Culturally sensitive

Man: So, hey, you guys.

Man: So, you guys, have you guys like noticed, the Greeks, Greek women, have you noticed how they make eye contact? Have you noticed how they really hold eye contact?

Man: Like, make eye contact, and hold it?

Man: [Makes corresponding illustrative hand gestures]

Man: Greek women. Holding eye contact. And maybe sort of smiling?

Non-Greek woman 1: [Peers at man over glasses]

Non-Greek woman 2: Dad, dad, dad.

Man: Oh.

Man: Ah.

Travel plans

Just booked flight/hotel for 3 days in Dublin in May with the (14 yo)  kid. Now I’m fraught with worry that I won’t be able to organize anything interesting for her.

Hang on, she’ll be 15 when we go.

What’s the drinking age in Ireland?

Anyone know any good piercing shops in Dublin?

Things I learned this weekend

In no particular order. Or, rather, in the order that they occur to me as I type frantically.

  • Everyone needs a cello lesson from Ruth. 1
  • Julian Merrow-Smith cooks as well as he paints.2
  • Provence is still beautiful.
  • Ants in Provence live underground which they access through little holes surrounded by perfect circles of sand.3
  • Some cats are friendly but don’t like to be picked up so much.
  • A GPS navigation thing totally gets you where you’re going, but YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE YOU ARE.4
  • Eating dinner with Dean Allen and Gail Armstrong gives you a lobotomy.5
  • One can sleep okay on a train in a sleeper car, but don’t do it alone.6
  • Americans always photograph their food and overtip.
  • Germans will not hesitate to drive a BMW right up your ass on the Autobahn.
  • On the other hand: no speed limit – whee.7
  • My wife is exceptional.8
  • There’s no place like home.


1. Really. I drove to France to have one and it was worth it. Meeting Ruth changed my life. Her understanding of how the instrument is played and what people go through learning and playing it, and what they need to unlearn, her rapport and knowledge and sympathy will change the way you approach the instrument.

2. And he’s a seriously good painter.  This weekend I got the feeling that I had been going about this eating thing all wrong all my life, until now.

3. Also, sometimes Buddhists accidentally step on them and then feel awful, sort of, although, on the other hand, hey, that’s life.

4. When I called to say I would be late due to road construction, near the end of my journey, and Ruth asked me where I was, it dawned on me that I had no idea where I was. All I knew was, I had just crossed a rindabite, second exit, and would soon take another right turn in 400 meters. A journey of 1400 kilometers is reduced to a series of left and right turns. On the other hand, it totally gets you there and I love it. Mine only tried to send me through a pedestrian zone once (and that was a temporary thing set up for a market, not a permanent one) and I only made a single wrong turn (after which the machine talked to me as if I were thick, speaking slowly and clearly and instructing me what to do). Another thing I learned in this connection was to turn the thing off if you put it in your pocket when you go into the service station for a pee, because otherwise you will be standing there going and a mechanical voice in your pocket will suddenly say, “in 50 meters, turn right” and a guy in one of the stalls will snicker. I got out of there before it could say, “If you shake it more than three times it’s a sin” or remind me to wash my hands.

5. At least it did me. They’re friends of my hosts and came to dinner and I sat there like the kid who plays the banjo in Deliverance, grinning and squinting all night and always a little late and a dollar short with the banter, which fuck they’re funny. The first place I heard about blogging was a newspaper article about the two of them, a long time ago.

6. Because if you don’t have a friend or partner or etc with you, the Fat German Guy who smells like six weeks of ass and talks too loud and tries to strike up a conversation while you’re reading and sticks his fat ass in your face while he makes his bunk and his ass smells like, oh now I understand why he smells like six weeks of ass, and he snores will share your compartment with you.

7. Lower-case whee, sans exclamation point, if you drive a compact (Mazda 2) as I do.

8. Saturday was the 30th anniversary of our first kiss, but she let me go to France alone anyway. And when I got back, she gave me a scrapbook of our first 30 years she had been working on over recent months. I haven’t read it yet, but she said she only put in the good parts. Thirty years, man. We were so young once.

GPS Device question

I shall be going on a longish drive in another country fairly soon and have been thinking about getting a GPS navigation device. I was against them for a long time because I think people should use maps and the only people who really need GPS are those devoid of any geographic skills. Which is a pretty good description of me, as it turns out. Also, I need glasses to read a map, but cannot drive with reading glasses, and as this upcoming drive will be sans navigator, a GPS thing is sounding better and better. Have any of you experience with them (esp. in Europe)? Mainly for driving, but flexibility re: applications would be a plus.

Paris update

So we’ve booked flights and a hotel (one of those recommended by Evalyn, thanks!) and are packing walking shoes and have a list of a few places we want to see, and will otherwise be wandering around. That’s about it. Somehow not having really detailed plans is more relaxing for me than a full schedule would be.

A long weekend in southern Styria

Alpha and I went to the southern edge of the Austrian province of Styria last weekend to hike around the vineyards and rolling hills and drink wine. It is right on the border with Slovenia, this area. Here is a picture of a road we walked on for a while – the border meanders down the middle of it: slovborderso I suppose I was actually standing in Slovenia when I took the picture.

It is a pretty time to be there, the leaves are changing and the morning fog is pretty. Our hotel was nice, if a bit larger than we like – we had expected a pension. It was the first hotel bed that didn’t break my back, and the couple who ran the place were very nice and hospitable to us even when we drank a lot of wine and got into circular arguments (with each other, not them).

Also the food is good there. Southern Styria in general, I mean.

We got pretty lost in the woods for a while, which is a tradition of ours, we always do that when we hike with these friends. Once we went to see some bears in cages for some reason. It was about a 3 mile walk, one-way. Returning home was one of the times we got lost. From our hotel, then, upon returning, I noticed you could see the bear cage place from our hotel, about 200 yards away through some vineyards. So I guess we took a real detour.

We drank some Sturm, which is fermented grape juice, but not yet wine. And we ate chestnuts. There are a lot of roadside stands there selling Sturm and chestnuts. I guess if chestnuts were called Drang in German it would be perfect, but unfortunately they’re called Kastanien, which sounds like a former Soviet Republic.

vineyard1Here are some vineyards. We may be looking towards Slovenia there.


The third photo shows more vineyards, this one with a Klapotetz in it, which makes a sound that sounds like the name and is intended to frighten off birds that would otherwise eat the grapes. This is the romantic version of that “Raptor Reloaded” thing I mentioned the other day, where they play modern compositions to drive off the starlings.

I think everyone in our party enjoyed the trip. We may have drunk a little more wine than we should have. At least I think I may have. One morning I couldn’t find my pants right away, and I began to mentally retrace my steps, trying to reconstruct the previous night, because it seemed at that moment entirely logical that my pants could be somewhere other than in our hotel room.

I eventually found them on a chair under my other clothes. But from then on, I kept close track of my pants.

Being posh is so much hard work

Earlier this week I was trying, briefly, to develop an aesthetic of music that encompassed and accounted for every sort of music and sound including the ambient and uncomposed, but then one thing led to another, and the kittens got out and we had to catch them, and one of the big cats brought a mouse home, and we had to put flea collars on all of them, except the tortoise, which my sister-in-law would have stepped on except Gamma hollered in time. Also, we were busy planning my birthday party, and Alpha and Gamma were packing and making arrangements for their trip to Hong Kong, and it occurred to me that maybe I should pack, too,  for my trip to Vicenza this weekend, where my orchestra plays tomorrow (Vicenza fans: I’ll be the guy in the third row of cellos stabbing the cellist to my left in the heart with my bow).

We’re stopping at Venice on our way back on Sunday.

The sun just came out.