The NutshellEverything you really need to know is on this page.
I'm Dan. My hands are giant, and I'm good at what I do.
Massage sessions with me are not boring. Modalities included are ALL of these: Deep Tissue, Swedish, Sports, Trigger Point Release, Shiatsu, Reiki, aromatherapy and Thai/Yoga-inspired stretches. We can customize to your preference, or you can just come in and go with the flow.
I play an excellent selection of personally curated music during sessions. Feel free to see this list, which does not include Enya, by clicking RIGHT HERE.
I've got an awesome studio on 18th Street @ Treat Street in San Francisco's Mission District.
60 minutes — $150
90 minutes — $180
120 minutes — $220
Outcalls — expensive. Ask.
CLICK HERE TO BOOK NOW.
Better yet, just text me at (415) 407-2570 and mention my website. Love,
About MeHi. I'm Dan, a Bay Area native who loves people, nature, music, and great food — especially peanut butter.
My philosophy is that a good massage delivers a certain amount of what I call saturation, leaving a body feeling satisfactorily addressed with ample weight and no missed areas or filler. Deep tissue & detail work are ironed-out with walloping strokes from my big palms.
My thousands of hours of massage experience include working with:
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
The Center SF
The O+ Festival
The Sustainable Living Roadshow
High Sierra Music Festival
Phase One of my massage training was at age six, deftly working on family members.
Phase Two was around 2007, when I synchronized massage sessions with the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon for thrilled friends.
Phase Three got technical, with hundreds of hours of training at the San Francisco School of Massage under such wizards as Dr. Eric Rubin and Reverend Zoe Inman.
If you see me at a party, my hands might be drawn to your shoulders.
Home & Office Outcalls
Can't move? I'll come over. Along with me come the table, sheets, oils, and music. Just make sure your place is warm enough..
I've done chair and table massage at offices all over San Francisco, usually doing continuous 20- to 30-minute sessions. Employees walk away feeling relaxed and content. With larger offices, I can arrive with a team of experienced therapists. Let's talk.
Add your event to this list of outfits I've worked with: Bhakti Fest, Celebrity Cruise Lines, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the Wanderlust Festival, The Sustainable Living Roadshow, High Sierra Music Festival.
CyclistsErnest Michaux invented the modern bicycle pedal and cranks in 1861. The human body is similar, with joint systems like Ball & Socket (hips & shoulders), Saddle (carpometacarpal joint at base of thumb) , Ellipsoid (knees & wrists) and others.Bikes and bodies both need maintenance.Swedish, Sports & Deep Tissue massage are indispensably good for cyclists. Increased joint range of motion, increased flexibility and increased elimination of exercise waste products like lactic acid are but three benefits. These are in addition to well-known benefits like relaxation, optimal blood flow and release of happiness-creating endorphins.Big Hand Massage for Cyclists. Available in sessions of 60 minutes ($150), 90 minutes ($180) and 120 minutes ($220). A hybrid of several massage modalities, eminently enjoyable, and set to the sound of killer music.Members of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition! Show your membership card for $20 OFF any session.Location: 4 minutes from 16th Street BART if you pedal fast.
What Is Reiki?Let's introduce Reiki with a seemingly unrelated topic: The water crystal studies of Masaru Emoto.
Masaru set out glasses of water, each glass labeled with a different word or phrase. Then he had people pick up each glass, read its label, and then put the glass down.
His amazing discovery was that people's emotions — their impressions from each label they read — altered the water molecules as seen later under a microscope. Here are examples:
Now bearing in mind Masuro's claim that human emotion is more tangible than people tend to think, you can look at Reiki through the same lens.
Reiki is a healing art in which the practitioner becomes a conduit for universal energy, transferring that energy from the infinite to the client's body. Universal energy is naturally in perfect balance, and these waves are drawn to areas of imbalance. Like in Masuro's water study, Reiki energy influences a client's needs — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual — by bringing them from imbalance to balance.
Whereas massage relies of muscular force, during a Reiki session the only force is the weight of the practitioner's hands resting on the client's body via gravity. The hands stay still for minutes at a time, and the experience can be soothing and sometimes trippy. The sensations coming from the hands can range from heat to a subtle electrical current.
My Reiki sessions are mixed with plenty of relaxing massage, giving you a well-rounded experience. Check it out on the Massage Menu.
Reviews"AMAZING — from start to finish — I was a massage therapist for years and am critical — Daniel creates an environment that bliss’s you out and uses his very strong, large hands to do what i consider incredible. He is also a very nice person."
"It’s a miracle. Dan has crazy good massage skills. I was totally impressed, and I came away both times times feeling great."
"If I were stranded on a desert isle with one other person, I would choose this dude. Seriously. He’s that good. He’s got big hands and and an even bigger heart."
"I get a weekly conventional massage, and I have tried 25 therapists, and Dan is the best I have found. He uses his size and strength to deliver long, measured moves that truly impress."
"Dan is one in a million."
"Dan is wonderfully skilled at finding tense spots and helping me move through them with just the right amount of pressure and stretching. I’ve been seeing him for about two years and this last massage was his best to date. He literally unwound something in my lower back that had been bothering me for weeks."
"Freaking amazing. I got up and felt like a new person. I can’t express how awesome it was and Dan is so nice and calming"
"One word, IDEAL. I’ve had many, many massages from too many masseurs. Dan’s is magic. I was actually fully prepared to fall asleep because of my fatigue, but instead I found myself entering more of a trance. My search is over."
"Best massage I have ever had. Dan has an amazing nature and strong touch that brought me to another level of relaxation. Such a great experience."
"He was able to consistently surprise me with techniques that worked. Dan is very polite, has a well executed plan, and provides an experience that is totally rejuvenating."
"Dan is the best massage therapist in the city."
Alan Parsons Project
The Allman Brothers Band
Belle & Sebastian
Big Bill Broonzy
Blind Willie McTell
Booker T & the MGs
Camper Van Beethoven
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Crosby Stills Nash & Young
Deadboy & the Elephantmen
Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
Gang of Four
Guns 'n' Roses
Head and the Heart
The Highway QCs
Israel IZ Kamakawiwo'ole
It's a Beautiful Day
John Lee Hooker
Kings of Convenience
Loggins & Messina
Mamas & Papas
Ramsey Louis Trio
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Simon & Garfunkel
Stone Temple Pilots
My Massage Studio
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Ridiculous Old Travel TalesColombia 2015, Part 1
Friends & foes! Hola from South America, the sizzling southern continent with sexy capital names like Montevideo and Asunción. I am up in Colombia, on a one-month journey to find what I´m not sure I´m looking for. I tend to do such things. I also have plans to WWOOF on two farms and then visit the Amazon, one of two places considered to be the lungs of our entire planet. I´ll thank it on behalf of all of us.
Trips like this always plunge me into a state of harrowing existential crisis. What the hell am I doing here? Answers I never anticipate materialize when I´ve let go of my grasp and accepted my inescapable despair, like when a restaurant I´d been looking for unsuccessfully for two days appeared 9 feet in front of me as I sat in meditative silence at a neighboring cafe. The restaurant was called Esta Es El Punte, or This Is The Point. Meditation has become the point of my trip.
Meditation got me through Cartagena and its Getsemani district. You might compare it to San Francisco´s Mission District 15 years ago: edgy, authentic, colorful, ethnic, and with streets perpetually drenched in potent urine aged like a fine rum. It´s also crawling with 20-somethings trying to get laid and successfully getting drunk, intermittently resting in the shade, attention buried in their smartphones. I appreciate Cartagena´s beautiful locals, awesome street life, and architectural legacy which is the finest left by the Spanish in all of South America. That being said, I´m looking forward to Phase Two of my trip, which begins with a bus ride down to Medellin of Pablo Escobar fame. But not before a quick jaunt further along this beautiful Caribbean coast.
My awesome friend Meg told me not to miss Tayrona Park and the little village of Taganga. Magically the opportunity to visit both of these places in a two-day blast came in the form of my new friend Camo, evidently a local ¨public figure¨ and also a photographer for Vogue Magazine hell-bent on trying to sleep with me. Like a complex soup of spices and vegetables waiting for its main ingredient to be added -- say, clams to a masterful cioppino -- Camo´s unabashedly heavy-handed flirting (in also a literal sense) only added to my own stew of discomforts that had been culminating since my trip began -- including my ineptitude in speaking Spanish, the futility in seeking to eat anything along the lines of salad or vegetables, and finally a quite urgent realization that I should high tail it to Cuba ASAP. But more on that later.
Our boat ride from Taganga to Tayrona was the most scintillating (or frightening) bodily experience I´ve had since skydiving in 2003. A powerboat being driven by an apparent madman, traversing 20-foot swells of cobalt-blue open water near craggy rocky coastline covered in exotic cactus. I keep remembering that this is the Caribbean coast of a continent I´ve been drooling over for years. And if this boat were to take a hard left, we´d eventually hit something like Virginia or maybe Maine. This is happening! It´s thrilling both physically and mentally.
Later, we are on a cab ride through town, on a narrow one-way street. The cab in front of us suddenly stops and both the driver and passenger get out. They proceed to open the trunk and begin to unload 4 or 5 dozen boxes of cake and bring them all into an apartment up two flights of stairs. Recalling Hawaii´s ¨Live with Aloha¨ credo and pondering a Colombian equivalent, I can only laugh as we wait patiently, cake after cake.
You know that potent goo that you get at the bottom of the pan when you oven-bake an entire chicken? Colombians use that stuff in rice and in soups. It´s glorious. Other awesome foods are arepas (grilled corn cakes stuffed with cheese or egg) and papas rellenos (balls of fried potato stuffed with meat and vegetables).
Things I miss:
P.S. About Cuba: I heard something in the last few weeks of the US lifting its decades-long embargo with this island. The embargo had lent itself to a time-warp atmosphere where not a single car was newer than models from the 1950s and ´60s, and I wonder if this new situation will bring a flood of hideous new cars in and ruin the aesthetic. Let´s get there fast!
Colombia 2015, Part 2
´´Mi ojo es rojo.´´
In my limited Spanish, that was my way of saying ´´I have pink eye right now, which is why I´m wearing dark sunglasses at night / while shopping at this supermarket / while having an intimate conversation with you in this candle-lit restaurant.´´
Pink eye was the only thing really afflicting my stay in Medellin, the isolated city high up in the center of Colombia.
Homicide rate in Medellin: 17 murders per day!
Luckily for me (and ... everyone) that statistic dates back to 1991. Now that drug cartel boss Pablo Escobar is sleeping in the ground, the city is vastly different, emerging from its bloody past wearing bright colors, big ideas, and a wide smile
Last year Medellin surpassed both San Francisco and Tel Aviv to be named the Most Innovative City in the World. People buzz around, restaurants and clubs operate at Level 11, and the Metro system, built 20 years ago despite widespread belief that it would never, ever work, is the City´s mark of pride, fast, efficient and completely devoid of litter or graffiti. On top of all this, there is a new gondola system that whisks people above the Santo Domingo-Savio neighborhood, the city´s barrio where police once feared to tread. It´s accessible now. Though it is still a bit freaky though and I wouldn´t go near there at night.
My overnight bus ride to Medellin from Cartagena was a glorious, gorgeous and gregarious 13-hour journey, the moonlight, sunrise and subsequent sunshine kissing a moving cinema of towns, slums, rivers, churches, moss, agave, bouganvillea, cats, dogs, cows, horses, donkeys, waving children, three old men in cowboy hats, two men holding machine guns, one bus fallen over on its side, and so much mist.
Again: Medellin! Salads here! Vegetable soup! The weather, eternal springtime! And the world´s friendliest locals! Every time I asked someone on the street for directions, he/she walked with me for 8-10 blocks chatting like a giddy schoolkid. I was in love. My plan to stay one night turned into a stay of six nights and a reluctant departure
Towards the end of one particularly long day, I´d been walking around el centro for 9 or 10 hours, experiencing a circus of taxis, motorcycles, blaring stereos, pornography both live and DVD, and some of the most picturesque prostitutes I had ever seen, usually posturing in front of churches. I looked up at one point and saw a stand selling ´´Arepas de Choclo.´´ Holy shit, I thought, arepas with chocolate. Not even remotely hungry after hours of grazing the multitudinous street food everywhere, I decided it would be foolish to pass up such an offering. I searched my pockets for money and found the equivalent of maybe 45 U.S. cents, just enough to buy an arepa and render me further peniless. I ordered one and quickly learned that ´choco´refers to a type of corn, not anything to do with chocolate. I was served an arepa the width of a Beatles record and one inch thick, slathered in butter. I and the girl serving me were mired in confusion. Then as I left, she gave me her phone number.
Like I said, I loved this town. I cried a bit on the bus out of town towards my first WWOOF farm. Maybe sad to leave, maybe missing all you loves back home, maybe feeling in my heart this nation´s complex identity polarized with happiness and violence, pride and pain.
On the bus en route to the farm in Cartago, I missed the stop I was supposed to get off at, because I was asleep. I was probably asleep because of what I´d eaten the last time I was awake: a heavy fish stew (heavenly) followed by a mini dulce de leche for dessert (98% sugar) which I questioned at time of eating. At any rate, I woke up when the bus stopped in a little town called Guadalajara de Bugo, 2 hours past my stop in Cartago. In the torrential outpour of expression from the Spanish-speaking passengers who understood my plight, I deduced that I should get off the bus immediately and get a bus going back in the opposite direction.
I could only imagine what this situation would mean on a similar journey back in California -- say Greyhound from San Francisco to Los Angeles, stopped maybe 90 minutes north of Bakersfield, as the sun set and rain began to pour as in my current situation.
Half of me thought Holy Mother of Fuck. I ignored that and went with the other half of me, which approached the situation with meditative calm and acceptance. Hearing one woman call me ´´mi amour´´ as I exited the bus with my giant backpack out onto the highway, I walked into a FLOW situation where everything clicked before I had a chance to overthink. 10 feet in front of me appeared a man on a motorcycle. He whisked me to the nearest transportation terminal, and the very first bus company I questioned sold me a ticket to Cartago leaving in 15 minutes. Remember ´´Esta Es el Punto´´ from my previous post.
What is a truck stop in the USA? A grimy, fluorescent-lit, Pepsi-sponsored cesspool of 64-ounce sodas, deep-fried hot dogs made from quasi-meat biproduct of cows with gonnorhea, teeming with with fat racist truckers coming down off crystal meth? It´s different in Colombia! Mouth-watering food slow-cooked by stout local women, served by ludicrously attractive young Colombians. You sit at tables made of solid wood, dining in semi-outdoor space overlooking green mountainsides that define the word bucolic. Around you, 20 or 30 Colombian families also eating. Your bus leaves in 30 minutes.
I looked in the mirror today. My left eye is healed. But now my right eye has gotten pink eye, probably from its neighbor. And so my new phrase: ´´Mi otro ojo es rojo.´´
My writing is amusing! Are you not entertained??!!! Now that I have your attention, I need to pull a Bono and send you an important message. Mega-corporation Monsanto is here. Even in the most remote fields in the middle of nowhere, there are monstrously large fields of sugarcane and the like, laden with chemicals that seep into the land and into the rivers that provide everyone with their drinking water. Do you find that disturbing? Then get this: Colombia passed a law making it illegal to plant any crops using seeds that are not patented. In other words, IT IS NOW ILLEGAL IN COLOMBIA TO GROW NON-GMO FOOD, punishable by months in jail. I won´t pretent to have a solution but to ask you this: spend some time time, even 5 seconds, having concern for this spread of poison throughout the globe. Even those 5 seconds of thought will be seeds that can grow into something healthy.
I LOVE YOU
Colombia 2015, Part 3
I saw two men on one motorcycle the other day. Unremarkable, except that they were also riding with a live goat.
That happened during my triumphant exit from the town of San Agustin, home of my 2nd WWOOF farm. But first, let´s rewind a bit.
Shortly after my slept-through-my-stop mishap back in Cartago, I finally reached my first WWOOF farm. This was in Colombia´s Zona Cafetera, home of some of the world´s finest coffee (which, ironically, all gets exported while Colombians drink Nescafe). It was a glorious (if bittersweet) atmosphere, really — surrounded by lush greenery, cute hippies, a gurgling river no longer filled with dead bodies, and very picturesque Monsanto-tainted sugarcane plants. Here´s a picture painted with words: It´s hot and humid, and the buzzing sound of cicadas is nearly deafening. The river and cane fields in the distance are flanked by rolling hills. Around me, chickens run around a patch of trees; banana, plantain, guava, avocado, and cacao, all of which grow with a symbiotic love affair. Mosquitoes are everywhere, and at insect repelent they laugh. A frog jumps onto then off of my shoulder. Everything feels thick and heavy, as if we are 1,000 feet below sea level or walking on the moon. I left this farm when I had the opportunity to join two marvelous individuals to a town called Salento before continuing on to farm number two.
In Salento, I went on a solo hike one day in the Valle de Cocora, famous for its throngs of Colombia´s national tree, the stunning wax palm. The trail went up and down, left and right, hugging a river, all covered in rock, mud and horseshit. After an hour or so, I came across an absolutely perfect spot to swim underneath a waterfall. I wasn´t wearing any underwear beneath my pants, so this swim would have to mean skinny dipping (bringing the number of exotic countries in which I´ve skinny dipped to roughly 12). Very risky, because this was directly next to the hiking trail and I had no idea when other hikers might come by. Fuck it — let´s do it, FAST. I got naked and jumped into the water. It was ice cold, and so was the air evidently: each of my exhales was an opaque cloud of smoke. I dunked my head under, then quickly exited the water. I felt glorious! Flow was still of the essence, and I swiftly got dressed. As I put on my second (of two) shoes and got up to leave the spot, victorious, I looked up and saw coming around the corner the group of six loud Israeli guys who had been scrambling to catch up with me for the last 90 minutes. I sprinted on, still ahead of them. ESTE FUE EL PUNTO.
It was a very strange journey traveling from Salento to farm number two, Finca de Adolfo y Maria. Without going into too much detail, after 4 busses and 16 hours, I shared a taxi to Pitalito (a town I would later learn was famous for its fat people with ugly personalities, according to the mother of the farm´s owner) with a man named Tupac, a self-proclaimed shaman who also had a completely unabashed penchant for sex with underaged girls, evidenced by a few incidents that I, again, will not go into too much detail describing. Finally, I arrived in San Agustin and found the farm.
Working on this coffee farm was humbling, to say the least. Six hours of hand-picking coffee berries in sweltering humidity, on a dusty hillside with a 45-degree incline into a 1,000 foot ravine, yielded about a tenth of a barrell of berries. I asked Adolfo how much he sold a full barrel for. $25.
For some reason, there was no drinking water on this farm. Just coffee and sugarcane juice. Once again, I´ll skip the details that led to my decision to leave the farm. I´ll just tell you that I was drenched in sweat and caked in dirt. My limbs were covered in mysterious bug bites that had swelled up and were seeping yellow fluid. Each of my shoes contained about two eightballs of gravel, and my hands were en route to forming callouses unbecoming of a massage therapist. As I swatted away a bee that was literally halfway through stinging my eyelid, I walked up to Adolfo and said adios. As I walked off with my bag, half relieved and half dejected, two of the dogs on the property barked at me as if ready to attack. On the little road off in the distance, I flagged down a man hauling lumber on a motorcycle and begged him for a ride into town. He obliged.
That was the ultimately triumphant ride away from Finca de Adolfo y Maria. The glorious ride past the two men motorcycling with the live goat. The ride that was remarkable not only because I was very suddenly free, but because it really was a spectacle of sensations: flower clusters in a kaleidoscope of colors cascading from crevices and covering las casas, the crystal clear rays of sunshine bursting in a million directions as we rode up, down, left, right through this heavenly valley blessed with bucolic beauty.
Time for a new phase in the trip, one where I might realize that this was my first solo backpacking adventure in three years. Time to stop feeling like I need to do manual labor to offset any feelings of guilt derived from meandering around and enjoying myself. Time to simply indulge, with grace.
Pardon the expletive, but I´m not sure how else to say this: THE MOTHER FUCKING AMAZON! That´s right, the one and only fucking Amazon jungle. Lungs of the world, museum of godlike flora and fauna, home to mysterious magical people millenia unchanged.
Funny enough, I never made it to the Amazon. I did make it to a little town called Mocoa which, for most intents and purposes, might have been the Amazon. Very close to the real thing in proximity, a thick jungle replete with rainbow-colored birds and the occasional monkey that jumps onto you and tugs at your hair, making you wonder if it´s mad at you for some reason. You´ve never even formally met! Centipedes everwhere. And home of one particular waterfalled (of very many) called Hornoyaco, witness to which was one of the most spectacular experiences of my life. Absolutely jaw-dropping in its sheer intensity and energetic magnificence. Thank you, Mocoa.
(Note:If you happen to be reading this out loud to my mom, skip this paragraph). At this point in my final days in Colombia, I continued the excitement with a bus ride to border town Pasto. Why was the bus ride notable? Because it roared up and down a stretch of highway called La Trampolina del Muerto (Trampoline of Death) — a gravel road maybe 7 feet wide at certain points (for BOTH directions of traffic), devoid of any guard rails, next to 2,000 foot plunges into jungle abyss. On one hand famous for being one of the most dangerous roads on the continent, and on the other hand one of the most spectacular. I was feeling good about it, and so a ride up and down La Trampolina I took.
Midway down that road I stopped in Sipundoy, a valley that will never, ever be mentioned in Lonely Planet. Town after town rivaling San Agustin in lush, multicolored beauty, and each locale inhabited by people that were 100% indigenous (along with a Noah´s Arc of animals roaming the streets). The entire valley was surrounded by jagged hills with thick fog oozing over and in.
The undiluted indigenous people in this valley were stunning in their beauty, in a way that is hard to put into words. In my head, I imagine them living generation after generation in a culture that is unabashedly different from ours. As a result, each cell in their bodies has an exoticism to it, and them doing even the most mundane things, like handing over a banana, come across as magical acts of alien grace. It was beautiful to witness, while my attempt to describe it clearly isn´t. I did lots of interesting things in this valley, a final burst of experience before crossing the border. One such burst included a blast of ceremonial tobacco up each of my nostrils. I also ate lunch at a wildly atmospheric local market, saw a crowd of people circled around a man performing acts of (possibly black) magic, soaked in thermal waters, ate exotic fruits with names like uchuva (my particular favorite), and walked around the dusty streets at a pace sans agenda. At one point I daydreamed of living forever, hovering in a sort of remote-controlled mini hot air ballon, century after century, above towns like these, watching the people buzzing around below, landing occasionally for some slices of mango or some ice cream on a stick. As I was daydreaming, the sun was setting, we were near the equator, the air was heavy and still, everyone was outside, and it seemed like a moment of perfection frozen in time.
Onward! My final stop in Colombia, an obligatory night in Pasto before crossing the border the next day.
I would describe Pasto as what you´d get if you plucked an economically-depressed, mid-sized city out of former Yugoslavia and plopped it down in the Andean highlands an hour north of the Ecuadorean border. Arriving on a Sunday, when apparently the populace utterly disappears, it was like a seedy ghost town of decades-past glory. It was extremely depressing.
The next day, things were different—very different. Pasto was screaming with activity! It was a very walkable city, perfect in size, quite dense, architecturally fascinating, equally handsome and hideous, a graffiti-strewn time warp of a town. Chickens got roasted, men sold socks from carts, women cut fruit, obese prostitutes strolled alleyways, taxis roared around corners, motorcycles squeezed through whatever crevices they could, and the occasional indigenous family walked by wearing alpaca ponchos. Within a few hours I was in love with Pasto.
That sums up my entire Colombia experience, really. At first confusing, bewildering, challenging and uncomfortable. By the end, a big place with a big place in my heart.
COLOMBIA AT A GLANCE:
Exchange rate: 2,000 pesos to $1
Weather: searing heat, bitter cold, everything inbetween
Men´s fashion: anything resembling a soccer jersey, and jeans with many many zippers
Ordering breakfast in a restaurant: walk in, utter the word ¨breakfast,¨ sit down and enjoy the cavalcade of food and drinks that you are served
Ordering lunch in a restaurant: same as above except replace ¨breakfast¨ with ¨lunch¨
Ordering dinner in a restaurant: same as above except replace ¨lunch¨ with ¨dinner¨
Public transportation: spot nearest moving object, yell out your destination, hop in / on
Greatest temporary hat spotted: pizza box with a circle cut out the center
Most prolific sight on street corners: mangos sold from wheelbarrows
Needs some work: fiber in the national diet
Colombia in one word (interpret as desired): ALIVE!!!
Europe 2008, Part 1
Every year, 650 people in Paris are hospitalized after slipping on dog shit.
That may or may not be the most interesting revelation I can share about Europe. I'm still unsure because I lost my little of notebook of revelations — things I write down during my days, like "Day 4, Paris, why are there so many goddamned McDonalds around here" and "Day 19, Hasselt, asked restaurant to serve me a 'regional specialty' for dessert; received two scoops of vanilla ice cream."
Without my little notebook, how can I shed some light for you on this mysterious little country they call Europe, the dark, dank place most of the world has never heard of? I'll have to resort to using my own memory, I suppose.
I'd love to tell you what you want to hear: The food is spectacular. The air is filled with romance. Paris makes baguettes to die for. Every church is at least 7,000 years old. And everyone who isn't zipping around on a Vespa drives a 1975 Citroen D Super. Well other than the baguette part, it's all bullshit.
If anything could actually come close to confirming the pretty little Europe cliches in the world´s collective conscious, it would be my first night in Paris. After hauling my backpack to my friend's apartment in Maraichers, we sat in the small living room — gloriously devoid of a TV set — and spent hours, not minutes, eating dinner: baguettes with cheese. We drank red wine. We talked about all sorts of things, although -- I kid you not — the dominant sound in the room was that of a neighbor outside the window playing Klezmer music on an accordion. And as that faded away and we went to sleep, the only remaining sound was that of pigeons outside fucking. Ah, the city of romance.
A delightful way to start my trip it was indeed, though it was followed by bitter mood swings. Matterhorn-like highs and Dead Sea-like lows, the lows making more of a lasting impression. What the fuck am I doing wandering around the planet's most expensive continent like a lost dog? Am I right in noticing that every city is exactly the same, an old church anchoring an old-town square lined with cafes and snooty, big-sunglass-wearing clientele sipping cappuchinos? Am I the only person no longer impressed by cobblestone streets? I've noticed that everyone you go, coffees and cafe lattes and such always come with a little cookie for free. Big fucking deal. And if I see another H&M store today, I just might slit my own throat.
Time for a change of pace, maybe? Step one, stop going to big cities. Step two, get over the fact that Amsterdam seemed like Heaven for my first 24 hours there, followed by being oppressively hellatious and miserable thereafter. Step two, hop into a Volvo with three Swedish guys on an 8-day road trip through Europe.
The Swedes: Rich the planner, Sebastian the stoner, and Jasper, who amazingly lives on a steady diet of cigarettes, cola, candy bars and the occasional slice of pizza.
The car: An '80s-era Volvo station wagon, hand- (er, haphazardly-) painted with psychedelic flames, and aptly nicknamed "Strictly Business."
The adventure: I could write a novel about the madness that ensued during our 8-day, 7-country spree, but I won't.
Briefly, we started in Mesnil sous les Cotes, a little French town with a population of 100 -- the perfect antithesis of Amsterdam. We stayed with Benjamin, possibly the most perfectly stereotypical crazy French man, oozing so much charisma he could bottle and sell it.
We continued onward. France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Sweden. The highlight for me would have to be bathing in Lake Geneva rather than showering. Either that or realizing that someone had siphoned all the gas out of the car's tank one night.
I am in Sweden, right this second typing what will be the final paragraph of the email you are reading. One thing about Swedish people I can confirm: Yes, they are HOT.
Europe 2008, Part 2
I told you about my road trip a couple of weeks ago with the Swedes in the psychedelic Volvo. In movie terms, it was pretty much like "Euro Trip," minus any sex clubs or high speed trains — except one that almost hit us.
I just got back from road trip number two. Nine Lithuanians, two identical hot-rodded 1978 Ford Consuls, and me.
I'd call it "The Cast of Dazed and Confused Hot Rods Through the Set of Deliverance, but in rural Latvia."
I still need to look up the Lithuanian translation for "you've got a real pretty mouth."
First off — Lithuanians. If I had to describe them in one word, that one word would be Absolute Fucking Misfits. It's like I was transported back in time to high school, when Siamese Dream was the hot new album. Chain wallets, Doc Martens boots with fluorescent green laces, and black hooded sweatshirts with Anarchy symbols and patches all over them. The driver of the car I was in had a shaved head but one big dread coming out of the back -- the punk version of a mullet, the best of both worlds.
Road Trip Day One: Within the first hour, we've already stopped for a cigarette break 6 times. It is nice to pull over and stretch, but these guys sure do smoke a lot and I wonder how long it will be before we get from Vilnius to our destination town on the Latvian coast. They've also drank about four cans of beer already — each.
We are on a highway. I'm really enjoying myself as Bowie blares on the stereo and out the window is a floating cinema of forest, crumbling farmhouses and smoke from the tires as the driver regularly peels out to show off the Consul's muscle-car credentials. Suddenly we pull over and some talking occurs between our car and an out-of-nowhere car that was waiting on the side of the road.
I am totally confused, but the conclusion I come to -- as we drive further and further down a dirt road through thick, uncharted forest — is that someone tipped us off and we'll be squatting for the night in an abandoned house in the forest. My first squatting experience!
Turns out, I'm wrong. The house is a hostel in the woods. The mysterious driver works there, and drove out to the highway to meet us and lead us to the place. We spend the night sitting by the fireplace, drinking, (they) speaking a mile a minute in Lithuanian and (I) just sitting around smiling and pretend-laughing every time every one else laughs for real.
Day Two: It's about 40 degrees out. Perfect conditions for me to take a dip in the nearby lake. Everyone looks bewildered for some reason, and nobody joins me. Ah, they must have already showered this morning, I conclude.
It hails later in the day. We drive through dilapidated farm towns where people visibly slaughter and cut up pigs in their front yards.
We continue the cigarette-stop-every-fifteen-minutes trend. We stop at town churches and ring the giant church bell then scamper off.
We drink Black Balsams, a local liquor made with 100 herbs. It tastes like Fernet Branca.
The driver does a lot of 'donuts' with his car. I thought that only happened in movies.
Later on the second night, the driver also decides it would be amusing to drive down a dirt road with no headlights on. Within 15 seconds the car plummets off the road and into a 6-foot ditch. With the car completely on its SIDE, I wonder to myself "should I act serious right now, or can I wallow in the black delight of this situation?" I choose the latter, and everything ends up fine as all the town folk come out to help us get the old Ford back on the road. We keep the lights on from now on.
Anyway, although it was a nonstop blast, I am beyond relieved when the road trip safely concludes at 2 AM that same night. I then spend a couple of days checking out Lithuania's jaw-dropping capital, Vilnius.
On my final night there, I and three friends plan to eat dinner at a local brewpub famous for three things: excellent beer, a food menu serving every conceivable body part of a pig, and a steady clientele of skinheads. When we arrive, I'm delighted to find that the beer is so good it alters my perception of what beer can taste like, the menu also has chicken on it, and everyone here tonight has hair.
Later when my friends walk me to the bus station, I'm really sad. They don't want me to leave, and I don't want to leave. Like every European city I've been to, I started out disliking Lithuania but realized I was in love with it at the end. I could easily change my bus ticket and stay another day, but I'm already past the point of no return — deciding now to stay would be anticlimactic, annoying and strangely embarassing. So I leave as scheduled.
Before Lithuania, I was in Latvia.
Before Latvia, I was bummed to leave Sweden, which I thought was heaven. I remember my bitter ferry ride from Stockholm to Riga on a ship called the Regina Baltica — built in the 1950s and not updated since. Every single person on the boat was clearly not Swedish. Nobody ever smiled. Everyone chain smoked cigarettes, and every square inch of the boat was the Smoking Section. It was a rude awakening. On my cheap MP3 player, I listened to the Into the Wild soundtrack as we sailed off into the frigid abyss.
The highlight of the boat ride was when I won a music-trivia contest in the Lounge. The prize: a bar of white chocolate the size of a license plate.
It's 7 AM right now and I didn't sleep last night, that's why I'm rambling incoherently about Baltic scowlers and white chocolate.
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