Last Day Abroad

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Hi. This site is oddly fascinating. In other news, I’m coming home tomorrow. Back to Austin.

So. I’m in Berlin, spending my last days at a small hostel in Friedrichshain called All In Hostel. I spent the previous four nights sleeping on James’ living room sofa, but his roommate Nina decided to come back into town early so I had to find other digs… Brenna has been staying at James’ place, as well, and has been helping to keep me entertained since she dropped back into town Sunday night. This is all, no doubt, fascinating.

Can’t say I’ve been doing a tremendous amount. Brenna and I nearly caused a large-scale sparrow riot a couple afternoons ago while trying to feel bread to the swans over at Treptower Park. Soon after accidentally dropping some crumbs on the shore we found ourselves standing amidst a pulsing, squawking mass of hundreds of little birdies fighting over the small chucks of bread we would throw out. Brenna took some shots with her special ‘Lomography’ camera and we returned yesterday to recreate the effect for my Digital Rebel. But yesterday it started raining and most of the sparrows appeared to have better things to be doing with their time and the main swan kept hissing at me for no reason so we just took a few fast rounds of photographs, shared the baguettes we brought with a little girl who had been watching us with her parents, and wandered back into a sheltered area where we could get some crepes. I did get some cool close-up shots of sparrows and pigeons, though, if you’re into that kind of thing. Y’know. Pigeons. Feathered rats.

Anyway, other highlights include watching Coffee and Cigarettes over at the Babylon Theater in Mitte last night and eating at the italo-punk pizza restaurant on Schˆnhauser Allee that was actaully quite good.

Um. So. Yeah, I don’t really have much to say. Just finished some packing and thought I’d kill some time on one last post before coming home.

If you want to hang out before I leave for New York in a couple of weeks, you’ll probably have to call me or send an e-mail. I suspect I’ll be a bit preoccupied with the move and everything when I get back in town. But I’d love to see ya. (Unless, y’know, you suck.)


Disorganized Alexandria Thoughts, Etc.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Okay. I’m just doing a quick update because I don’t have long left on this internet session. The laptop still won’t boot, so, well, no photos or anything else. Sorry.

Today’s quite lovely, though. During the week it rained almost every night and then got sunny and hot (and humid) during the days. Last night seemed to break the trend and no today might offer the best weather I’ve seen thus far in Berlin.

So I’m spending my afternoon in a dim internet café. No, that’s not true at all. I found a brunch buffet near the hotel in Savignyplatz and ate some pancakes, salmon, and fruit salad while reading the copy of Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travelling that I picked up at Dussman’s a few days ago. The book’s a kind fo lit-crit approach to thinking about travelling. Or an exceptionally stuffy student of Milan Kundera’s school of writing style, maybe, meaning he uses the same sorts of collisions between personal anecdote and references to the literary and artistic canon that Kundera uses, but with none of the sex or heated interpersonal interactions. Alain stares out of plane windows and chews on chocolate bars in bleak gas stations in rural Britain. (He’s Swiss, by the way, and has an essay in another book of his I have that’s a defence of boring places, so I guess it all fits together.) Anyway. I do, actually, enjoy the book. But I’ve become sidetracked.

I meant to write a few words about Alexandria, Egypt. Those few words might be: Alexandria came off as a slightly less congested Cairo. The Mediterranean Sea did a nice job of cooling the place down and blowing off some of the smoggy smells (though Haley didn’t agree whenever I made that observation). It also kind of cut the intensity fo the city as we never really went far away from the Corniche (the boulevard that runs along the sea) so we always had a kind fo visual break from Egypt. John and Cristina recommended a hotel to us about a half-block off of the Corniche and our room had a narrow balcony from which we had a nice oblique view of the water and a direct view into the hotel rooms right across the narrow street. We had no air conditioning, so the night was extremely warm. We had to keep the balcony doors open while we slept to have any air circulation — and by morning we were both flailing aruond trying to keep flies off of us while getting a few minutes of extra sleep.

After checkout we ran into the owner (I think) as we walked out with our bags onto the street. “Tell your friends it’s a very clean hotel!” he called to us. So: The Union Hotel in Cairo. A very clean hotel. By Egyptian standards, at any rate. Your western impressions may vary.

So. We arrived that first night at about 8pm and, after dropping off our bags, decided to eat and walk around for a bit. So we did. We found a sidewalk cafe and got some food, fending off the unending stream of people — adults and children — selling everything from sunglasses to mangoes to Pokeman squeeze-toys to oriental rugs. “La.” Firmly. “No.” Over and over.

Walking in Alexandria’s quite easy. The Corniche runs along the coastline and the coastline wraps in on itself, allowing you to see from any point on the Corniche almost all of the rest of the Corniche. Hard to get lost when you can see visually where you’re going. At the far end, on the peninsula that juts out into the sea, stands the Citadel, which we walked out to that first night, past several large, beautifully intricate mosques and nighttime businesses of all sorts. This was actaully quite pleasant, except for the fact that:

As a very tall blondish white dude, I was a beacon for unwanted attention. At night the wall between the Corniche and the rocky beach was packed with people sitting and just hanging out: old, young, men, women, kids, everyone. And we just had to battle through people yelling at us, saying harmless things like “Welcome Egypt!” but we just couldn’t stop and have a conversation with every group of obnoxious boys that decided to try to befriend us. Especially since, well, we had a hard time believing that these random displays of love were anything other than attempts to, after a bit of sweet-talking, get money out of us. Again, if I’m being a horribly western-centric or racist observer, here, Id like to know why and what I should’ve thought was going on. Maybe what I was really experiencing had less to do with money and more to do with a culture that’s fascinated by foreigners (as many cultures are) and a culture that doesn’t have the same sense of reserve that most westernizsed cultures have. Does someone look interesting? Shout out to them! Get their attention! Stare at them! That’s more benign, but still very exhausting for the objects of the attention.

Okay. I’ve only got a couple minutes left, here, so I’ll stop. More soon.


Cairo - More Saqqara, Camels, Etc.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

This is continued, roughly, from the post I made yesterday. Sorry about the break…

Saqqara, continued. We actually went to Saqqara earlier in the same day that we saw the Mohammad Mounir concert, so you can keep your chronology straight. On Friday.

So. We walked around the Step Pyramid and the surrounding funerary complex. Most, of course, had crumbled over time, but several stretches of wall still stood along with a grove of columns on one end and, of course, the big pyramid and a few smaller pyramids. The area around Saqqara is, by the way, much more like the western vision of Egypt than the Giza Plateau and the larger, more famous pyramids there. For one thing, from Saqqara you can see several other collections of pyramids off in the distance — something especially cool from the back of a camel walking from the Step Pyramid complex out to another collection of artifacts as we did. South from Saqqara a few miles we could see the pyramids at Dashur — the Bent Pyramid (a protopyramid that had to be modified halfway through the construction, giving it an odd bent look) and the Red Pyramid (the first actual pyramid built, once covered in red rock of some sort, I believe — hence the name).

I’m all over the place in my description. Sorry.

So after walking around we decided to get some camels. It’s a couple kilometers to some of the further afield sites over the open desert, so this is pretty much a must. So three of us got camels — Haley, John, and myself. Darren, our Kiwi guide, got a horse. Cristina, allergic to animal spit, walked.

Sitting on a camel at first feels like sitting on a thick sofa cushion strapped vertically upon the back of a large, tall horse. Getting on the beast is quite simple: it kneels down on all fours and you throw a leg over. My camel, Ramses II, did a few rounds of phlegmy bleating at first but once I got myself settled, he shut up and took it like a king. The creatures stand back legs first, so I immediately felt like I was going to slide off the from of the saddle and wind up wound around Ramses’s neck. The back legs go up and you hang at a 45 degree angle for a few seconds before the front legs boost and suddenly you’re, like, sitting on something eight feet off the ground. Sitting on something that, like I said, kind of sways and doesn’t feel at all firm. I mean, a camel’s hump is more-or-less a water-boob, if I remember correctly. It’s not bone like the back of a horse would be. And these are dromedary camels — one-humpers. So one sits on a saddle that rests on a few layers of rug-ike fabric over the peak of the hump. So, anyway, we successfully got the camels up and moving and pretty soon my guide got tired of walking in front of Ramses II, pulling his reign, so the guide gave me the reign and some quick instructions and I took control. I could stop him by pulling the reign, start him or speed him up by heel-kicking him, and steer him by pulling side-to-side. Just like a horse, pretty much, except Ramses kind of lilted to the right when not explicitly controlled and had a weird habit of walking right up along side the other camels so close that my leg barely fit between them. Controlling a domesticated animal is always quite fascinating just because they really do respond just like a machine would. The communication is so pure and, for us city folk, at least, it’s so rare to be at that level with an animal. I can’t tell my cat to stop moving or walk over to the left and expect anything other than to be completely ignored.

John’s camel was named Banana, by the way, and I forget the name of Haley’s camel. John and I, though, got used to calling our camels ‘Habibi’ when we spoke to them. ‘Habibi’ is kind of Arabic for ‘Baby’ or ‘Sweety.’ Mohammad Mounir’s songs were littered with the word, pretty much the only thing of his we could understand. Habibi.

Banana was extremely talkative and throughout the trip engaged in the sort of bleating which is rather difficult to describe except to say it sounded like someone playing a broken trombone filled with snot — badly.

So we camelled out to another mosoleum and looked around and then camelled back to the Step Pyramid. It took maybe a half-hour each way and by the end I was really getting into it and wanted more. Darren told us that apparently you can pay to have the bedouins who own the camels to take you on a thre day trek out to one of the Saharan oases. If I get back to Cairo in an adventuresome mood (and maybe in the Spring instead of the dead of Summer), something like that actually sounds really cool. The Sahara desert fascinates me and being out in the desert makes one much more appreciate the pluck of the people who have been living in such places for the past several thousands of years. About 65% of Egypt is more-or-less uninhabitable Saharan desert. Another 30% or so is other various deserts. The remainder is the Nile Delta and the thin strip of fertile land that stretches into Nubia.

More soon.


Cairo - Round-Up

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

So I’m back in Germany, now. My computer stopped working while in Egypt, so I’ll probably have to wait until I get back to Austin to put the new ones online. So it goes.

Anyway, Haley had a personal connection in Cairo, a jazz saxophonist named John Dikeman who lives in Zamalek in a huge apartment with his very international hotel-industry businesswoman girlfriend Cristina. They showed us around and let us both spend a couple of nights sleeping on their sofa. (Haley’s still there, I believe.) Many thanks to both of them, of course!

Whew. So where to begin? Um…

Mohammad Mounir. So John had a gig playing back-up for Nubian pop sensation Mohammad Mounir on Firday night. Nubian pop? If the Mounir show was any good indicator, it’s a kind of blend of jazz-funk fusion that most Americans are pretty comfortable listening to and the airier, more mystical dronings of traditional Nubian music (Nubia = Upper Egypt = southern Egypt). Mounir, a dark thin Arab gentleman, came off as a kind of Tom Jones figure — an aging crooner who had seen his star rise in the 70s and who still knew how to stir up a bit of sex appeal and emotional response in his crowds. Except. This being the Middle East, the women tended to stay quiet and subdued while the boys got up on each others shoulders and ripped their shirts off and that kind of thing. Odd. But good. I enjoyed it.

The event took place in the parking lot outside of the Cairo Opera House and the staging was actually quite elaborate. Mounir had a live ten-piece (about) behind him featuring a couple horns, a drummer, guitars, a guy on keyboards, one on fife, etc. And they had extensive lighting and every other song featured some kind of firework: big exploders or colored smoke or spinning crazy fireworks hanging from the metal stage frame or flares shooting every which way or spark-flames shooting up form the front of the stage or something.

Oh, and Egyptian bureaucracy being what it is, we had to go through six (6) checkpoints after buying out ticket, each time showing the ticket once again and maybe every other time submitting to a search or metal detector. Rumor has it that the government keeps unemployment low by hiring ten people to do what one might be capable of. This seemed to make sense, given the number of security people lingering about the city doing nothing but bothering tourists to let them take photos of the tourists for baksheesh…


Saqqara. Well, I had given up on going out to Saqqara, but once Haley got into town we all decided to make the trip. (We = Haley and myself, John, Cristina, and Darren, a local keyboardist originally from New Zealand who sometimes plays in combos with John.) Darren lives in the south of Cairo in a nice, more residential neighborhood called Maadi. He has his own car, so he drove us down, out west through Giza and then south through the irrigated farmlands to Saqqara. What’s interesting about the Egyptian greenbelt that runs along the Nile down to Lake Aswan in the south is that once you get south of Cairo it’s only a few miles wide. So. We drive through tall palm tree groves and wet fields of whatever grains and vegetables with farmers and lazy, over-worked donkeys pulling carts this way and that — but the horizon is sand-colored desert hills, completely devoid of life and liquid. The Sahara (on the west side of the Nile, at least). As soon as the irrigation ends, absolute desert begins. You could almost draw the line where it happens.

Saqqara is an outcropping of Pharaonic ruins about 20km south of Cairo. It seems to have more actual stuff to look at than Giza, but the pyramids are older and not quite as accomplished. Pharaoh Zoser’s Step Pyramid is considered, though, the oldest surviving stone monument built by man. I’ll put up photos as soon as possible, but it’s essentially a pyramid prototype. But instead of having flat, angled sides it has big rock steps. It sits in the middle of an extensive complex of pillars and buildings and stone art that still remains on-site.

It also sits in the middle of an extensive complex of people trying to squeeze extra LEs out of the tourists, like the dipshit who just lingers at the entrance to one of the temples asking for baksheesh. Haley and I decided to find some toilets before our camel ride that afternoon and baksheeshed this dude to get the info — but he wouldn’t tell us. We didn’t give him enough. So fuck it. We left him with the money and found it on our own. Like I’ve commented before, this whole culture of baksheesh at the tourist spots is rediculous. Especially when someone expects more than a couple of Egyptian Pounds to point to the toilet. If I’m being a culturally-insensitive American tightwad, please let me know in the comments. I hated it. And, I reiterate, I think it reallyreallyreally gets in the way of actual communication or helpfulness when after any little thing a tip is expected. If these guys were really providing a service at the monuments (and I’ve heard that they do help keep the places a bit clean and keep the tourists on the designate paths, which is great). That’s great. But. I suspect more western tourists would happily pay two, three, or four times the cost to enter some of these places. Maybe that extra money could be spread around a bit and everyone would wind up with more…

Anyway. I can whine about that issue endlessly and the want me to leave, so I’ll wrap up. More soon… Sorry to leave it hanging…


Cairo - Day Six

Sunday, July 17, 2005


The suuq.

Well, holy shit. So I found a free wifi access point in Cairo, of all places. In Zamalek, at the Café Tabasco at the intersection of Marashly and Ahmed Hishmat streets (though taxi drivers only seem to know nearby Ismail Mohammed street). So. Ah. I’m spending my Sunday afternoon drinking lemon juice with mint and catching up on some various web things, like putting up a few more days worth of photos (including Pyramids).

So. Whew. I’m experiencing a bit of travel fatigue. I’m enjoying it out here, but have definitely crossed that threshhold where I’m ready to come home and get on with my own life. It’s good, I suppose. I’ve satisfied my nearly-insatiable travel impulse (for a while). I come home in about three weeks.

My visit to the medieval Arab suuq last ngiht (Saturday) nearly killed me. The suuq (typical, cramp, bustling Arab marketplace) winds through northeast Cairo, starting near Al-Azhar University (founded 988AD) and spreading over a network of narrow corridors and wider avenues maybe fifteen blocks long and who knows how many blocks deep. Narrow corridors, maybe ten or fifteen feet wide, packed dense with scrambling Egyptians — hocking wares, buying wares, moving goods from here to there, and everything else. Everyone’s short over here, thankfully, so I could see to navigate myself through this confusion (to my western eyes, at least) and could enjoy looking at the scene as much as I could. Fine for about a half-hour but then I got lost (heh) and as far as I could tell, taxis had been prohibited from picking people up in this area (lest they clog the streets even further, I suppose) and the busses were packed — people cramped inside, hanging off the sides, sometimes on the roof. And they didn’t move too fast, either. Not that I knew where they might be going. And stopping to do something like look in my guide book made me an instant target for salespeople, though just walking around I heard an unending chorus of “Hey, hello! Where you from?” calls. (Asking where obvious foreigners are from is the big opening line in Cairo. Initially I just admitted “America,” though I’ve found I get better reactions saying “Texas.” Not everyone’s aware here, for one thing, that Texas is in the US. As I got more annoyed by this question, I branched out. “Canada.” Soon I’ll probably get more experimental. “Ireland.” “Norway.” “Japan.” “The Sudan.” I’m sure I’ll be surprised at how many Egyptians consider Norway to be their favorite place. But I digress.)

The constant entreaties to buy something got rather repetative, but I did have a few odd experiences. At one point, two teenaged girls were walking behind me decked out in the headscarves that all women wear around here. They must’ve been learning English, because they got into a funny little discussion between themselves about prepositions. “Welcome in Cairo?” “Welcome Cairo?” “Welcome at Cairo?” So I stopped and smiled and said “Welcome TO Cairo.” They found this hugely amusing. A good little moment. Egyptians are quite friendly, as most people are, I think, and it’s a shame that I (like many tourists, I imagine) have to feel suspicious of anyone who tries to speak with me in public. So many of them just want baksheesh or couldn’t care less about where I come from as long as where I go is with them to some shop or off-the-map “museum.” And people on the street, people who seem perfectly nice and helpful, will completely lie — flat-out, 100% lie — about what’s open when and where things are in order to misdirect you to their place (or the place that gives them a commission). And it’s a shame, because it really disrupts relations between the tourists and the locals (and probably reinforces the opinions of many westerners that all Arabs are little beggar scam artists).

Anyway. One other encounter will stick in my mind. Lost, like I said, I tried to work my way back to the University (where I, at least, knew taxis could stop). So I accidentally wound up in a very tight, very labyrinthine fabric and clothing shop. I just looked totally out of place with my height, blond hair, and clunky tourist camera. Not a tourist spot at all. And everyone just stared. Like I had walked into K-Mart with no pants on. One older woman in a head-scarf stared at me as I walked by as if she’d just seen the Devil himself, wide-eyed, mouth agape, shocked. Erm. Very, very weird. To say the least.

So I finally figured my way out of all of this after a couple of hours. With everything intact (though at points I felt like I might be attracting enough attention to actually be putting myself at risk of some sort of physical attack — not to wear my stereotypes to obviously on my sleeve, but I’m aware that some younger Egyptians dislike westerners — Americans, especially — as I’ve been shoulder-checked on a couple of occasions and several times just walking around little kids have yelled who-knows-what at me (I don’t respond) and there are bumper stickers here and there that express anti-American sentiment. (Like this one, which has a sticker that says “Don’t Buy American Products” right above a sticker advertising “U.S.Robotics.” Oh well.) And I’m not saying I think all or even many Egyptians have issues with an American in their presence, but it just takes one. And the fact that a possible affiliate of the London mass-transit bombers may live in Cairo has been a big news item over here lately.

To backtrack… The first thing I did in that part of town was to visit the Mosque of Al-Ahzar (attached to the University). Which was gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. I’ll have some photographs of it up soon, but that visit is definitely a highlight of the trip thus far. This week I plan on visiting more mosques. The weather’s so hot and I’m hesitant to spend my day in long pants (can’t go into mosques in shorts). So this may be an evening thing.

Okay. Enough of this babble.


Cairo - Day Three

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Not to be confused with the Trapezoids of Tripoli...

Note: This has been moved into the normal “blog stream” and out of the comments…

Well, I got it out of the way: Today I went to the Giza Plateau, home of three tall, pyramidal structures that have dominated the popular consciousness for centuries… And the Sphinx. And it’s odd. Because they’re so built up as this great thing, but when you get out to the Pyramids, they’re quite large, but there’s really not much to them. Almost definitionally, I guess. I spent about 1:30 walking around them (the main two, at least, Cheops and Khafre) and went down inside of Khafre through the 4-foot-high, 75-meter-long, narrow, dark tunnel that leads in one side. But that’s about it. Then I walked down to the Sphinx. They’d closed the tour part, but I could still get close enough to see the statue well. It’s quite small compared with what I had expected. The head’s maybe 12-15 feet tall. And the head’s just slightly off-angled from the body, supporting an intriguing theory presented in my guidebook that the lion’s body predates the head piece by several millenia. They do look quite different, but then, the body had been buried beneath the earth for centuries (which adds to the smallness of the site, since it’s actually sunken into the ground up to the neck). So, interesing. I might go back some evening to see it during sunset and watch the laser light show (heh) that the guidebook cheekily recommends. Um. Otherwise. Yesterday went to the Egyptian Museum downtown and saw the antiquities there, including the Tutankhamen exhibit. I shared a table for dinner earlier tonight with two Danes who agreed with my observation that the tourist sites are basically devoid of tourists. I was one of maybe a dozen non-Arabs at the Pyramids today, for example. Mid-afternoon. I had expected the place to be clogged. So did the Danes. The baksheesh-seeking “tour guides” (who come up and just start talking to you, pointing out extremely obvious features, and then expecting tips — complaining if you don’t give enough), camel-riders, and miscelleneous Egyptians who made their money at the site vastly outnumbered the rest of us. And, once again, Josh got to learn more tricks of the trade for getting tourists to part with cash. By now I’m back in the habit of being semi-rude just to get people away, and it’s not actually as bad as, say, Petra, Jordan. Petra, as well, was more impressive on the whole than the Giza plateau. The Pyramids are undeniable, but Petra just has more fascinating stuff remaining to look at (and expectations haven’t been burned into the mind).

Anyway, my time’s about to run out on this computer, so I’ll wrap up…

More soon, I’m sure.


Cairo - Day One

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Note: This has been moved into the normal “blog stream” and out of the comments…

Okay. I’m on a crappy, cicra-2001 Windows box in a hotel, so I’m not logging into anything I don’t have to — include my blog-editor. So. Hopefully all interested parties will find this in the comments. When I get back to Berlin, I’ll make them into regular posts.

So. I arrived late last night and someone had already pulled my bag off of the baggage carousel and stole my two near-empty bottles of cologne out of the exterior pocket. So: Might I suggest to my fellow travellers (Haley) that you keep any electronics (cameras, iPods) on your person during the flight into Cairo and stash anything else valuable deep enough inside your bag that someone can’t get into it without totally dismantling your luggage. Also. Be aware that people at the airport offering you taxis and whatnot WILL try to scam you. So just mak sure you’re aware of the exchange rate (about 6 Egyptian Pounds per US Dollar) and don’t let them pull this bullshit:

“Taxi to hotel? $10.”
“I only have Egyptian.”
“Okay. Whatever you think is fair, EP200, EP300.”
“How about EP70?”
“Whatever you think is fair.”
Hand over a EP100 note.
“How much you want back?”
“No. EP20.”

This sort of nonsense also happened with the SECOND cabby after the first took me to the wrong place (a simple error, since there are more than one hotels with the name of mine). The wrong hotel arranged for a short ride for EP10. Fine. $1.50 or so. But. I only had EP100s. So.

“Here’s EP100. I need EP80 back.” Tip.

He hands back EP50, each note individually, with the western numbers facing away from me (they use actual current Arabic numerals, not numbers we’re used to). So I have to sort out what I’ve been given ask ask several times for more.

Anyway. I’ll turn off of this subject, except to note that (obviously) everything’s up for bargaining at any time and the closer you get to the airport (or any tourist spot), the worse, I imagine, it gets. Just make sure you know our information, and it seems to be fine, since they’re essentially preying on ignorance — of exchange rates, modern Arabic numerals, etc.

Anyway. I spent today walking around the downtown isle in the Nile. I forget the area’s name, but it’s shoppy and full of embassies and schools, so it’s well protected. The city’s huge. Massive. And dense. And it smells like burning rubber and everything’s got a fine layer of sand and grime on it, including me after a few hours. It’s very hot and packed — packed — with people. Most seem perfectly fine, but there are pickpockets and gypsies sorts that linger about. Several times I observed a woman with a baby following behind me, waiting to make a move. Once kept asking for money and I kept ignoring her. She made a weak grab at my camera and walked off. They ALL keep their eyes on the pocket with the wallet. They jut stare. Forunately, the ne’er-do-wells are pretty obvious. Most Egyptians lingering about are just sitting, smoking, talking, and resting in the shade. They have little use for some white guy wandering around.

What else? Um. I bought a Cairo Lonely Planet on my walk and a map (yeah — I set off only with the map in my mind I memorized off of the web in Milano — heh). Oh. All hotels feature metal detectors at the front door (which I set off every time but no one seems to care). Also, I have yet to see a coin, though I’ve received bills as small as EP 0.25 (a quarter-pounder — about 5 cents US).

Okay. ot sure if I have the balls yet to venture out at night, so I may just go hang out at the swimming pool onn the roof. It’s got a great view of the seemingly endless sprawl of raggedy buildings.

More soon.


Bitte Gib Mir Nur Ein Uh-Oh

Thursday, July 7, 2005

One thing to get out of the way: Mr. Bush, please listen to how Tony Blair uses the word “resolve.” You resolve to do something. One resolves to build a bridge or one resolves to eat dinner. One doesn’t just “resolve.” That sounds idiotic. Stop saying it. Please send me a private e-mail when you get this. Let me know if you have any questions. And send my best to Laura and the twins, Babs and Tubby.

That aside…

So. I woke up to the London mass transit attacks on CNN. I wonder if any of the anchors have considered just allowing images and sound from the scene without additional ramlbing commentary? Anyway. Blair comes on and makes a clear, reassuring statement. Later Bush comes on and sets a record for repeated use of the word “resolve” and seems bugged and only vaguely aware of where this “London” might be located. Canada, possibly. Some of the Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains have video screens that normally display news bites, lame celebrity gossip, and sleazy ads for mobile phone contests. These now have in rotation several screens letting people know about the increased security on the Berlin metros and what to do — who to call — if something seems suspcious. Even the Potsdamer Platz video screen devoted about 1/16th of its area to a soundless BBC feed with news. Picture in picture. The other 15/16ths went to Sony adverts and Tour de France highlights of a bike crash and Lance Armstrong looking pissed off. And of some Tour de France spectator waving a huge Texas flag with the stripes the wrong way (red on top instead of the proper white on top). Where does one get a screwed up Texas flag? France, I guess. Texans are “nationalistic” enough, I think, to know where the colors go on their flag…

Oh, I’ve also got a couple hundred new photos up for my website stalker to look at when he tires of looking at the same old shots from Lovejoy’s over and over. All of Warsaw’s up and some of Krakow. And plenty more on their way, shortly. Here.

Note added Monday, July 11: For those of you surprised at my bit of trivia that the Pyramids bump right up against dense urban Giza, check this out. Pretty cool. Make sure to zoom in — you can see the Sphinx sitting near where the black road hits the city on the right. And for those of you playing the home game, I’ll be staying here, right at the major, oddly-angled four-way intersection. Seems to be a good spot… Relatively inexpensive and quite central (though “central” in a city like Cairo appears to have several different meanings). Anyway. I’m waiting for my flight in Milan right now and this note has gone on much too long…