Slonim goes to Paris, Italy, Amsterdam, Rhineland, London, and few other European snobbish countries. Viva America! If I don't put up a post between 7/25-8/13 and you notice and publically call me out (ie: put up a comment). I owe you a European Tchotchke.
Posted on August 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm
I’m accustomed to being around Jews. I grew up in NYC, Jew-central, and work in an industry that’s practically run by Jews, entertainment. So, when I chose to vacation with an Australian owned travel company, I knew being an American and a Jew would put me in the minority. My father gave me some advice before the trip, ‘don’t let them know you are a Jew’, he spoke as if we were living through the pogroms of Russia in the 19th century. Though a tad extreme, I didn’t particularly feel the need to announce my religion over the loudspeaker. When on day two of the trip, I heard a wise crack about Jews, I wasn’t quite sure how to react.
Over a microphone, each person had to answer ice-breaker questions such as “what you would do with an unlimited amount of money.” The trip leader then shared an amusing answer from a previous participant, ‘invest in making more money’. I heard one of the Australians say to his mate, ” I bet that person was American, oh wait, I bet he was Jewish!!” Pause for laughs, and none… from me. I could have just ignored the wise crack, it was said relatively quietly and only received a modicum of a reaction from his buddy. But as a sheltered Jewish New Yorker where yids pretty much run the streets, I was unaccustomed to such humor–and from such a hot guy!! Why are the hot ones always the assholes, and in this case the bigoted assholes?
I am all for making jokes and I’m fine with self deprecating Jew jokes a la Larry David in “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, but a non-Jew does not have these same comedic rights. Call it the benefit of thousands of years of persecution. This double standard also holds true with black people, with a handful of exceptions, Caucasians can’t make a black person joke, whereas a black is allowed. Chris Rock is a millionaire thanks to countless jokes ripping on his black brethren.
I should note, that I didn’t care about the American element of the wisecrack. It’s true; America is a very capitalistic society. After visiting eight European countries, seven of which for every restroom stop, I had to bring my own toilet paper and hand sanitizer, I say G-D bless the USA! We are a country that believes in life, liberty, over-sized food portions, and soap in every bathroom. Sure, some Chinese restaurants may add a little water to their liquid soap, but at the end of the meal there is still something to wash your hands with!
As mentioned in a prior blog post, Amsterdam was my favorite city and visiting the Anne Frank museum was one of the highlights. There was a quotation from Anne that really resonated with me:
One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we will be people again and not just Jews! We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever, we will always be Jews as well. But then, we’ll want to be.
April 11, 1944.
Like Anne intuited, this is exactly how I feel. No matter where I am, in America or on a trip to Europe with a bunch of Australian crocodile avengers, I am always aware of my Judaism and proud to be a Jew. And so, when the hot and kinda stupid Aussie made his joke, I didn’t feel the need to give him a tirade about the Jewish people, I had nothing to prove. I also didn’t want it to go unnoticed. So, I did something that I hope would make Anne proud. I told him that my parents and younger sister died in the Holocaust, I grew up as an orphan and as a consequence have no capacity to love. I have never kissed a boy, would he do me the honor? The kiss would be an act of repentance for his comment. Now, most people would recognize the ridiculousness of what I said, but as mentioned, he wasn’t the brightest of the bunch and I wasn’t questioned. He was pretty much speechless.
Needless to say, we never made out during the trip, but on the bright side he didn’t make any more dumb jokes. Correction, he didn’t make any dumb jokes about Jews; as for dumb jokes, they were told in abundance.
Posted on August 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm
You know how sometimes when reflecting on a past experience, one often romanticizes it? I don’t. I focus on the negative, soon forget it, and then the memory becomes, yeah I did X,Y and Z in Austria! Or was it Paris and it was A,B, and C? Wait, was it Dubai? Sigh. So, while I still remember, I will summarize my Top Deck experience, the good the bad and the ugly hangovers… mostly of drunken 19-25 year old Australians.
Memories include, sleeping on the bus 60% of the trip, laying out damp towels, sweatshirts and other misc crap in my bag as a means to claim the connected seats in the back of the bus; a key spot for optimizing the sleep experience. Waking up to Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling” approximately 43 times over a period of 2 weeks. Having to hold in the need to urinate, otherwise be subjected to feeling like a child when asking permission from the driver to unlock the bathroom. The toilet was reserved for “emergencies” only as there are limited “dumping posts” in Europe. Number # 2 was absolutely forbidden. I wondered how they would really know, but I didn’t test them. I will remember hearing “scheisse”, a German word for ‘shit’ and apparently a favorite expression among a certain subset of ZBT-style crocodile fighters. There will always be the singer/guitar player, who sang Bruno Mars as if our trip was a rehearsal for his upcoming American Idol audition. He did have a great voice and of all the people in the group he connected with everyone, which just shows the power of music.
I did find a group of friends who were my age(ish) from Mexico, coincidentally, where I had originally planned to go for my vacation. After a 3:00am impulse Groupon purchase, I committed to one week of cooking classes in a sleepy town outside of Mexico City. A few weeks before the trip, my dad comes into my room asking me not to go, for fear I would get kidnapped. Even though it’s a bit far-fetched and would most likely never happen, it made me wonder how much he would be willing to put up as ransom money, and like that, I agreed to change my plans and head to Europe.
I loved my time in Amsterdam. Like a true Malcolm G-Wellian I often feel an immediate chemistry when I like something, whether it is a person, a piece of clothing, or a city. Upon the bus pulling into Amsterdam despite “Good Feelings” playing in the background for the 37th time, I had umm a good feeling about the city. It was nicely spread out, yet manageable, and the canals greatly complemented the structure of the city; there were some bad ass urban developers up in the 17th century. I mean the Dutch developed NYC, they’re no joke!
We did see an infamous ‘Sex Show’ consisting of 5 acts where full penetration was the ahem climax of the performance. Parents, here’s where I ask you to stop reading. Consider this blog a public diary, public for everyone except you two. Seriously go away.
As someone who appreciates the fine art of porn and live theater, the sex show was lacking in both respects. The actress whose vagina was used for penetration, looked as bored and uninterested as a customer service employee for Verizon. The woman was large and not in charge, especially of her frizzy hair. We heard church music and all of a sudden a man came out wearing a choir robe with nothing underneath. He soon revealed the largest penis I have ever seen– not in a movie. It was comparable to Mark Whalberg in Boogie Nights . They go at it, changing positions 3 or 4 times, perfectly choreographed so all audience members could catch a proper glimpse of the least sexual sex act of all time. In the same apathetic sentiment, the women of the Red Light District in their sexy thongs and negligees were talking on their cell phones! Have these women never heard of active salesman ship? That’s what happens when the middle man is cut out and there are no pimps to get these women’s asses in gear!
Another liberal part of the city is the ‘coffee shops’, where people purchase their weed legally. Whereas many people in my group went for the $8 weed brownies, as a value player, I opted to purchase a dime bag. Being that I don’t know what the hell that I’m doing regarding weed herbage, I asked a gentleman to roll one for me. Another guy saw this and in excellent English asked the man I had put to work, “Can you roll one for me too?”. I was highly aware of how ridiculous of a request I had made, and so the wise crack was much appreciated. I invited the jokester to share in the doobie and we wound up having a nice conversation.
After my doobilious experience, I went on a boat cruise as the final hoorah with the Top Deck group. At first most groups of friends stuck together, but as the night progressed and alcohol flowed, there was a distinct merge of social cliques. Aussies with South Africans, Mexicans with chicanos it was wild! People got so crazy, two Aussies wound up SCREAMING at each other about the best way to take care of an Australian Frat boy who was “pissed” out of his mind. To top off the evening, our cab driver got out of the vehicle to physically push my friend Laura and I out, while taking off without giving us change. When Laura shouted “hey he stole my money!” the security at the hostel said, “quiet lady, otherwise we will call the police and kick you out of here”. So much for feeling secure with security.
The memories continue after Amsterdam. We passed by Bruge as a means to return to London, eat waffles, and earn the right to claim we had been to Belgium. I then stayed with my friend Laura whose lives in Zone 6 of London, the Sorbiton station, and had a few days to relax, read my recently purchased Anne Frank book, all the while talking in Spanish. I saw Buckhingham Palace, Picadilly Circus, and celebrated my friend’s birthday at the Brazilian bar Guanabara. I had intended to go to Cambridge and purchased a proper ticket, but somehow I arrived in Oxford, whatevs. I head to America tomorrow, and though I’m not super pumped, I’m ready for it and will appreciate paying in dollars not pounds.
I really like the friends that I made on this trip and hope to travel with them again, without Top Deck. Next Stop: Mexico in December, hmm does anyone sell kidnap insurance?
Posted on August 9, 2012 at 9:51 pm
It’s nearly impossible to get a ticket to see an Olympics game unless you are connected to one of the corporate sponsors or happen to be shtupping one of the athletes. When Doug Feinberg, my former JV basketball coach tipped me off about tickets to see the USA women play in the semi-finals, I jumped at the chance. I haven’t watched a hoops game since my bench warming days, nor do I follow the sport, but I was going to be in London during the 2012 Olympics, how could I not see at least one game!
To learn what happened on the court check out Doug Feinberg’s article in the AP. As part of his job, he watches 6 games a day and has approximately 40 minutes to write an article before attending the next game. Yikes.
To learn what happened off the court and in the stadium seats, continue reading.
My “official” seats were in the upper mezzanine where the women player’s faces were hardly recognizeable (assuming I could recognize them). There were tons of seats on the main floor and after moving a few times, I found my spot. The only issue was there were no fans yelling or singing. There were a bunch of Olympics volunteers sitting in front of me busy being apathetic teenagers and a British couple who golf clapped whenever either team scored.
Where are the wild and crazy fans? Where is the excitment of being at a live game, and where is my future husband sitting?! A handful of people were waving American flags, but they were mostly senior citizens (and married). It was a sea of vacant blue seats.
Here is my suggestion, do not give corporate sponsors complimentary tickets, they go un-used. I can imagine the conversation of an executive calling her brother, “The husband thinks it’s not worth taking Jr. out of camp to see the Olympics. Jr’s performing in the musical version of Dora the Explorer. Want the tickets?”
It’s in London right? Ugh, not worth the shlepp.”
“Know someone who wants them?”
“Ok. Well, these free tickets that were a nice gesture, are now becoming a pain in the ass.”
And the ticket sits and collect dust in some apartment or house somewhere.
So the bottom line is, give sponsors exclusive access to purchase tickets, but once they are given away for free they lose value.
Here’s a (slighly shaky) video and a few random shots from inside the stadium and outside. Note, the kid dressed in blue is not a fan, but another apathetic volunteer forced to do things like take pictures with me.
Posted on August 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm
We stayed in a small town in the Austrian Mountains called Kirchdorff the evening of their “big” summer nacht party! For the entrance of three euros there was a live band who played recognizable hits such as “Achy Breaky Heart”, stands selling fried bread, beer, fried donuts, beer, and lots adolescents. They had a homemade wheel of fortune type game where I won €20 euros, but also spent a good €8-10 on playing before winning. Whenever I lost, the three toothed Austrian man running the game said “bad luck” and offered me a kiss as a consolation prize, wouldn’t that be a prize for him?
Since there were was not a ton to do at the festival, I did what anyone, slightly off their rocker, would do, I took pictures with the locals. Some with leaderhosen, some without. The goal was to get pictures with as many youngsters as possible and in doing so I met the Austrian Harry Potter! He wasn’t really Harry Potter, but his friends sure got a kick out of it when I kept saying “Harry Potter, Harry Potter” with a Spanish accent and snapped a photo.
Posted on at 4:15 pm
Is it odd that after visiting other concentration camps, I’m kind of used to them? You read the signs and look at the maps of what was there and how it looked, but it’s sometimes hard to re-imagine, when all you see is empty space. We stopped into Dachau as a break from an 8 hour drive from Austria to Germany, I was still in sleeping mode, but being there just reaffirmed what I already strongly connect to, my Jewish identity. At Dachau they re-created the sleeping barracks and I remember stories from when visiting Sachsenhausen with my AJC trip to Berlin
The Top Deck tour guide gave us an overview of German history and in talking about WW2 he mentioned the gypsies and homosexuals who were brought over to the camps, but hardly mentioned the Jews. It was weird. We are sleeping in a castle in the Rhine valley which is cool, but doors lock at 10pm so it’s kind of a castle/prison.
Posted on at 3:59 pm
I remember going to Venus in middle school and taking a gondola ride. As a true character, my father sang italian hits such as “That’s Amore” grabbing the paddle from the ganzer, Italian word for conductor, and paddled us around. I silently vowed never to return to Venus or to take a gondola ride without a romantic partner. Well, I did return, during the peak of tourist season, with 100 degree heat, and without a boyfriend. It was far from romantic, but to maintain my promise to my 13-year old-self, I didn’t participate in the gondola ride. I did manage to take a picture of a “romantic” gondola ride and incidentally captured the expression of the fella next to me whose face exactly mimicked my sentiments. It was a nice day overall and if you ever go,
don’t try the “crema” coffee, but do try the macaroons!
Posted on at 3:58 pm
There is a relatively new adventure sport called canyoning that started in France, has spread to all of Europe and I would imagine is also available in Denver and the Rockies. As one who enjoys water activities, (back in the day I won the water skiing award at camp), all the hot male staff worked there, but that was just an added bonus. When I heard of canyoning, I jumped at the chance– no pun intended.
The adventure started with leaping off cliffs to acclimate us to jumping– I presume. I didn’t feel the need to pay €65 to jump off cliffs, but I did appreciate wearing the borrowed jumpsuits as the water was cccc-old. We wore two sets of wet suits fully equipped with hoodies and so when fully dressed we looked like the human sperm in the beginning of Woody Allen’s movie “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex”.
We entered the canyon wearing harnesses and were “abseiling”, a word common in Australia which means propelling downward. With the help of our trusty guides and a harness we “jumped” down the canyon amid a waterfall and landed in a shallow pool of water. Most pools with any decent insurance would never allow jumping at such a depth, think kitty pool with waterfall.
I am accustomed to being propelled downward after an intense rock-climbing excursion, but all we did was drive to the top of the canyon. It felt like cheating, like eating ice cream before dinner or in this case instead of dinner.The only exertion of energy was putting the sperm suits on, which was quite the challenge. As for the “sliding” down rocks, they were not 5 feet high so we didn’t slide for more than 4 seconds. My roommate who didn’t attend had more of an adventurous experience playing on the swing set at our cabin. In describing the experience to her, she accurately connected it to “sexo malo”, bad sex. A lot of preparation for four seconds and done.
Bottom line, canyoning is for chumps— and as a the chumpiest chump of them all, I would choose a water park over ‘can-yawning’ any day of the week. I would like to note, of the 12 “canyoners” I was the only one not impressed, but doesn’t every party need a party pooper?
Posted on August 1, 2012 at 3:26 pm
There is a tradition of throwing three coins into the Fountain of Trevi and wishing to:
1. Return to Rome
Apparently €3000 are collected daily from coins dropped in the fountain.
I slightly adapted the tradition and only threw in two coins:
1. Love & Marriage
2. That the Value of the Dollar Will Increase
Posted on at 2:08 am
I was at a karaoke bar in Florence filled with wedge wearing tourists belting American standards such as “Sex is on Fire”. With no Italian man eye candy in the near or far vicinity, I found solace in ordering alcohol with friends. The waiter delivered the tower of booze with a fire-cracker glistening at the top. One would think we purchased a bottle in a VIP section, but no it was $32 worth of beer at the Brother Jimmy’s of Italy. Needless to say, I didn’t last long at the bar and soon left. Mom, you’ll be pleased to know I hardly drank half a cup of beer. On the way home, I managed to pass by an outdoor production of Roberto Benini (sp) doing an adaption of “Dante’s Inferno”, this at least made me feel like like I managed to squeeze an oz of culture/class into the evening.
Speaking of class and culture, included is a sculpture in Florenzo, a little to true to life if you ask me.
Posted on July 30, 2012 at 4:02 pm
Don’t call me bro, mate. I have breasts, a vagina, and bleed monthly. I have earned the title of woman, ok bro?
Posted on at 2:52 pm
I’m in a quaint sleepy village in the Swiss Alps during peak tourist season. I find the only coffee shop in town which offers free wifi along with a food purchase. The only item of intrigue is a $7 bottle of water. I don’t like paying $1.50 at home for a bottle of water, so imagine how I feel staring at a midget sized bottle of “I’m a sucker tourist” water.
Next to the beverage prices was a list of mountain and river adventure activities; I love water sports. I also didn’t want to exchange Euros for Swiss Francs knowing I was leaving the country in the morning. And just like that, I knew how I would spend my time in Lauterbrunnen Switzerland, white water rafting! Without having to purchase Swiss Francs, I swiped my Visa card and let the adventures begin. The cafe wound up not charging me for the bottle of tourist water, and so for the low low price of $115, I purchased “free” wifi and a white water rafting trip down the Black Lutschine!
The crew consisted of Australians, Koreans, American Ex-pats and a Swiss tour guide. He was the first Swiss I had seen in Switzerland. Otherwise, the town is full of seasonal Australians. The expression “mate” is starting to grow on me. Do you think we can bring that expression to the States? Probably not, bro.
Posted on July 29, 2012 at 4:00 am
During an 8 hour bus ride from Paris to Switzerland, the tour guide asked each person on our “adult teen tour”, to speak into the microphone and introduce himself to the group. There were specific ice-breaker questions to answer such as what’s your ideal job or what would you would do with access to unlimited money?
A girl named Megan wearing a t-shirt that said “Canada” in big red letters explained she was wearing the Canada t-shirt so no one would mistake her as an American. It was a slight dig at the USA, but since most people on the bus were from Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico the comment went over their heads. It didn’t go over my head.
I took my opportunity with the microphone to tell Megan that no one would ever mistake her as an American. I said it with such Andy Kauffman-like deadpan seriousness, that the Mexicans thought I was really angry, but didn’t know why, even Canadian Megan shifted in her seat a bit. I continued, declaring I chose this trip to avoid hanging out with Americans, and under my breathe added, and Canadians.There was a soft chuckle among the handful of Arizona college students, but it was too late. I was the American Psycho of the group sitting on my throne of hamburgers adorned in Abercrombie and Fitch reeking from the stench of dirty american capitalism. Whose the asshole now?
I later found out it was Megan’s birthday. Asshole x 2. Apparently, Megan brought the shirt to support Canada at the Olympic Track and Field games. She was thinking ahead, whereas, the only patriotic colors I remembered to bring were my blue jeans and t-shirt for the Friars, an old boys club where elderly jews meet to talk about their prostate problems and impotence–the true essence of American culture I’d like to represent while at the Olympics in Europe.
Note # 1 to self, know your audience; Note # 2 I am no Sasha Baron Cohen. Thankfully, I opted to use my answer to the “what would I do with unlimited money” question, “to win back Megan’s heart”. I got a few pity “awws” from the bus and returned to my seat as a patriotic putz.
Posted on July 27, 2012 at 4:49 pm
Yes, I hit up the sites: le Eiffel, Notre Dame, Arc De Triumph, but in between all these stops were not so romantique realities such as needing le toilette, AC, and wifi. One local brassiere had internet that was password protected. I asked the waiter for the password and he had the nerve to tell me to use the free wifi at Starbucks across the street, even though I was a patron of his restaurant. I wanted to walk out immediately, but I had already ordered my crepe, and let’s be honest I didn’t shlep to Paris for their Starbucks Frappucinos. So I did something that would make my father proud. I expressed my opinion even though no one gave a shit. I asked the waiter to tell the owner that it’s outrageous to charge tourist prices, $15 for a crepe, and not allow customers to use their wifi. I proclaimed I work for Frommers Travel Guide, the premier travel guide of the USA! I’m not sure the waiter knew Frommers from fromage, but my point was made (politely). I still gave the waiter a fair tip, it wasn’t his fault and I can handle 5-10% of the bill.
With that, I am including a totally unrelated photo. I wanted to put Le Eiffle Tower in between a baguette. My new friend from Colombia, Laura Gutierrez, took many shots in an attempt to make it happen. It worked, err kinda, not really. Please excuse my coffee stain and overall homeless-like appearance; I was very jet lagged and hardly a human during most of the day.
Posted on July 26, 2012 at 7:34 am
I made a Parisian friend– yes he was Jewish. Look, you can take the Jewish girl out of New York, but you can’t take the Jewish out of the girl! He was telling me about a romance with a girl from Seattle. According to him, it was “love at first sight, two people meeting from opposite ends of the world.” C’est Romantique!
Whereas I was like, dude, you met at the Birthright Mega-Event. It’s le biggest meat market for the Jewish people in Israel. Sex subsidized by Steinhardt.
Posted on July 25, 2012 at 9:50 am
I didn’t sleep a wink on the plane, but I did see the Hunger Games- that movie is off the hook. The book must have been even better. I have a lot of thoughts about it, but I’m running on very little steam. I did manage to snap one picture. Why schlepp to the south of France when you can import sand directly to Paris! Pretty baller I must say!