Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Europe 2009: Aftermath

Now for a set of miscellaneous wrap-up topics, about what has happened since I got back and stuff that I forgot to mention earlier.

My bronchial cough has really been nasty all week, although I’m on my usually “onions and honey” home remedy.  It is definitely improving, but I’ve been very low energy.  (The remedy: chop up a strong onion into dime-sized pieces and place in a Mason jar, then fill to covering the onions with honey.  Put on the lid and store for 8-12 hours.  Decant an ounce — a shot glass full — of the now thin and smelly honey and drink it.  Tastes awful, try not to breathe in as you drink!  Take further shots morning and night until what remains is too thick to deal with.  Strain out the now-desiccated onions after 24–36 hours.  Works about as well and fast as a Z-Pack of antibiotics, and it’s both cheaper and you can make it up right away rather than waiting until your doctor can arrange to see you four days from now.  Now and then, I have to do a second batch, but I’ve had to do that with a Z-Pack before, too.)

The medals from the OutGames are disks with the center cut out, and they are hung around the neck on a cord looped through the center.  When my boyfriend saw it, he said it looked like a Chinese coin.  I had a flash of insight and fetched one of my leftover Danish coins — a disk with the center cut out.  Ah ha!

A week later and the cough is still around.  Mostly out of the chest, but up in the head.  Completely knocked me out on Sunday evening, such that I slept (or at least dozed) 12 hours.  So I finally broke down and called the doctor, and they phoned in a Z-Pack prescription.  Here’s hoping it helps.  (Another week later and there are still traces of the cough, and probably will be for another couple weeks.  But it’s tolerable, down to only one or two cough drops a day now.)

In the Amsterdam Centrum, I had noticed that most of the limited parking for cars was right along the canal edge, without either a curb or a railing to mark the edge.  It would give me the heebie-jeebies to park like that, so easy to go a few inches too far and edge up in the canal.  And then just after I got back to the States, I chanced upon this entry from Schott’s Vocab blog, about Smart cars ending up in the canals in Amsterdam.

In Berlin, I found a little music store and went looking for some European country music.  Didn’t find any of that — it was a mostly Classical music store, which is probably why most of their country selection was from the Johnny Cash era, with very little current country and nothing that wasn’t American.  But I did end up buying a Greatest Hits CD from Buck Owens, whom I have little from, and it was a Japanese import to boot.  (So let’s see: I spent €5 to purchase American country music from the 1960s imported to Germany from Japan.  Sounds par for the course.)

Between my medals from the OutGames, my medals from the 1st World OutGames a few years ago, and other medals from dance competitions, I’m acquiring quite a few, to the point that I can’t really display them effectively.  (Nor do I need to display most of them.  Many are generic, without even an indicator of what event they are from, nor what I won them for.)  An idea that comes to mind, given the general size and flatness of the medals, would be to have them embedded in clear plastic, with a floater label on the back indicating when and what they were for, and turn them into coasters.  Probably just the important, unique ones — the OutGames and a couple of the IAGLCWDC competition medals — rather than the whole lot.  Not that I generally need more coasters, having about a dozen already, but that would make the medals both useful and actually displayable, which seems like a great solution.  I think I’ll try visiting TAP Plastics here fairly soon.

I got interviewed by the Seattle Gay News for an article (and picture) on the OutGames.

A week after I got home, some scabs on the top of my head released.  These would have been from repeatedly banging my head on the rafters while getting dressed at the contest.  Guess I did some damage.  Ow.

I seem to have dropped 3–5 pounds on the trip.  That’s a good thing, although I’d still like to lose another 10 lbs. at some point, down to the low 190s.  But it’s hard to complain when you’re back at the weight you were at 10 years ago.

Updated on February 5, 2010

Updated on May 19, 2010
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Europe 2009: Berlin to Seattle (Monday, August 3)

I slept poorly last night.  No disco music on Sunday night, but the cough was just making me miserable.  Good hydration helps, but a good bed does as well.  After a couple hours, I went out to the common room and slept there on the couch for a few hours, then back to my room a bit after dawn.

I aimed to leave at 9:00 to catch my 11:25 flight, but didn’t get out the door until almost 9:15.  And it was raining.  That makes for interesting bookends to the trip, having the first and last days be in the rain, plus the rain midway, on Thursday in Copenhagen.

Long, long flight from Berlin to JFK.  I dozed here and there, through parts of all three movies (The Soloist, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Duplicity); I’ve seen the second and had no real interest in the others.  At least they do feed you on the trans-Atlantic flights (for now, anyway), although Delta wanted to charge me $50 for the second piece of luggage, so it became a heft-and-carry-on.  I also worked on the trip report a bit and read a few Fantastic Four issues (from a collection from the end of Lee/Kirby run; little to write home about in those issues).

The entire trip, I’ve been re-reading Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, the omnibus collection of the first three volumes.  I think this is my third time though this volume, although it’s hard to divorce it from my past viewings of the three mini-series, so it might only be my second time through; I’m pretty sure I’ve only read the second omnibus once.  My boyfriend and I have been watching them and are about 2/3 through the second mini-series.  I’m right now 1/3 through the third book, right where the DeDe and Prue storylines are about to intersect.  I recall how fucking spooked I was by this book the first time through, since the real-world events that preceded it are some of the first Current Events things that I recall growing up, around age 13.

I have been struck by how much these books are not only products of their time, but also signposts of the mid-70s and beyond.  Beyond the faked (and sometimes simply veiled) society people that Maupin uses, the books (especially the first one) are massively laced with references to current events (the Zodiac Killer), San Francisco (a particular North Beach meat vendor is name checked several times), and pop culture (Pet Rocks, EST, the Walkman, etc.), and of course gay stuff is threaded through everything.  It makes me want to have (or produce) a The Annotated Tales of the City, with footnotes and Wiki entries expanding on all the references.

I’m also aware that Maupin went back to the original newspaper columns and changed things around when compiling them into a book.  What was removed — were plotlines abandoned, were characters dropped?  And what was added?  I presume, for example, that the pivotal destination comment from D’Orothea at the end of the second book — which totally freaked me out when I initially read it — was a book-aimed revision, since it’s a bit too prescient otherwise.  But it would be nice to know for sure.

Customs was done at JFK, and it was a zoo.  They herded us and people from another flight or two like cattle, into a long hallway.  I could see a couple hundred in front of me, and more behind me, all stopped at some barrier.  Perversely, all I could think of was Holocaust references, spotting the sprinkler system shower head above us.  (Maybe I’m sicker than I think.)  I couldn’t find my pen, so I hadn’t filled out the customs form, so once I got to the customs desk, I had to go back over there to get a pen from the airline rep, but she wasn’t a rep and directed me back over there to get a pen from the airline rep, but she wasn’t one either and directed me to get one from an airline rep.  And which point I had a brief explosion — “There isn’t any airline rep!” “I’m sorry, I don’t have a pen, sir” — despite that I could see two in her pocket.  “I’ll help you once the line lets up” as she ushered another 20 people into the room, with no sign of the stream stopping.  She eventually gave me a pen (and I properly gave it back when I was done), and then I had to wait for 200 people in front of me to go through, rather than the 20 who were there earlier.

Utterly destroyed whatever assumed German accent I had left, let me tell you!

Showed that guy my passport.  Filed into the next room.  Showed someone my passport.  Got my bag.  Showed someone my passport.  Dropped off my back for moving to the next flight.  Showed someone my passport.  (Jesus Christ!)  And then they had only one lane open for security check for people going to connecting flights, with a couple hundred to go through it.  They now make us take our shoes off and put them through not in a bin with anything else — even baby shoes have to go on the belt by themselves — which only slows things that much further.  What do they expect to accomplish with this shit other than making people not want to fly, which will only make the airlines have that many fewer customers and complain about costs that much more?

I have no fucking sympathy for the airlines.  Not one shred.  I actively hope a couple of the big ones go under, and gloriously so.  (United, please.  Can’t stand them anyway.)  They’ll blame the consumers, of course, but they’re the ones at fault.  That’s what it will take to wake them and TSA up.

JFK is apparently so crowded for flights that they have to use non-gates.  My flight was at Gate 77, but the signage was for Gates 1-12 and B-something, nothing near “77”.  Turns out that Gate 77 means the plane is parked out on the tarmac and they use a huge people mover to get you to it.  So they loaded us all on it… and then made us sit for as much as 30 minutes, waiting for I don’t know what (late passengers, I guess).  Finally disgorged us onto the plane… and then made us sit, waiting for I don’t know what (late passengers, I guess).  Our 5:00 flight didn’t end up leaving until just before 6:00 pm.

(In Amsterdam’s airport, they announce your name and say you are delaying the flight, and that if you don’t show up right way, they will remove your luggage from the plane.  Good threat, especially if the actually carry through on it.  They should try it in the States.)

I debated getting food at JFK.  If I do, they’ll feed us; if I don’t, they won’t.  Looks like I made the right call and got a piece of pizza (which thoroughly cooled by the time we got onto the plan, grrr), since peanuts will be the only thing we’ll get on the plane.  (Mmm, make that pretzels.  Peanuts are persona non grata on airplanes these days; someone might have an allergy.)  And we’ve been airborne for almost 90 minutes without even beverage service yet.  (You can tell I’m a happy traveler when I’m sick and need hydration badly.)

My boyfriend will be picking me up at the airport.  Hope our late departure will be made up and we’ll get home close to on time.  I’m trying to not nap so I can collapse into bed with him tonight and get good solid sleep.

Updated on February 9, 2010

Monday, August 3, 2009

Europe 2009: Berlin (Sunday, August 2)

Another night of fitful sleep.  I was coughing some on Saturday, but it has definitely turned into my full-on recurrent bronchial infection thing.  Probably mostly caused by too many late nights, but the rain squall in Copenhagen on Thursday probably helped it along as well, and there has been a lot more cigarette smoke here in Berlin, especially at Kellerloch last night.

I toodled around Schöneberg again today, but surprisingly to me, very little was open.  Probably 90% of the shops were closed.  I wonder if this is a legal (even religious law) thing in Berlin, or if Sundays are just not typically a good day for business?

I eventually headed up to the huge Tiergarten park (“Animal Garden”, not sure if that signifies the zoo or the forest).  Schöneberg is a little south of it, and tourist attractions like the Reichstag, Berlin Wall Museum, and Holocaust Memorial are at the far east end.  At the center is the Siegessäule (Victory Column), with a huge gold statue of the angel Victoria on top, commemorating the formation of nation states which eventually became Germany.  I climbed all the way to the top, where I could see most of Berlin, and counted steps all the way back down: 291 to street level.  Exhausting.

Later, I took the U-Bann out to Prenzlauer Berg, to the bar Stahlrohr 2.0.  (2.0 because it had moved a few years back.)  Several of the guys from the Kellerloch party were there again.  After a few hours, feeling tired and dealing with my cough (asthmatic bronchitis, not contagious, never has been; I get this a couple times a year and have for my entire adult life), I headed back to the hotel.  Had roast chicken and Greek salad at a corner restaurant; one of the best meals of my life, I swear, meaning I was way hungrier than I thought.

I was very tired at this point, and struggled to get my bags packed to be able to leave at 9 am the next morning.

Updated on February 23, 2010

Updated on May 18, 2010
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Europe 2009: Berlin (Saturday, August 1)

I didn’t sleep particularly well.  First was simply the time frame, going to bed at 5:30 am for the second night in a row.  Second was the bed: it’s a converted hospital bed, I guess, with the mattress just a foam cushion on the metal base, neither thick nor pleasant and with a joint in it 1/3 of the way down to allow for folding or angling.  Worst, though, was the club music from the Connection disco, which vibrated the entire building, and apparently continued until 7 am.  I fell asleep before then, but it would not have been a good sleep.  The owner of the Kinky Tulip tells me that other rooms had it worse, but I’ not convinced he is right; since I could see the back of the bar from my window, I think I was closest to the music.

After a nice breakfast (the Kinky Tulip has a nice kitchen/living room, with self-serve breakfast and snacks available for whenever you crawl out of bed) and blogging time, I cruised around the Schöneberg neighborhood, buying some souvenirs and such.

Had a beer at a bar near the Kinky Tulip, and then dinner at Trattoria á Muntagnola, a south Italian cuisine cafe, where I had Insalata Pomodoro and Gnocchi di Ricotta (in sage and butter sauce).  This was one of one a couple nicer meals I had during the trip, rather than mostly quick/fast food and the like.

That evening, I went to a private party.

Updated on March 1, 2010.

Updated on March 2, 2010.

Updated on May 14, 2010
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Europe 2009: Copenhagen to Berlin (Friday, July 31)

I checked out of the hotel, but they didn’t have a locked room for baggage storage, just a roped off area in the lobby (the most unsecure storage I’ve ever seen, not where I wanted to leave my laptop or several hundred dollars of leather gear).  I found that they had lockers in the basement for 20 DKK, though, so I wandered around for a few minutes with my laptop bag until I found someone to point me to them.  They were big lockers, though, so I trekked back upstairs for my bag of leather, then back down, only to find that they took tokens.  So back upstairs and buy the token — which was 2 for 20 DKK.  But I only need one.  20 DKK.  Whatever.   Not that I was the only one to deal with this, as another guest offered me a spare token as I was heading back downstairs again, just a minute too late.  In other words: a little scam.

I went to the Men’s Shop and to X-Rated Leather to take advantage of my contest prizes.

The master’s cap arrived by post this afternoon from the Anco, before I had to leave.  Thankfully!

As opposed to Amsterdam, in Denmark I was better able to isolate both an accent and a “look” for the locals — sort of German with a little lilt to it, and of course hair that is blond to strawberry blond and good facial structure.  The Danes are a handsome people, by and large.  I ended up adopting a little bit of accent, but only a little.

The streets near the Centrum tend to have wide bicycle lanes, twice as wide as in the States.  They usually have a curb about 2 inches high between them and the auto lanes, and another 2 inch curb between that and the sidewalk.  I had much less problem with stepping off curbs by accident in Copenhagen than I did in Amsterdam, although I did find myself sometimes crossing the street and then walking in the bicycle lane for a few feet before remembering that I wasn’t on the sidewalk.

Scooters also ride in the bicycle lanes here.  There were way more scooters here than in Seattle (3 times as many, maybe), but nothing like the number in Amsterdam.

The bicycles typically are not locked up when they are parked here.  I assume this means that everyone who wants a bike has one, so theft isn’t an issue.  But it was surprising to see dozens of parked bicycles, and almost no chains.

I’ve come to despise the cobblestones commonly used here for sidewalk paving.  With all the walking (and dancing!) I’ve been doing, I have developed shin splints, and negotiating the uneven surfaces makes them hurt.

I was surprised by the amount of wood used in Denmark in outdoor, public settings.  Places such as the steps at the Copenhagen Central Station were wooden.  I wonder how often these have to be replaced?

Speaking of steps, the stairs at K3 had phantom bottom steps.  That is, the first step of several of the stairways was flush with the landing, but designed to look like the other steps, complete with edge markings and the like.  This meant that I stumbled on each of those steps for the first several stair ascents and descents, until I started to trust my memory of the staircase and not the visual.

I flew AirBerlin into Berlin-Tegel airport (the smaller and closer-in of the two Berlin airports).  From there, I hopped the 109 bus to the Uhlandstraße U-Bahn (subway), then that to Wittenbergplatz, and then three blocks walk (or drag, in the case of the luggage, getting heavier each leg!) to the Kinky Tulip hotel in Schöneberg.

After a quick nap, I went out to some of the local bars.

Updated on February 26, 2010

Updated on May 14, 2010
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:
Updated on June 15, 2010
Here’s a short bit about “Copenhagenisation”, heavily promoting bicycle riding in urban areas: