This isn’t good

Found crumpled up in my mailbox

I stepped out into the cool night to force myself awake, to eat when I wasn’t hungry, to battle the fatigue and shakes of being totally off-kilter from time zone leaps.

This note was stuffed in my mailbox, haphazardly. The response to the homicide (as it has been ruled) of Nathaniel Jones by Cincinnati Police.

At first I felt a bit exposed as a white man in a diverse neighborhood reading this note by streetlight. Exposed as the guy who is never present in the community, but who works downtown and has clients downtown and eats at restaurants downtown.

I want so desperately for things to change. For there not to be the need for this anger, these boycotts. I don’t want more riots.

Sitting on the couch reading the page over and over, I felt some twinge that this was a voice trying to do something without resorting to more violence. After councils and agendas fail, what are the options?

Ultimately I’m not sure how to fix what is wrong: Is this a war on drugs or procedures? The former issue will be buried in the media, but the brutality of the latter will color my hometown.

This isn’t good.

Partial list of advice from my future self

Here I am twenty years later patching in old posts from Livejournal between tasks. It’s honestly a lovely bit of reflection with built in parameters.

On this day December day in 2003 I posted about Playmobil toys and a portable toilet, leaving this selfie to collect virtual dust in a digital folder. I just re-discovered it today, March 14, 2023.

I have so much I want to say to this young man, though I cannot remove the furrow from his brow — it has only deepened over the years. The thing is to come to grips with that and all the other wrinkles. (It’s the moles that will really annoy you.)

  • Wear too much sunscreen.
  • Avoid overdraft fees.
  • Make a budget and stick to it.
  • Save a little of every paycheck.
  • When you go off on your own, get a credit card but pay the full balance every month. Otherwise save up for whatever it is you want.
  • (Insert more sound financial advice from the future that I have yet to learn.)
  • Trust and value yourself.
  • Save some time for exploring without purpose.
  • You don’t need to know what you’re going to be right away. Also? It can change over your lifetime.
  • If you find yourself in a rut? Know that you can alter course right now.
  • If you can’t alter your course or feel overwhelmed, spend time with someone you trust and share those feelings.
  • Reach out randomly when folks cross your mind.
  • Instead of saying no, find a partial yes.
  • You don’t need to be a part of every yes.
  • There’s no real sense in comparing yourself with others’ success.
  • Order extras of that thing you love that will wear out.
  • Anything is available outside of Amazon. Get it there. (Unless you really really need it right away).
  • You don’t have to justify things if you don’t care.
  • Care as much as you can.
  • Don’t cross post anything ever — copy and paste to the native platform.
  • If you see a penny heads up, pick it up for good luck. If it’s heads down, flip it over and make your own luck by being proactive.
  • Don’t rely on luck.
  • Write things down for the future you.
  • Buy fewer bananas than you think you’ll want to eat.

I’ll add more later or have the computer figure it out when the plugins get better.

More butch toys

Fun for all ages: a Port-o-let

One of the cool finds in Cologne was the Lego® store. Not that this is anything special for Europe, but there were a few Lego lovers in our group.

It’s sorta sad though, when you see the product lineup for the toymaker of late. Sports, Bionicle, the Orient Express (huh?), licensed things like Star Wars, Spiderman and Harry Potter. With all these new specialized pieces, some of the fun seems to be taken out. And what the flarn happened to Technics? It’s like areodynamic and bleh. Oh, and lest I forget, they now have a line called Clikit – customizable fashion accessories for girls… Hmmmm.

If I want to build a castle, I want to build it brick by brick. Not have some dumb wall piece with built-in arch and screen printed faux texture resembling stones.

Anyways, aside from Lego, I was happy to find this Playmobil® set at the Frankfurt airport. Every kid needs a plastic scale replica of a toilet, especially if it comes with a bearded construction worker in a flannel shirt.

Sure Playmobil is somewhat like the new “no need to build” Lego, but it is at least generic and allows children to use their imaginations to build stories. There are no licensed tie-ins with hot summer movies. It’s basic stuff. Like pirates, vikings, cowboys, cityfolk and farmers. I never thought of it, but you could assemble the cast of the Village People with Playmobil figures.

Frankfurt to Cincinnati

The loud toddler points at the projection unit

“Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.” This is the high pitched noise the toddler makes when something bad happens: Something shiny becomes dim. A book or snack is completed. Or of course, if it is too silent.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiii” This is the high pitched noise the toddler makes when something favorable happens: Dad tickles him. The flight attendant brings out a cookie (No more sugar you idiots!). Or of course, if it is too silent and nothing bad is happening.

5.5 hours on the tarmac of the aborted flight + 8.5 hours of the actual flight the following day, I sat listening to this kid while watching the same looped programming on the badly focused and off-centered video screen on Delta’s flight from Frankfurt to Cincinnati.

Our video selection at the time of this photo? A program about amazing dogs. This particular dog, Lulu, half golden retriever and half golden lab, works at a home with autistic children. Lulu has a disposition for kids: meaning, she has been trained not to bite their heads off when they grab tufts of her fur.

I channeled Lulu’s spirit as I sat there on my numb tailbone, put on headphones and read my book, unable to sleep.

The canceled flight was the only crappy part of the trip. I enjoyed the sights, food, company and being unplugged immensely. There are photos. A gig of ’em. Some may be ok with color correction and cropping.

Noch auf Deutschland

(Insert picture of Frankfurt Airport)

Mechanical problems. Sat on tarmac for 5.5 hours. Flight cancelled. Got sandwich. This kezboard is weerd.

Home soon? (fingers crossed)

Europe: Day 10 – Relaxing

Our last day in Europe and we decided to take a day and relax at a spa. Not just any spa, but a fancy one about an hour away in Aachen. This gave us the opportunity to visit a Christmas Market without the crowds and enjoy some Frühwein Glühwein together.

The group was a little tired at this point, and we were all a bit glazed bumbling around the city. A tangent trip into the smaller cathedral proved to be quite nice. The stained glass was funky.

We found the spa and finally figured out the entry and locker system and were raring to go. I had my fantastic newly acquired bad german swim trunks and towels borrowed from the hotel. This place, the Carolus Thermen, was like an indoor waterpark. A family joint, it had all sorts of pools and hot tubs. You could swim outside to a “swirly” pool that fired up every half hour or so and created a current around the perimeter where you could float or swim. It was great fun and I think we managed to get there three times.

I stepped inside the first sauna of my life, and I stepped out a few minutes later. It was hot and dried my nose out. Made me sneezy.

The highlight though, was the “tepid room.” A place to quasi-meditate that was perfectly suited to the body’s temperature. After trying to focus, I eventually found myself floating away in a nap.

The tepid room was the first step of a complicated German process, but we failed to complete the other steps as there were no clocks or clear labels for the steps.

One last swim in the whirly pool, and it was time to head back to the hotel. Some Döner kebabs for din-din and an insanely early flight awaited each of us.

It was a great way to end the trip.

Europe: Day 9 – My poop is green

The big event

After a day of getting all the shopping done we could, we prepared ourselves for the big event of the weekend.

Needless to say, a tangent is appropriate: All the dietary changes, the cheese and air-cured meats, the beer, the wine, the vita-drinks, caught up to my bowels. Not pretty. Which pretty sums up the main event at the bear run.

There was a loose hollywood theme, and contestants sang bad Madonna songs and other showtunes with the lyrics changed to incorporate bear lingo.

It was a large space yet everyone crowded around the doors in an impassable thicket. We sat in the back with plenty of space and yawned. Bad Americans, us, we left early only to find the coatcheck was under duress. High-tailed and proper train found, we went back to the hotel and got our stuff packed. Lounged around and watched TV, played with Legos and drank a few.

Europe: Day 8 – Glühwein

The Christmas Market at the foot of the Cathedral

I took today to explore the city on my own while the other fellas went to the sauna. There was cautious tones that there may be long lines and I have that standing-in-long-lines disorder.

So off on a merry way, I found Glühwein at the Christmas market was a great way to follow a wurst with kicky mustard to warm up the day. I wandered around, doing some shopping for the holidays, and stumbled upon the Römisch-Germanisches Museum, outlined in our travel memo as a good place to visit.

It was. I enjoyed the type of course, and peering closely at the artifacts within.

That night, while everyone else was tuckered, I went out to the disco.

There was a staggering amount of people, and I couldn’t finish my beer fast enough to get back to the hotel. Whereupon I nursed a tasty Czech Budweiser and went to bed.

Europe: Day 7 – Shopping and ice cream

The streets of Cologne

A lull of a day, planted in the middle of the trip after we’d experienced many sights, sounds and tastes. We took some time to explore the city and wander through shops. Holiday decorations were going up all around and the Christmas Markets were planted in every square. As touristy as this place is, it didn’t seem over-done. The vibe was genuine.

We went to likely the best CD store I’ve been to aside from Amoeba. It was a little overwhelming and I didn’t have a crib sheet with me, but perusing the aisles was good fun.

Afterward, we avoided Starbucks and had some fancy ice creams with liqueurs. Actually, I had hot chocolate. We took a moment to piece together a torn up note we picked up along our walk, in hopes to recreate a moment from Amelie. Sadly, the letter writer Nils had nothing much to go on, other than he was gifting a ring and sorry about a death in a family.

There were no other clues or poignant meaningful messages. We shed no tears over our ice cream.

Europe: Day 6 – You say Cologne, I say Köln (poorly)

I ♥ European timetables

Leaving Amsterdam seemed jolting. After I had just realized I had no notion of how to get around, it was time to leave. Alas, it was a nice pace of getting up and having one last breakfast at the Golden Bear. This consisted of meats, cheese, bread, juice, coffee or tea. I had been stuffing extra sandwiches in my bag that had come in handy over the course of the trip.

Brian and I managed to get ourselves to the station and on the right train without our cruise director. They were off earlier on a sidetrip to visit family of some sort.

The ICE was a nice ride. With ‘lectrical outlet for computery types, nice seats that reclined. Fancy LED lights at the head of the car, and countless amenities.

I studied the train schedules and marveled at the nice information design while the scenery zipped by. It was an overcast day and the line between Netherlands and Deutschland was a blur.

We got to the hotel and rejoined with our travel companions not much later and probably went to a bar.

It was a pretty swank hotel considering (the room had a bidet!), and sleep was prudent, albeit increasingly difficult with the onset of jetlag.

Europe: Day 5 – Museum, Beer, Vittles and More

Photo by Brian Smith

The Stedelijk Museum was first on the agenda, and it rocked. I was a little amused that the Marmot and I would gravitate toward the same pieces of art. And what a fun variety this place contained. So many good things, I’ll leave most of the detals to a gallery to be posted later.

Afterward, we found ourselves breaching the memo and hitting the Heineken Experience (Brewery Tour). Dang, this place was totally different than it was 10 years ago, and way more funner. Yeah, i said it. FUNNER.

Four visitors at the photo booth in the Heineken museum tour

Interactive exhibits. Rides of sorts (with disco lights no less). Great interior space design. Those kiosks where you can send photos and videos to friends (see above), and of course BEER. Well, three beers that is.

I think every museum should have kiosks to send internet pictures and videos, and beer.

Dinner that evening was spicier than J-Lo.

Then it was time for some relaxing downtime. I watched The Fugitive with Brian and threw caution to the wind after it was over. I went out to meet Brodie and Gus for one last night on the town and bumped into a friend of the BearsGoneWild to boot. It was a quiet night at the bars, but I much preferred it. Got to converse and drink.

3am came way too soon, no coffeehouses seemed open, so I headed home begrudgingly and found the 15 minute walk turn into an hour and a half street-wandering.

The weather was mild though, and I didn’t feel like a mark when i would take out my cruddy map to realize how much more lost I was.

Amsterdam is a fine place. Two thumbs up.

Europe: Day 4 – Sex Museum and the haircut from hell

Waking up, we’d every intention of following the travel itinerary (“the memo”) and hitting some museums. But I hadn’t a moment to get a trim before leaving the states and we passed this wonderful barbershop in the leather-district of Amsterdam.

So I bumble in and take my seat for what would turn out to the longest and most frustrating haircut I’ve ever had. Tiny Tina, my barber, will laugh once I tell her that i cheated on her with two fey leathermen from the Netherlands who fought over how much hair they could remove from my mug.

Blah blah blah. Language barriers aside. I walked out 2 hours later, pounds lighter it SEEMED.

Did we go to the Foam photography museum at this point? I have no idea. It was incredibly forgettable.

Met back up with Brodie and Gus for a tour of the Sex Museum. I have better porn than this place, though it was relatively amusing and cheap. They really should serve beer, it’d be much more accessible.

The only thing I remember from the rest of the evening is something about throwing a weiner down a hallway.

I think.