A Little Here and Now

Hidey ho and how do you do. I’m stepping out of my stories of the past. I’m here with a little bit of recent news. I am mere single digit days away from finishing my first year as a professional teacher. I’ll take your applause now. To this day there’s a modicum of surprise I still feel about where I am in my life. I’m in Europe, and I’m getting paid to do a job that I had no prior experience in, a job that I wasn’t confident about my own capacity to do for the longest time.

Release the balloons and confetti, pop the champagne, I’ve made it. A few bumps and bruises later, but I can count on one hand the number of times I need to come into work and see those little buggers again. Then, then it happens, that fabled time of childhood. It’s the wondrous three month hiatus not just from school, the holiest and best remembered of youth’s stretches. That time when all the rules that you live by change. Beholden no longer to the bus and bell, summer is unbridled. It is the time of swimming holes and ice cream cones, the time for road trips and camps. There are bikes to be ridden down impossibly steep hills. Friends’ porches provide perfect places for lazy jesting. There are tree houses on high to be built and then scaled. There is too long grass losing its green in need of a trim. There are endless cricket songs to be sung as the sun makes its lonely sojourn from East to West.

There’s a sort of magic to it. The days linger in sunlit gold. Time seems to hold its breath in those moments, and just for that brief span your life holds with it. A parallel, reimagined state of being that you can embody for a scant few months. There’s adventure in those days. Seemingly more adventure than you’ve ever seen before. Those days of summer vacation carry greater weight and meaning than plentiful before. Maybe those days hold secret loves won and lost and left to times remembrance. It’s a collection of moments dearly held in youthful hearts. It withers though as life expands out of adolescence. I have held deep in my heart a fondness for this mythical stretch of time. It is the part of my childhood most lamented in its loss. This year though, that changes.

Being a teacher comes with its fair share of particular problems. Not an easy profession, fraught with headaches. Not a means to especially enrich yourself with monetary gains could it be considered. It makes me feel like I’m gaining back my childhood, something thought lost to the march of time. I am immeasurably excited to fall back into the wonderment.

My today is a few days late because I’ve fallen into a strange malaise waiting for the job to wrap up. Everyone I interact with is carrying this barely concealed burning anticipation. Freedom lies on the horizon, moments from grasp! Because of this, I’ve foolishly convinced myself that it has been a job well done and I deserve a break from everything that isn’t hardcore vegetating. I’m currently running a deficit on all of my constructive behaviors. If I’ve been letting actual responsibilities like cleaning the house and daily showers fall behind, it does not bode well for my self prescribed duties.

The students are exhausted and the merest mention of work books produces anguished cries of persecution. They don’t want to learn. I can’t blame them. As their instructor, I barely wish to be there myself. Strong faces are assumed. We go about our business because it is what is expected. It’s a cleverly acted charade of the usual.

Not a single man, woman, or child can state that they are not fed up and through with lessons. This is not hyperbole; I have not had a conversation with anyone that has not begun with their adamant desires for the cessation of schooling. The strange thing is that I wasn’t at the end of my patience before everyone else made it their goal to tell me I should be. Suggestion is a force of power though because I too am counting the moments to freedom. In the immortal words of A. Cooper, “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.”

So, that’s me today, as of this moment in time. As snapshot of attitudes briefly possessed and then wordily expressed. I’ve got a lot to look forward to; it’s going to be an exciting summer. Hopefully I can keep up my creative habits in the face of my lazy ones. If anything fun happens, you can bet it’ll end up here. Here I sit, wistfully optimistic wishing everyone out there a good day, good night, and good reading.

Halloween V: Hell Train II: Redemption

We had achieved what we had set out to do, spend Halloween night in a “vampire” castle. The grand experience was over though and as we groggily got to our feet the next morning; we still had five days left in Romania. We had blown our Romanian load. How do you fill the better part of the week, when you have no idea of what to do? Well, if at first you don’t succeed, drink, drink again.

Because we are Americans, and thus perpetual eat monsters, our move was to grab some traditional Romanian cuisine. Down a narrow alley and up several flights of stairs to an establishment that promised food and drink we went. It was a lovely pub that delivered on its promise with delectable eats. The wait staff was fun and excited to talk to us foreign devils. There was still some holiday spirit left lying about the place so they decided to inject it into their serving staff, who went about their activities in costume. It was great fun getting our order taken by a skeleton, having the drinks served by a zombie, and bussing our tables was a lovely young man decked out in Rastafarian blackface. Wait what? What the what, with the blackface? Yes I’ll have the fries, but can you hold the racism? As an American who is mostly white but doesn’t think the South should rise again,

I found it infinitely perturbing watching this guy go about his business in full minstrel show attire. Not for the first time was I reminded that Central Europe just does not have a firm grasp race relations with black people. Unsurprisingly there’s not a lot of variation in melanin levels in this part of the globe, and as such they find it hard to wrap their head around racism being seen as a negative my non black people. They go about race relations like black people are from fantasy novels, somewhere between elves and cave trolls. But my friends did describe it as having the best schnitzel in the world, so at least there’s that going for it.

We took our time just exploring all that the bohemian shopping district carefully crafted to relieve wealthy foreigners of their money had to offer. We toured, funnily enough, the Black Church so named for the grand fire which blackened the walls and roof of the religious structure. Crepes of delectable nature were consumed at frightful speed. I bought a Swiss Army knife because I had very little faith in the Romanian transportation authority not trying to slow cook me again. My girlfriend purchased a beret, it’s stylish. As the day went on, the wind chill kicked up and the air went from being crisp to being almost frozen. Everyone is in winter coats and here I am wearing a button up and a t-shirt. Not to be deterred, we braved the cold to quest for liquid refreshment. We purchased a much alcohol and retired to our flat to watch 1930s Dracula in Transylvania and playing drinking games. To complete the theme, we decided that we needed to drink Bloody Marys. The cans of tomato sauce that I believed that I purchased turned out to be cans of shriveled tomatoes floating in red goo. Not to be deterred by a little thing like edibility, we mixed up cocktails that could be described as Bloody Mary adjacent. The night ended as well as expected.

The next day we had one more stop at the crepe place and went souvenir shopping for friends and family. Our time in Brasov was at an end, and it was time to get to our next location. We got on the train, and picked the first cabin that had room. After the train moved on some girls come by and said we needed to move because we had taken their seats, they then proceeded to unhelpfully block our exit thus making it more difficult to vacate their cabin. We meandered up the train to procure a new cabin. When the ticket taker comes by, he takes our tickets and mumbles in Romanian how we’re in the wrong place, however he must have decided that attempting to make us understand how foolish we were was high above his pay grade. He shrugs off the inconvenience and walks away. At speed the scenery is gorgeous. Once we pass the city limits, hills and mountains jut into the sky. The autumn colors decorate as far as the eye can see making the hills appear on fire as they pass by our window. The tall hills turn grey and then disappear into a white cap of snow which then blends into the clouded sky.

We achieved Bucharest and to save money we walked to our Airbnb. Bucharest is a city of interesting atmosphere. The majority of the buildings are of old communist design, geometric to a fault, seemingly designed to discourage individuality or excitement. Oppressively dour is a way I would describe parts of it, and what a lovely hue of depression they invented to go along with it. It felt like a place where boiled cabbage would be considered too spicy for native tastes. Perhaps it was the oppressive sensation radiating off of every concrete surface or perhaps it was the activity of the last few days but we ended up crashing hard at our flat. It was a strange sort of vacation away from our vacation, Bucharest. We would get up in the morning and like infant birds wearily clamor for sustenance. Sluggishly we ventured forth to what remained of old town where the most expensive food and drink could be obtained in tourist friendly themed establishments, being careful to avoid the strip clubs and “massage parlors” every five meters. We would consume meats, potatoes, starches, and all things fried in amounts suitable to power our languid ramblings through the few square kilometers of old town that we could muster the energy enough to peruse. The walking served only a momentary diversion for our minds and bellies, entertaining us so that a few hours hence we could devour and drink again. We didn’t so much eat, as we became one with the gorge. Three full days, this was our existence, with me leading the party out in the mornings and back to the flat ever so much heavier in the evenings.

There was this statue of a naked man holding up a dog though, so that’s nothing to scoff at.

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The next day we left bright and early for Sibiu to see if we could get a little bit more historical before we had to return home. We only spent six or so hours in Sibiu, but it had an amazing old town. All signs point to Sibiu being the tourist capital of the entire country of Romania, and a city with a great deal of history behind it. We went to a Scottish Pub and later a Romanian one because food perpetuates our very existence. We took many pictures.

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Our grand adventure was for all intents and purposes supposed to be over as we boarded the ten hour night train home. However, the spirits of transportation past weren’t willing to let us go without a final struggle. With long journey ahead we had made sure to get assigned beds in a sleeper car. Once boarded, we discovered we had a travelling companion who I shall henceforth refer to as Lord Bed Thief. You see, Sir Bed Thief had deprived me of my sleeping location and was rather asleep for me to make a fuss over. Ascending to the less comfortable top bunk I proceeded to become unconscious with both rapidity and efficiency for what should have been a long and enjoyable rest. What actually happened at 4:00 A.M. was commotion in the car and a conspicuous absence of motion that one would expect from a train. Over the better part of an hour commotion evolved into utter confusion, culminating in all of the passengers being told to vacate the train. Into the blistering pre-dawn frigidity we were herded to a farm cottage labeled a train station. It was very much not Budapest. We were on the Hungarian/Romanian border and replacement busses were on the way to send us on our way. Still confusing but a plan of action it was.

A large luxury liner shows up, and becomes filled with miserable people immediately, filled into the aisles with standing passengers. The bus doors close and then the bus proceeds to very quickly do nothing but wait for the next hour. Continuing the theme, we have no clue as to why. By 7:00 in the morning a second bus arrives and this time my travel companion and I rush the bus to get actual seats for this journey of unspecified length. The second bus fills up quickly too, but runs into some unforeseen snags. A woman named Mustard Pants is one of the last to board the second and presumable last bus. For room reasons, she had to have her bag in the other bus which caused her to experience a luggage meltdown, a fact which she loudly and Americanly made known to the bus. Seeing the necessity for compliance and being yelled at by her friends convinced her to take the path of least resistance.

Then, lastly, to cap off this particular leg of the journey, right as the busses were readying to trundle on a louder and more wrathful yelling erupted from the front of the bus. Who decided that their needs were not being properly met in this whole bargain, why it was none other than Monseigneur Bed Thief himself. The treatment shown to him was unusual and horrifying to his refined palate. To this point, there had been two Hungarian police officers groggily looking over the proceedings, and his wrath was not to be ignored by these simpletons, a fact he made known first to the bus driver and then rather wisely to the two police officers. Proclaiming the illegality of cramming this many people onto a bus, he held on to that point like a token to ward off common sense, demanding to see managers, highers up, or any who should know that Grand Vizier Bed Thief felt such inconveniences. Around the shrieks of blind malice was the missive that if the bus did not leave in five minutes we would miss our connection and the next train to Budapest would leave in six hours. The cranky huddled masses we not willing to extend leniency towards His Excellence during his one man crusade against injustice. Cries of sit down or get out were flung, and Great Chief Bed Thief knew his mutiny had failed. He made sure to stop and take pictures of the police officers and the bus license plates, all the while promising to rain hellfire upon his persecutors. And with that he disappeared into the misty morning, presumably to kick an orphan out of bed before complaining that the comforter wasn’t down. As a nice change of pace though, it was fun to hear a disgruntled Romanian on public transportation yelling in English.

The “illegal” busses took us passengers to the first of two separate train transfers. Inconvenient, maybe, but for the first time in five hours physical progress was being made towards our final destination, I was not about to complain out loud. Seeing its other plots fail to defeat, us the vengeance demon that controls all Central European transportation returned to its old tricks. The heat was cranked to levels that would make magma ask for a fan, and windows locked tight to preserve our essences as they left our bodies. However, I held a talisman of light in this infinite darkness. Swiss army knife in hand, I opened the windows to the literal applause of my fellow travellers. Thus defeated once and for all was the Spirit of Helltrain.

A bus ride and two separate trains later, we finally arrived home at the station a mere six hours late. I complain, but later we discovered that we had actually been the lucky train. The ordeal was caused because the train ahead of us had derailed. All in all, could have been worse.

Well, that was a hell of a saga. I promise that I am finally finished and you my readers are finally free from the month of October 2016. I can proceed yet again closer towards the present. Thank you everyone for seeing this holiday recounting through to its end. Join me next week for something, anything not this. Until then, good day, good night, and good reading.

Halloween IV: Blogsurrection

A party in Dracula’s castle? How could I refuse? When I originally outsourced my fall vacation to the whims of my friends, this was the big selling point and basically the only point of the entire trip that I had any knowledge about. I had decided that a mystery vacation to a country I’d never been to would be a grand scheme. How pleasantly surprised was I when the train deposited me and my party to our first location Brasov. For the low, low price of surviving the tribulations of Hell Train, I was treated to a feast for the eyes.

Founded in the early 13th century by Teutonic Knights, the city was perfectly positioned to gain economic and political and influence, due to it being situated at the middle of trade between the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe. This affluence helped the city to grow into the impressive place that it is today. It is not hard to recognize the old world beauty of this town. Resting in a valley, like most cities in a mountain range, the city is overlooked on all sides by lush forested mountains.

It is a city which is proud of its heritage with a great number original medieval buildings still standing in the historical center. This medieval splendor is something that was eminently visible once we realized that our Airbnb had a rooftop terrace. Red roofed buildings radiate outwards from the center of the city, reaching outwards to the fall tinged hills overlooking the town. It was definitely something that my meager photography skills struggled to adequately represent.

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After a brief period for refreshment we began to prepare ourselves for the evening’s event. Donning costumes and preparing makeup our little group became ghoulishly presentable over the course of a few hours. The evening greeted us with a fall’s expected chill as we set foot into the grand square of the city. Our destination this evening is one overpriced taxi ride further into the Carpathians. The village of Bran is a small and unassuming mountain town that looks as though it is normally home to ten shopkeeps. However, on this date, the population was bolstered by what had to be several thousand foreign merrymakers. The one main street and every store front were bursting with ghouls and ghosts. The boisterous becostumed crowd was here for the draw of the evening. The city too donned its costume for Halloween.

“I can’t believe that we’re standing where the real life Dracula lived.” I’m sure that my brain boozily muttered to itself as we turned down the walk which would lead to the famed structure Castelu Bran. Bran Castle, as it very simply translates, nestles itself picturesquely between two very large and prominent mountains in the Carpathian range. Fittingly, the castle in question is also a place that lies in between fact and fiction. The purported infamy and mystery surrounding this location has somewhat less to do with historical truth than with the power of myth and misunderstandings.

Over one hundred years ago, an Irishman with a flair for the melodramatic heard the name of a Wallachian prince with a nasty reputation. The prince’s name lent an air of mystery to the Irishman’s manuscript about malevolent supernatural beings that went bump in the night. It is also believed that said Irish author was exposed to an image of a castle in distant Romania, one whose exterior could easily instill a sense of foreboding and dread. It would be a place where readers could imagine repugnant rituals and devilish deeds being perpetrated. Thus was the most classic of horror tales penned with strange connections to the reality which inspired it.

Closer to historical record though is that various internal power struggles in medieval Central Europe led to Vlad Tepes also known as Vlad Dracul also known as Vlad the Impaler being captured by a Hungarian army because anyone who is blessed with the moniker “Impaler” probably isn’t the nicest guy. Our dear old Vlady did indeed reside in Bran Castle, but he only did so for a few months as a prisoner in transit.

Now, whether due to it resembling the descriptions of Count Dracula’s Castle or its location deep in the Carpathian Mountains or even due to the fact that encouraging the connection brings in tourism dollars, this structure has been irreparably associated with the Dracula mythos.

This string of historical research was likely lost on the line of hundreds of entrants just looking to witness Halloween glory. Fictitious or not the castle was sure outfitted to draw on the expectations. There was something awe inspiring in the way an imposing obelisk was cut into the night with Technicolor laser light shows. It sets the stage rather well. There was a kaleidoscopic light display running its way across the face of the castle. It was a feast for the eyes, crimson hues danced across the roiling beclouded sky. Blood dripped down the most prominent façade. It was very gothic in the pants with too many zippers kind of way.

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We went up the hill that lead to the castle. There we traded in the trite and uninteresting activity of waiting around in a big open exterior area for the glamour of standing still in line through claustrophobic stone corridors of a castle. There was only one path to take and it corralled the drunken masses single file through the castle. My girlfriend had again taken on the persona of the undead pirate, which was something that a string of drunken Russian pirates loved to no end. I don’t speak Russian, but I do believe that they were inviting her to be their captain. She tactfully declined. Our tour proceeded under the watchful eye of “Vlad Dracul” who excitedly offered photo ops to good looking women.

Rain fell as we descended slick stones towards the last event of the evening. Down in the clearing, overlooked by the castle’s watchful gaze, a driving beat was fueling a heaving mass of becostumed bodies. This was the part of the evening I most looked forward to, an all-night dance off led by the creatures of the night, only to disperse as the dawn drove the undead to their darkened corners. As we stood in line to get into the bursting at the seams tent, the light rain became torrents of water descended upon us. What had been the polite concept of the line then decided that all life depended on entering that tent. We were swarmed as the rains pelted the cold and angry mass awaiting to gain entry to the capacity filled party. I was excited to play up my role as lord of the dance, but I could glean from the looks of my friends and the angry words from their mouths that they were unwilling to wait for the line to dissipate. So we called it there. We left the pounding beat and luminous castle behind to procure near suicidally reckless transportation back.

We were cold and tired, but since me and my miss were all dressed up we decided to give partying one last chance. We marched up the central tourist area looking for an establishment to haunt and found and Irish basement bar. In the brick vaulted basement there was joyous chaos. Dancing on the table was highly encouraged. We got some drinks and listened to Romanian punk rock music as I loosened into my groove. Before too long the DJ worked his way into 80s and 90s English hit songs. I twirled and swirled to the music, but I really came into my own as Tina Turner began to roll down the river. A circle was formed so that I could ply the wondrous wares of my motion for my growing fanbase. Camera phones came out, and I was the evening’s dancing queen. We left not long after because a flock of floozies elbow checked my Pirate Queen to get a closer look at me. Good for my ego, not so good for the happiness of my long term partner. Somewhere along the way my vest was unfortunately sacrificed to appease the deities of dance.

Thus do I wrap up my tale of Halloween havoc. Tune in next week as I finish recounting the events of fall break and finally proceed with my life. Thank you for coming along with me through this adventure, my fair listener. To all of you out there, I say good day, good night, and good reading.

Detour Continues 5 km

Welcome back to another junior round of writing as led by me Mr. Miscellaneist. A miniature manuscript if you will. You see, I’m currently on the come down right now. Hot off the heels of seven days of planes, trains, and blistered tootsies. I am not sure if it’s my aging sensibilities or the fact that awaiting me at the Lisbon airport with a big name card was my personal chauffeur, respiratory infection, but I have been blessedly exhausted by the adventure. Now I am at home recuperating my much wearied constitution. It was a grand Portuguese adventure that will rest long in memory, and the story will be told in greater detail sometime down the road.

I am gazing into the coming week of work wearily, and I realize that my attitude requires alteration away from the airy and aloft attentions to turn back towards the Monday morning mundanities. I contemplate there is little better means of readjusting to the routine than to return to my written records and recalled recitations. As may have become already apparent by my abuse of alliteration and this thesaurus thumping that I terrifyingly tread through, I haven’t really much by the way of actual content to entertain and amuse you today. Flexing my fingertips in flamboyant phonetic flourishes is fanciful foible of mine, an exhaustive exercise in exacting extra expertise unto exasperation. Concerned with a questionable cancellation of the continued chronicles upon this continent, I conceived and concocted a clever contrivance to continue creating content of questionable quality.

Beginning one humble hour before vacation’s end, minutes rush to meet midnight. The hour calls for slumber’s onerous harvest, heeding me halt the happenings of my hands. However, in my hopeful hubris I happily haggle and hash hundreds of haltingly heady harmonies and half rhymes in hopes of handing out a whole essay in one humble hour.

And it seems as though my time is through. Midnight is here and slumber calls me back into the responsibility. I did manage to scrape together some semblance of a post in that limited time. This one was a bit out of left field, an entire post without any substance but words for their own most verbose sake. I did garner some enjoyment in writing this exercise in vocabulary extension, and I hope that you derived some entertainment from it yourselves. Next week will be a return to form with me delving back into the narrative I began a month ago, thank you for sticking with me through this little detour. Blame the vacation for my madness. To those of you still reading, I thoroughly apologize, I know not what I do. I’m sure you wait for my next installment with bated breath, but in the meanwhile I wish you a good day, a good night, and good reading.