Total hits on xxxxxxx.html Starting Date Goes Here the vacationalist: November 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

cornflakes in the bathroom.

I can’t sleep. It has been a fairly reliable inconvenience as of late. I have found that after a certain point it is best to stop trying. There are only so many sheep in the world and after you count them all once, it seems no use to give it a second go. So instead, I am eating cornflakes in the bathroom. It really seemed the lost logical place. I feel to guilty to force Patryk to stay awake with me. Again. Our apartment is very small and the kitchen is about six feet from the futon. Or poo-ton, as he calls it. I know some might think it cruel, but there are times I find it much more amusing not to correct him as he blunders through the English language. I feel it would be rude of me to take the enjoyment away from some future native English speaker when Patryk tells them that “it’s fojjy out”, when a heavy fog rolls in. My personal favorite is that for him a biscuit is really a “bisk-wit”. I think it is endearing, and one of the many reasons that make him deserving of a good nights’ sleep. So I quietly eat my cornflakes in the bathroom as not to wake him.

I am told that if you can’t sleep it is because you have something on your mind. Well, for the past hour all I have been able to think of are epilogues. I hate them. I feel for the most part that art should speak for itself. I hate it when artists inform you of what you were to divine from your newly received artistic experience. It reminds me of a show I saw where the program contained a bibliography of the director’s inspirations. Or maybe it doesn’t. I have been known to borrow memories, and I believe that one belongs to my friend Jon. But all the same I believe epilogues do the opposite of what they intend. If the work was good enough the point was already made and extra words at the end, tacked on to make sure you really understood, breaks the flow of it. It rots the mood.

My sister Lauren, before she ever kisses anyone new, first asks them whether they have any orally contractible diseases. Apparently she says it with a great deal of charm, but I am skeptical. That’s gotta rot the mood.

Monday, November 20, 2006

a Saturday afternoon.

Before I leave the apartment, I remove my Swiss passport from my jacket pocket, and replace it with my American. Though I did not enter this country as an American, if something were to happen today, I would rather have the US Embassy behind me.
As I walk to the city center, things are much quieter than the usual Saturday in our neighborhood. Coming up on one of the main plazas closer to downtown the street has been blocked off, and I take the sidewalk around it. Looking into one of the police vans, I meet eyes with one of the men inside, helmeted and clutching a plastic shield. Riot Police have always reminded me of Storm Troopers.

There are thirteen vans in all, filled with them. They are far away from where the demonstration is taking place, so I figure they must be the reinforcements. Such police presence is not unfamiliar to me. While living in South America riot police were not uncommon. Though it was not an every day occurrence, it was not surprising if burning tires and demonstrations blocked roads and shut down neighborhoods, with troops not far off. But this was not a sight I had seen here yet.

The police are here to keep the order for the Gay Rights protest. Last years’ demonstration got out of hand when gay rights activists met Nazi Skinheads on the streets. From what I understand, police at the time watched idle as Skinheads attacked and threw stones at the protestors, arresting only 29 rights activists for being part of an illegal demonstration. Poland has been warned by the European Union that if it does not improve discrimination on sexual minorities, the EU will revoke voting rights.

Last week while walking home Patryk and I were cursed at and shoved in the street by three men with shaved heads. Shaken by this experience, Patryk has decided not to attend the protest, so I am going alone. Some things are too important to stay home. As I approach the plaza, there is a row of 20 or so police dogs separating the protesters from the spectators on the sidewalk. In the crowd there is little elbow room, but people give the dogs a good two yards of space. I make my way around the dogs, and head to a large group of people who have moved onto a rise of steps where they can better see the mob of banners and protesters across the other side of the plaza.

More riot police are arriving, and a dozen mounted officers ride there horses between the crowd I am in, and the protesters facing us. As I look on, a man pushes past me. He is wearing camouflage pants that tighten around the legs a they tuck into a pair of combat boots. He wears a leather jacket, and a shaved head. Back in the States I used to work in a coffee shop, where many of the customers dressed in a similar manner. There it meant only that the person probably played guitar in a band. Here in Eastern Europe it means something completely different. As I look around me I notice that many people in the mob I am in are similarly dressed. The leader of the mounted policemen yells something into a bull horn as a wall of horses step towards us. The Gay Rights Demonstrators are shouting behind them as they try to make there way to the very steps I am standing on. It has become abundantly clear that I am in the middle of standoff, and very much on the wrong side of if. The mob around shouts loudly in return, as I lower my head and slowly make my way out.

My heart rate slows as I slip past the plastic shields that have been moved in to keep the group contained. As I cross the sidewalk I decide to move into an open area well behind the police lines. There are five or six other people beside me, including a woman with a baby carriage, who have decided this was the safest place to view. Another line of plastic shields has been deployed between us and the crowd I just came from. To the left there is a row of the vans that brought the riot police, and to the right are vans with bars to remove unruly protesters. The few of us on the street corner have placed ourselves well into the Police staging ground. There is no place safer.

Over the next several minutes I watch on as angry words fly on both sides. Abruptly you can hear dogs start barking from across the other side of the plaza. The mounted policemen shout into there bullhorns as they start advancing towards the large mob engulfing the steps. The two rows of troop in front of me are visibly anxious. If anything is going to happen, it will be now. The horses slowly ride into the mob, guarded on our side by the plastic shields, and on the other by dogs. Everyone in tense, and but with a few angry shouts, the mob disperses. As the rainbow banners take the steps, the police pull only one shaved head into the van beside me.

After several minutes of cheers and camera flashes, the news crews focus on the center of the steps and the speeches begin. I stay for a few minutes before heading for home. I don’t speak enough polish to know their words, but I know what is said all the same. The cheers have a much different meaning than those I have heard during gay pride parades at home.
When I make it back to the apartment, I find Patryk on the couch. He had been very worried, and was glad I was home. I turned on the television to see what was on the news. One story dominated all air waves, local news, CNN and BBC. Every one wanted to know what the verdict was: Was the Tom Cruise- Katie Holms wedding really happening today?

Friday, November 17, 2006

conversations with Patryk: dogs

Adam, what do you think of dogs?

What about them?

I don't know. The idea of them.

Well. I believe in dogs.

I think they are weird. They look at you with human like emotions and they would just as soon eat chocolate as dogshit.

You know Patryk, you are not supposed to give chocolate to dogs.

What? Why is that?

It is really bad for them.

Oh...... maybe this is why my mom's dog died.

My father and subtlety. This town aint big enough….

My father is very good at what he does. He talks for a living. His job is to make others see his view of the truth is blatantly obvious as the only possible truth. The only problem with this is that he has apparently lost the ability to make his case anything other than blatantly obvious.
Case in point: before moving to another country for an undetermined period of time, my father gave me a collection of books. Three in all. He told me that it was very important that I read them, for they were wonderful novels and every young lad should read them when he comes to this period in life. The unemployed college graduate point in life? The sponge on society point in life? I didn’t ask. But the message was soon clear enough.

I have read two of the three so far, and both of the plots consisted of a young man leaving his family for another county, and upon returning home finds all the ones he loved have died in his absence. In both, the young man has completely missed the opportunity to be with the ones in life who are truly important to him, and he ends up being lost in the world, a foreigner to all he encounters, and bitterly alone.

Gee. Is there something you would like me to divine from these? I love you Dad, but I think I might skip the last one.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

communist jars.

We have a very small kitchen. Counter space is prime real-estate. The main congestion happens when it is time to make dinner and the dishes have not finished drip-drying, and because of the fact that Patryk never puts anything away. He often ruins a bag of sugar by throwing the paper bag on the wet counter, making a soggy, papery, sugary mess.

We also have several empty jars from various used products. I see a very simple solution here. Wet bag vs. glass jar. I purpose removing the sugar from said wet bag, and placing it inside said dry glass jar. Patryk does not like my solution. He does not want sugar in jars. Jars are communist.


Jars are communist things. During communism they put everything in jars, and putting the sugar in a jar reminds me of communism.

So you would rather use capitalist wet bags?



Now, those of you who are loyal readers will remember well my blog entitled “one lump or two?” where Patryk describes his coffee habits as a backlash of an over oppressive post-communist society. But this time I am not buying it. Sure, communism sucked I will admit that, and since I was raised in the land of capitalist pigs I do not have the same horrifying associations with Marxist storage containers that he does. But it’s a fuckin jar of sugar. And if he was so attached to his capitalist wet bags with bright colored packaging reminding him that there were several sugar purchasing options only limited by what he could afford with money he earned in a free market, then by god he could have cleaned up his own wet-sugar-bag mess. Our sugar, will be jarred.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

wet feet and fire hazards.

As we step off the train in Wroclaw, Patryk speaks loudly into his cell phone. He seems to be aggravated by the conversation, but why, or whom he is talking to I do not know. We left Poznan a few hours ago, and are in Wroclaw to see a show. Patryk is a theatre critic, and was hired by a national magazine to write an article on site-specific theatre productions across the country. So far, this is the third city on our national tour, and although my expenses are not reimbursed as his will be, I join him when I can. It is a good excuse to see more of Poland, and avant-garde theatre.

We head into the terminal, and he ends his call. Apparently it was from the theatre company cancelling the show we had just spent the morning in commute to see. The same thing happened in Krakow after waiting 20 minutes past the expected curtain time. They had technical difficulties. I asked Patryk if they said why the show was cancelled, and he said that it was because it was cold.

Cold? I ask. They are having a show outside in the polish winter and were not expecting it to be cold?

Apparently not. I zip up my non-gay jacket. Well, I am cold right now. And hungry. As Pat checks the schedule for a train home, I look around for something to eat. McDonald’s and KFC are the only restaurants in the terminal. All foreigners think we Americans eat McDonalds all the time. As if it was our traditional food. Last time I had McDonalds in the States it was with Patryk. He wanted to go- I didn’t. but he smiled and said, “But I’m loving it!”, so I caved on account of cuteness. But the point is, McDonald is everywhere here. As it is in every other country I have been to, and I assure you, they eat there far more often than we do. So I find it irritating when I am told it is all we Americans eat. I will take the blame for Starbucks, with no arguments, since the old joke about a coffee shop on every corner is incredibly accurate. In my home town we have TWO Starbucks on the very same block. But it is justified. We need that second Starbuck because of the plush couches it has.

We decide to leave the train station and get food elsewhere and at least see a bit of the city if we have come this far, even if we wont be seeing a play. This is when I briskly step into a puddle, completely soaking my left foot. The good walking shoes I brought to Poland are my river walking shoes, that have a fancy high tech design to let water escape through mesh on the side. Unfortunately when not river walking these shoes do a wonderful job of letting water in through the very same mesh if you happen to be oblivious enough to step into a puddle of almost freezing water. Shit. Hungry, cold, wet feet, and three hours in a train only to turn around and go home. Great day. But we get food, and end up getting another call from the theatre company. Patryk is able to tour the space where the performance would have been, so the trip isn’t a complete bust after all.

On the train ride home, I spend the time thinking about the differences between theatre in the States and Poland for my article. Yes, my article! When in Krakow we met Patryk’s editor, who said that if I was going to all of the shows with Pat, why don’t I write something from an immigrants’ perspective on Polish theatre. It was after a few beers, so I question his Polish sincerity, but there are a few interesting differences. First of which is drunkenness. At two of the three performances we have seen, the actors pass off as much vodka as they can to the audience during the show. Is this typical? Aparently so. Cheers for Polish tradition!

The second is fire hazards. In the states there are conditions as to how many people you can cram into a small space. If you break it, the fire department will shut you down as they did during Willamette’s production of Raised in Captivity, when our set was condemned as a “burning inferno, and audience death trap.” (sorry kay-la la)

One show we saw had seats for 20, but ended up seating about 45. We all shared laps.
Another show I saw was in the back of a Winnebago, where the max capacity for an audience is about 5. There were 12 of us literally stacked on top of each other like the final moments of a game of Jenga. The benefit to having a show in a moving vehicle is that you can hit the gas, and send the audience toppling over each other. Patryk took an elbow to the face, and I got friendly with the lady wedged between my legs. Ah, the intimacy of small audiences.

The third and final difference in Polish theatre tradition I will talk about (this blog is getting long winded) is the curtain call. If the audience likes a play, they show their pleasure by clapping loudly in unison. No joke. It is a very odd feeling, closer to what you hear at a high school pep rally or a beer guzzling competition than in your fancy dress at the theatre. There will also be at least three additional bows at the end. The actors bow, head off stage, run back on and bow. Multiple times. This happens at home as well, if a show gets an overwhelming response and the audience wants another bow. But here, the actors take over. If you don’t stop you clapping in unison immediately and get up and leave, the actors will just keep on running out and bowing again and again and again. But hey, if the audience is drunk on the vodka you gave them, and will be bottlenecked at the door from being over capacity, why the hell not take an extra bow, or five.

While getting off the train back home in Poznan, I try to figure out how to get this all into an article for the most prominent theatre magazine in Poland. Fat chance. I silently hope Patryk’s editor was too drunk to really have meant he wanted an article from me. Then I step in another puddle.