Monthly archive for October 2008

“The Heartland”

A Night on the Town


The streets of Vienna were awash with footsteps and cosmopolitan echos. We entered a wine store – make that a wine bar. Hoighty-Toighty. Blazers and ascots. Connoisseurs in their realm.

Blair handed me a bottle of red for five euro off the shelf. I approached the counter.

“Can you open this?” I handed the bottle to the clerk.

“Yes. Will you be drinking it here?”

Hmmm. That sounds more expensive.

“No, we will drink it outside.”

“At the tables in front?”

“Um, no…At the park.”

“Very well, sir.”

Obviously we are out of our element here. Look just open the fucking wine, okay? After all, this IS Europe. We are civilized, not European, but entirely Europesque.

The Demagogue

Three days ago, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made the following remarks in reference to her attacks on Obama’s charity work with William Ayers.

“We just want to make sure that in this campaign, that we uphold the standards of tolerance and truth-telling,” Sarah Palin said. “There have been things said, of course, that have allowed those standards to be violated on both sides, on both tickets. We want to uphold those standards, and again it’s not mean-spirited, it’s not negative campaigning, when we call someone out on their record.”

via The Huffington Post

Yesterday, the governor made the following comments to reporters about the Alaska trooper probe which concluded that “Her conduct violated AS 39.52.110(a) of the Ethics Act”.

Ms. Palin:

“Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing,” Palin said, “any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.”

You’ll have to excuse me, I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

Grace and Austria

Swiftly now, gracefully we slide upon rails of iron and rust. The train trembles lightly and Blair shakes his postcard, coaxing the ink to dry. Massive windmills twist softly, perched upon the undulating grasslands. Songs from the past and fields of umber and raw sienna are smeared across a hundred kilometers. The stalks of crops are brittle and my throat is dry. A pile of cleared brush burns silently by the railway berm as a hunched figure stokes the flame. The train floats by.

Three (3) Righteous Melodies

Finding musical gems is time consuming, and I often content myself by listening to my library of familiar recordings rather than delving into the vast collection of music available on iTunes. Here are a few fresh tracks which I have discovered lately and added to my playlist. “Fresh”, in this instance, is relative to my own experience, and can mean that a song is over 50 years old.

“Blue Moon of Kentucky”
Elvis Presley

“Blue Moon of Kentucky”, originally recorded by Bill Monroe, is the B-Side of Elvis’ 1954 breakout single on the Sun label. The A-Side was the hit song “That’s All Right”. The dawn of Elvis recordings is raw, punchy, and vibrant. The spontaneity of this single delivers a power that was entirely lost as Elvis’ music became over-produced and mainstreamed in the years that followed.

“Elvis Presely Blues”

Gillian Welsh

Gillian Welsh begins this vocal meditation with the words “I was thinking that night about Elvis, day that he died”. The song twists and turns on itself with rolling lyrical returns and diminished sevenths. Her work on this folksy track is beautiful. The song has been subsequently covered by both Joan Baez and Jimmy Buffet

“Dunu Kan”
Issa Bagayogo

Bagayogo weaves African motifs and funky electronic jazz into rich and complex melodies. The percussive elements of “Dunu Kan” produce a driving rhythm that is difficult to isolate from the snappy texture of the stringed section. His lyrics are entirely undecipherable, but the depths of his pitch and the rapid fire delivery of verse compliment the bursting instrumental composition.


This image and caption is from the BBC:

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The City Vienna

The City…my God! With towers as grand and boulevards as wide as the majestic Danube River. The City sings! Glory!

Each footstep, every glance, each revealing frames like sonnets. The garden of Austria. The garden of the civilized.

I saw Schiele and Klimt, and Christian Schad with volume and vibrant clashing hues and the feast continued…and before that (I can still recall) sitting on the plaza with espresso doppio, and babies breast-feeding and the tranquility of pages turning. I sipped on this scene while reclined upon a fucshia lima-bean bench like a feline contented upon a window ledge. Nearby, an old woman was made young under the sun and the soft light of contentment.

Look there! There, my friends! There is a marketplace! Between the boulevards. Under this brilliant sky, drenched in this rich air. There is a marketplace for you to find everything fresh that you seek. The freshness of life itself. Or have you forgotten? Like I once did. Go to the market for the bounty of fruit, the regal spread of olives, hot falafel, nuts, wine, dreams and silks will surely rehabilitate your soul.

Carry your bounty in a satchel, over your shoulder or under your arm, to the place where the pavement ends. Feast, for you are alive, and breath in the air, and drink deeply from your bottle and pass it to your companion. And say to him “my friend, today were are alive”. He will surely grin and slap you on the back and throw his head back to laugh heartily toward the stars.

The Metrics of the Metric System

I ran across this map that highlights ALL the countries of the world that do not use the metric system of measurement. The winners are: The United States, Myanmar, and Liberia. An exclusive group by any measure.

Auf Wiedersehen

I washed my clothes and hung them on the line to dry above the bathtub. I neatly folded my t-shirts using the method I learned on the internet last Wednesday.

Then I carefully added items to my suitcase, a small plaid number with rollers and a compass in the handle that I purchased at the flea market for fifteen dollars from a Vietnamese peddler in a Tommy Hilfiger shirt.

I packed my linen pants – I have always wanted a pair of off-white linen pants for the summer months. When the cool breeze graces my unmentionables in sweltering July, I am deeply satisfied with this purchase. Someday I may even compose an article about the virtues of linen. It occurred to me that what I now desire is a linen skirt. Though I am likely not bold enough to don such feminine attire: I don’t have the physique. I am not barrel-chested and hairy like the burly Scots that recently descended upon Prague for a football match: drunken, shirtless, raging tattooed lunatics running a muck in knee-high plaid, most certainly regimental under the heavy folds of navy and emerald wool.

Dreams and digressions aside, I also neatly folded the jeans I bought from Zara last May. I hate to shop for jeans – pulling them on and off, dirty socks on the changing room floor, trying pair after pair in vain- it is a tedious process. But alas my old pair of jeans became too big, or I became too thin. I had to scinch them to my waist with my leather belt, which just ended up looking ridiculous from most any angle. Although I view myself in the mirror more frequently than others, it took me a surprising long time to notice.


One constant through my years of travel is that I bring shirts that never get worn. I feel like an abundance of shirts gives me options in the morning on how I choose to look that day, and options are proven to be beneficial – in moderation. I think you and I can agree, that when compared to washing socks, laundering shirts in a hotel sink is a hassle.

Tomorrow morning when I awake, I will cook an English breakfast (eggs, bacon, beans, stewed tomatoes), take the rubbish downstairs to the rubbish heap, walk to the train station, and board a southbound train.