Monday, January 22, 2001

In the wee small hours of the morning...‏

Hello once again everyone!

Well, here I am writing you all an email and for once it isn't like 4 in the morning! ;-) It's actually about 12:30am right now, so it's kind of early for me. I just got home from dinner and playing pool, and since Pernille had some business to take care of, I just decided to sit down and write this email now.

OK, so I know that my last email was a little uneventful. But this one has lots of juicy, succulent tales, that I'm sure you're all going to be sharing around the watercooler tomorrow. ;-)

Where to start? Well, I believe I left off the day before I was supposed to go out bowling. OK, so last Thursday, Pernille and I went bowling with one of her friends (Ulrik) and one of his friends (Allan). Actually, beforehand Pernille and I went to dinner at this restaurant named Casablanca. As we walked into this place, I was immediately struck by the fact that there was no artificial lighting. Candles were everywhere, including the entrance hallway. I suppose that they were going for a "Casablanca"/Rick's American Cafe effect, but even Bogie had some lamps for Christ's sake! Actually, in the end I sincerely appreciated the extreme lack of light, due mostly to the extremely sketchy food. But I'll get there in a minute. ;-)

Anyway, the architectural design of the place was very becoming. The theme was along Moorish lines, with lots of arches and columns and creamy colored walls. The chairs were small and had rounded, completely solid, wooden backs, which made them a sort of tight squeeze for my aforementioned big fat American fast food ass. At first, Pernille and I waited for a waitress to bring us a menu. For 10 minutes. Finally, we snagged a passing waitress and asked her for some. Well, she said, we're actually having a buffet tonight, and it's made up of all of our menu items, so you might as well get that. We pondered the idea of waiting what was sure to be at least 2 hours for actual personalized food dishes, and in the end we went for the buffet.

OK, they had a lot of dishes on this buffet, but most of them were very suspicious. You know the sort...some variety of meat floating in an oily brown sauce, cold pizza, sour cream that had been sitting out for god knows how long-right up against a very hot serving container, etc... You could just see the salmonella skulking around. Anyway, there were about 10 large serving containers filled with various meats/sauces/rice/vegetables and I had to have Pernille translate the little identity cards in front just so I would know what the fuck they were. Most of it was veal, which was not sounding good to me at the moment. So, I tried some fried potatoes, curried chicken, fried rice with whiskey sauce, a couple slices of pizza, and a hunk of baked potato. For dessert, there was a selection of incredibly thin cake slices, and amazingly the two I nibbled at were pretty tasty.

Anyway, after dinner, we walked across the street to the bowling alley. On the outside of the building was a big sign advertising, "ROAST AND BOWL". Hmmm....Pool and Chicken, anyone? (Inside joke.) :-) Anyway, apparently they have a night where you can go down there and enjoy some roast pork and a few games of bowling. Interesting concept. Ok, so this place was a little small for a bowling alley, meaning they only had like 15 lanes, but the rest of the place was OK sized. I think that bowling places in the States tend to be spread out horizontally, but this place was more vertical. The lanes were on the second level, for example.

The guys we bowled with were very nice. I actually had met Ulrik when he was studying at UNI, so that was cool. His friend didn't say much, so that was interesting. Anyway, man I bowled like SHIT the first game. I don't think I've bowled since high school! But, after a game or two it kind of came back to me. I just kept trying to remember what my dad would say about making sure that I held my hand straight when I let go of the ball. Speaking of you dad, I could not believe how SLOW everyone bowled. I remember that when we used to go bowling when I was younger that whenever you bowled, the ball just flew down the lane and the pins made a horribly loud crashing noise. Well, the guys here bowl like little girls and the girls bowl like they're afraid that the ball is going to jump up and bite them in the ass if they throw it too hard. I've never seem such timidity at a bowling alley!! Anyway, my first score was a pathetic 54, putting me in last place. My final score was 121, in first place.

Some tidbits about the bowling alley: they don't spray the shoes with disinfectant. You just get them from a shelf and when you leave you throw them back on the shelf for someone else to grab. Ugh. It cost almost $20 for an hour of bowling. I'm not sure what it's like in the states, but you can get mixed drinks here. They blare dance music constantly, very very loudly, every night.

Oh here are some more general tidbits that I forgot to mention last time: the traffic lights are a little different, in that the light turns yellow again before it turns green. So that way you don't have to come to a complete stop at a red light if you know that it's just about to turn green. The US needs to implement this feature IMMEDIATELY!!!! Oh, and something about lamps-they very very rarely have any lamps mounted on the ceiling in a house. They have the power supply in the center of the ceiling like us, but then they take a cord and hang the lamp down at right below eye level. So, when you're standing up, the whole upper half of the room is barely lit! I complained about this total lack of quality lighting one night and I was told that in Denmark they just don't put lamps on the ceiling. They prefer to have a more intimate atmosphere. Well, ok, but I'm going fucking blind trying to look around this place. Whatever... ;-)

OK, so that was Thursday. On Friday we drove to Germany. What an utter waste of time. The weather was horrible! First of all, every single day I've been here, except the first two, has been completely overcast, cold, and depressing. On this particular day, however, God decided to add "sleeting" and "completely fucking freezing" to that list.

We left in the morning and it took us 4 hours to get to Flensberg. Flensberg actually looked like it was a beautiful town, but in such shitty weather, I definitely could not appreciate it. Our visit started off with a real bang when we almost got hit by a train. We were trying to find a place to park, and we thought that the parking lot on the edge of the river would be a great spot. Well, we couldn't find the entrance and there was a lot of traffic. So, Pernille saw this driveway into the parking lot and we said fuck it, let's just turn in here. And then suddenly, as we were turning, this small train seemed to come out of nowhere on our left side and almost fucking hit us. Someone (the conductor?) was standing outside on the front part of the train and was blaring his whistle at us while shaking his head and pointing his finger severely in our direction. Naturally, this attracted the attention of all passers-by, most of whom, even the other drivers, seemed to come to a complete halt in order to stare scornfully at us.

Once we got out hearts beating again, we decided that we had to find somewhere to go to the bathroom. Well, unlike most places in the States, according to Pernille no restaurant in Europe will let you use their bathroom unless you buy something. So, we found this brewery and ordered some drinks just so we could piss. I must say though, they had immaculate bathrooms. :-) Oh, here's something about the toilets here: the flusher is on the top of the toilet, and it's usually a button that you press down or a knob that you pull up. Interesting.

In the end, we spent about a half hour walking around. They have a walking-only shopping area, like Aalborg, but their shops were very expensive. We bought some pastries, and then we left. It was just too cold to spend any more time outside. Then we had to stop at this discount place before we left. It was actually in another small town close by, but we could not find the bastard. We seriously had to cross back over the border and then find a road that would lead to this town. It took us at least 30 minutes and several heated phone conversations with Pernille's mom before we found the right road. (By the way, driving while talking on a cell phone is illegal here, punishable by a large fine.) :-) Oh, and when I asked the border guard to stamp my passport, he looked at me and said, "Five bucks!" I told him I only had a quarter, but he stamped it anyway.

Anyway, this store is something set up basically for the benefit of Danes that cross the border for the cheaper prices on cigs and booze. As I mentioned before, the sales tax in Denmark is 25%. (Some other taxes: 180% car tax (plus an extra tax that depends on the weight of the car), 30% tax on water and utilities, a TV and radio tax, and a 40% to 65% INCOME tax!!! This all pays, of course, for totally free education (including college) and health care, but I just don't think I could go to work every day if I knew that the government was getting 65% of the money I made.)

OK, so this store was tiny, but it was packed with people. And they were all frantically grabbing bottles of wine, cartons of cigarettes, and boxes of chocolates. It was like the last chopper out of Saigon was leaving in 15 minutes and they all intended to be on it, clutching their bottle of Chateau Margaux and a carton of Camels. Pernille was under orders to buy several !cases! of wine for her family. (Probably just for the week, I imagine.) I got a bottle of wine, a few chocolate bars, and some French cigarettes and then we got the hell out of there.

Well, this email has turned into a book. :-) So, I think I'll leave the stories about the big dinner party on Saturday and dinner tonight for the next time.

I hope you're all doing well. Of course, how well can you all really be doing considering that Bush was sworn in this weekend? UGH Anyway, take care and I hope to hear from you all soon!!


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