Sunday, August 28, 2011

Atlantic Blackout

Firstly, an update: I've uploaded an album of photos from England. Click here or, as always, find the link on the right-hand sidebar.

Carry on then.

I'm sure I'll be breaking some sort of unspoken rule of etiquette when I drag my ratty backpack and guitar onto "the most magnificent ocean liner ever built", as Cunard modestly describes her. I'll also be wearing my jeans and boots so I have enough room to stash the wine I'm bringing aboard.

Well assuming they let me on in my vagabond state, I certainly won't be posting any blog updates for the next week. I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize personally to my audience. I sincerely hope all four of you can somehow get through the next seven days.

My cabin mate, whom I met for lunch last week in Hampstead, has informed me that though Internet connections are available, it's expensive and slow. I won't bother. This will be her second voyage on the Queen Mary 2.

I plan to use my time somewhat more productively. A daily gym regimen in the mornings, swimming and reading in the afternoons, napping, watching movies, gluttonizing myself at all opportunities, hobnobbing with the retirees, and of course dressing up in my suit.

Quick aside about that suit and more bastards at customs: I had to pay 30 pounds for my own goddamned suit in taxes and handling fees for the parcel company the customs are in cahoots with. Dirty bastards. At least it was easier to deal with and less exploitative than than the crooks in Turkey.

I've also heardtell that the stars are not to be missed at night. The Sonoran or Australian deserts are great places to get away from light pollution, but the middle of the Atlantic surely has even those places beat providing the ship isn't obscenely lit up. Hell, the boat even has it's own planetarium.

I've got quite a library of books to get through, in addition to what's available in the ship's library. I'm currently reading Half of a Yellow Sun, then after that will surely be Within Whicker's World, seeing as I have been described as the American Alan Whicker. Then The Satanic Verses, and if I have time, The Guv'nor by Lenny McLean. McLean fought gypsys in bare-knuckle boxing matches, and his autobiography's tagline is: "I look what I am - a hard bastard!"

If you thought I was erudite before, just wait until I get through this reading list.

A Bit of Rhyming Collocation and Bob's Your Uncle

Cockney rhyming slang might be the most valuable contribution to the English language to ever come out of Britain. I was pleased to discover its existence from the renowned travel writer Jamie Maslin during a shared hiatus in Kazakhstan, but also shocked that a learned scholar such as myself remained ignorant of it for so long.
Rhyming slang phrases are derived from taking an expression which rhymes with a word and then using that expression instead of the word. For example the word "look" rhymes with "butcher's hook". In many cases the rhyming word is omitted - so you won't find too many Londoners having a "bucher's hook" at this site, but you might find a few having a "butcher's".
That's courtesy of Clearly there is rhyme here, but never any reason. I think that's the beauty of rhyming slang: it's got less sense than an initial glance at that slab of stone pictured a top. That's the Rosetta Stone by the way, they got it at the British Museum. You know, the rock they named the software after? Turns out, it's designed to make sense.

Rhyming slang confused the hell out of me for awhile, but I've started getting it down. I collocate the word in question, and then find a rhyme for the most likely pair, and I usually work it out.

Still don't get it? The Wikipedia page is pretty straight forward.

Sadly, it's just contrived and unnatural when a septic like myself tries to use it. Still it's helpful to understand, just in case rhyming slang gets thrown on the critical language list for the US foreign service. Having a bit of that, along with Korean, would really boost me in the selection process.

Just remember, collocate, rhyme, and Robert's your father's brother.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Home Stretch Begins

I was enjoying the stunning sunset through Bob and Amy's windshield on the M25 and thinking about how there wasn't much more to go until I was back in America and home, as the word goes.

The last year of travel had been mostly about the travel itself. The long train rides, the visa applications, the crowded bus stations, the bad sleep, the process of transit all that it entailed. Sightseeing and recreation was largely just a symptom.

There wasn't much left to figure out. Bob and Amy were going to drop me off at a train station and Amy, who had done most of the talking in the passenger seat, had explained to me in minute detail how to get to the Tube system, and from there I had it covered to Jamie's apartment.

Then it was a week of relaxing and strolling in the rain and perusing museums, then a pre-booked bus ride to Southampton for a shockingly cheap eight pounds (about the same price as a standard round-trip Tube fare - the bastards), a week of leisure and class on a ship, a quick visit to some friends in NYC, a wedding in Cape Cod, and The End.

There was nothing left to figure out.

I'm not sure whether to feel proud at achieving a goal set ago, or nervous about what to do next, or disappointed to be reaching the end, or what. So I think I'll just defer all judgements until further notice.

My suit is pressed, my shirts are ironed, my bag is packed, I just shaved, and I have one more full day in London before the home stretch gets just a bit shorter.

The Last Hitch

Naturally, the skies turned gray and rain began to fall the closer I got to England. That wasn't so bad though, because at the start of the day I wasn't even sure I'd be able to get close to England at all.

After a couple of hours on public transport to get to the northern fringe of Paris, I approached a gas station to see 6 people already trying to hitch north. There were two British girls heading to London just like me, and a cluster of four Polish guys who'd been waiting overnight.

The girls were gone when I got out of the toilet in the gas station, minutes after I arrived. They'd been waiting only an hour. I wasn't surprised the Polish guys had spent all night at the gas station. They were lazy and slobby and tried to get lifts by waving obnoxiously and calling out. Not the way to get a lift, and being a group of four doesn't ever help. I ran into a group of four Polish girls outside of Madrid who also spent the night at a gas station. If four fine-looking polite girls have a hard time getting a ride, four indolent guys might as well give up.

I wasn't so sure about the whole attempt to get to London anyway. Somehow I'd have to get across on the ferry which seemed like it might've been hard, especially after looking at this forum post which eventually devolves into inanities, misinformation, and pathetic moral posturing.

But there I was, in a truck cab approaching the port. It was my fifth ride, and I had to walk a fair amount to get to decent hitching spots after two well-intentioned lifts had earlier dropped me in very unhelpful places. If I had known better, I might've shaved a couple hours of the 14-hour day between leaving one flat in Paris in the morning, and arriving at my friends flat in London that evening.

At just past 4PM a French truck driver dropped me off by the exit ramp that veered away from the two lanes going toward the Calais port. Lucky for me, a car stopped about two minutes later on the rainy shoulder, before I could even get to the ticket booth and run into any problems getting through customs.

A Brit named Gerard was going back to England with his young son. He brought me through customs - the officer asking stern questions like why was I going to England, how long was I staying, how was I leaving, what boat, and so on - and past the ticket window. Either the girl didn't care that he was registered for two people and had three in the car, or she didn't notice the little boy in the back, caught up in drawings of dinosaurs and dragons.

Gerard wasn't going to London, but the cars soon lined up behind us, and I was able to find a couple heading there quite easily. They told me to meet them once on the boat. Don't believe that terrible forum post above, once through the customs and ticket booths, cars queue up in a huge lot and wait around for awhile, making it possibly the easiest place to find a ride ever.

I won't drag this out. I had some good chats with Gerard, a retired teacher from a hard part of England and we had a couple of pints. I charmed the elderly couple who was to bring me to the edge of London, and I took photos of the white cliffs of Dover sandwiched between the matching gray of the sea and the sky. Bob and Amy regaled me of tales of all the other hitchers they brought to and from the ferry - they had even picked up the same guy on two separate occasions, years apart. The sunset burning deep pink in the sky was stunning as we crested a hill on the M25.

I was left at a suburban train station, found an ATM, caught the train, got change at a fried chicken shack by Seven Sisters, picked up an Oyster Card, and got to Jamie's flat, and we tucked into the wine I had picked up that morning in Paris. The hard part was over, and my trip itself was nearly over.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gay Pah-ree

First, an announcement:
I have updated my France photo album on Picasa. I thought my recent jaunt through Paris warranted a few more photos being added, so as always, use the link above, or on the right-hand side.
Back to the regularly scheduled drivel:

I guess it was about time I made it to Paris. I'd never really been too drawn to the city - the hype of something always makes me skeptical rather than interested, but it's an obligatory stop on any traveler's itinerary at some point on the road, so I let myself get excited for it.

And a lovely city it is. I had a leisurely four days of strolling through parks and cafes. I didn't see much in terms of all-star sights, deciding it would be better to prioritize relaxation over ticking boxes on someone else's idea of a 'must see' list.

I didn't see the Louvre or any other museum. I didn't go to Versaille or see Montmarte or Sacre Coeur or drink wine by the Seine. I caught a glimpse of Notre Dame at night, and the tip of the Eiffel Tower sparkling from a distance. I didn't go up the Eiffel Tower though I did stroll through the Champs du Mars and marvel at the numbers of tourists crawling about, and wonder who in their right mind bought the anamatronic puppies from the dozens of hustlers who laid them out on their mats.

I did have some wonderful picnics in the sunshine. I was impressed by the Pere Lachaise cemetery. I think it's great when a place full of dead people can be cheerful and relaxing rather than grim and depressing. There were plenty of trees for shade, beautifully sculpted monuments to the famous and common alike. Jim Morrison's grave was not very thrilling though; a gated off grave unremarkable but for the former human buried underneath, and the morose looking lurkers smoking cigarettes and moping like they were personally hurt by Morrison's early demise for some reason.

And, for the first time in a year of travel, I spent a few hours brushing up on my videogame skills with a few hours of online deathmatches playing Halo 3. I don't think I'm exaggerating by saying I did quite well overall, for a man out of practice or otherwise. Domestic luxuries, a nice benefit of CouchSurfing.

Lots of wine, good weather, social and solo picnics, getting stood up by other travelers and not caring too much, a fun night out at a neighborhood pub and gay karaoke basement, a great CouchSurfing host and flat, and tranquility. I know I'll have to come back to Paris. Four days wasn't much but it was enough to make me understand why it's such a well-loved city. I'll be looking forward to my next visit a bit more.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I've uploaded yet more photos. I know, I know, please try to restrain yourselves. I uploaded an album of photos from Morocco, and I've updated my album from Spain since I made another brief trip through after coming back from Morocco.

The links, as always, can be found on the right hand side of the blog.

I'll upload more photos from France soon as well, as I'm nearly finished with my stay in Paris.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dental Adventures

Morocco didn't seem like a great place to have dental problems. I was eating breakfast in Rabat, some bread and cheese and a yogurt drink, when one tooth started hurting intensely. It felt like a needle had been stealthy inserted below the gum line, and then jabbed into the base of my tooth. Or alternately, like flavor molecules were turned into thorn clusters that attacked in the crevices of my teeth and gums.

I wasn't surprised since I'd been having issues with this tooth, or the inflamed gums around it to be more specific, for awhile. I'd had it cleaned out in Beijing and Bangkok and things had been good for awhile.

It's not a fun part of travel, but shit goes wrong with bodies and it's gotta be dealt with, at least after you ignore it for as long as possible.

The pain in my tooth was so intense that morning in Morocco that I couldn't ignore it any more. Lunch, the Big Tasty from McDonald's, didn't cause as much pain when the juices and chemicals and mush attacked my tooth, but it was still bad. And for the record, I was only eating McDonald's because it was Ramadan and there weren't a whole lot of choices for eating. The flavor powder from the chips I tried eating was infinitely worse, like eating acid.

I cut my visit to Africa short by a couple days and got the train up to Tanger where I had planned on staying for the night but decided to get straight on the boat back to Spain once I was en route.

After a long wait for the bus to Malaga, a miserable night on a hostel couch, an abortive attempt to hitchhike to Madrid, I finally got into the capital late at night. My tooth wasn't hurting so much when I drank water, but I determined to get it dealt with. In the meantime I avoided eating until I was absolutely starving and chewed only on my right side, something I had done for quite a long time when I was having problems earlier on the trip. Then I got self-conscious about having a really strong jaw on only one side and looking weird, so I balanced it out when the lack of pain allowed it.

The next day I got a free x-ray and prescription for amoxicilin at one clinic, but no cleaning since the regular dentist was on vacation. It made me feel better, but not good enough. The next day I went into another clinic. The dentist there wound up mercifully anesthetizing me before she scraped the hell out of the tooth below the swollen gums and then surprisingly pulled out a pair of short pointed scissors and cut off a shitload of the offending tissue.

I wasn't so sure that was such a good idea, but I'm not the dentist. The shape of the gums looked normal, but that's not to say it would feel or function normally. I figured I'd be bleeding for days, but it sealed up quickly.

Four days later, so far so good. I just wish I got to keep some chunks of gum as a souvenir like I got to keep my cracked and shattered wisdom teeth when they came out.

And if shit does wind up going wrong, well, I'll be stuck on a ship for a week, half the world away from the dentist that is responsible, and then in America with no insurance or money. No big deal.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Coming To This

Another column of mine has been published in the Exeter News-Letter.

Click here to give it a read, or you can always find it on the list on the right-hand side.

Thanks for stopping by, don't forget to floss.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I've gotten off my lazy ass and uploaded some photos from Spain. I'll be going back there in a day or two to start making my way up to England, but chances are I won't be taking many more photos since it'll just be for transit.

You can find the link on the right hand side as always.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Life's Tough

Marrakech in August is hot as hell, so I'm glad I decided to spend the extra six bucks to stay in the hostel with the swimming pool.

I didn't do a whole lot. I read no history of the city, I had no guidebook to inform me of any sights. I went on two excursions to check out suits only to discover I was slightly to exorbitantly overquoted for low quality shit, despite the salesmen's unsupported claims of "good quality".

I did find some good deals at the huge supermarket outside the walls in the new city, but even though I was prepared to purchase and don a suit from a supermarket, I couldn't find anything that fit right.

The upside of the supermarket visit was that I found one of the few places that sold booze during Ramadan. One of the few places that sold booze period, as far as I could tell. You have to register your passport info to enter the liquor section.

I lounged by the pool in the mornings and napped when I felt like it. I picked up a copy of American Rust that was sitting on a table in the reception area. It's not the best book I've gotten into, but it keeps one entertained. Life's tough sometimes.

I justified my laziness by telling myself that I had an unorthodox mission in my pursuit of a suit. I've since given up that mission with the intention of having my good suit from home shipped over to London. Beats paying for a piece of shit and then dragging it across three countries.

Plus, I thought I deserved to chill out for awhile since I haven't been doing that enough over the last 11 months. I had planned on sitting around and reading and relaxing in cafes anyway, so things were going according to plan, only the cafes I saw were mostly closed or really expensive or not relaxing, and thus were replaced with the pool deck.

I did meet a Sri Lankan guy from London who was all ready for exploring: shorts, hiking boots, a day pack, sunscreen not completely rubbed in, and a plan for things to see that day. The sight of him made me feel a bit guilty about doing essentially nothing, but after all, I did have a plan to stick to.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

First Steps in Africa

It was a long day of travel from Sevilla, where I spent one night to see a friend. Fortunately, all my connections went smoothly. A city bus brought me to el Prado de San Sebastian bus station, and I got on a bus to Tarifa twenty minutes later. In Tarifa, I walked through town, blown over by gusts of wind which attracted all the kite surfers, which in turn supported the hundreds of surf shops and schools along the boulevard, and got a ticket on the 1PM ferry.

Morocco's port city Tanger was nicer than I thought. I expected a dirty rambling city built on hustled money and sucker tourists. Just the cynic in me, I guess.

It was a bit dirty and a bit hustled, but a bit charming as well. Me and two Swedes wandered around the medina and the souks. I had to drag my luggage around, making me sweat even more in the heat. There were no lockers at the train station where I had booked an overnight train to Marrakech.

In fact, I hadn't showered since the day before in Sevilla, and my general feeling of hygiene was even worse due to the long stretch of traveling.

I found a barber near the main mosque and got shaved clean for $1.50, then we asked our way to a hammam, having to pay off a little kid one shop owner sent to lead us, and another guide who latched onto us and did the talking.

The bathhouse was full, apparently, but we still got to shower for another $1.50, no doubt a tourist extortion, but standing in the stalls with exposed rusty pipes felt like heaven after dragging around my guitar and pack through the heat and the sun, the souks crammed with people selling everything from cigarettes to steel lamps to spices to sides of lamb.

It's the middle of Ramadan too. Needless to say, it's not easy to find a beer, and not so easy to find a restaurant except for a handful of places that overcharge foreign infidels like myself and my two Swedish friends. We had a couple small meals, one in an outdoor cafe that's been around for 200 years, one in a small shady alley where the small shady man insisted he had no menu and quoted us prices that were much larger than the small portions.

Such is the fate of a tourist.

But for everyone that squeezed a few extra dirhams out of us, there were an equal number of people who were genuinely kind. Two young men stopped to chat with us and were interested in my guitar. They gave us advice and asked for nothing in return and were happy to practice their English. The two taxi drivers were happy to give us the rundown of the area in Spanish after we negotiated the fare, and the man who was getting a shave in the barber shop before me insisted on showing off his 59 year-old strength in a powerful handshake, and grinning with the few teeth he had. "American? Welcome!"

I did seem to get many warm responses from the many people who asked where we were from. The Swedes basically just confused most of the people when they explained where they were from, but everyone who heard I was American was enthusiastic.

Good to know we still have some rapport somewhere, even if you have to squeeze through sweltering alleys to find it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Is My Home Zombie Secure?

I've been in the small Andalucian town of Alhaurin el Grande for the last two weeks. I'm doing some work at a "glamping" site called Casa de Laila. I take care of the property and help with all sorts of random stuff. I wanted to chill out and save money and so, via the wonderful service provided by HelpX, here I am.

The house and property is many things: it's beautiful, classy, relaxing, quiet. But the big question I have is: is it zombie secure?

Let me first consider the setting. Alhaurin el Grande is by no means a big town. The area is not urban, but is easily accessed by Marbella or Malaga, both small coastal cities. The town itself has a main drag lined with cafes and restaurants and sidestreets of shaded alleys. Whitewashed houses climb up and down the surrounding hills.

I think if a zombie outbreak began in urbanized areas, which they do according to most of the movies I've seen, this town's location would provide a temporary safe haven in which we could strategize and gather our wits about us while the epidemic spread. Unfortunately, it's not far enough away from anything to escape a drawn out zombie outbreak, so I'm forced to evaluate my location here for the storm to come.

The property. I live in a large multifloor villa on a squarish piece of property on a hill. The villa is high up, giving a decent view of the valley below, but not of the center of town, where zombies would surely turn up first. There are decorative bars on the windows which would add a small level of security, though how strong they really are is unknown. The kitchen is large, there is plenty of storage space, and there are lovely gardens running up and down the hill with various palms and bigass aloe-esque plants that stab the hell out of me as I weed.

There are five tents spread around the property, which can comfortably sleep 15 people in total, and a swimming pool with a great deck and sheltered open-air kitchen. The property is surrounded by a border which in places is solid cement, but in other places flimsy chain-link. Also, by the top of the property where the remote-control gate is, due to the nature of the hill, the wallis quite low, meaning errant zombies wandering at random in search of brains are capable of stumbling through the vegetation by the low upper fence and into our property.

My expert analysis of this property isn't too positive, unfortunately. The property would be handy only at early stages of a zombie outbreak. The walls and fences would deter zombies from randomly wandering toward the house or tents and feasting upon my brains, but once a full scale epidemic was in swing and hundred of zombies were mindlessly clambering and climbing and pawing, at one point they'd get through and it would be game over. One good point about this though, is that to get to a chain link section, the zombies would first have to overrun our neighbors, an event we would surely know be aware of, letting us prepare a bit.

The gardens, although colorful and lovely and teeming with oranges, apples, avocados, and other fruit, could also prove dangerous. Any trip outside the tents or villa at night would be fraught with shadows and potential lurking points for stray undead who found their way in. On one hand, the great presence of stabby aloe-like plants might actually slow down the random zombie that hat the bad luck of stumbling into the needley flora. At the very least, they would provide a great opportunity for an extremely creative zombie kill, perhaps by bashing one of a terrace onto the center of a huge plant with extra sharp tips. The lushness of some of the plants create blindspots that can't be monitored from the second floor roofdeck, and the deck itself, with comfortable all-weather furniture and shaded patio, might even add to the problem by lulling us into comfort and laziness.

Something positive here is the survey of animals I've taken. We have 5 chickens to supply us with eggs and meat; we have one fat sluggish dog and one small sprightly dog that would help warn us of breaches; we have small koi, a couple of frogs, like four (?) cats, and a number of small lizards to eat should be get desperate; and, saving the best for last, we have three horses. These belong to a friend of the owner, but if he was lost to the teeming hordes of undead (and he probably would be) they would be invaluable to us. I learned a little something about the advantages of warfare on horses in Mongolia. We could ride horses through crowds of zombies, swinging hoes and dirt rakes, and ride off into the sunset. And like the Mongol hordes, if shit got real desperate, we eat the horses and drink their blood.

The house is another bright point. Being large, it can easily harbor enough survivors to monitor its perimeters. There is a large kitchen, as I said, and also a small side kitchen on the first floor, plus the kitchen upstairs. Food can be stored in the cool basement which is unfortunately only accessible from outside.

It's quite possible for thirty people to live in the tents and house, and lay low while the army is mobilized to take care of the zombies that will certainly make it to Alhaurin el Grande. For how long, though, is the big question. But feeding that many people would be difficult, it might be better if it's just the three of us who work/live here even though there would be more work for each of us. Besides myself, there's Linda, another helper from the Netherlands, and Anne Marie. She runs the place and lives here full time, and is also Dutch.

If it were just the three of us (a perfect match with the horses...), we would be in good shape. Anne Marie is pretty small and probably wouldn't be much of a zombie warrior, but she's a caterer and great cook that could keep Linda and I well fed. Judging by how Linda took a pickaxe to the sun-baked garden when we were planting new plants, I trust her to be a great zombie warrior. Naturally, I would excel at such a task, if it ever came to the point of defending myself or my property from the hordes of undead. I might even go so far to say it's my true calling in life, kinda like Woody Harrelson in Zombieland, except without the sad dog backstory.

There is plenty of water to last through an inital lockdown. The irrigation system I spent days updating has a large reservoir which we could exploit for drinking water, and the swimming pool could also be filled with potable water. Food stays for a long time in the cool basement, and there are three full size fridges in the house and a small one in the pool kitchen. When the electricity goes due lack of maintenance when all the engineers are infected and turn into the enemy, we'll be in tough shape, but hopefully an outbreak wouldn't get to that point. Of course, we'd blackout the property at night in any event so as not to draw attention. This would mean uprooting the solar lights that illuminate the white stone walkways at night, no more laying out candles for atmosphere, and certainly killing the pool lights. We'd also have to slaughter the dogs that the neighbor keeps jailed in a cement kennel that borders our property. Their mournful sad barking all the time would just attract too much attention.

The last thing about the property is a positive point. Slightly outside of town, we're a little bit up in the hills which could shelter us should the need to flee occur. I've been too lazy to do the hike so far, and probably won't have time in the next couple days before I leave, but I'm told that all construction and civilization stops after hiking about ten minutes out of our gate. This is definitely a happy option to have should the shit really hit the fan and our residential defenses fail, and the horses would really come in handy here, carrying us off to the safety of nature like a modern cowboy. (Note to self: write a zombie Western screenplay...)

In terms of weapons, we have a good supply of garden tools: shovels, hoes, pickaxes, etc. There's a bunch in the basement, plenty of tools in the pool house, and some dusty drills and power sanders in the garage. Unfortunately, there are no firearms, but we'd be okay for hand to hand combat should it come to that.

Overall, I can't give my present home anything better than a B- rating in terms of zombie security. Better than most in the area, but not great. This means that the property and house are safe and secure during early, low-concentration outbreaks, but will almost certainly not survive a full-on zombie apocalypse. The main weakness leading to this grade are its less than desirable perimeter defenses which would be difficult to enhance. However, the property is applauded for it's moderate self-sufficiency, limiting dangerous and potentially exposing trips out for necessities, and its size and capability for harboring other survivors. I also am pleased to know there is unspoilt nature very close by, adding a very helpful Plan B.

One of these days, the proverbial shit is bound to hit the fan. In this case, 'the proverbial shit' is actually an army of zombies, 'hit' is actually 'eat the brains and flesh' and 'the fan' is actually poor, underprepared humans.

What I'm trying to say is that the zombies are coming, be prepared or be eaten and turned.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Trains, a Suit, and Africa

I'm considering changing my plans again. Instead of going directly north to France again, and doing another work exchange for a week or two like I'm doing now, Morocco is on my mind.

The idea came into my head the other day when I was saying goodbye to a couple that live in Morocco. It wasn't a very profound spark. It was more like, "Hey, they live in Morocco. I could go to Morocco."

I'm getting pretty lazy concerning hitchhiking, but fortunately Moroccan trains are cheap. Riding trains is one of the three reasons pulling me toward Morocco. I'd really like to take the overnight train from Tanger to Marrakech, spend a couple days, then take day trains halfway back up north, then east to Oujda, stay a couple days, then back to Tanger and Spain. Maybe I could even swing through Gibraltar for the hell of it. That way I can see where John and Yoko were married and check out the overseas territory that Spain is all bent up about since England won't give it back.

The other two reasons are a suit, and Africa. I've never been to Africa before, I'm a bit ashamed to say. I think it's about time I step foot on an unvisited continent, something I haven't done for five years.

Plus I have what appears to be an unfounded suspicion I can get a suit tailored for relatively cheap in Morocco. This fancy-schmancy cruise I'm taking apparently has formal dress codes for dinner. I'm already going to be the odd one out for being under 50; I don't want to be the only one dressed in duct taped flip flops and ratty t-shirts.

Nothing I've found online concerning tailored suits in Morocco is promising though. Maybe I'll just head to Morocco and ride trains and frustrate myself in futile searches for sartorial satisfaction while moonlighting in cafes filled with hookah smoke and belly-dancers. Christ, you know it ain't easy.

It's a roll of the dice right now. I don't want to spend too much cash since I don't want to be dead broke when I get home. However, if I can find a cabinmate to share the cost of the cruise with me (since I've singlehandedly paid for a twin room) then I'll be saving $800 bucks which I can guiltlessly blow in Africa.

Life's hard when you don't know if you're going to relax in southern France or travel around Morocco. Let me thank you in advance for your sympathy.