Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mediterranean Adventures - Part 6 (Athens, Greece)

The day after hiking our asses off in Napels, we woke up at sea…at 11:30am! Yeah we slept in till practically noon. Dana got up to use the restroom, and I glanced at my watch and exclaimed “11:30…what the fuck”. In an effort to save money, we booked an inside cabin with no windows. This had worked perfectly for us before because of Dana’s motion sickness and my desire to nap during the day. I guess we were more exhausted than I thought.

I took the day off at sea to get some exercise time in. The majority of the cruise consisted of people over 55, so I was surprised to see some blonde Russian ballerina type 22 year old girl in the gym. Even though she was in the gym, I don’t consider what she was doing “working out”. She was laying on her back with her legs spread. She would pull her legs wide open and then pulse, then repeat. I watched several old men do the most exercise in their life just because their treadmill had an advantageous viewing point of the ballerina.

That night was the Captain’s Party complete with a big production show. The show was a sampling of all the planned entertainment for the rest of the cruise. One was a fake cirque du soleil production with aerial trapeze artists. Due to my past trapeze hobby, I was a backseat driver pointing out each of the moves and critiquing the girls. Surprisingly, at one time, I was able to do all of their moves (well not the splits ones).

Dinner was beyond gourmet. I decided to try out the exotic foods figuring there was a back up buffet up deck if they were not appetizing. I tried frog legs and escargot. Frog legs were breaded and fried and resembled tiny chicken drumsticks (and tasted like them too).

The next day, we docked in Piraeus Greece. The forecast was a temperature hovering around 95 degrees all day with sunny skies. Knowing we would be hiking a lot, I wore a jogging dry-fit top with the biggest hat I could find. Hey I know I’m one of the palest white people out there, and that I go from alabaster, to rosy, to lobster red within an hour. With almost two more weeks of vacation, I didn’t want to get burned into misery early on. Yeah I know that I looked like an obnoxious tourist.

Being on the coast, we needed to get to the subway in order to venture inland to Athens. The dock greeters told us it was only a 10 minute walk to the metro station. 10 minutes my ass! Things may have been cheerier if there was a sidewalk along the highway we were traveling. The metro station lady was in a sour mood as well. Granted I didn’t blame her because I would be cranky if I had to deal with dumb tourists asking how to get to Athens (all lines go to Athens…and there are 15 stops while in the city). “How do I get to the Parthenon…what do you mean Akropoli station…that doesn’t sound like Parthenon, isn’t there a Parthenon stop…PAR-THE-NON!...Jesus you would think there is a stop for the Parthenon I mean it is the biggest thing in Athens”

Our first stop was the Acropolis (aka the Parthenon and so much more). We climbed up the massive hill (with NO SHADE) and walked around the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike (where do you think Nike got the name from, the Erechtheion, and the theaters of Dionysos and Odeon, etc. Granted most of the structures were in some stage of renovation/restoration, so it was more scaffolding than stone. Since the Acropolis is the highest point of the city, we had incredible views.
There was a woman in charge of watching the structures and making sure tourists didn’t dare try to touch or lean on them. We watched her scold a little boy for putting his hand on the side to steady himself from falling down the slippery marble stairs. Being near 100 degrees and super sunny, Dana and I sweated like beasts of labor. This meant we would need to reapply sunscreen every half hour (even with the giant hat). While standing about 10 feet from the Temple of Athena Nike, Dana started to spray on some sunscreen (best invention ever). Well the temple Nazi woman screamed at Dana something in Greek before yelling out “LADY NO!” which we took to mean “you are too close, step away and drop the sunscreen”.

We traveled down to the open Agora which was home to an ancient marketplace. The ruins were about a foot high except for the impressive Temple of Hephaestus which was remarkably pretty free of construction and intact (and on yet another uphill…go figure).

Apparently the heat affected our minds because we got all turned around. We walked through the winding street of Plaka and stopped in the local tourist shops (oil paintings and ouzo liquor). My favorite piece is the cup with the ancient frieze pattern that now holds q-tips and cotton balls in my bathroom. We walked past a half dozen ruins which I surely misidentified because I was turned around so much.

Finally we stumbled across a huge opening with giant remains of some temple. We asked the ticket taker “this is a stupid question, but is this the Temple of Zeus?” Seriously, we thought we were on the OTHER side of the acropolis, so the temple was a real shock. We were relieved to get our bearings and celebrated with the now infamous “jump” pictures. Some Korean ladies must have thought it looked fun, because they did the jump picture after us.

Next on the tour was the Parliament Building. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn (again) and ended up wandering through the National Garden (which is not small, more like several acres). Right smack in the middle of the National Garden is an impressive building. Being that all the signs were in Greek, we asked a small old man exiting the building if it was the Parliament Building. He replied with a curt “no” and stomped away without offering any other information.

We finally turned ourselves right and made it to the parliament building just in time to watch the changing of the guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guard’s outfit consists of a khaki skirt, tights, knee tassels, and a giant pompom on the toe of their shoe…I know what you are thinking, Gay or European? The ceremony involved lots of high kicks, stomps, and holding your leg up in the air for several minutes (talk about a workout).

The Presidential Palace is around the corner and down the street from the Parliament Building (and thankfully downhill). Understandingly, security is tight, and the palace is mostly concealed by high fences, trees and shrubs. The guards on the other hand were total pushovers. One guard supervisor (he was in charge of wiping the sweat from the motionless erect guard’s foreheads) crossed the street and chatted with us for a good 20 minutes (umm, shouldn’t you guarding something). He let us pose with the stoic guard on duty so long as we didn’t touch the tassel.

Further down the street is the Panathinion Stadium which was constructed in 1896 for the first modern Olympics. All day I looked forward to running a single lap in the stadium just like the Olympic Marathon runners. Sadly the stadium was closed. I did consider jumping the locked gate and running anyway, but I didn’t want to spend the night in a Greek Jail.

A tour bus pulled up and we took the opportunity to get directions. We knew of a metro stop up by the Parliament Building (which was about ¾ of a mile away…uphill) but we were hoping there would be a closer one. The tour guide didn’t even know there was a subway system, so we were left with no choice but to start our trek back. Too bad we found out later, there was a subway stop RIGHT AT THE STADIUM! Wha waaa.

We arrived back to the ship famished. I wanted to try some traditional Greek food while out on the town, but the oppressive heat and lack of available time (we had to be back by 3pm) prevented it. Imagine our shock when we caught the ship during shift change and there was NO FOOD! None! A cruise ship without any food…unthinkable! Thankfully, and hour later, they started setting up the dinner buffet. We watched them and stared them down from behind the ropes. One may have lost a finger in our rush to get nourishment.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yvette has no idea

I haven’t seen the movie “Up in the Air”. I know, I hear it is a hit, I just don’t go see movies. Anyway, I had a magnificent adventure on St. Patrick’s day, and I hear it is something similar to what happened in that movie.
My friend Evan was in town Wednesday and Thursday for a conference. He suggested we meet up for a drink Wednesday night. I headed over to the hotel conference center after work and met him up at a cocktail reception. I figured he would leave once I arrived. Instead we decided I should join the party. A name badge seemed to be a prerequisite, so he walked along the tables displaying the badges and scanned the names. He then returned to me and told me my new name…Yvette VanBlahBlah (I can’t write her actual last name just in case she google’s herself and reads about how I destroyed her career). I could hardly pronounce her name, so it took all my concentration to walk up to the attendant and say it with a straight face. The nametag stood out from the others because it had a giant golden peach ribbon hanging from it announcing Yvette was a previous honoree. I quickly ripped the ribbon off and pinned my badge on low so people couldn’t read the name because people would likely know who Yvette really was. She also was a PARTNER in a law firm. Yeah, did I mention this was a cocktail reception for lawyers…minority lawyers! Scanning the room, I began to suspect Yvette was black and that I was going to be in deep shit. I chastised Evan for the horrible badge choice and he laughed saying he only scanned the first row and didn’t look that close (except to notice that Yvette was a very female sounding name).
He introduced me to his fellow co-workers and I accidently said my name was “Lindsay”. He shook his head and said “you had one thing to remember…one thing!”. His coworkers soon learned about the caper and thought it was hilarious. They liked to see me squirm while bullshitting with the lawyers. A group of men asked me what kind of law I practiced. I said I got my undergrad in engineering and they immediately made the assumption I was in patent law. I then mentioned I was thinking about getting out of law and going into consulting engineering (what I actually do) hoping to switch the subject to something more familiar to me. I said I was tired of being overworked spending 60+ hours a week in the office and always reporting on someone else’s project. One guy got a confused look on his face and pointed my badge while saying “but you are a partner…you are tired of that!”. SHIT! Another lawyer came to my rescue and assumed I recently was made partner because I am so young.
After the reception was an awards dinner…a $400 a plate awards dinner. Evan’s company purchased two seats that other coworkers were going to use. They said since it was St. Patrick’s day and a little late for a boring dinner there should be some open spots. So Evan and I decided to crash that too. Now the table assignments were listed on the nametags, so I steered away from Yvette’s table. Evan thought it was funny to tell the rest of the attendees at our random table that I was a past honoree (thanks). The awards banquet started off typically with some general announcements and standard greeting. I prayed they wouldn’t make the past honorees stand up to be recognized. Luckily we were able to eat dinner and dessert before they started the program and we left to go to the bathroom (wink wink).
We snuck into a microsoft sponsored post reception party and played rockband. Yeah more minority lawyers, but I think they were drunk and I didn’t have to pretend to hard.
One thought that lingered in the back of my mind was if anyone actually knew the woman and therefore knew I was bullshitting them the ENTIRE time. I mean a minority lawyer partner who is a past honoree, sounds respectful. The next morning, I googled her and this is what I found…she is mid 30’s, WHITE with brown straight hair to her shoulders…exactly how I was wearing my hair. Dodged that bullet, but I do wonder if I have totally ruined her reputation.

Back Story

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a while. If I don’t write it, then it really didn’t happen right. Over a month ago, someone wonderful broke off things with me. Things started off with him chasing me, sending me text messages 20 minutes after a date thanking me for such a wonderful time. Going out of his way to impress me or pamper me. After a few months, the tables turned and I was the one who would look forward to his calls. He ended things well and in a courteous manner, and I cannot be mad at him. Some things he said did make me think. For instance, we never had a single fight and he thought that was strange. In fact there was never anything to disagree upon. Is everyone so programmed to think that relationships need conflict, that things aren’t right unless something is wrong? He also said I was a catch and that it would be no time before someone else took notice. Now I’ve heard this before. Some eHarmony guys asked my why a girl like me is still single (don’t worry, I gave that up after three months and will NEVER go back to online dating). I honestly don’t know. What am I doing wrong? I continue to chew on this question.
In a twist of fate, not long after the heartbreak, I won the superbowl squares pool money at work. Now I have entered into this pool every year (never more than $10) and have never won anything. Sure enough, I win the big prize. Maybe it was God’s way of apologizing for shitting on me.
In other funny news, I think one of the eHarmony guys found my blog and has been keeping tabs on me (hello stalker). I think I posted the quick notice about my newly single status on a Saturday. On Sunday, I received an email from him asking me what I was up to and if I would interested in getting a drink together. Ha, God sure has a sense of humor.
Editor's Note: After posting this, I have received another email from a different eHarm guy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Over Exposed

Quick post to make note of some important events. Here are pictures from my friend Gwendolyn’s 30th birthday party. She is classy so it was a birthday dinner instead of dirty bar partying (like mine). Everyone brought a least one bottle of wine and someone’s boyfriend brought several cases of excellent Goose Island reserve beer (you know the stuff that is 9.2-11% alcohol by volume…yum). So it eventually boiled down to a liquid dinner.
The night was full of good conversation, food and lots of booze (to drink and to take home as presents). Becca gave the most unusual gift of the night…her TITS! Yeah, she has the most amazing rack ever and Gwendolyn always is goading her to “let the girls out”.
After the dinner, some after party crowd headed over to a quaint Logan Square dive bar. I know what you are thinking…Logan Square…I sure hope one of us is armed. Safety in numbers people. Anyway, the neighborhood didn’t quiet dispel the rumors because no less than ten cop cars zoomed into the adjacent gas station parking lot with lights a blazing. That parking lot had more cop cars than a veteran’s day parade. I never did find out what went down across the street (like hell I am going over to find out) but it did provide plenty of speculation.

Friday, March 05, 2010

A birthday comparison

Last Friday I celebrated my 31st birthday. I love going out with my friends, so a birthday is just another reason to celebrate. Since it was my birthday, I was able to choose the theme. For my 29th, it was Rambo Golf (the legendary Greenwich Village bar crawl). For my 30th, it was White Trash Bash (where the entire party was thrown out of a dive bar). This year…funny and/or inappropriate t-shirts. Yeah, everyone has at one time bought a t-shirt they thought was hilarious…then after putting it on realized it was too unsuitable to wear in public.
On Saturday night, I went to another birthday party. This one was for a girl on my kickball team (Katy) that was turning 26. Yeah, the whole team is several years younger. While there, it dawned on me the contrast between my birthday and hers. I’ve never before quite noticed the stark difference a half decade could make. Here is the comparison.
31 year old birthday: people attending knew the host or were married/dating someone who knew the host.

26 year old birthday: people show up at random…drawn in by cheap beer specials and drinking games.
Katy and I both reserved the back part of the bar for our respective parties. Mine involved a couple of tables where my guests could drop their coats and bags off without having to worry about encroaching douche bags. Katy had a whole back room of a college aged bar that held two flip cup tables and beer pong. You had to pay $25 just to get into that section and you were rewarded with unlimited free beer for 3 hours. About an hour into her party, I noticed Katy had several groups of guys loitering around. Turns out they were just random guys who heard about the drink special at the door and decided to crash.

31 year old birthday: people dressed in funny t-shirts and jeans. Comfort and humor are the key points. Who cares if you look ridiculous?

26 year old birthday: TITS! I mean showing so much heaving cleavage like it is an endangered species.

31 year old birthday: drinking shots of Patron and drinking micro brews. Granted I did have $2 PBR cans because they remind me of college (LOVED Pabst with pineapple juice…it was the precursor to Mike’s hard lemonade). Granted if I wanted to be nostalgic, I should have been drinking Zima’s with a jolly rancher (you know…to flavor it).

26 year old birthday: drinking a mutual swill of skunk beer and bacteria. People were drinking to get drunk, end of story. The flip cup games involved all sorts of beer sharing and collection on the dirty table.

31 year old birthday: telling stories and catching up with friends. If a guy liked you, maybe he would chat with you or maybe buy you a drink.
26 year old birthday: if a guy liked you, he would offer to make out with another guy in order to make out with you. NOT KIDDING! Don’t worry, I didn’t take him up on that offer.

31 year old birthday: ample play on the jukebox, no dancing…except for the token drunk guy.
26 year old birthday: DANCE OFF! Yeah some short wannabe was desperate to get with any girl. I watched him grab every girl and try to grind all over them. When he came around to me, I decided he needed to be schooled. I pulled out every dance team captain move I had on him. Soon a circle formed around us and it was truly a battle. Granted all he tried to do was grab a hold of me and thrust, but I kept side stepping and slipping just beyond his grasp. The beat of the music and the cheer of the crowd kept my adrenaline up, so I decided to really pull out all the stops. He turned around and stuck his butt into me (why I have no idea). I then pretended to pull his hair and donkey punch him the head. One of his guy friends yelled out “dog you OWNED!’

My birthday party was (in my mind) a success and I had an absolute blast. The fact that my friends all participated in the funny t-shirts totally made my day. There were some really good shirts but my favorite of the night was Rick’s (who shared the birthday party with me). I have the sense of humor of a kindergartener, so any poop joke makes me laugh. His shirt had a corncob saying “see you in your poop!” In fact, I just finished reading Tucker Max’s book and the two poop related stories made me laugh out loud…on the train. Granted when I try to retell these stories, I can’t seem to capture the right way to present humor in poop. Read for yourself the hotel lobby exploding diarrhea story or the secret videotaping poop experiment.