send some more pics of your
stumpy pink dick while you
hold it at the base with your
unwashed sheets and empty
walls in the background and
the the tv tuned to some
sports channel that
shit gets me so
wet i just
Vienna. Wien. Wiener. Ha ha.
A pulse in the dead heat. Espresso with cream.
Who are you reading? (Hustvedt and Foer.)
Gothic churches, pointed spires, Flak towers that fired 8,000 rounds a minute at Allied forces, including my paratrooper grandfather. Did you know, he would say, that I went up in an airplane twenty-one more times than I came down in one?
Wind. Lots of it.
The fading gloom in Fabian’s massive modern office-turned-flat and his cologne, clearly he has spruced up. He talks of schnapps, good for a stomachache.
A dim, colorfully lit Hungarian café, a nude female mannequin wearing the head of an unknown antlered mammal with eyes on the wrong side of its head — “probably some art piece,” says Fabian, and shrugs.
Onion soup and tea and a seconding of the schnapps notion from the owner of the restaurant (did I ask?), a thin, dramatic woman with spiked bleached tips and a long brown skirt. Fabian drinks three beers and uses Facebook on his phone.
Café Kafka (real), Café Jenseits (smoky 1920’s), Café Sperl (just old), Café Europa (three levels, each one murkier than the last — here Fabian orders a Frankfurter, tells me to “punk up” and drink more Fernet Branca), Café futurgarten (predictably trendy, as a name without capitals will always indicate), Café Phil (for sophisticated hipsters), Café Espresso (a dim bar packed with cool chainsmoking millennials: all seats taken, so Fabian decides to lean up against the doorjamb. I make eyes with a fella in the window. We watch each other, then he watches me walk away.)
Fabian, now drunk, launches upstairs into the swanky wine-and-cheese event of an elite facial reconstruction academy. It is quite small, private, a suit-and-tie affair. Fabian bursts in, raincoat dripping, and shouts (in English, for my benefit) about wanting to eat their “tiny breads” (appetizers.) I am behind him, an actual homeless person. The man who chases us out wears a beige paisley suit worth more than any dwelling I might ever aspire to own.
Hi, I’m Viennese. I study architecture. My grandparents were Nazis, but I’m a vegan socialist. I climb mountains effortlessly, speak English fluently, and my university is paid for. Now you decide, who won the war?
For those too ill to eat:
Sobriety: an unreasonable choice.
Jägermeister: a solid choice.
Fernet Branca: a safer choice.
Averna with lemon: a poor choice.
Café Kreisky and vomiting discreetly into the bright red toilet, Café Bukowski with Charlie himself gazing out from all angles, daring me to do it again (but this time with gusto!) Hey ladies, I think perhaps we should take a cab home. No worries, I’ll pay for it! I’m fine, just going to the toilet. Just real quick.
Small red flecks in the water. Scheisse.
Only one night in the Wien ER (Wiener. Ha ha.) I have become an avid hospital tourist. Thricely stabbed before anyone can locate my artery, as usual, then the waiting room until I’ve been bleeding backwards into the empty IV bag for a while. I sleep in a chair because my friends have to sleep in chairs. We’re there from 1:30 to 5 AM. Stomach virus, Gastritis, the docs tell me. Non-fatal, in spite of the blood in your vomit. Take some carbon. Where shall we send your bill, Miss Worley?
A couple of shows: DOA, a handful of unknown Viennese punk bands at Venster99, Midnight Priest from Portugal way out at Erdberg, me jogging through the industrial district to catch the metro before midnight as I’m still too ill to crash on an addict’s living-room floor. Sometimes I still feel like a phoney — not dirty enough, certainly not a satisfactory alcoholic, sometimes I walk into vintage stores — sometimes I even buy jeans at H&M. Gasp, don’t tell the punks that. But look, I gotta buy pants somewhere and fitting this ass ain’t easy.
One failed departure from the city leading to a short campout at the Westbanhof station and a re-assesment of my mental capacities (Westbanhof is not Hauptbanhof, whether or not you speak German, you scheisskopf.) So back to the house I trudge, and as I am “well” it is high time for a drink — make that three beers — during a Quebecois film about two lovable virgins aspiring to bone each other in public places — 3x4cls of Jäger for 7.50€ (bargain) on the steps of the Volkstheater with Lia and her lipsticked Viennese friends — then one last café to top it all off, tucked under the Gurtel, blacked out on all that Jäger, a couple hours of Actually Dancing to an American swing playlist, and a trek home that I do not remember.
I catch a ride out of the city the next day with a sculpture artist and an atheist physicist Syrian refugee who’s into heavy metal. We listen to the Cypress Hill Black Sunday album on repeat.
That was my Vienna.
“Life is too short to learn German”
Italy reeks of love in its dirtiest places.
The decrepit autostazione in Milan is sufficiently reminiscent of Greyhound to feel strangely homey: molding brick building under wet-orange sky, shuttered business counters, two broken payphones, five different men from five different ethnic backgrounds aggressively eyeballing me all at once beside the unabashedly romantic spray paint on the wall:
EMI TI AMO
PER FAVORE CHIAMAMI 39666-6666
A tall gentleman in a basketball jersey sucks his teeth at me and fingers the crotch of his acid-washed jeans. I sit on my pack, toying around with my trusty invisible prison shiv until someone else’s father pulls up in a family-sized hybrid. An athletic young girl bursts out screaming, “JESSI?”
My ride’s here. Sorry fellas.
VALERIA IS EIGHTEEN and she’s 100% ready to marry her boyfriend. They are fiercely in love, fighting every ten seconds and sucking face every twelve. He grabs her gullet with his hand and squishes her lips together when he kisses her; I’d rip a nut off a dude if he ever did that to me but it’s somehow aggressively romantic in a way that could only ever make sense in Italy. I’m staying with Valeria’s family for two weeks. Her mother Viviana cooks every meal for us all and if I try and help out in the kitchen she gives me an affronted look and chases me out, “Certo che no!”. The results are similar if I attempt to pay for anything or, for that matter, refuse food to any degree. This is the only time I feel at risk of being physically harmed.
Vale tells me her parents are prolonging their unhappy marriage for the sake of their children (who, like my brother and I years ago, strongly oppose this decision.) Vale takes Prozac and is recovering from anorexia, although she’s bulimic now, and her younger sister suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, so the two girls combined are basically a whole me. After divulging this information, Vale hugs me and tells me she loves me. I feel pretty strongly that she is the real reason I’m here.
Saturday 13 June
Went out in Pavia tonight with Valeria and her friend Erika (also eighteen), had a fancy Pacino cocktail at a fancy bar stocked with fancy booze and got bored listening to loosely-translated high school drama for the better part of three hours. Worth it when Vale dragged me over to a circle of her boyfriend’s hoodrat buddies as they fervently freestyle rap battled in a narrow alleyway, enthusiastic neighbors cheering from the balconies above. The city is beautiful, not too touristy, all cobblestones and golden-burning lamps, the smell of hot pizza and waffle cones and sweet chestnut trees in the muggy air. Italy is a magical place. Almost all the graffiti I’ve seen is some sort of romantic declaration — one notable anonymous vagrant even devoted an entire pillar on the Ponte Veccia to a four-stanza poem about losing his wife. I admit, I’m probably once again experiencing The France Effect – the one where you leave France and everyone’s nice all of a sudden and the world is shiny and bright and new, nobody rolling their eyes at you and saying “Mais NON, evidemment, c’est pas possible–“ even though all you want to do is buy A MOTHER FUCKING STAMP
I could stay here.
(Side note: mosquitoes notably aggressive.)
Tuesday 16 June
There’s a thunderstorm today but little rain, the kind of thing that could take down a forest back in Oregon. Exhausted, running on 6 cumulative sleep hours in 60 hours total due to mosquito hunting and general insomnia. The (incessantly overbearing) director of our program looks like a shrunken head with a body still attached and she haunts my dreams, which doesn’t help. Woke up today thinking that I was back in the bar in Lyon and had fallen asleep at work, which is not altogether unreasonable. Head pounding, but have yet to slay any youths. Received one love note, more hugs than the rest of my life combined and probably Hepatitis B from high-fiving so many nose-picking buttcrack-excavating little gremlin-people. The young ones are fucking adorable. The old ones, meh. Two of them are chubby little fuckboys, a head taller than the others. Hobbies: screaming, humping myself and the other children, hiding under tables during lessons. I gave one of them the most epic punishment today – private one-on-one in the classroom with me while everyone else played outside. Instead of bashing his fat little fuckboy face in, I explained some prepositions, smiled, looked him in the eyes, was the absolute best tutor I know how to be. The worst kids deserve a chance, they’re like that for a reason. That is more likely an excerpt from a teacher’s self-help forum than my own original thought, but either way — this kid better have a fucking reason. Seriously. Somebody somewhere better be beating him.
Last night Valeria and I rode around Pavia on her family’s little Vespa. We went for pizza in the city center by the Duomo, and later got gelato with Stephano’s boisterous plump sister in his “bro’s” gelateria. Stephano tells me enthusiastically that Detroit is the best city in the world and wants to know if it really contains black people. His “bro”, the owner, looks like the type that would leave a severed animal head between your sheets if you crossed his clan or engaged in consensual intercourse with his daughter: fifty-something, gold chain around a thick brown neck and greasy crumpled eyelids, expertly slapping gelato onto cones with the finesse and determination of a man who’s highly trained in pistolwhipping. Though I can comprehend a fair amount of Italian I was rapidly fading from my one hour of sleep the night prior, so the evening blurred out into a delusory stream of white-green light and milk cream and Valeria’s strained, amorous laughter. Stephano’s sister speaks decent Inglese, she worked at Epcott for a year in 2004, and told me a hilarious bunch of rapid-fire stories, namely one about her endemic struggle to “hold a fart during scary events”.
Saturday 20 June
Milano has fashion in it. I don’t get high fashion. I think it’s a cult and that its followers are a bunch of witless swaggery capitalist sheep-drones.
This city is more sterile than the Italy I’ve become accustomed to. The Duomo is the most fantastic church/building I’ve ever seen, though it looms out strangely from the city like an ancient twisted wizard’s island from a featureless sea. Antiquity, evidently, was washed from Milan years ago when it went out of fashion. Perhaps now it’s coming back. Too bad architecture isn’t like high fashion, you can’t just fish back the charm of an ancient villa like you can bring back bellbottom jeans. CAN YOU, GIORGIO ARMANI? YOU SICK CHEAP FUCK.
(Note: the mosquitoes are black with white stripes and iron rods that pierce through denim. Repellent has no effect and they can hang on while prey is running away. Have counted over 90 bites. Melanie says they go for the legs as gravity sucks all the blood down there.)
Monday 22 June
I’ve been moved to a new family. At first I wasn’t too happy to change over, feeling pried away from my perfect dysfunctional unit (I felt uncomfortable at all the right times, yet loved enough to make up for it — just like home!) But this new family… they are so happy, genuinely a happy family. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person before. Fabrizio fondly refers to his two daughters as his “little shits”. He tells me about the trackmarks in the ditches of his arms, remnants of the junkie life he left behind when he decided to settle down. Having loved an addict for over a year, Fabri’s stories haunt me in a profoundly saddened way. I find myself swallowing and blinking too much, listening to Patricia talk about making her husband turn back in the morning on his way to work if she’s forgotten to kiss him. Blow-drying Sara’s hair, helping her with math problems. Marta texting (she’s 14 and refuses to speak English to me) but with a grinning family selfie as her WhatsApp background. They break my heart in two.
(Mosquito update: Bite count past 120. Have bandaged up a select few, thought Patricia might barf when she glimpsed that one on the back of my calf)
Tuesday 23 June
Italy is killing me. I like it a lot, but this is the least healthy I have ever been. Exhausted, craving sugar, won’t do planks. When I tried to reason about portion sizes (“I’m American, I can’t eat this much real food!”) Fabri said tomorrow they will give me one tomato and one apple to eat. Probably an improvement from the literal bucket of pasta a day I’m being shoveled (not that I’m complaining.) Nobody even lets their kids walk to school, which would be a 3-4 minute journey, maybe 8 if they’re rolling horizontally. My awe is profound. Each of these people consumes enough carbs a day to feed a small village, yet you could fit two of them inside of me. If I ate one Italian in a day, I would likely be consuming fewer calories than I am currently being fed by Italians.
Wednesday 24 June
You wouldn’t guess where I got bit by a mosquito last night.
Thursday 25 June
A CIRCLE OF ITALIAN PARENTS DISCUSSING GENITALIA
Pattatina: “friends of bird”
Fabrizio explains the process of seduction: “A bird fly in the world and meet a potato…”
Pattatina: literally potatoes, child appropriate
Pussy (English): Italian mothers believe this to be child appropriate (“sounds so cute!”)
Da hole: Fabrizio believes this to be the superior option, appropriate for all ages
I have decided that my future estate shall henceforth be titled Pattatina Palazzio… or just Da Hole. Not sure. If the actual look and value of my future estate is to be taken into consideration, Da Hole is certainly more appropriate.
Saturday 27 June
Just booked a dirt-cheap flight to Copenhagen. Remember that ticket to Roskilde Festival?
Patricia is evidently not the last-minute type. Her immediate response was to ask, “What are you doing with your life? What are you running away from?” Well, Patricia, thank you for asking. I would say that for the moment I am traveling the world and rocking the fuck on. I am running away from my dysfunctional childhood-induced pathologies and my fear of commitment to the real world. Just kidding, I can’t say that in Italian.
Fabrizio wrote me a card that says, “WE CONTROL YOU EVERYWHERE.” He handed it to me and said “Remember, don’t make the gay with the ass of the other.”
Fabrizio gets it.
Monday 29 June
Spent the night hooliganizing the Milano Marpenza airport. My only shorts decided to blow out in the crotch. Have stitched up with dental floss.
Slept on the floor of a toilet, in my opinion a highly underrated place to sleep – dark, quiet, locking door AND private stall? Not to mention the toilet itself. I mean it’s basically a hotel.
Woke myself up twice on the floor shouting “Okay, everybody, time to go… time to go, come on guys…” believing wholeheartedly that I was wrangling a field full of children. When I rustled and the light flicked on, I realized rather hollowly that I was trying to rally my rucksack, perched on the toilet in my blurred-out line of vision. I’m gonna miss those little fuckers. A little bit.
Alright folks, I’d like to try and tell you about Dublin. I feel like I owe you at least that much. But I’m having trouble, see, because if Paris (or any city in France, really) is a nice classy woman exiting her limo and stepping delicately over a homeless man as she flits into a high-end cocktail bar, Dublin is a raw-legged tramp who just ditched the bill for a couple of pints eagerly pulling the homeless man into a taxi to get his pants off. The homeless man will happily be paying the fare.
In short, Dublin’s got the right idea about things.
But perhaps to kick off I should first mention Nice in the south of France, Nice which is bright shiny and gorgeous 364 days out of the year but rainy and ranging from 7 to 9 degrees Celsius with the wind chill on the day we were to pass through. Yet despite this frigidity the Mediterranean glowed pale turquoise under the grey of the sky and man, how that lady can beckon. Tourists and locals alike got their kicks watching as I clambered out of clothes and into blue water, air shocked from my lungs and the sky rumbling grey above, foolish girl again doing foolish thing but foolish girl hasn’t tasted saltwater since before she broke her spinal column and really couldn’t give a flying fuck about anything other than greeting the sea. Squeezing my frozen body back into skinny jeans while sticky with Mediterranean sea salt was more of a challenge, at which point one opportunistic middle-aged fellow up on the quay became notably fond of his camera. Casey held out a sweater and I struggled back into clothing while Elaine, bless her, kept busy shouting “YOU LIKE THAT, I SEE THAT YOU LIKE THAT” in loudly broken French.
Now, back to Dublin. The first thing you should know about Dublin is that Dublin loves you and it demands your love in return. Dublin is willing to work for it.
It’s illegal to purchase alcohol of any sort after 10 PM anywhere in the Republic of Ireland, which contributes directly to its universally thriving bar scene — one where pub crawls are packed with deceptively adolescent boys but it’s easy enough to find dashing Irish rapscallions partaking in their evening “mother’s milk” (creepy term for Guinness) while they bide their time awaiting a lady willing to cook them decent potato dishes in return for marriage vows. Dublin is a place where it is not possible to sleep before 5 AM if one is at all interested in flirting with rugged tattooed off-duty police officers or smoking in hostels with exceptionally friendly Croatians, in jumping in on ukulele orchestras or clubbing with handsome strangers keen on paying your way, in giving pep-talks to/charitably fondling desirous transvestites; in being tattooed late at night by a guy who is essentially Badger from Breaking Bad; in kicking a few back and communing with homeless folks and water hens down on the riverbanks; in lolling about in ancient crypts and shaking hands with 800-year-old Crusader mummies; in hanging out in bars dating back to the 1200’s or, at the very least, in drinking one’s dinner on the nightly.
We stayed four nights in Dublin, during which some of the above probably happened.
On to Galway and the Burren National Park, where resteth scattered tombs and burial remains dating back to 3000 B.C.E., where chalky sheep graze in dampened fields of grass and clover across rolling hills and rocky outcrops, dropping off on the brutal western coastline at the Cliffs of Moher (a.k.a. the Cliffs of Insanity, as featured in the Princess Bride.)
Our arrival in Galway coincided with the final day of “rag week”, an unfortunate chunk of time in which the closest European equivalents to fraternities and sororities do what those groups do best: get sloshed to the point of no return, pretend that they’re interesting individuals and hump each other in public. The boys break glass all over the damn place and the gals later walk around barefoot, toting their overly-ambitous heels and contracting various forms of Hepatitis. This booze-charged display of gratuitous juvenile douchebaggery had enveloped most of downtown Galway and, as it reminded me sickeningly of frat row back in Eugene, I did not rest long. Trudging back to the hostel one evening, my newfound French comrades and I stumbled upon an old man resting contentedly in the street with an enormous bloody hematoma on his forehead, and while we flagged down staff to call an ambulance this man took quite a shining to me. He grasped my hand tightly, telling me all about himself (name, address, the fact that he used to be a renowned street fighter and was chummy with Tom Hanks) and in the end I had to stay with him as I was the only person to whom he was willing to give his information. I explained frankly to my bewildered compadres that, according to the recurrent patterns of my life, it made quite a bit of natural sense that this man would select me as a BFF.
Ireland is an indelicate balance of esoteric landscape and raw humanity; one minute you find yourself contemplating the meaning of existence and simplicity in the clover fields and the next you’re shocked back down to earth by drunkards howling in the streets and the searing whiskey shot you just took to get your evening going. My French companions interpreted the Irish way as sleazy and inelegant, and I suppose they’re not exactly wrong. But for me this break from the delicate, guarded French approach to all affairs in life was a startling breath of fresh air and a welcome relief. I felt as though I’d unshouldered a heavy knapsack I’d been slogging around unwittingly for the past few months, and this feeling of intense calm chased me all throughout the country – from Galway down to Limerick for half-pints of Guinness, melted cheese sandwiches and old men hollering at the televised rugby game; to Killarney shoving into sweaty pubs and live music with Elaine and Lisa, a hot-blooded badass from Austria who travels Europe on her motorcycle; while winding through the unrestrained misty wilderness in the southern part of the isle on an inter-city bus; while passing the evening with a scruffy Irish bloke in a mescal bar on my last night in Cork. I even made some money when I demanded cash from a carful of guys that had hollered in my direction; they scrambled to get five euro together and handed it over without a word. That’s Ireland for you.
By the time Elaine and I reached Paris on our eighth day we were exhausted on every imaginable level, and our rapidly dwindling motivation to return to Lyon drove us to stay and recuperate two days with my dear Australian friend Leanne. We successfully visited the Parisian Catacombs, which I will save for a future post. That’s all for now, folks.
Ireland, you remarkable old floosie, you stole meh heart right out o’ me.
May the winds of fortune sail you,
May you sail a gentle sea.
May it always be the other guy
who says, “this drink’s on me.”
After several more hours bedridden in the ER hallway I set into a panic attack, not unaided by the realization that a bout of bloody screaming might get me some information and/or a room with walls. This suspicion turned out to be true – and I received not only these things but also a young swoopy-haired boy who tilted me haphazardly around in the hospital bed, wrestled a bedpan under my naked ass and skedaddled with naught but an awkward murmur of “good day”. The next nurse that walked in asked me urgently “Qui a fait ça??” “Who did this?” but appeared unamused when I told her it was the lead singer of One Direction. She ran back out and was promptly followed by a male nurse, whose only addition was the classic English “Shit shit shit” – never trust Harry Styles types when there are bedpans involved, folks. You’ve been warned. I soon got my Elaine back and more information than anyone could ever want – namely that the L1 and L2 vertebrae of my spine were broken and that I might need back surgery. Then, as punishment for the hallway screamfest, I was taken off pain medication for three hours to reflect on my discretions in hot raw hell, where I half-died.
My shattered half-corpse and broken spirit were together transferred to a neurological hospital and remained there for six days, a constant flurry of morphine, sweat, sponge baths, catheters, really engrossing drug-induced dreams and one stupidly sexy cleaning guy named Armande (like actually), whom I consistently flirted with but faltered mostly due to catheter-based self-consciousness. You know what they say, it’s not easy to woo the cleaning guy when you’ve got a sack of hot urine dangling off your waist. I spent most of my time otherwise arguing with a particular male nurse who was always on me about not shitting enough, probably because I wasn’t shitting at all. But he vanquished me when, on The Eighth Shitless Day In A Row, as it is written, this happened.
Two nursey types pinned my sweaty shelled lobster body against the tiled bathroom wall while a third (pictured) ceremoniously injected The Mega Enema. The Mega consists of no lube, a type of plastic tampon plunger up the ass and three (3) repeated helpings of mysterious butt sauce, each providing prime graphic audio and a very curious sensation of being anally injected with mayonnaise. I remember screaming the words “What fresh hell is this,” which of course nobody understood.
I was released yesterday and will not have to undergo surgery. I will wear my corset brace (soon to be painted as battle armor) for three months, during which time I am strictly prohibited from commuting any way but on foot, including metro, tram, bus, car, bike, and even wheelchair. I can currently walk about thirty feet providing I can sleep for 20 hours immediately afterwards, and will be bed-bathed daily by a home nurse as I am forbidden to take showers.
In short: life of luxury.
Did you know that catheters really do make it impossible to know if you’re peeing? I can’t feel this shit even a little.
To the stout young nursing staff who have been charged with hauling me from stretcher to bed to stretcher to scary full-body x-ray table and back again, I have repeated one sentence more times than I can count: J’ai monté un arbre. I climbed a tree. The grammar’s okay, but people always blink a couple times in confusion. The French just don’t understand this tomfoolery like backwoods Oregonians would. Regardless of whether it’s a decidedly Oregon trait or just my own personal adrenaline fixation, it is something that I have done, do frequently and will continue to do until I am too ancient or too boring, in spite of where I am now: in a French hospital bed wearing thigh-high circulation stockings and a catheter.
Four nights ago I was in good company, rabbling about the gold-dusted cobblestone streets of Vieux Lyon after midnight, when lo! thern Orgun kids didth spyieth yon climbin’ trees. I leapt on with gusto and monkeyed about in joy, swinging from branch to branch and watching the twinkling lights of the city beyond. On coming down, I swung from a branch intending to catch myself on one just below, but this here branch was weak as one particular ex-boyfriend’s bad excuses. The tree became the second thing in a month to let me down hard.
The first night here was an utter shitshow. Riding in an ambulance over cobblestones with a broken spine is not something I would particularly recommend; the pain was so blinding that I fantasized a serial killer/armed vagrant/angel of mercy would appear behind me and blast my head through with a small pistol. This seemed at the time to be the easiest, cheapest and most sensible option for everyone.
Unfortunately the medical staff did not agree, opting instead to shoot me with copious amounts of morphine and other drugs and prepare me for a full body scan, which I would wait three hours to go through. My only vision was that of the immediate ceiling before my face, which was falling into various stages of decay. One might say that the sole downfall of the socialist healthcare system lies within its decrepit graffitied hospital buildings (I asked my attendants whose throwups graced the elevator but they had no idea. I’m imagining some feisty in-patient with his bare fesses dragging a leaking catheter and marking his shattered-rib Picasso insignia with a paint can he found in a supply closet next to the rubbers.)
The other notable downside to the socialist healthcare system would most certainly be the waiting times. After my body scan I was left very close to the room it was performed in by a set of double doors for a number of hours, after which I was wheeled back up Graffiti Elevator and into a hallway running alongside patient rooms, where I was left to rot for several more Xanax-muddled hours without any notice of my condition or the whereabouts of my dear friend Elaine, though at this point I was feeling somewhat uncertain whether or not she had ever even existed to begin with.
More to come.