Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Text Message Du Jour: Violating Vampires' Constitutional Rights

My brother and I like to keep updated by texting each other breaking news:

Most random thing ever: Christopher Meloni from Law & Order SUV will be a regular cast member in True Blood season five.

Topher: Whhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaa?! Elliot?!

Me: YUP.

Topher: I have a feeling a few vampires are getting punched.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Adventures in España, Part 2: And Now, a Reflection on My Love/Hate Relationship With Ham


Dear jamón, jamón ibérico, bacon, jamón serrano, jamón–flavored potato chips and any other forms of pig meat product available in Spain,

When I was much younger, there was one unfortunate Christmas season when everyone miscommunicated and no less than three different people showed up to the same party with a honey baked ham.

After everyone had finished pigging out (pun intended), there was still enough ham left over to feed a family of four for a month. And surprise! My family of four volunteered to load all that ham in our Jeep Cherokee and take it back to our house to finish it off.

Thus began “Hamageddon.” My younger brother and I were served ham and eggs for breakfast, ham sandwiches for lunch and ham slice with a side of creamed spinach for dinner every day until our arteries exploded from the excessive sodium intake.

This hamtastrophe stuck with me for years and haunted every form of ham that presented itself in my life. But now, years later, I was finally over it.

That is, until I traveled to Spain.

The conclusion I have drawn, which, it should be noted, is not based on any kind of actual knowledge or scientific fact, is that Spain must be overrun by wild pigs. Never in my life, with the exception of Hamageddon, have I see so much ham. Ham in Spain is an acceptable breakfast, lunch, and dinner food. It is also a snack flavoring and topping for various tapas.


[Spanish nativity scene, complete with wild boars.]

Screw the Flower Arrangements, Let’s Use Ham!

Let me make a wild generalization about Spaniards as a whole: they think the leg of a dead pig makes for an awesome table centerpiece.

I’m not sure why, but shops and various eateries have taken to displaying dead pig legs on wood plaques or hanging them from the ceiling by rope. Then, supposedly, if you were in the mood for some ham (and who isn’t?) the shopkeeper could easily grab a pork-carving machete and slice you a hunk directly from a preserved pig leg, hoof and all.


I’m Just Going to Give Up on Romance and Marry Some Ham Flavoring

I’m not going to lie; I only have room for two true loves in my life: my cat, and any and all types of potato chips (no one is going to be particularly surprised when I die alone, are they?).

While traveling in Southeast Asia during college, I made it a personal goal to sample as many potato chip flavors as possible. Some personal favorites were nori seaweed, spicy chili squid, and seafood and mayonnaise.

However, nothing could prepare me for the incredible array of ham-based potato chip flavors in Spain.

My travel companion Blonde Beyonce looked on in disgust while I made it a personal mission to consume every ham-related potato chip flavor I could get my hands on. This was a simple task, as most markets and movie theaters offered Ruffle’s jamón chips as a mainstay. I also stuffed my face with ham and cheese-flavored Lays and BBQ ham chips (fuck yeah, let’s throw some ham slices on the BBQ!).

I'll Take a Big Mac Jamón, Please

Well, duh, McDonald's in Spain offers a burger topped with jamón ibérico. Was that even a question?

And Then I Considered Buying Everyone a Bottle Opener Shaped Like a Disembodied Animal

Spaniards are well aware that the prevalence of ham in their country borders on absurd. If they weren't, they wouldn’t offer ham-themed souvenirs to tourists.

Not only did I encounter a bottle opener shaped like a dead pig’s leg, I also found the same disgusting animal product in magnet and key chain form. While I was tempted to buy them, it occurred to me that nobody else back home would understand why it was hilarious that my keys were now attached to the hoof, leg, and thigh of a dead pig.

I Don’t Think This Qualifies as Breakfast

One morning, I ordered the “breakfast special” and received thinly sliced ham on a baguette doused in olive oil, and a cup of coffee. Well, obviously that would be the breakfast special.

And Then it Became Clear I Knew Nothing About Where I Was

“Boy, it’d be hard to be Kosher in this country,” I said. “There’s nothing to eat but ham!”

Blonde Beyonce consulted her guide book briefly. “Well, I doubt that’s a serious problem, because King Ferdinand expelled all the Jewish people in the 1400s.”


Well, that explains a lot.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Adventures in España, Part 1: So Many Future Husbands, So Little Time


[C'mon now, what man wouldn't love this?]

My ability to select appropriate romantic companions has been in question since that time Soldier Boy picked me up from the airport wearing guyliner and a fedora, an unfortunate fashion decision which kept my mother laughing for three days straight. After she was able to properly breathe again, she suggested I attend therapy – as I possibly had “man issues.” (This coming from a woman who only enters into relationships with men at least 15 years her senior – and I’m the one with “man issues”?)

Prior to my departure for Spain, my hair stylist/psychoanalyst informed me that I seem to need to date men who are like my father, re: emotionally unavailable, high maintenance and prone to various forms of insanity. I then immediately threw myself off a bridge, because no self-respecting young woman wants to hear that she is trying to date her own father. Because, oh god, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.


So I went to Spain for a wedding, and watching the flawless bride and groom kiss under a shower of bubbles and rose petals outside a 14th century cathedral made my ovaries go all whack and threw me into a romantic comedy-esk frenzy, obviously. Blonde Beyonce and I then decided that the only logical course of action was to fall head-over-heels in love with some unsuspecting – and handsome – victim, er, man, and live happily ever after.

Future Husband No. 1: The Catholic Boy

Blonde Beyonce reasoned that the easiest way to marry me off and ensure her own future happiness would be to throw me in the path of her cousin (because, hello, I would make the best in-law of all time).

Her sales pitch included the following points:

1. He is going to be a lawyer.

2. He is incredibly sweet and would totally “take care of me.”

3. No, really, he would take of me. Like, forever. FOREVER!

4. He used to be a model! Isn’t he beautiful?!

5. Unfortunately he lives on the other side of the country, but that’s not important when it comes to true love, right? Right?!


All of these things seemed enticing; however, dearest Blonde Beyonce neglected to mention until later that her cousin was, adorably, extremely Catholic, and therefore was guaranteed to be completely terrified of me and my persistently inappropriate behavior.

Most romantic moment: After the wedding reception, Blonde Beyonce’s extremely Catholic cousin had had too much to drink and was completely mortified by this fact. My story about puking off a balcony earlier in the night while under the care of the groom’s father did not seem to make him feel any better about his predicament (in fact, this probably convinced him once and for all that there was something terribly wrong with my moral fiber). However, he was extremely thankful that I kept him from puking on the bus (although, once he got off of the bus, it was a different story) and that I kept him company in the lobby of his apartment building while he avoided his extremely Catholic grandmother, who was upstairs threating to beat him with her bare hands.


Future Husband No. 2: The Flamenco Dancer

While in Barcelona, I met the man of my dreams. Well, when I say “met,” I really mean “saw,” and when I say “man of my dreams,” I really mean “man that I would have one passionate night with in a cheap hotel next to the Mediterranean.”

I and about 60 other women had this exact same revelation at the exact same time as Antonio (probably not his real name) shook his head like an angry stallion and threw sweat all over his adoring audience while he danced on stage in his bright red flamenco shoes.

Blonde Beyonce and I turned to each other, clasped hands and squealed like 12-year-olds at a Back Street Boys’ concert in 1999, and all the panties in the room went flying. Antonio (still probably not his real name) was that sexy. I downed my glass of sangria in one gulp and ordered another, lest I become parched while basking in the presence of his manliness.

Most romantic moment: Me yelling, “I’LL TAKE HIM” at the top of my lungs, and immediately being drowned out by the sound of 60 other wailing women who, it seems, would gladly throw Antonio down on the floor of the basement theater and have their way with him. Upon realizing Antonio was sporting a wedding ring, I confided in Blonde Beyonce that I simply didn’t care, and I would gladly become his second – or third? – or fourth?! − wife.


[Our Barcelona apartment, site of many a drunken declaration of love.]

Future Husband No. 3: The Los Angeles Local

Sometime during the wedding rehearsal, Blonde Beyonce very slyly left me in the company of a man from my home town who was miraculously good looking, available, and hilarious. As it turns out, my execution was fucking flawless, because I managed to A) get his phone number, B) bond with his awesome sister and C) meet his parents (yes, we basically reached month three of dating in one evening).

However, my over-blown confidence about the situation became obvious about the time I was drunkenly stumbling back to my Barcelona apartment with the bride and Blonde Beyonce. “I’M GOING TO MARRY HIM!” I said. “I LOVE HIM!” I said. I was then forced to throw all these sentiments out the window at the reception when I discovered my potential future husband doesn’t fucking dance. Ladies, that’s a deal breaker.

Most romantic moment: The one extremely short text message exchange we’ve had since returning to the states, which went something like this:

Me: “I hope you had a good trip home!”

Future Husband: “Yeah, I did. But now I’m depressed that I’m home.”

Me: “Me too.”

This is the stuff romance novels are made of, yes?

Future Husband No. 4: The Mac Daddy

Upon reaching Seville, my romantic expectations were low and my need to sleep for 3 days straight to recover from the wedding was high. But somehow, Blonde Beyonce and I found ourselves at a sidewalk café near the Alcázar, downing sangria.

Despite reassurances that this was just a “snack,” we ate an entire pan of paella and a plate of French fries; additionally, we each consumed a whole pitcher of sangria. Needless to say, we were slammered. We were so drunk, in fact, that the building next door caught fire and neither of us noticed until a fire truck nearly ran over our table and 30 firefighters paraded by.

After the fire, upon returning to the hostel, we paid 15 to consume unlimited alcohol as part of the hostel’s nightly pub crawl. This turned out to be a particularly terrible idea. At some point, Blonde Beyonce was puking in a pub bathroom, I was on my third caramel vodka shot, and some guy inexplicably nicknamed “Mac Daddy” had started courting me.

Sadly, while Mac Daddy did dance, he was only capable of performing the few moves needed to properly swing dance, à la seventh grade cotillion. When this became frustrating (around the tenth time he’d done it during a stream of electronica), I threw him off by dancing like Techno Viking. He then ran away very quickly.

For your viewing pleasure, Techno Viking:

[Fast forward to the 1:20 mark for instant techno viking.]

Most romantic moment:
Waking up in the hostel room we were both staying in and realizing we had played tonsil hockey the night before. I managed to make it as awkward as possible by giving him a one-armed hug, saying “It was nice to meet you,” and then forgetting to ask his real name.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

If You Are My Friend, I Promise to Shank Your Killer While Wearing My Pajamas and No Makeup if Necessary

Let me set the scene: my travel companion and I have just returned to our hostel from watching a terrible tween flick with Spanish subtitles at a local theater. We´re pulling our suitcases out of a locker and preparing to move them to our new room, located at the top of a flight of stairs, when we are approached by two visibly intoxicated gentlemen.

¨You got an iPhone?¨ones slurs.

I´m not really inclined to lend my phone to this guy - who is inexplicably carrying a boom box - so I pretend I don´t.

¨Where you from?¨ he continues.

We politely answer. ¨Guess where I´m from!¨ he says, now situating himself between Blonde Beyonce and myself. ¨Croatia!¨

Well, that´s nice and all, but this guy is now saying, ¨Do you know where that is?!¨ over and over again. Yes, I have a vague idea where that is, but this dude is starting to get on my nerves.

We try to excuse ourselves and head upstairs, but he won´t get out of the way. ¨Which room are you in?! We are upstairs too!¨

This dude is now inches from Blonde Beyonce´s face and insisting that we invite him and his silent buddy over. Umm, fuck no. The more we try to leave, the pushier he gets. ¨C´mon ladies!¨ His silent buddy turns to me and says, ¨My friend is really drunk.¨ No shit, dude.

I´m now actually now trying to drag my suitcase up the stairs, and drunk dude still won´t get out of the way. Finally, I decide to stop being polite. ¨Hey, dude, back the hell off, okay?!¨

But no dice. And now my guide to not being a creepy motherfucker:

  1. I don´t care how drunk you are, if a woman asks you to back the fuck off, you back the fuck off.
  2. If you don´t back the fuck off, I am going to assume you are a rapist. This means anything goes, and I will not hesitate to A) scream very loudly, B) cause you bodily harm or C) destroy your chances with any other women by telling them all you are probably a rapist.

Now my guide to not being a douche if you are the friend of a potentially creepy motherfucker:

  1. Saying ¨my friend is really drunk¨ does not excuse you from your responsibilities as a human being. You are still required to keep your friend from terrifying all the women in the immediate area.
  2. If one of the women your friend is terrifying says, ¨Hey, please tell your friend to get the hell out of our way,¨ do not respond by offering her an alcoholic substance in a coke bottle. You think I´m a fucking moron? Your friend is probably a rapist and you think I´m going to drink unidentifiable liquor out of your plastic bottle?! I´d just be asking to get roofied.

So, anyway, we finally wrestle our way past these guys and head up to our room. We decide to retire for the night after a few rounds of, ¨Holy shit yo, I think that guy was an axe murderer!¨ After calming down, I quickly fall asleep.

Fast forward a few hours.

I wake up and discover that Blonde Beyonce is, for some reason, not in her bunk. I decide I must be dreaming this. I fall back asleep.

I wake up again, and no, Blonde Beyonce is definitely not in her bunk. I even get up and check, because I think maybe she´s hiding under a blanket. Nope.

This is probably a result of once watching the movie Hostel (which I don´t suggest you ever do), but I immediately jump to this conclusion: Blonde Beyonce went to go brush her teeth and was jumped in the hallway by the axe murderer and now her body is buried in a Madrid alley way.

I spring into action. I grab my keycard and leave the room in my pajama pants with no makeup on (evidence of my commitment to this Blonde-Beyonce´s-been-murdered theory). I check all the hallways. I run into a girl I had met the night before and ask, ¨Have you seen Blonde Beyonce?!¨

¨ she missing?¨ I consider explaining my theory, but that might cause unnecessary alarm, and I want to be able to sneak up on said rapist unannounced.

I creep down the stairs, through the kitchen and around the corner, knowing any minute I could run into Jack the Ripper, when suddenly...I see Blonde Beyonce sitting at the computer.


¨Nah dude, you fell asleep and I wasn´t tired.¨



This was an excellent outcome, as I think it might have been difficult to stab a man in the jugular with a key card, which was, at the moment, my only weapon.

But just know…I totally would have tried.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Procrastinator's Guide to Mildly Functional International Travel*

*Disclaimer: This should not be considered a definitive guide for your next international vacation, as there is probably a lot of other crap you should be doing, like, I dunno, booking the appropriate tours and getting the necessary vaccinations.

To put it in perspective, assume this guide was written by a girl who thought that gauging the extent of a scorpion infestation by the light of her Blackberry in a Thai train car was a perfectly amusing experience.

Contact your bank before you depart. I have a pretty amazing track record of forgetting to notify my credit union that I will be attempting to charge things to my credit and debit cards outside of the U.S. Then they have the gall to get all pissed at me for trying to withdraw forty thousand riel (that's a lot less money than you think it is) from a shoddy ATM next to a fried bat stand in Phnom Penh. Seriously? You guys should know me by now. Even my estranged father assumed that our stock accounts hadn’t really been hacked, as his daughter had “probably been in Australia recently checking her earnings” or something.

Roll with it. Look, I spent $30 on a wicked awesome travel guide, but I’ll bet you another $30 I didn’t even open it (I'd win that bet). I have no idea where I’m going. I probably won’t even know how to pronounce the names of the cities I’m traveling in until I get to them (here’s looking at you, Xi’an). Somehow, this will work out.

If you forgot it at home, you can buy it where you’re going. The exception to that rule is tampons with applicators in Southeast Asia. Repeat: Buy all the Tampax at your local CVS before touching down in Laos. You will thank me.

Getting lost is half the fun. Okay, so, at some point, you’re probably going to have to get from point A to point B and something is going to go terribly wrong. Don’t panic! What’s the worst that could happen? So you could end up sleeping in a “love hotel” (re: place where horny teens hang out) or “DVD Bang” (re: other place where horny teens hang out) in a far-flung Korean province because your friend (ahem, you know who you are) forgot to explain that the main subway route has two branches and now you’re trapped in a dark neighborhood and the metro has stopped running for the night and you don’t have a working cell phone. Channel your anger at your friend into bribing/charming a taxi driver. I mean, it’s not your friend’s fault anyway. You’re the idiot who didn’t properly read the subway map.

Pepto Bismol is your best friend. This wonder-drug has conquered the following foods: water buffalo soup, crispy fried tarantula legs, dog on a stick, dog in a soup, fish sauce, random leaves I wasn’t supposed to be eating, soju dumped in beer, spicy chicken anus, street food that most likely contained stray cat, a burger topped with ham and refried beans, green beans topped with tiny whole fish, pickled mango, crickets on a stick, Vietnamese iced coffee and copious amounts of chili oil. Wow, just thinking about all these things together is making me queasy.

Pack light. Dude, the only people who will know you wore the same pair of pants two weeks in a row are the people you’re traveling with. They’re probably doing the same (unless they showed up with a suitcase the size of a wild boar and now you want to murder them because it takes your whole group to wrangle their suitcase between hostels). If your thoroughly-used jeans are smelly because you went clubbing in them, don’t worry. There’s a bathroom sink and a store that carries detergent somewhere. Hint: Be sure to scrub like mad, because when detergent dries on clothes, it gives them the consistency of cardboard. Also, bleach and detergent bottles can look extremely similar if their labels aren’t in English, and I know you’re not going to want to party in ‘90s acid wash-style jeans.

Carry some crisp American bills. You never know when you have to bribe some guys with machine guns to cross the border into a semi-dangerous nation to avoid being trapped in another country on an expired Visa. (Also, don’t mention this adventure to your mother, okay?)

Fuck traveler’s checks. Basically, these are the most pointless thing ever, and you’re never going to use them.

Is your passport expired? Check that, like, 30 times. This helpful hint is in honor of my poor friend Kirin, who had to venture to Norway without her three siblings due to an expired passport debacle and then was nearly killed in an ill-fated fjord road trip from hell on the day of a bombing and mass shooting (unrelated to the road trip, but I sent her lots of obnoxious “are you okay?!” messages only to discover she was in the hospital due to a completely different catastrophe). I’m sorry Kirin. You win the worst-trip-ever contest.

You live in the United States of America. No matter how tired, dirty, or dehydrated you are, the dudes at customs are still going to make fun of you when you write that you’re from “America” on your customs form. “America” is not a country. Get your shit together.

Purchase a phone card when you arrive at your destination. Phone cards are the best thing ever, and much cheaper and usable if you don’t try to buy one in the U.S. And dude, I know your smart phone gets service, but five dollars a minute is not a reasonable price to pay for convenience. Seriously. I know from experience. (Although, picking up an ex’s phone call to say “I can't talk right now, I’m on a bus in rural Cambodia” was almost worth the five dollars.)

Book your accommodations beforehand. This sounds like common sense, but I'm going to be in Madrid on Saturday, and have booked no accommodations. To save face, whenever someone inquires as to where I'm staying, I shrug and tell them I forgot the name of the hostel. This trip is going to be awesome.**

Don't fall madly in love with a local, marry him/her, and become an ex-pat. I only include this because my mother has been repeating it to me like a broken record for two weeks. I find it troubling that this is the kind of mistake she thinks I'd make (if it, indeed, is a mistake. I think I'd quite like a sexy Spaniard for a spouse). However, mother dearest, I'm much more likely to A) get punched in the face by a lacrosse player, B) take up smoking banana leaf cigarettes, C) be offered services at the brothel I thought was a bar, D) teach prostitutes how to do the Macarena, or E) end up in Vietnamese hospital with an infected foot. (True story.)

**Luckily, the accommodation problem has been remedied by my much more organized travel companion. We are currently at the Way Hostel in Madrid, which is pretty freaking awesome, yo.