventually showed up, smelling sweet with cologne ;o), with some nice clubbing clothes on at about 3:45 in the morning, when the discos closed at 4:00am. He had apparently gone home, changed, and FELL ASLEEP while the masses were waiting for him to shuttle us to the hotel for the night! Csilla was less than thrilled with him, and he didn't hear the end of it for the rest of the weekend :o)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Tour De Hungary

We had to check out of the apt by 10:00, so we got up early, packed, checked out, and headed down to the Siofok beach. There was an area we sat the previous day that had wooden lounge chairs and was right next to the trance music area. They played a lot of great ambient techno/trance/house music, which created an excellent atmosphere. This was the optimal location for taking a nap, which we all did off and on throughout the day while toasting ourselves in the sun. It was about 80 degrees and clear with a light breeze, which allowed us to work on our goal of skin cancer for about six hours. The water was crisp-cold and dirty, but it was good for cooling off every hour or so after sleeping. I did a pretty good job at keeping myself white, though there are some areas that I missed or didn't cover sufficiently that got mildly burnt. We read magazines, drank Bacardi Breezers, ate crepes and sausages, and chit-chatted the whole day and it was great.

At about 5:00, we packed up and decided to go to Budapest for the night because of the disappointing Siofok crowds. I had some points left from living at Marriott hotels, so we made some calls back to Roland's hotel to have the receptionist look up my Rewards number in my Palm Pilot and after a half-hour of trying to guide her to the right area ("There's an Apple that shows up when I press the button"...Uhh, I think that's my iPod, not my Palm Pilot ;o), we got the rewards number and made our reservation at the Budapest Marriott. After a long drive down to the city (about two hours with terrible inner-city traffic), we landed at the Marriott and checked in, checked email, took showers, and applied ample body lotion to soothe our patches of red skin.

At 10:00, we headed out to dinner and ate at the fabulous Matias Pince (Mathias' Basement), which was a traditional Hungarian restaurant with a small string band playing traditional Hungarian folk music. The decorations were elaborate and exquisite and the waiters wore traditional Hungarian garb - it was the perfect tourist trap. But the meal was fabulous and real Hungarian food, so I couldn't complain. I went for the $35 Royal Dinner special, which included cold goose liver with it's own MAKO fat (I realized, much like the bone marrow experience last month, that the ball of something on my plate was not potato, but rather cold and hardened far from the cooked liver) followed by lamb ragu soup, the main entree (roasted abergine, bell pepper, and squash with grilled venison and fried potato pancake), and dessert (a plate full of Hungarian desserts like honey-cake, poppyseed tort, ice cream, and a bread-pudding like item. I couldn't even come close to finishing this and was a fat and happy Royal Magyar by the time I was done.

Afterwards, we walked off our dinner by strolling around the vacant Vace (say: Vat-see) street (the street open only to pedestrians with stores). We were going to meet up with a friend of Roland's later that night at a house party, but then the plans were changed and we went to a University party instead. It was at the most famous liberal arts school in Hungary that has students from around the world attending. Every day before the semester, they have something going on in the courtyard to keep people entertained and tonight it was a party with music and everything. There were about 5000 people at this place and it was very surreal with speakers below every window in the courtyard and a massive bar setup along one side. We hung our satiated bodies around for a while while waiting for Roland's friend and found the standard German contingent that is omni-present at these parties. The girls acted completely disinterested in talking about their trip to Hungary so I left that alone and hung out with Csilla and and the big Swede who was trying to get her to dance with him. He said his father was "a big Hungarian stew" to me. I was like "huh?" and after he repeated it several times I told him I think he had the wrong word. He said "You know, a strong, young male horse". After a few minutes of him repeating it, I lauged and said that he must be thinking of "stud". Pretty funny.

After a bit, we headed to new scenery in the courtyard and I heard my name being yelled. Sure, enough, there was Hendrik. Hendrik is a friend of my German friend Alex who had worked in New York last spring and summer. When Alex was in town, we all met up and went out together. I knew that after NY he was going to Budapest to study and I had mentioned to Roland and Csilla earlier that he was in town and I should've emailed him, but it's been a year and he must be back in Germany by now. Nope! It was crazy that we crossed paths, totally crazy. So we talked for a bit and he introduced me to hundreds of people that he knew at the party, did some free-style rapping (in Spanish, no less) with his Mexican friend and buzzed around the courtyard in typical Hendrik fashion. This guy is wild!

We had to get up early the following day, so we headed back to the hotel early (around 3:00). By the time we walked home, got ready for bed, and finished watching an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm on my laptop, it was 4:30 in the morning and everyone was passed out asleep in bed. We had a long day ahead of us the following day, and we had to be fresh!