Tag: travel and humor

10 Things I learned in Stockholm

The best King George slaying the dragon statue is in Stockholm.

Some flea market items aren’t worth asking about.

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I read about the great art in the Stockholm metro system…I must have been in the wrong metro stops.

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Watch out for arrows to the crotch, pole dancing might happen on this metro car, no smoking, dogs wear bonnets, Big Brother is Watching!

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(Grumpy old man observation.) If you are in a church and there are areas roped off, that means don’t go there. I don’t care if you have had piano lessons for ten years and really want to tickle the ivories…don’t do it. And if you are a parent of a kid playing a piano in a roped off area I hope you have fun explaining to the judge why your kid never learned to follow rules.

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This is a thing.

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Your metro pass can be used on the harbor ferry.

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Rats in Stockholm are well fed.IMG_4870

 

The changing of the guard in Stockholm is fun.Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 7.34.27 AM

Stockholm’s weather can be confusing.IMG_4832

Sunny

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20 minutes later

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Monsoon

 

Goldilocks in Prague

There is something perfect about Prague. I cannot put my finger on it. I don’t mean that the city is perfect, because it isn’t, but there is something about the city that is just right.

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When we arrived in Prague we had visited seven pretty interesting cities but each of the cities had their flaws: Oslo and Copenhagen are expensive, Amsterdam’s weather could be better, Munich was too hot, Vienna was a little too opulent, Bratislava was a little small, Budapest was a little too Soviet Block, and then we arrived in Prague and it fit like two year old Birkenstocks.

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Our hotel was in the Mala Strana (Little Side or Lesser Town) and will remain unnamed (Golden Star) because I don’t want you taking my room (33) next time I’m in town. One of the best things about Prague is that you would have to try pretty hard to overspend on a hotel. You could do it, but you can also find 300 hotels for less than $50 a night and I’m not talking about hotel rooms that are located next to the airport or near the meat packing district, these $50 rooms are going to be clean, well-located, and have free breakfast.

 

The next thing that is great about Prague is that you would have to try pretty hard to overspend on a meal. Czech meals are meat and gravy extravaganzas that are best washed down by the cleanest, freshest, cold beer you can find in the world. A platter of meat, potatoes, dumplings, slaw, and gravy and two beers will set you back about $10. (If you eat like this for a lifetime you’ll probably die by the time you get to the age of 50, but you will die fat and happy.)

The last wonderful thing about Prague is that there is always something to do. This is a city that opens early and stays open all night. The parks are vast, the collection of museums spans interests, and history oozes from every corner. Want to do an idiotic bar crawl? Well, hang out in the central square around 10 PM and look for the guys wearing the shirts that say, “The Greatest Night You Will Never Remember.” Want to see work by Mucha? There is a small Mucha museum and his great work The Slavic Epic is on display in one of the major museums in town. Like Kafka? Go visit his tiny house on the Golden Lane next to St. Vitus’ Cathedral, or drop into the Kafka Museum and learn about one of the world’s most interesting writers. Even if you are flat broke Prague is a town where you can have a great time. Wander the streets, get lost (which isn’t hard), watch people, hang out on the Charles Bridge, sit in a park overlooking the city, sneak into St. Vitus’ Cathedral with a tour group, and eat street food for a fraction of what it costs anywhere else in Europe.

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Our visit to Prague wasn’t perfect, but it was just right. Maybe it wasn’t as great as I think, sometimes things seem better in the moment than they really were, but someday I’ll find out when I get back to Prague.

 

 

 

Whistler, BC: Is this love?

If Whistler were a man he would look younger than his years, have hidden scars of past relationships and injuries buried deep beneath his North Face jacket, and either be the greatest guy you ever met or a completely self-centered jerk. Before opening yourself to Whistler you should ask a few of your friends if he is right for you because once you fall for him it is going to be tough to ever find someone/someplace who/that measures up to him. He’s got some serious baggage, but he is also so…so, well you know what it is like to fall for a guy like him.

He looks good. I mean from ten feet away he is one of the most striking men you will ever meet, but once you get up close and start hugging him you’ll notice that he could use a shower and a shave. He’s one of those guys with the residual dirt beneath his nails. He’s cool with it. He knows that hygiene isn’t his strength. Sure he could button up a little more and moisturize, but he isn’t that type of dude, he’s got mountains to ski, trails to hike, and beer to drink. He doesn’t have time to be the perfect man. He’s not going to change for you, so ask yourself,  “Are ready to change for him?”

It's tough not falling for a guy who cleans up so nice.

It’s tough not falling for a guy who cleans up so nice.

Whistler is also one of those guys who is also sneaky expensive. He’s always asking for $40 for this and that, and you’re pretty sure you had a $20 bill in your wallet last night but now you can’t find it. You don’t mind heading back to the room to cook rice and beans, but he wants you to eat out at that corner restaurant with the heat lamps and the tables overlooking the main square. You know the one. Sitting there having a few drinks with Whistler is perfect, but then, when it is time to pay, the bill is always larger than expected and he left his wallet back in the condo. He says he’ll pay you back, but he never will and you know it.

He respects his elders, but you're not sure you want to introduce him to your parents.

He respects his elders, but you’re not sure you want to introduce him to your parents.

When you have just about had it with him, you take a bike ride to clear your mind and you remember why you fell in love with this guy in the first place.

He's smooth in the right ways.

He’s smooth in the right ways.

And rough in the right ways.

And rough in the right ways.

Your friends warned you about him and they were right. You’ll never find a guy who can measure up to him. You don’t need all that other stuff. If you have him, and your rice and beans, what else could you need? He’ll take you out to the lakes during the summer and in the winter, oh, the winter is when he really shines. Those manly slopes, those evening cross-country skiing outings when you spent hours in the warming hut alongside the trail. He can be quite a romantic when he wants to be.

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The warming hut where you waited for that guy from the Czech Republic to leave so you could be alone with Whistler.

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The lake where you two swam in July and August.

You should probably find a more reliable man, but you know you won’t. You’ll stick with him. He could change. He might clean up a little and cut back on expenses. It’s possible, but even if he doesn’t change you can overlook his flaws because that’s what love does.

I know we are wrong for each other, but if this is wrong I don't want to be right.

I know we are wrong for each other, but if this is wrong I don’t want to be right.

I can see you are trying to clean up some. That's why I'll always stay with you.

I can see you are trying to clean up some. That’s why I’ll always stay with you.

 

Oh, Canada: Where’d all the drunks go?

I remember sitting in a college class ( Nonviolent Defense and Conflict Resolution) listening to a guest speaker talk about life as a submarine commander. This was a few years ago, but here is what I remember from his lecture, “You can travel the world and see amazing things, or you can find out that a bar in Asia looks the same inside as a bar in England.” (The other thing I remember about the class was that on the final day we had a discussion about how our views of violence had changed. My friend Rick said he would still punch someone if the occasion arose.) In other words: If you travel and want to see something different, stay out of bars. I have not always followed this advice, but in my many years of roaming this planet I will add my own bit of wisdom. “If you travel, and you visit bars, you will believe that the entire country is filled with drunks.” This is true in all countries except England where the country IS filled with drunks no matter where you go. England, it might be time for a few of your friend-countries to sit you down and have an intervention.

My early experiences with Canada involved traveling for college basketball games to distant locations like Edmonton, Vancouver, and Victoria. Now one might think, “Oh, isn’t it lovely that all you boys could get together and go and exercise with other young fellows. That sounds so healthy.” Well it wasn’t. Most meals were at the Golden Arches and evenings when I could have been reading my textbook on Nonviolence I was doing research on drunk Canadians. Where do you find drunk Canadians? Bars, liquor stores, and just about everywhere I went.

Canada has changed. I don’t know what happened to the drunk Canada that I once knew, but these days Canada doesn’t remind me of Canada at all, it reminds me of Norway.  (I have a feeling it wouldn’t take much research to locate this drunk Canada again, but I’ll leave that up to somebody who doesn’t have to be in bed by 8:30.) Canada is on a health kick. I don’t know if it was the Vancouver Olympics or if Canada just decided that it needed to lose a few pounds, but whatever happened has transformed this nation into a bunch of granola eating, flip-flop wearing, tree-huggers, and I love it. Who knew a trip to Norway could be just a drive away?

Spend two hours watching Canadian television (I am American, if I can’t watch TV I go into a diabetic shock) and you will see commercial after commercial selling the outdoors and exercise. These are not ad campaigns focused on selling hiking equipment but commercials for Timmy Horton’s Donuts and McDonald’s. Everyone in Canada is now out river rafting, mountain biking, and hiking. I don’t remember this being a Canadian thing but exercise is now hip in Canada.

Did these rings change Canada's behavior?

Did these rings change Canada’s behavior?

Yes, this is the same Canada that is a frozen land of snow and ice for seven months a year, but just like the Norwegians, Canadians have adopted the “there is no bad weather, there is just bad clothing” attitude about being outdoors. They have also invested infrastructure to support exercise. It was like Canada woke up with a huge hangover a few years ago and decided that it was time to start doing something other than vomiting all over itself.

I’m sure my American readers (Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh) have already seen through this Socialist plot to make people healthy. “The next thing you know, they will have everyone outside doing T’ai Chi every morning dressed in grey jumpsuits.” Yeah, that could be. Maybe since Canadians have socialized medicine it made sense to see if exercise might make people healthier. These Communist plots are the kind of Communist plots I can go along with. That’s right, I’m a Socialist-Communist-Pinko-Pacisfist who believes in universal healthcare. I also think that America needs a new cultural identity. I will borrow from the American classic Animal House, “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.” The world’s view of Americans is that we are fat and stupid (and they might be right), but we could follow Canada’s footsteps off the couch and become a nation of people who exercise, not just a nation who watch exercise. Or, or we could just wait another five years and hope that Mexico continues to get fatter. We might still look pretty good if we stand next to Mexico.

 

A Guide To Canadian Radio

I listen to a Canadian radio station*, but I have discovered something, the radio station I listen to is like Radio America. It broadcasts into my country to make me believe that Canada is a wonderland of musical taste and hipness, it isn’t. This radio station is the Siren Song leading travelers to believe that wherever they go, good music will follow. Don’t believe it.

Facts About Canadian Radio

1. There is a law in Canada that says there can only be one rock station in each listening radius. This rock station must play one song from Rush (usually Tom Sawyer for some reason) every hour. They must also fit in a Loverboy song during each four-hour cycle, and four Brian Adams songs must be played each day.

2. Gordon Lightfoot is still played regularly on the radio and not in an ironic, jokey way either.

3. Hockey games are broadcast on the radio. I have no idea how anyone can listen to hockey on the radio and understand what is happening, but this explains how a country could fall in love with the music of Celine Dion.

4. When you go to Canada, make sure your radio looks like this:

Don't keep looking for a radio station playing something other than Rush.

Don’t keep looking for a radio station playing something other than Rush, plug in your iPod.

How Dare You Insult Gordon Lightfoot

I will admit, I liked The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald the first twelve times I heard it, but we all make mistakes in judgement. I lived for two years with permed hair.  (No, I will not be providing a picture. No, I was not trying to look like Gordon Lightfoot. I was trying to look like Rick James…I did look more like Gordon than Rick, but my soul looked more like Rick.)

Canada Has Enriched Music. You, sir, are an idiot

Sure, Canada has given us Neil Young, but for every Neil Young there have been ten Justin Biebers. Maybe all of your taste is in your mouth, Canada. The mouth is a good place for taste, but when it comes to music, Canada, you should use your ears. Don’t get all bent out of shape, a good friend tells you the truth, and the truth is that The Barenaked Ladies always sucked. Sarah McLachlan is only played in America during commercials for PETA. Michael Bublé is the male version of Celine Dion. When Nickelback is played in America we have to drop ten bombs on a foreign country just to get that  sound out of our ears. (Yes, I am blaming Nickelback for America’s overseas aggression.)

Well, American Music Is Terrible Too

Okay, that has an element of truth to it. It saddens me to say this, but one evening while discussing string theory with some colleagues (okay, we were playing poker) I was asked to name the greatest American rock band. I was flummoxed. The group decided that it was Aerosmith…Aerosmith, are you kidding me? That is the best we can produce? Van Halen is better than Aerosmith. Nirvana was better than Aerosmith. Jimi Hendrix was better than Aerosmith. Nope, my colleagues all agreed it was Aerosmith. (Yes, I have considered moving to another country, but Canada will probably not accept me any longer.) The real answer to the question is Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam is the greatest American band end of discussion.  Shhh…no…quiet…take a deep breath…shhhh…stop…this is not an argument…shhh…easy there…okay. Okay?

What Is The Purpose Of This Post?

Oh, yes, the purpose. Canada is a big country and if you are going to drive across Canada bring your own music. Won’t you miss out on the local flavor? No, if you want to sample the local musical flavor just bring one Rush CD and listen to that during you journey. In fact, you can probably just bring one Rush song: Tom Sawyer. Oh, you don’t own Tom Sawyer, that’s okay it’s on Canadian radio every ten minutes.

*91.3 The Zone. Yes, this is an excellent radio station, so I know that you are up to something, Canada.

Those Sneaky Canadians

English: The flag of Canada, flying in Vanier ...

Canada: The only country with a leaf on its flag. It’s tricks like this that make me think Canada is up to something.

If I could sum up Canadians in one word it would not be polite, it would be sneaky. That’s right, I wrote it: sneaky. I don’t mean sneaky like China trying to sell toys painted with a combination of poison and lead, but sneaky like having a toll bridge with no toll booth.

I know, that doesn’t make any sense. A toll bridge always has a toll booth; not in Canada. On the outskirts of Vancouver (BC, not to be confused by the one in WA which shouldn’t be a problem unless you are really lost) there is a sneaky toll bridge. It isn’t like the Canadians are trying to catch you off guard, there are a trillion signs leading up to the bridge announcing: Last Exit Before Toll Bridge, Toll Bridge Ahead, Now Approaching Toll Bridge, You Are On A Toll Bridge, You Just Crossed A Toll Bridge, I Hope You Brought a Computer So You Can Figure Out How To Pay Your Toll, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING.

Looking for a toll booth? Don't bother.

Looking for a toll booth? Don’t bother.

For ten miles after crossing the bridge (16 kilometers for those of you who bought into the whole “the metric system is the future” thing) I kept looking for a toll booth. There wasn’t one, but there was a sign with a web address. Had I known that there was going to be a sign with a web address I might have been able to write the address down, but I wasn’t prepared because I was trying to see if the downtown area of Vancouver was visible from the bridge. I did this by ignoring the lines on the road and turning around in my seat to look over my shoulder. “Yep, you can see Vancouver,” I said to my family who were watching the road for me so they would be able to file the police report when I crashed the car.  Then, just as I began to think that maybe there wasn’t a toll after all there was an ominous sign that stated, “Pay Your Toll Within 7 Days For The Best Price,” or something like that. That is Canadian code language for pay or you will get a fine for a “licence plate processing fee.”  How did they have my licence/license plate? Those sneaky Canadians got it when I crossed the border, I remembered the border agent walking to the front of my car and writing down my plate. At the time, I wondered if something came up on the computer when I handed over my passport, “KNOWN TO PARK IN CARPOOL PARKING SPACES, WRITE DOWN HIS LICENCE/LICENSE PLATE.”

They also got it because the new bridge has cameras taking pictures of the license plates of all the vehicles crossing the bridge. Pretty sneaky, Canada, pretty sneaky. (Canada loves their hidden cameras.)

How do I know all of this? Well, because some enterprising Americans invented Google. (Okay, one of the guys was from Russia, but the other guy was from Michigan.)  So when I got to my hotel in Whistler I typed into Google: “Toll Bridge Vancouver BC” and this is what I found: https://www.treo.ca/the-bridge/

This was the moment that I realized I would not be getting a free drive across the Port Mann Bridge. They had me. I crossed the bridge. I saw the signs. I would be recrossing the bridge on the way home. There was no way to avoid paying. I paid the toll, but it didn’t feel right. Computers, cameras and the interwebs have made it easier for us to  those daily tasks, but what have we lost? We have lost terrible jobs like Toll Booth Collector. Imagine how mind numbing that job must be. We have lost the traffic congestion caused by people who don’t have exact change. We have lost the challenge of picking the quickest line of cars when approaching the toll booths. Okay, we haven’t lost that much, but I did have to give my credit card number to Canada to pay for my $6 (Canadian) toll, which will probably end up being $20 after all the overseas charges and exchange rate maneuvering my bank goes through for me spending my money in another country.

Why couldn’t Canada just put a booth on the road like the rest of the world? That’s just not Canada’s style. Canada enjoys its reputation of producing maple syrup, hockey players, and Ouija boards. (I made up the Ouija board thing, but it is better than saying Justin Bieber.) Their reputation has allowed them to quietly infiltrate the entertainment industry in the United States. Of course everyone knows about John Candy, Mike Myers, and Martin Short, but do you realize that William Shatner is Canadian? How about Ryan Gosling? Lorne Greene? (The name Lorne should have given him away, but riding those horses with Hoss and Little John made him seem more American.) Tommy Chong? For every Howie Mandel there are three Raymond Burrs (Canadian). You don’t see Malcolm Gladwell walking around singing, “Oh, Canada” but he sure knows the words. So did Peter Jennings and Guy Lombardo. That’s right, Canadians have been sneaking across the border for years and taking American jobs. Where is the outrage? There isn’t any outrage because Canadians have built up years of trust with us. They are the polite nation. The nation that produces maple syrup. They aren’t the job stealing nation, I’m not going to mention any names here but Florida knows who I’m talking about.

Should we care? I don’t know. Should I care when I go into a McDonald’s in Canada and they serve poutine? Does it matter that Canada has a sneaky little maple leaf in the McDonald’s arch? Well, if they can corrupt McDonald’s with their little red leaf where will they stop?

McDonald's Canada

One step closer to Socialism taking over the planet.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe Americans can become more polite. Maybe we can say, “Sorry” before we say, “What’s your problem?” Maybe we can learn to wear sweaters in the winter. I can probably learn what a blue line is in hockey. I can probably learn to like Nickleback. (See, I just wrote that sentence and didn’t throw up on my computer.) I can probably understand that universal health coverage is better than paying $700 a month for insurance that only works when I don’t need it. I can probably be Canadian. I’ll make you a deal Canada, I will learn your sneaky ways if you don’t tell Texas, and if you put up one toll booth on the Port Mann Bridge.

 

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