Flashback to Iceland, 2003 (insert flashback wavy lines here)

Amelie and I were doing some comparison shopping on postcards at the various tourist information shops when our ears were accosted by the booming voice of a loud, pushy American (complete with reverse baseball hat and sports jersey) demanding to know:
"Where can I get A CUP OF JOE?"
The agent manning the desk flinched a bit and gave him a puzzled look.
He repeated his question in a louder voice, because loud always makes translations smoother: "A CUP OF JOE! JOE!"
Slowly, a dim light dawned upon him and then, enunciating each word, "Oh, coffee. THAT's. What WE. Call COFFEE. Cup. Of. JOE. Know where I can find some?"
Amelie thought she heard him add "And some CHOW," but that may have been a delusion brought on by the shock of his initial onslaught. Embarrassed by our countryman, from that moment on, Amelie and I became Scots and spoke with thick brogues for the remainder of the trip. A few days later, Amelie mentioned that she had a wedding to attend in Edinburgh (pronounced "Edin-burrrrrrah") in May, 2004, and invited me along. Aye, lassie, I'll join ye. . .

(insert return-to-present-day wavy lines)

And so, less than a year later, I came to find myself taking a cheapo bus ($35 round-trip) from DC to NYC to meet up with Amelie for another trip abroad. As always, you get what you pay for. Granted, I did not take the "Chinese bus where everyone is kung-fu fighting" as our appallingly racist driver warned us we would have to take on the return trip if we did not keep a tight grip on our little, yellow tickets. But, I did have to suffer through a chatty neighbor ("I wonder when we are leaving. I've never been to New York before. Oh, are you reading that book? How is it? I really like to read myself. Blah infinity blah."); I couldn't watch the movies ("Meet the Parents" and "Remember the Titans") because the woman in front of me sported a huge hairdo that Marge Simpson would envy; and I had to watch said bouffant-loving woman pop the painful-looking zits off her daughter's cheek for what seemed to be an eternity.

Because of the delayed departure, we did not arrive in mid-town Manhattan until 3:30 p.m., an hour later than anticipated. Amelie was nowhere to be seen, so I found a narrow ledge to sit upon that was close enough to see the street but far enough away from the crazy, toothless (well, that's not fair, she did have at least two teeth) woman who was alternately cooing and cajoling for spare change and screaming with rage at the imaginary thieves who were trying to steal from her. By 4 p.m., Amelie finally rescued me.

We dumped my gear at her place in the Lower East Side and walked to Vosges Haut-Chocolat, an ice cream establishment I had read about in the New York Times that featured exotic flavors of chocolate and ice cream. We sample the Red Fire ice cream which combined dark chocolate, chilis, and cinnamon (zingy, tasty treat) and the Naga ice cream which blended curry, coconut, and white chocolate (Um. Not so much).

Amelie's summertime roommate Angela met us for dinner at the restaurant imaginatively named "Supper" that, apparently, the East Village hipsters frequent when they want northern Italian food. Gotta admit, the tagliateli with porcini mushrooms was pretty good. We followed up our meal with creamy mochas at the newly-opened Ini Ani coffeehouse whose interesting walls, as I have come to learn, are made of 24,650 cardboard strips. For our self-imposed homework, we returned to Amelie's apartment and watched "Trainspotting" to give us a refresher on our Scottish accents (never mind that we were going to be in Ireland first and for twice as long). By 2 a.m., we were ready for our trip. No, we had not discussed what sights to see, where the locations of our lodgings were, or how much cash to carry. But we had ooor accents doooon pat.


10 UK steps to 1 US stride.
9 trips to various parks and greens.
8 cafes.
7 purely sunny days.
6 busses.
5 different rooms.
4 accents.
3 airlines.
2 kooky travelers.
1 backpack each.

Countdown complete.
Traveblog to commence. Soon. I bromise.


Lunch today: guacamole sammich, handful of dried mango slices, and two cups of coffee. Hmmm. I need to go grocery shopping STAT!


Today's post has a dual purpose. First, it will beg of you to click on this link. The link leads to my Iceland/Denmark Travelogue. You don't actually have to read the story, you just have to click the link. If you do, then I will score a few more hits in the contest that ends this weekend and I may win fabulous prizes (like $30 . . . hey, you know how many mochas you can get for that?).

Second, it will give you an introduction to my traveling companion - Amelie - so that you get an idea of how silly/panicked/lazy our travels can be. Here goes.

Having soaked up all the sunshine and heat and UV rays Belize had to offer, I whimsically accepted an offer to travel with my friend Amelie to the northern-most capital in the world and points east. The conversation went something like this . . .

"Hey, Baj, wanna go to Australia?"
(several months pass)
"Ummmm, Australia is too far and too expensive. How about Iceland?"
(few more week go by)
"Why don't we add Denmark too?"

And so it comes to pass that I present you with a combo-travelogue: "Break-ya-bank, Priceland" and "There's Something Rotten in That There Denmark State". In tonight's performance, the role of Lil Baji will be played by Amelie.

Pre-Day One: August 21, 2003
To get to Iceland, I first had to get to New York City to meet up with Amelie. I took the train which was supposed to take a little over three hours but delay after delay got me into the city five hours later. By then, I had exhausted my supply of York Peppermint Patties which I had intended to use as a substitute for brushing my teeth on the various planes and trains and buses through Scandinavia. Ah well.

Amelie met me at Penn Station and we dropped off my luggage at her lovely Lower East Side digs so we could discuss travel plans. DC had a heat-index of about 100 that day and I am certain that NYC reached those breath-robbing, brain-melting temperatures as well. Over a delicious Thai dinner, we caught up on each other's lives and swapped stories. Later, at the Pink Pony, we chatted over coffee and discussed literature, movies, and music. Even later, until about 5 a.m. the next morning, we talked about friends and family, quoted our favorite lines from film and television, tried out different accents and voices, did a few comedy routines and generally managed NOT to accomplish anything in the way of planning our trip as we had intended.

At 8:30 a.m., Amelie staggered off to work while I stumbled over to the computer for some last minute research for our trip. I sluggishly went out in search of Ray's Original Jumbo Slice Pizza for a Coke-and-a-slice (Thanks, Christopher Moltisanti!) and when I returned to the apartment, I was so wiped out by the heat that I couldn't even bear to open the pizza box. I cooled off, gobbled some cold pizza, and napped for a couple of hours until Amelie returned home, drenched and winded. We double-checked our packing, had lunch at the Pink Pony, and, since we had allotted ourselves plenty of time to reach JFK, leisurely made our way to the subway to catch the first A-train we saw. Unfortunately, it was not the right A-train. In fact, it was the completely wrong train to take and it wasn't until we reached the end of the line in the absolute opposite direction that we wanted that we realized that small but important fact. It was rush-hour on Friday afternoon and we were at the northern tip of Manhattan when we really wanted to be near the southern end of Queens. We looked at each other, dumbfounded and aghast, and jumped back on the now-empty train, anxiously waiting for it to switch directions and take us to our destination. Turns out, the Ramones had it wrong; it was very hard and it was very far to reach Far Rock Rock Rockaway Beach. We constantly checked the map and our watches, held our breaths at each stop, willed the train to go faster and mentally encouraged the conductor to refuse entry to the slow passengers who, with each passing minute, were making us late for our flight (Yes. That's right. It was the train and the other passengers' fault).

Amelie was so distraught that she could only retain a tiny nugget of information each time she went to look at the map to see how many more stops we had left. I consoled myself by imagining worse scenarios that made this one seem palatable. "Hey, at least we don't need dual emergency heart transplants and if we miss this flight and don't receive the healthy hearts awaiting us in Iceland, we'll die" kind of thing. At least I didn't share this out loud (please refer yourselves to the classic film "Young Frankenstein" and the genius line from it: "Could be worse . . . could be raining" . . . smile, pause, wait for torrential downpour to begin).

With less than an hour before departure, we reached Far Rockaway Beach and nervously awaited the free shuttle bus which, in our fantasies, would whisk us away straight to the gate. Alas. By the time we got to our terminal, we had only 15 minutes before boarding and departure. Cue the "Mission Impossible" theme music. We ran up the escalator, skidded around the corner to a nearly-deserted Iceland Airways Check-In counter, and breathlessly awaited the punishment to be handed down to us.

"You are checking in NOW?," the airline agent asked, flabbergasted.
"Yes, please?"
(clacking of the keys, frowning of the face, glancing of the eyes at these two wretched, sweaty women)
"You two are lucky. You are getting the last two seats."

Relief washed over us as we raced through security, through the boarding area, and onto the plane. We laughed maniacally and marveled at the fact that, in this day of hyper-security and uber-suspicion, we managed to get through the entire JFK terminal (entrance, security, and plane doors) in under 10 minutes. We found our seats at the back of the plane, slumped down with relief that the last several harrowing hours were behind us, and then settled back and idly wondered when they were going to serve us some water and give us our cashmere blankets that we could later steal. Craptastic airplane food, not nearly enough water, acrylic blankets, and five-hours of flying time later, we arrived in Reykjavik.

Want more? Clicky clicky!


Patience, my lovelies. Travelogue will be up and running soon. In the meantime, here are the previews to whet your appetite...

Meet the stinkiest man in the universe!

Learn how "blood pudding" is as gross as it sounds!

Dodge the Eds at the co-ed bathrooms!

Loiter with us on St. Stephen's Green and discuss how although the Land Fur was soft, the Lamp In The Sky was too hot!

Suffer from OCD by looking at the prices of every copy of Morrissey's new CD and searching for non-existant lime green Pumas!

Dine on conveyor belt sushi in 55 minutes and manage to hold it all down!

Get turned around and retrace steps at least once a day in order to dub the travelogue "Doublin' in Dublin"!

(and that's just Ireland . . .)


Thanks for keeping my blog company while I was away, y'all! I'm back home now and too sleepy to sleep. Or think. Or form cohesive, coherent sentenbergs. So, with my jet-lag excuse in hand, I'll just give you a drowsy, soothing, dreamy playlist of songs on my Rio that hopefully will take my weary hand and lead me to slumberland. zzzzzzz....

You Will Be My Ain True Love - Alison Krauss
Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby - Chicks from O' Brother Where Art Thou
Golden Slumbers - The Beatles
Nobody's Fault But My Own - Beck
The Short Answer - Billy Bragg
Isolada - Cesaria Evora
Fresh Feeling - Eels
Woman Driving, Man Sleeping - Eels
Needle In The Hay - Elliott Smith
Allison - Elvis Costello
Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley
Stephanie Says - Velvet Underground
Blue Skies - Tom Waits
Mad World - Gary Jules version
Miller's Crossing Theme - Carter Burwell
Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead
Full of Grace - Sarah Mclachlan
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart - Wilco
The Way - Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Rain - Patty Griffin
Baby I'm Amazed - Paul McCartney
Save Me - Aimee Mann
In Spite of Me - Morphine
Letting the Cables Sleep - Bush
Leon's Space Song - Helium
Nothing in This World - The Kinks
Everlong - Foo Fighters
Aisha - Cheb Khaled
Stratford-On-Guy - Liz Phair
Sugar In My Bowl - Nina Simone
This Mess We're In - PJ Harvey


Hi all, this is Lil Baji guest blogging for Baji. I miss Baji SO MUCH! I've already talked to her/called her at least 5 times today. She took a ghetto bus to NYC, which was super late. But she's there safe and sound now, chilling with our friend A.

My day started and ended with intense feelings of fear. The source of this fear you may wonder? Cicadas. They are emerging, and so disgusting. Last night Baji and I ate outside at this awesome Mexican restaurant (last time enjoying outdoor seating for me, until end of June when those little jerks die) and on the way home, the sidewalk was littered with cicada wings. No bodies, just wings. How sick is that? So this am, I was walking to my car in sandles (have since decided to wear sneakers to car and leave work shoes in car to change) in the street, because it seemed to have fewer wings/shells/etc than the sidewalk. As soon as I was in my car, I seriously felt a huge sense of relief. Then tonight, no parking was avail in front of the building so I had to dodge the wings, etc again. I was so happy to be home! (except that baji wasn't here to listen to me complain about the cicadas - don't worry, I called her cell and gave her the update.) Now I think I will spend the next 6 weeks inside. I hate those cicadas. Crampin' my style.


I'm leeeeaving on a jet plane,
Don't know when I'll be back again,
Oh babe, I hate to go . . .

Wait a minute. I told a lie! Two, in fact! I do know when I'll be back again (Monday after next) and I don't hate to go (although I do wish I could beam over ala Star Trek, but then I'd have to wear a uniform and that's not something I'm willing to do)! Guess the only true statement from the lyrics above is that I'm leeeeeaving on a jet plane. Hope it's not this one. Or maybe I do . . .

See ya, suckers!


It's hot. And humid. And cicadas and helicopters and police cars are swarming around outside, clogging up my ears. And dust bunnies and pollen and huge piles of laundry are floating around inside, clogging up my eyes. Yesterday was so nice. Lil Baji and I did some girly, beauty stuff, had a lovely lunch in Georgetown, and then walked around to check out the new PandaMania sculptures at the zoo.

But today is sweltering. Sticky. Stagnant.


Nothing to report, just checking out the 'fresh new' blogger. Oh, ok, mini-report. 'Mean Girls' was mediocre - I liked it better the first time I saw it when it was called 'Heathers'.


Dearest Mom,

Happy Mother's Day! Thanks for teaching us (even if it meant forbidding comix), nurturing us ("I'm so proud of you, Matthew!"), protecting us (often from each other), treating us (some would call it spoiling us, but they know nothing), clothing us (from homemade clothes to granimals), feeding us (your chocolate chip pancakes are still the best), praying for us and always and forever loving us (fiercely and unconditionally).

Love always, your biggest fans


The travel bug is as catching as SARS these days! Chai, H-Bid, and Ismo's Ami is off to the U.K. and upon her return (lowers voice to a whisper) she will find this waiting for her. Shhhhh! It's a secret for her birthday!

B-filer is leaving her lair and is soon off to Iran and Turkey after which she will be reporting her tales on her new blog!

And Lil Gray Crayon has finally returned to Holland! Help me hassle her for a report on her trip to South Africa, won't you?


Ten days 'til take-off! Well, actually, ten days until I take the cheapo bus to NYC ($35 round trip! beat that!) and then the next day, I'm off! Interesting bits of trivia I picked up. . .

*although most airlines are pretty strict about restricting carryons of weapons, could-be weapons, looks-like weapons of any kind, BMI (that's the airline, not the infernal calculation) makes an exception for three inch Kirpans swords.

*Heathrow Airport is enticingly close to both Slough (of "The Office" fame) and Staines (of "Da Ali G Show" fame -- boyakasha!).

*If you want to see what my blog looks like in Ali G's eyes, then check yo'self before you wreck yo'self.

*How about Abez's? Da White House? Yours?

*This book, "Monkey vs. Robot", looks funny. And so does this TV show that James Kochalka is trying to get made.

*taking Allegra-D in the evening makes you stay awake all night and leaves you kooky in the morning.
Condolences to Arshad for his father's passing away this weekend. Inna lillahi wa inna ileihi rajioon.


Today is the first Saturday of May and you know what that means . . . DERBY DAY! Perhaps not all of you are familiar with the Kentucky Derby, the first jewel of U.S. horse racing's Triple Crown. Now, I'm not a gambling man, but this day holds some special memories for me. The event is held every year on the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The city bustles about weeks in advance to prepare for the horsey crowd that will descend upon the banks of the Ohio River with their newly-purchased large-brimmed hats, their mint juleps (which can only be served in sterling silver cups), and their 'nocs trained on the ponies. The "Run for the Roses" may be the main event, but it is not the only event. You got yer "Ramble for the Roses" - a five-mile walk through Louisville's South End. You got yer "Run for the Rose'" - a race in which servers from area restaurants run around a challenging obstacle course balancing six full glasses of wine. You got yer "Run for the Rodents" - a race in which lab rats run around a tiny model of the Churchill Downs track and the winner gets a wreath of Froot Loops. Great Steamboat Races, Great Balloon Races, and the spectacular Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks display in the U.S.

But none of that really mattered to me (although I did find the Run for the Rodents quite amusing and Thunder was a blast . . . ba-dump-bump). You see, the Friday before the first Saturday of May is Oaks Day. The Kentucky Oaks is also a horse race. It also attracts the millionaire set. It also awards the winning jockey a hefty sum of money and the winning horse a wreath of flowers. But where it differs from the Derby is that the Oaks is held on a Friday. That's a school day. That meant that every year, in anticipation of low student and teacher attendence and caught up in the Derby buzz, my school gave us that day as a vacation day.

No classes.
Free pass.
And they're off!