Saturday, September 29, 2007


Another bit of loveliness from Joel Vietch.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

At some point in the future, I am sure this will all be very hysterical.

However, today is not that day.

But I’ll get to that bit in a second. So, when last you heard from me, I was in Paris preparing to embrace my new future. Let’s begin there.

After a fitting Parisian goodbye consisting of a long drawn out meal, a whole bunch of wine, a walk along the Seine and martinis until who knows when, I woke up in just enough time to stuff the last of my possessions haphazardly into my already overstuffed suitcase and do the usual mad dash to CDG, my lateness compounded by the vagaries of the French rail system, then further compounded by a personal search that would have rivaled the migration of icebergs in leisurely pace. This culminated in the security woman’s decision that the climbing caribiner that held my keys was a decidedly deadly threat and must be confiscated with maximum theatrics. Her acid-tinged glance told me she didn’t think too highly of me either. In short, after the usual Herculean effort it seems to take for me to board a plane at CDG, I arrived just in time. Unfortunately, as I found out on arrival, my bag was not as lucky.

I decided to try and look on this as a positive thing. After all, now someone else would have to drag it to the hotel. Then I arrived at the hotel to find out that someone had canceled my reservations. How interesting. I jumped online to see if I had any messages to indicate to me the plan had changed. Nope. Nothing. Luckily, the hotel had space, so no problem at all. Reservation reactivated. So here I was in Copenhagen on a lovely Sunday afternoon. Might as well enjoy it. Off I went for a walk and to do a little scouting for dinner places.

It was a beautiful day. I passed a picturesque canal where fishing boats bobbed at anchor. The water smelled of the sea, and people lounged on the patios of neighboring restaurants, enjoying a leisurely drink on a Sunday afternoon. I walked down to this large circle, sort of a park where many roads met. Turns out there was a street exhibition taking place. Clear plastic spheres were scattered throughout. Each one featured an award-winning design concept created to make the world a better place – shelters for refugees, computers cheap enough to give away in the third world, biodegradable packaging – that sort of thing. Very cool stuff. An ornate theater on an adjoining street was apparently at intermission for their Sunday matinee performance. Well-dressed people lounged on the second floor balcony overlooking the circle, sipping wine and champagne. Opera, design, architecture, water - I think I might like it here. After a decent dinner and a couple glasses of wine, I retired to the hotel to get some reading done for a meeting the next day feeling pretty positive about life.

One decent night’s rest later, I was ready for the first day of work. Coffee was the first order of the day. Copenhagen has tons of coffee houses, shouldn’t be a problem, right? Mmm, wrong. No one gets coffee on the way to work here. A million coffee houses in this city, and couldn’t find one that opens before 9:30. While it is refreshing not to have a Starbuck’s on every corner, I would have given my eyeteeth to see that little green awning that particular morning. Eventually I was able to get a sandwich counter to take pity on me and give me my black beetle fix.

My first day of work was fantastic. The people I work with are smart, passionate and full of ideas. It’s a great environment to be in. I consider myself very lucky. It’s exactly what I wanted to be doing. I couldn’t have picked a better agency. It would have been a perfect day except for one little thing.

The dubiously-rated “four star” hotel I was staying in inexplicably decided I’d checked out, removing the few things I had in my room and putting them into a clear plastic bag in the lobby. This bag was then unceremoniously handed to me by an unbelievably rude hotel employee in front of a long line of American business travelers like I was some homeless person asking for handouts. In addition, my bag had arrived from the airport, but they’d sent it back. Luckily, my work had already booked me in somewhere else, so I went back to collect the two bags that I had thankfully sent ahead through FedEx (ah FedEx, how I love you) and went to my new home.

Two days later, after receiving no response to the countless e-mails, and a “we’re busy, go away” message every time I tried to phone the SAS baggage people, I headed back to the airport. After waiting about an hour for my number to be called, a friendly looking guy called me up to the counter. The confused look on his face did not bode well. Neither did the “that’s strange” that burst from his lips. It seems my bag was in electronic limbo. As far as the system knew, the last time it had been spotted was the super evil Phoenix hotel. Together we looked through the hall of lost luggage with increasing desperation. My sad little overstuffed bag has been swallowed by the valise Bermuda triangle. Vanished without a trace. This has never happened before, he assured me. For some reason it didn’t feel like much of a comfort.

So, I have a confession to make. I’ve been kind of wallowing in self-pity the last few days, feeling like life was peeing on me repeatedly and being rather disgruntled about it. Then tonight I was reminded of the fact that the clothes, shoes, skin care, make-up – they’re just that - stuff. They can be replaced. I have a job I love in a city I am growing fonder of ever day. Everything else is unimportant. So, while I am not quite to the point I can laugh about it, I am at least over letting it get me down. Anyway, I now have the perfect excuse to go on a serious shopping trip. I guess there are worse things in life.

Although if any of you should feel like going on a few review sites and helping me take down the Phoenix hotel in Copenhagen’s user rating…

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Brian Dettmer's book autopsies

See more here:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Quote of the day

If there are no stupid questions, then what kind of questions do stupid people ask? Do they get smart just in time to ask questions?

Scott Adams
(taken from

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I see dead people

I’d been feeling a bit out of sorts lately what with the impending move and leaving people I’d just started to get close to and a place I’m rather happy. So, I decided to do something to cheer myself up.

No room in my bags, so that was out.

Hair appointment?
Just didn’t have the energy to have to chat to stylist and a colorist for hours on end in my crappy French.

Visit to the catacombs to meditate on the brevity of existence?

This translates to "Stop. This is the empire of death." in case you're curious. I'm thinking of putting it on a welcome mat. I'd never be troubled by religious wackos or avon ladies ever again.

The catacombs are actually a pretty good place to go to pull oneself out of a mental funk. They are full of all sorts of interesting opinions and observations:

(Sorry for the blur - long exposure. Anyway, it translates to "Happy are those who always have the hour of their deaths in front of their eyes and who ready themselves each day to die." Hmm. Not sure I agree with that one.)

They are a definite reminder that, no matter what minor little thing is causing you unease, life can always get worse - much worse. The whole thing would have been quite peaceful were it not for one small thing. The living. From heavy-footed Germans to frat partying American college students, the catacombs are one crowded place. Who would have thought death would be such a big draw? No matter how much I hung back, getting more than a few minutes to think was proving a tactical impossibility. And I thought the Louvre was bad.

But in the few minutes I was able to snatch here and there, I got a sense of what it must be like to be down here when everyone is gone. The sound of water dripping from the ceiling echoes through the caverns. The air is that clammy chill you always get when you’re deep underground. And even without the homilies spaced throughout, the bones are eloquent in their silence. Each one of the skeletons here had a life like mine once - fell in love, worried about their livelihoods, hoped for the future. But in the end, we’re all reduced to this. (Well, hopefully not all stacked in a vault being gawked at by tourists, but you know what I mean.) This idea of “as I am so you shall one day be” was a big thing in the Medieval period, and I’ve always been a bit fascinated by it. Because, morbid as it sounds, it is a comforting thought. It all gets resolved in the end.

So, feeling a bit better, I picked up the pace a little. An American college student struck up a conversation with me on the way out, and we talked a little bit about philosophy and a little bit about home. As we approached the exit, the guard asked us to open our backpacks. It took me a second to come up with a reason why. People don’t try to actually steal the bones in here, do they? For an answer, he pointed to a table with a few skulls in a neat pile. Good thing I don’t have much faith in humanity, because if I did it would be in tatters right now. Ah well, as I am you will one day be. And with that thought in my head, I headed out of the darkness into a perfectly sunny day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In the land of pickled herring and sex shops

I was allowed two drinks to limber up before the dreaded question surfaced. “So, how many Danish celebrities can you name?” Hmm. Who would have thought the toughest part of a job interview would be the drinks session afterward? Feeling rather proud of myself, I immediately responded “Lars von Trier”.

“OK, and?”

(Insert slightly uncomfortable pause here.)

There is more than one? Now I was in trouble.

I have to admit, I’d never really thought about Denmark. While I’ve met a few Danish people in the course of my meandering existence, they really didn’t speak about their country much. Now here I was racking my brain for Scandinavian pop culture icons and coming up empty. Good thing the Danes have a sense of humor.

Danish people are friendly. Really friendly. They smile at you in the street and say hello. After Paris, this is a bit unnerving. And this general goodwill is particularly amazing considering they pay some of the highest taxes in Europe, a whopping 65%, all while living in one of the world’s most expensive cities. And yet, while graffiti is absolutely everywhere, even the most expensive bikes lean up against buildings with nary a lock in sight. And Danish people are bikers. And joggers and walkers and boat rowers. This is one fit city. Almost everyone you see sports a healthy glow and a killer sense of fashion. In short, Copenhagen is cool. One might even say idyllic.

So idyllic in fact, that it even features a semi-autonomous free state in its environs. Christiania is an independent collective that was started in the late 70s. Basically, it’s a commune that decided to secede from the EU in the late ‘70s and has rather remarkably gotten away with it ever since. Well, to a certain extent anyway.

And Copenhagen is unique. People wait for the light for the most part to cross the road, but there's a red light district that rivals even Paris's, although it's not as flashy. Even the public statuary is rather unusual. Take these two things I found while walking one day:

I spent at least 5 minutes trying to figure out what on earth this cow was doing. If you have any theories, please, I'd love to hear them.

I didn't even want to begin to think about what these guys were doing. Note where he seems to be hiding his sword... Perhaps the rather large paragraph underneath will tell us.

Oh yes, of course, it's in DANISH. Never mind.

Weird to be in a country where you can't read the food labels, road signs, maps or even explanations attached to bizarre statuary.

You will be hearing more about Copenhagen in the near future as I did, despite my complete failure at the Danish pop culture quiz, get the job. I move on Sunday. Am I sad to leave Paris? You have no idea. I’ve loved my time here. I don’t know how I will manage to cope without snails and quail and rabbit and duck readily available at every street corner butcher. (I walked into the grocery store the day after the interview and I almost cried.) And I love the grey and the grumpiness of Paris, the skeletal thinness of its inhabitants, the fact that I can trot out my atrocious French anytime I want to torture someone – or get a good laugh. If my French is still this sub-par after years of study, how am I going to cope with Danish?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Getting the fear at the Louvre

I was passing by the millionth statue of some small-penised Greek god when it came out of nowhere and landed on me like an Osakan sumo troupe – museum fatigue. While I’m all about antiquities, I’m afraid I’m not much for the tourist life generally, tending towards the extremely claustrophobic when it comes to crowds, so perhaps I should have been better prepared. And yet, trapped deep in the clutches of the mindless herd-like masses, I could feel panic start to set in.

The Louvre is big. You probably know this. However, you have no idea how large the Louvre can truly be until you are caught in the grips of a full-scale art overdose while trapped behind a sea of vacantly milling Germans, Italians, Japanese, Americans and Koreans, all of whom seem almost homicidally intent on getting ahead of you, just so they can stop without warning directly in your path in order to photograph a blank bit of wall or fragment of stairway.

It was this morning that it occurred to me. Today is the first Sunday of the month – the day when all the municipal museums of Paris throw open their doors, forget their entry fees and welcome all and sundry. I’d been making excuses for not having done the stations of the tourist cross since my arrival, but I was running out of reasons. It was, I decided, time to pay my dues at at least one of the populist altars of culture.

One short hour later, there I was. Yeah, it was the Louvre. Looking like, well, the Louvre. A lot has been written about this particular institution and the wonders contained therein, so I will save the overview in favor of a couple things that struck me as worth mentioning.

The short-bus Madonna and child.

Why does every ivory statue of the Madonna and child (and believe me, there are enough to make one seriously amazed that the elephant population wasn’t rendered extinct sometime in the 16th century) seem like both are afflicted with Down’s syndrome?

How did the French go from generally kicking ass during the period of Charlemagne to living in the sort of place my grandmother would feel right at home in? No wonder the French lost the Franco-Prussian war if this was the sort of place they were planning it.

Apparently you checked your balls at the door in the 19th century France.

This is not to say that the collections in the Louvre aren’t incredible as well as incredibly and exhaustingly thorough. However, once you abandon all hope and enter here, just make sure you always keep an eye out for potential escape routes.