The American Douchebag’s Guide to America- Kansas City

Overview

Kansas City, located on the Missouri/ Kansas border and at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers,  was founded in the 1830 as a Missouri River port. It was originally called Kansas, but by 1854, when the Kansas Territory was formed, it became confusing to travelers as well as wayward sons looking to carry on. Because of this, the “City” part of Kansas City was added. Clearly, people back then were terrible at naming things. During the 1850s, Kansas City and its neighboring town, Independence became jumping off points for Westward expansion, with Independence marking the beginning of the Oregon trail.

Mecc: Creators of the game Oregon Trail, and the sound you make when you accidentally find yourself in Independence, MO.

Mecc: Creators of the game Oregon Trail, and the sound you make when you accidentally find yourself in Independence, MO.

During the Civil War, Kansas City was an important foothold in the West. See, thanks to the Missouri Compromise, Missouri was considered part of the South and allowed to have slaves, while Kansas was above the Mason-Dixon line, and therefore a Free State. Both of the Battles of Independence were won by the Confederates, but those wins proved fruitless when the Union won the Battle of Westport and booted the Confederates out.

As America expanded, and Kansas City became less and less of a frontier City, a new danger emerged: The mafia. Really.  The Civella Crime Family got its start when two brothers, Joseph “Joe Church” DiGiovanni and Peter “Sugarhouse Pete” DiGiovanni moved to KC from Sicily. With their nicknames (which could have given them lucrative porn careers if that option would have been available to them back then), they made their money racketeering and other criminal operations as soon as they got there.  Say what you want about Sicilians, but they do NOT fuck around when it comes to setting up criminal organizations.

With Prohibition brought the crime family more money and power, as they controlled the bootlegging of booze. Their criminal activity got so bad that it made the wealthy living in the neighborhood, 18th and Vine, flee to the suburbs and threw the once rich neighborhood into destitution. But the silver lining of this is that by the 1930s and 40s, the neighborhood became the birthplace of Kansas City Jazz, and also the home of many Jazz musicians including Charlie Parker. Here is one of his songs, for those of you who aren’t regular Jazz listeners (probably anyone who reads this blog):

Today, Kansas City is home to the Hallmark Factory and Museum, the Negro League Baseball Museum, and the least offensive Native American themed Sports team. It also is a shipment hub for UPS, FedEX, and USPS, due to it being the most Centralized major metropolitan area in the U.S.

Reason for Visiting

This is a new section, which I never really needed before, as my usual motivation for traveling to, say, Scotland is “Because it’s fucking Scotland.” However, after my last Guide to America found me in Iowa, I think it’s necessary to explain why I went to Kansas City, lest you begin to think I have a travel boner for the Midwest.

Which is crazy, because the Midwest has a really flat ass (Kansas is its ass).

Which is crazy, because the Midwest has a really flat ass (Kansas is its ass).

My reason for heading to the KC was because this crazy douchebag:

Lady Kevin

Managed to get the Unpopular Opinion Stand Up Comedy Show to come to his town. For those of you who don’t know, Unpopular Opinion is the stand-up show of Cracked.com. It is headlined by their writer and editor Adam Todd Brown. Now, I’ve been a fan of Adam Todd Brown since he started writing regularly for Cracked, and I’ve been a fan of Cracked for longer than I’ve had this blog, so when Kevin (the crazy douchebag in the picture above) told me that he and his fellow Unpopular Opinion comics, Jeff May and Genevieve Mueller might do a show in Kansas City, I knew I had to be there.

Unpopular Opinion Comedy Show

Obviously, they did go to Kansas City and do a stand-up show, and they killed it. Great job, guys and lady. And on a related note, Unpopular Opinion has a podcast you can listen to. Check that shit out here.

Initial Thoughts

What the hell is with all the highways here? This has to be the most unnecessarily complex highway system in the Midwest. Calm the hell down with all the roads, Kansas City. You’re not LA, you don’t need all of this. You have two hills and two rivers with a shit-ton of space around them, you can work around those without making a concrete maze of on and off ramps. But, hey, at least the roads themselves are in good shape.

Accommodations

The hotel my boyfriend, Dave, and I stayed at was, to put it politely, devastatingly retro. The Ramada Overland Park Hotel was built around the late 70’s-early 80’s, which Dave picked up on as soon as he saw the indoor gardens. The first thing that hit us as we stepped into the lobby was the smell of chlorine. My immediate thought was that the pool must be in a room near the lobby. I didn’t realize how right I would be. Standing at the front desk and looking to your right, you will see that the lobby is open to an outdoor patio, at least that’s what I thought. See, It was night about 11:00 PM when we got there, so the giant indoor common area right off the lobby was dark and looked like a patio. It wasn’t until I was in the common room and saw the ceiling that I realized I was still inside.

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Note the lack of other people in these pictures

Note the lack of other people in these pictures

So, yeah, the facilities were nice in a “Post-apocalyptic Scenario” kind of way. And I even wanted to go swimming. That is, until Kevin Amend and Jeff May pointed out the film that grew on the surface of the water at the deep end.

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That dried that desire up pretty quick.

As for the room, it wasn’t anything special: Bed, TV, mini-fridge, couch, crap closet (That’s my new name for ‘bathroom,’ although it does work equally well for butthole,) You know, the standard stuff.

And every morning, in an area that I think used to be a restaurant was the continental breakfast. It had the normal breakfast foods. The eggs were bad, even by hotel continental breakfast standards, but I managed to eat them by putting them on my waffle and slathering them with maple syrup. This meant that I got to eat a lot of waffles every breakfast, which is an ongoing life goal of mine, so I cannot complain about the eggs that much. Keep it up Ramada Overland Park Hotel!

Sites

First, let’s talk about the most well-known attraction in the Kansas City area- Schlitterbaun.

That is the world's tallest water slide, Verruckt. It means 'insane' in German because what else would it mean?

That is the world’s tallest water slide, Verruckt. It means ‘insane’ in German because what else would it mean?

I didn’t visit it. It was too cold and rainy. Actually, I don’t even know if it was open when I was there. However, The second most well known attraction in Kansas City is the WWI Memorial and Museum.

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Which we only spent a total of a half an hour at. See, ran a little late that day, so by the time we made it to the memorial, the museum was getting close to closing, and the people who worked there told us that we wouldn’t have enough time to get a good look at everything. So we went up to the Memorial instead. And since it was windy and cold, we only stayed long enough to get some pictures before running back to the car.

Now, it would be unfair of me to judge these two sites, after not being able to experience them first hand. But fuck it- that’s what I’m about to do. Shlitterbaun (now dubbed SHITTERbaun) was about as much fun as diving into a dumbsterfire, and twice as filthy.* The workers threw rocks at the riders as they made their way from waterslide to waterslide, and I’m pretty sure there was a corpse floating in their Kristal River.*

As for the WWI Museum, at the risk of sounding unpatriotic, the museum is the worst thing to happen to America since the White man came stomping through these parts. Most of the exhibits were either erotic clown paintings or the words “Fuck Brown People” scrawed on posterboards with sharpies, and every tour guide yelled at the guests in German.* I cannot in good conscience recommend either one.

*None of these statements are true. Please don’t sue, Schitterbaun and WWI museum people.

But the Memorial is great, and you get an Amazing view of the city from it. Definitely check that out, especially if you like Giant stone dicks sticking straight up in the air. And according to Kevin, it is a life size replica of his member, so let that mental image sink in.

After visiting the memorial, we visited Legends, which isn’t some magical realm where you ride horses and fight monsters, but a fancy Outlet Mall. Yeah, I was disappointed too.

Despite my total disappointment in not being able to slaughter an ogre and then use its blood for lube so that I could jizz on its corpse (as is the custom in magical realms), Legends is actually a pretty cool outlet mall. Among other things you’d expect to find at an outlet mall, they had a store/ restaurant called the T-Rex Café. If you’re a kid (Or a sexy man-child such as myself), it is the greatest thing ever. All over the place in the restaurant, they have giant, animatronic dinosaurs and sea monsters, they have an excavation site for the kids to dig around in, and a build-a-dinosaur work shop. Shit. Where the hell was this when I was a kid. All I had was crappy Rainforest Café, and that was only in Downtown Disney.

(Note, due to Legends being located in Kansas City, Kansas, all the pictures came out sepia toned, just like pictures do all across Kansas. These pictures of the T-Rex Café are in color because I photoshopped the color back into them. You’re welcome.)

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The most interesting thing I saw in KC, however, was all the Mormon History stuff.

To anyone who isn’t a Mormon, you may be wondering what they have to do with Kansas City. Well, I spent an entire day learning about it, so I’m going to force that knowledge unto you!

The Prophet of the Church of Latter Day Saints,  Joseph Smith, Traveled west to find a place where his kind could be accepted, and eventually ended up at the edge of the country at that time, Independence Missouri. It was there that God told him that that place was to be where Jesus would return for is second coming, Really.

Independence, MO: Come for Truman’s house, stay for the Second Coming of Christ!

Independence, MO: Come for Truman’s house, stay for the Second Coming of Christ!

Knowing that this town would be the Mormon Zion, Smith had his followers make a pilgrimage there over the course of several years in order to not overwhelm the current residents. Just kidding, of course they didn’t do it that way. The Mormons flooded in, about 1,000 of them, into the small town of Independence, buying land and building houses before winter came, and probably making all the (kind of) native Missourians uncomfortable with their upbeat and impossibly positive attitudes.

After a series of escalating conflicts with the locals, up to a battle that cost the Mormons most of their men, Joseph Smith and several Church Leaders were put in jail, and the Mormons were forced out of Missouri all together via an extermination order put out by the fucking Governor of Missouri. (On a sexy side note, these events are what lead to the Mormons to adopt polygamy. After the battle, only 10% of the Mormon population was male, and since the women needed taking care of, the Church allowed men to have multiple wives.)

The More You Know Symbol

So, yes, The Mormons left, and were eventually allowed to return during the last Century. And now, the different offshoots of the Mormon faith have all built their Churches there to Welcome Christ back. The one tiny snag, however, is that the actual site where Jesus is supposed to return is owned by more than one group, and therefore, no one can build the church on it. They’ve remedied this by putting up a sign noting the significance of the vacant lot and having good faith that it will all work itself out, as I think we all know disputes over land ownership are wont to do.

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Now, since I visited these Mormon sites with my boyfriend, we felt the need to disguise ourselves as to not give away that we are unrepentant sinners. This is how we did that:

Disguise 1 Disguise 2

They'll never suspect a thing!

They’ll never suspect a thing!

We were genuinely surprised at how well the exhibits in both the visitor’s center and the Liberty Jail Historic Site were executed. The visitor’s center had a replica cabin inside the basement that you enter and walk around in. As an added touch, they put TV screens on the outsides of the windows that played a separate video that went along with the audio being played in the cabin.

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The window is actually a TV! Apparently, the Mormons are more American than the rest of us.

The window is actually a TV! Apparently, the Mormons are more American than the rest of us.

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The Visitor’s Center also has an impressive and muscle bound Jesus statue, historical pictures of The Mormon’s time in Independence, a brief explanation of what the Book of Mormon (Not the Broadway Musical) is about, and all the languages it has been translated into. Plus, if you are as lucky as we were, you’ll get the sisters to all come out and sing a hymn for you. Let me repeat that: They sing for you. And they are good at singing! How fucking is that?! No museum has people on hand that can sing songs for your entertainment. The Smithsonian? No. The Guggenheim? Nope. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum? Are you kidding me? Those mopey bastards over there won’t sing for you! Only at the Mormon Visitor’s center in Independence will that happen. Kudos for standing out, Mormons.

Body of Christ!

Body of Christ!

The Liberty Jail Historic Site was even more impressive, because they partially rebuilt the jail based on notes a Church member took when the site was rediscovered and then built a giant room with surround sound around it, so that you walk around the jail, but still feel like you’re in the middle of the narration and sound effects. And at the end, if you wish, you can receive a free copy of The Book of Mormon (again, not the Broadway Musical). True, That is easily the weirdest souvenir I’ve ever gotten, but all this Mormon talk got me curious about what they believe, so I’m probably going to read it.

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Food

Barbeque.  That’s all I really need to say. Kansas City has amazing Barbeque. I ate at two different BBQ restaurants while I was there: Joe’s KC BBQ, and Grinders (Heads up, they do not sell hoagies) Both were amazing. Joe’s KC is the more famous of the two, The President having ordered their $2,000 of their food and had it delivered to the White House on Air Force 1. I had their signature sandwich, which was amazing. My only problem with their food is that I’m not a fan of seasoning on my fries. But I ate them anyway, because I’m an American, and that’s what we do.

Look into Kevin's cold, dead eyes and know that he is the greatest sandwich hunter on Earth.

Look into Kevin’s cold, dead eyes and know that he is the greatest sandwich hunter on Earth.

Personally, I liked Grinders better, partially because I liked their atmosphere, but mostly because they load their sandwiches up with meat. Dave argued that Joe’s KC was better because the meat was more tender, but I didn’t notice because I practically swallowed both sandwiches whole.

Grinders Stonewall- Sepia

Alcohol

I actually didn’t drink at all during this trip. So let’s just assume that Kansas City has no locally brewed alcohol. They have plenty of bars though. Check those out. Or not.  I’m not your lush of a mother.

People

The first group I would like to talk about are the Mormons.

Close Enough.

Close Enough.

As I mentioned before, Independence is crawling with members of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints. Because of this, if you are going to visit either the Mormon Visitor’s Center or the jail where Joseph Smith was kept, you will end up talking to Mormons about God. And when that happens, you will see that their religion works for them. They are a caring, friendly, good natured people who have a passion for their religion (Which they should, since they’re working in the Visitor’s Center and the Prison Museum and all). It was a great experience getting to talk to the girls who gave us the tours. And therefore, I have nothing negative to say about Mormons. They may not accept gays, but I accept them.

The second group were just the average people I got to talk to on the street in Independence.

Thank you, kind stranger!

Thank you, kind stranger!

They were oddly dressed, but helpful.

Uh, I don't know why anyone would need wagon axles, but thanks for the tip.

Uh, I don’t know why anyone would need wagon axles, but thanks for the tip.

Although, they did have some knowledge that isn’t all that useful for your average, devilishly handsome, modern man such as myself.

Thanks for the tip about oxen, dick, that's really relevant to my situation.

Thanks for the tip about oxen, dick, that’s really relevant to my situation.

Finally, the last local I want to talk about is this crazy asshole:

He's the sketchiest looking firefighter I've ever seen.

He’s the sketchiest looking firefighter I’ve ever seen.

This is Kevin, longtime fan of this blog and Internet friend to me. We had never met in person, so when he was able to convince Adam Todd Brown of Cracked.com, along with stand-up comics Jeff May and Genevieve Mueller to come to Kansas City for the stand-up comedy show, and I planned my visit, it was going to be an added bonus meeting him for the first time. And hey! Here is a pic of us on our first (totally not staged) meeting:

Kevin and I's first meeting

But just after that picture was taken, tragedy struck. It struck like a drunk man whose woman wouldn’t shut her damn yap for one goddamn minute.  Black clouds materialized above us, blotting out the sun and kicking up wind. As the wind picked up speed, its howl became a roar. Shingles ripped off of roofs of houses, tree limbs snapped, garbage cans rolled down the street as if they knew what was coming and they wanted to get the fuck out of here. And then, From behind Kevin came a towering, smoke grey tornado.

“Tornado!” Dave and I cried in unison.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got this!” Kevin screamed as he pulled out his penis.

As Dave and I dove for cover under the car, Kevin’s penis tied itself into a lasso and threw itself at the oncoming tornado. Kevin struggled while the fierce winds of the tornado fought against his mighty penis. Somehow, physics be damned, Kevin’s member lassoed the cyclone, which thrashed back and forth against the superpowered schlong.

“That’s no tornado!” Kevin yelled over the roaring wind, his penis tightening its grip around the cyclone, “This is my arch nemesis!”

The tip of Kevin’s penis reached up to the top of the tornado, and ripped off the mask to reveal-

“Martin Lawrence?!” I cried as I stared dumbfounded at the star of such classics as Big Momma’s House 2 and Wild Hogs.

“I’m confused… by so many things,” Dave added, “But who is Martin Lawrence?”

“A failed actor-“

“Fuck you Erecto!” Lawrence screamed. Kevin’s penis tightened its grip.

Kevin continued, “Who turned into a mad scientist after the movie ‘Death at a Funeral.’ He is also a master of disguise.” “My real name is Kevin Kamend, and this” he explained, pointing to his waving dick, “Is my superpowered penis, more commonly known as Erecto.”

Dave and I did’t reply. We just stared, expecting  Kevin to laugh and say that he was fucking with us. He didn’t.

“Unfortunately,” Kevin Kamend added after the long silence, “I need to take Mr. Lawrence back to Prison.”

“You haven’t seen the last of me, Erecto!”

Kevin’s penis slapped Martin Lawrence across the face. Then, it stretched up, above both their heads, and begun to spin like a propeller.  Kevin stepped up to the bound actor, and wrapped his long arms around him and locking his hands together. He rested his head on Lawrence’s chest and closed his eyes, as if this was his happy place. After only a few seconds, the penis was spinning so fast that it began to make the rhythmic “wop wop” sound of it slicing through the air. Then, the helicoptering penis lifted Kevin and Martin Lawrence into the air and flew away, leaving Dave and I in the middle of the wreckage of the tornado/Lawrence disguise.

“So,” I said, turning to Dave, who was still staring at the shrinking peniscopter with his mouth agape, “I guess it’ll just be you and me today.”

(Writer’s note: Kevin wanted me to put a story filled with our inside jokes about his super powered dick in here, not me. So what I learned about non-Mormon Kansas City natives is that they’re weird and you shouldn’t talk to them unless necessary.)

Overall atmosphere

Kansas City isn’t nearly as desolate wasteland devoid of culture as Kevin claims it is. The people are friendly (I only talked to Kevin, the Mormon girls, and a few owners of businesses, so that assumption may be skewed a little), the BBQ is amazing, and the sites are interesting, especially if you’re into History. My only wish is that I would have been able to go to Schlitterbahn, but that just means that I’ll have to make a second visit! But still, fuck all these highways.

The American Douchebag’s Guide to Europe- Scotland

Overview

Scotland has a long history of fighting with people.  They fought the Romans (Hence the construction of Hadrian’s wall by the Romans), the Vikings, The British, and of course each other. The Highland clans were like the street gangs of their time, and the Clan Campbell and the Clan MacDonald were the Crips and Bloods.

In 1703, Scotland was officially taken over by England, and was incorporated into the U.K., which it remains to this day since their damn referendum to secede fell through.

A fun side fact: The flag that everyone thinks of as the British Flag, the Union Jack:

Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom

Isn’t actually the Flag of Engand. This is:

england_flag_pic

If that doesn’t make sense to you, look at the name of the first flag. It’s called UNION Jack. It’s named that for a reason. That reason is if you take the British flag and combine it with the flag of Scotland:

Flag of Scotland

And the flag of Northern Ireland:

Flag_of_Northern_Ireland

You get the Union Jack.

And if you are wondering why the Welsh flag isn’t also a part of this, it’s because Wales was only a principality when the U.K. was formed. They never added an element of the Welsh Flag when it was declared a country because to Hell with Wales.

Although that dragon would be pretty bitchin’ on the Union Jack.

Although that dragon would be pretty bitchin’ on the Union Jack.

Initial Thoughts

“You know, I always expected Scotland to have a lot more kilt and bagpipe shops than there is in reality. It’s pretty disappointing, actually- Oh wait, there’s one. Never mind. And wow, we only left the airport 5 minutes ago.”

Let it be known that Scotland would look exactly like England if it wasn’t for all the Kilt and wool shops and their flag flying everywhere like the ghost of William Wallace. Which, by the way, if you do ever go to Scotland and you decide to stay out after 2:00 AM, you will see Wallace’s ghost. Be warned.

Accommodations

We, by which I mean my boyfriend Dave and I, stayed at the Motel 1 on the hilariously named Cockburn street. I assume Motel 1 was named that ironically, since not only is it not the only motel in Edinburgh, but it isn’t even the only Motel 1 in Edinburgh. The other Motel one was less than a mile away from the one we stayed. You could see it from the main entrance to ours.  Way to try to monopolize Motel 1 corp.

I'm glad we didn't stay here.

At least we didn’t stay here. This place sounds painful.

This motel was styled in a very modern, yet also somewhat rustic fashion. The lobby and dining areas had tables made from repurposed whisky casks, and the bench seating along the windows had blue plaid cushions and sheep skin blankets.  Yet, everything had clean lines and stainless steel accents. The room was no different. Have a look:

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You cannot tell from the picture, but the design that is on the brown pillows is also on the carpet and the drapes, which could lead into a multitude of pube jokes that I’m just going to pass on for now. Instead, here’s the bathroom:

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Infinite selfies!

Infinite selfies!

I will, however, say this about the bathroom: It was too small to be equipped with such a shitty fan. The bathroom would turn into a steam room within 5 minutes of me getting into the shower. I learned to leave the bathroom door and the window to outside open for ventilation, but ugh, that’s a pain in the ass when I could just do nothing instead. Thanks for nothing, Motel 1.

Sites

In Edinburgh, The majority of the more famous sites can be found on or near the Royal mile. The Royal mile is a road that goes up the hill from Hollyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. The castle is the older of the two structures and is situated on the highest point in Edinburgh. Hollyrood is the more modern palace (The Current Queen stays there in the summer), but it is also where Mary Queen of Scots lived until the murder of her first son. After that she moved up to the Castle to protect herself and her unborn child. While Holyrood palace still maintains the elegance of being a working palace, the castle has gone full tourism mode.  Most of the buildings are used as museums or displays of what life (palace life, the dungeons) was like back in the day. The castle has around 5 separate gift shops inside it, which makes me think that they ran out of ideas of what to do with all the extra space.

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Along the Royal mile itself  are a series of shops and restaurants. Most of the shops pretty much all sell what you would expect from Scotland: Kilts, miniature bagpipes, canned haggis, anything with a clan name printed on it, and vaguely Celtic items. The more touristy place sold shot glasses and other forgettable souvenirs. However, there were still quite a few shops along the Royal mile that are unique and contain items that I didn’t see anywhere else. Old Town Context is one such store. Old Town Context is actually part of a small chain of stores in Scotland that sell old fashioned curiosities. Miniature stair cases, hot air balloon mobiles, and old tin signs are just some of the many interesting things you can find in this store of curiosities. Here’s their website if you want to see what it’s like. Other than Old town Context, there was a shop the sold various Celtic items, such as Celtic knot window hangs, and miniature recreations of Pictish runes. Then there are whisky shops, and shops that sold wool, and two different Christmas shops. The Royal Mile, has a shit load of stores, is basically what I’m trying to get at.

The Royal Mile, right before the zombies attacked.

The Royal Mile, right before the zombies attacked.

Other sites to see in Old Town Edinburgh are The People’s museum on the Royal Mile, The Scottish Parliament Building, the Scotch Whiskey Experience, and Edinburgh’s hiking spots: The Salsbury Crag and Arthur’s Seat. If you want to witness the best views of Edinburgh, The top of Arthur’s seat is your destination. However, if you’re the typical fat American, be warned that it’s a long hike and there isn’t a single escalator to the top. Get on that, Edinburgh.

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The Queen's gallery, Arthur's Seat,the Scottish Parliament building, and Scotland's famous vanishing cars.

The Queen’s gallery, Arthur’s Seat,the Scottish Parliament building, and Scotland’s famous vanishing cars. And on the far right, you can see the edge of existence.

In New Town, there is the Walter Scott Monument, The Edinburgh Monument, The National Gallery, The Modern Art Gallery,  and the tourist center. And all of it is within walking distance,  which is good unless you’re really against walking. And in that case, why did you decide to go to Europe in the first place, hypothetical lazy traveler? All of Europe is the walking capital of the world.

The Walter Scott Monument

The Walter Scott Monument

Outside of Edinburgh,  I also got to see Loch Ness, The highlands, and The Borders. Although, The Highlands of Scotland are less of a “tourist site” as it is “A natural geological formation that covers the majority of the country.” Loch Ness, despite it’s fame, Isn’t all that fascinating. It’s just a lake. Even the Loch Ness monster isn’t that mysterious. Here’s a picture of me about to punch it in it’s easy to find face. Way to suck at hunting things, Scotland.

I won the fight against Nessie, but only because I was wearing my Cracked.com shirt when I fought her.

I won the fight against Nessie, but only because I was wearing my Cracked.com shirt when I fought her.

She turned out to be super chill. We're friends now. I also credit this to my t-shirt.

She turned out to be super chill. We’re friends now. I also credit this to my t-shirt.

The Higlands, on the other hand, contain some of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen, and I’ve  rock climbed up the Rockies, hiked up the Alps, and copped your mom’s titties.

Here's some aloe vera for that nasty burn.

Here’s some aloe vera for that nasty burn.

The Mountains in the highlands are so sudden, and I think that’s part of what makes them beautiful. There are no foothills to these mountains, unlike the Appalachian or Rocky foothills, Only steady, rolling plains and then mountains. But once you get to the first ones, Then you’ll be traveling between valleys for the rest of the trip. It is amazing.

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Pictured: Not Loch Ness

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This is Loch Ness- just a normal, everyday, poorly spelled lake.

Food

There really is only one meal that is regularly associated with Scotland, and that food is Haggis.  Haggis is so infamous, that one of the most common questions I was asked once I got back was “Did you try the haggis?” (The second most common one is “Did you buy a kilt?” because everyone thinks I would look hot in a skirt.) And the Scottish really do eat it, once in the morning with their traditional Scottish breakfast (2 sausages, 2 pieces of english bacon, grilled tomato, grilled mushrooms, baked beans, haggis, a fried egg, either hashbrowns or potato scone, and 2 pieces of toast) and for dinner in the form of haggis, neeps, and tatties.  Before I go into the “neeps and tatties,” portion, I need to explain what haggis is. Haggis is, and how do I put this for your delicate sensibilities, a boatload of organs meat. More specifically, it is sheep lungs, liver, and kidneys, chopped up and boiled with  beef fat for six hours. Spices and oats are then added to it, the mixture is stuffed into a sheep’s stomach, and then it is boiled some more. It looks exactly as appealing as it sounds:

Haggis is the greyish sludge at the top of the plate.

Haggis is the greyish sludge at the top of the plate.

For dinner, haggis is served with neeps and tatties, or mashed turnips and potatoes. Despite everything haggis has going against it, it’s actually pretty good. It’s flavorful and hearty, and while its savoriness might become overwhelming after a while, the neeps and tatties do an excellent job at balancing out the flavor with sweet and starchy. Really, the main hurdle to get past with haggis is the fact that it looks like what you’d expect it to look like when it comes back out of you. Try not to think about that when you eat it because it will ruin the whole experience for you.  Also, if you want to eat haggis and not be grossed out, then do not read about how it’s made… I probably should have mentioned that earlier. That one’s on me. Sorry.

Haggis 2

Despite what I said about how good haggis is, Bangers and Mash had to be my favorite meal in Scotland, and not just because it sounds like a buddy cop show on the USA network. Bangers and Mash is sausage, mashed potatoes, and gravy. That’s it. It’s so simple, but delicious, and I’m a little mad I never thought of trying that before. Although, I don’t know why they need two different words for mashed potatoes. It’s like mashed potatoes are to them what snow is to the eskimos.

Alcohol

Just as you don’t go to Japan and not try the wine made with fermented baby mice, you don’t visit Scotland and not drink their scotch whisky.  Scotch whiskey is whiskey made with single malt grain, usually barley, which is then cooked over an open fire of peatmoss, which gives the whiskey its unique flavor.

Dave and I tried 6 different Scotches during a scotch tasting event I participated in (The event was that the bar was open and serving drinks).

The first whiskey we tried was from the Highlands:

Whiskey 1

We thought this one was sweet and mild. A nice starter whiskey- whiskey training wheels if you will.

The second one was from Speyside:

Whiskey 2

This one was much stronger and had a much smokier and peatier taste to it. This one needed more water than the rest to make it drinkable.

The third was from the island of Islay:

Whiskey 3

This one had a little bit more of a smokey taste to it, as well as more peat.

The fourth was another Highland scotch:

Whiskey 4

This whiskey had less smoke than the previous one, but was still detectable. It was also smoother than the previous one. This was our favorite.

#5 was another whiskey from Speyside

Whiskey 5

It was sweet, and had a very light smoke flavor to it

And finally #6

Whiskey 6

Apparently, this one was crafted in the boiling waters of hell and heated with the burning corpses of murderers. My trip-mate would describe the taste as sweet and syrupy, but I totally disagree and think that it tasted more like a million people screaming in my head. I only managed to take one sip of this one. And since my gag reflex desperately fought with me on that one sip, I didn’t try it again. But on the bright side, I didn’t throw it back up in the middle of the crowded bar. I’m calling that a win.

People

The Scottish people are actually some of the friendliest I’ve met in my travels. But that’s not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is how passionate they are about political issues. As luck or the fates or whatever would have it, Dave and I  just so happened to be in Scotland the day they voted on a referendum on whether or not they would secede from the UK. This would have been incredibly historical, since they have not been an independent nation since 1707. So if they would have voted to secede, we would have been there on their first independence day in over 300 years. Guess which side we were rooting for.

Unfortunately for us (and probably Scotland too or whatever) 55% of the people voted against seceding, so instead of partying out of my mind with them, they went on with their normal lives. How boring.

But the people there, at least the ones we talked to were passionate. Everyone we had talked to absolutely wanted independence, and they were quite willing to explain why to us. And if anything immediately humanizes a person from a foreign country, it’s listening to them talk about their government. Because many of their arguments are the same that we here in America: Politicians suck, the government is fucking us over, taxes are too high… It’s actually a little reassuring to hear that we aren’t the only ones going through this bullshit.

Oh, but my favorite thing about the Scottish people is the frequency they use the word “Cheers.” They use it all the time. All. The. Time. When they serve you a drink: Cheers. When they server you your food: Cheers. When a conversation comes to an end: Cheers.  When you buy something at their store: Cheers. I have no clue what the rules are for using that word, but they say it more often than a fraternity uses the word “bro.”

I also met this dog. It was the highlight of my trip.

I also met this dog. It was the highlight of my trip.

Overall atmosphere

The atmosphere of Scotland pretty laid back. Everyone is friendly, everything is easy to find and get to, and with a native population that is outnumbered by sheep, you’ll never find a section of Edinburgh that is overcrowded and loud. And the city (like any city in Great Britian where Tourism is big business) is kept very clean.  But while Edingurgh has the cleanliness of London, it is more condensed, making all the sites easier to get to, as well as a distinct historical district. Simply put, Scotland was amazing.

Ok. Here’s more pics:

Scotland has these. What a great country.

Scotland has these. What a great country.

A random courtyard that I took a picture of because it looked European. Please note that people live in those houses, so me taking a picture of them is a little creepy.

A random courtyard that I took a picture of because it looked European. Please note that people live in those houses, so me taking a picture of them is a little creepy.

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A foggy night in Edinburgh. Also. that sign fucked up my picture.

Hollyrood Palace

Hollyrood Palace

The ruins of the Abbey at Hollyrood

The ruins of the Abbey at Hollyrood

The gardens looking towards the ruins of the Abbey at Hollyrood

The gardens looking towards the ruins of the Abbey at Hollyrood

The Edinburgh Castle lit up fabulously

The Edinburgh Castle lit up fabulously

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People celebrating Scotland’s attempted (and eventually failed) succession with candles

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The weapons in Edinburgh Castle’s great hall

Hero dog cemetery

Hero dog cemetery

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The (incomplete) Edinburgh Monument

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A beautiful day on Cockburn Street (I can't stop saying that name)

A beautiful day on Cockburn Street (I can’t stop saying that name)

The Salsbury Crag

The Salsbury Crag

The view from atop Arthur's Seat

The view from atop Arthur’s Seat

The valley (or Glen since this is Scotland) between Arthur's Seat and the Salsbury Crag

The valley (or Glen since this is Scotland) between Arthur’s Seat and the Salsbury Crag

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England is much less welcoming.

England is much less welcoming.

WHERE HARRY POTTER HAD HIS FIRST FLYING LESSON!!!!!!!!

WHERE HARRY POTTER HAD HIS FIRST FLYING LESSON!!!!!!!!

Just an average Scottish person.

Just an average Scottish person.

Peace, you bastards.

The American Douchebag’s Guide to America: …Iowa?

What the fuck, Iowa?! How the hell, in all the thousands of other, far more interesting, places I could have chosen, did I come up with fucking Iowa as my next place to visit in this series? Can anyone even find Iowa on a map anymore?

Is it the one that kind of looks like an oven mitt?

Is it the one that kind of looks like an oven mitt?

You know what, whatever. It’s fine. I’ve got some goddamn journalistic integrity, and I’m going to talk about Iowa because the media is afraid to, and fuck you if you think you’re going to stop me. Good luck with your time machine dickmite, I’ve already written and posted this shit. Boom!

Overview

So, Iowa is apparently a state in the Midwest. “America’s Heartland” if you will…. Believe that America’s heart pumps out in the middle of fucking nowhere.

The Territory know known as “Iowa” was originally controlled by a bunch of beret wearing, baguette eating douchebags (No, I’m not talking about Modernist painters). The French sold the territory, which back then was part of the larger Louisiana Territory, to The Spanish, or more commonly known as the  tanner French with a fetish for getting impaled by bulls.

In 1803, the territory was bought by the U.S. during the Louisiana Purchase, which didn’t make the Native Indians living on the land too thrilled. By the end of the Black Hawk War in 1832, The Americans were able to force all the natives out of the Iowa territory and subsequently name it after them in the native’s honor because, let’s face it, the settlers were total pricks to the Indians.

In 1846, Iowa was officially named a state under President James K. Polk, a real president, not just one I made up because I didn’t actually feel like looking up the answer. He did exist.

Now, the state is mostly known for its agriculture (despite agriculture being only a small part of its economy, falling far behind manufacturing somehow) and for the fact that World’s Greatest Punk’der, Ashton Kutcher is from there. So yep, those are pretty much the two things you really need to know about Modern day Iowa: tons of corn and the spawning place of Kelso from That 70’s Show.

This is what the gene pool in Iowa looks like.

This is what the gene pool in Iowa looks like.

Also, I guess State fairs are really big there too.

Initial Thoughts

What the shit, I have to cross a goddamn moat to get into Iowa? Is Iowa some kind of fortified Bastille of a state that must protect its borders at all cost? Oh wait, that’s the Mississippi River. That’s cool I guess…. What’s with all the fucking hills?! I thought this was supposed to be part of the great plains! You lied to me, Iowa, you lied to me.

Accommodations

I stayed at the majestic hotel named, “Paul’s Apartment.”  Paul, as you probably don’t remember, was one of the many friends I made when I terrorized Europe for a month. Paul is actually a New Jersey native, not that we should hold it against him (too much), and is currently attending Grad School in Ames. So as one can expect,  the accommodations were that of a student going for his Master’s Degree: The apartment was relatively small and always fully stocked with beer, I slept on the couch, and within a day, my shit was everywhere (figuratively. Unfortunately, my literal shit got everywhere on day 3).

There were a couple of things that I genuinely loved about his apartment. First, Paul lives in a gated community, so I was able to keep my car door unlocked without worry. Secondly, he was on the ground level, which made it exceptionally easy to get in and out of his apartment when the need arose. Then there was the community gym. It wasn’t a big gym- definitely not what I’m used to using, but it had enough equipment that I was able to get in solid workouts whenever I went to lift. As a part-time muscle head, that’s important to me, bro.

They also had really nice bathrooms in the gym area, which is good because when I was there, Paul’s toilet was broken, and also without toilet paper. That means that my end of night ritual (which involves me squeezing out a fudge log) meant a quick little jaunt to the gym. Let me tell you, however inconvenient walking for three minutes in the middle of a cold, windy night to give birth to a mud dragon in a different building sounds, it’s nice to know that once you taint that building with your unholy colon stink, you can just leave and not worry about having to explain yourself to anyone. Clearly, people with outhouses have the right idea.

Sites

Des Moines and Iowa State were pretty much the only two sites I could find. I’m fairly certain that their state fair was over by the time I got there. And even if it wasn’t it probably would have been somewhere far from where I was staying. I guess the University of Iowa could also be considered a site if I’m going to consider Iowa State one, but the Univeristy of Iowa doesn’t have Paul, and is therefore inferior.

So first, we have Iowa State University. It is a college, so they have things like a stadium:

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I snuck into the stadium for this pic.

I snuck into the stadium for this pic.

A quad:

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A Student Union that overlooks a lake:

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And a Farmhouse Museum because, you know, Iowa:

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They also have a crazy amount of statues of people scattered about the campus, so you know I got all artsy with those pics:

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What the hell is with all the reading?

What the hell is with all the reading?

However, probably the weirdest thing about Iowa State is how secluded you feel walking around in parts:

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I took this pic on a path right behind the Student Union. Literally right behind it. If you were to turn to the right, you would see a path that would lead up to its parking garage. But the thing is, I had no clue it was the union at the time.  The path I was on was so deserted, that I figured that I had wandered to some remote corner of the campus, not the center, and especially not less than two football fields away from the main part of Ames.

Then, there’s Des Moines. The main three sights in Des Moines (By which I mean, the three sights I saw, and therefore, the only ones worthy of being talked about) are The John and Mary PappaJohn Sculpture Park, East Villiage, and the State Building.

The John and Mary PappaJohn Sculpture Park, which unfortunately does NOT serve free pizza with every tour, is located only a couple of blocks west of downtown, right between Grand Avenue and Locust Street. Their sculptures range from the charming:

Sings "Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting!"

Sings
“Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting!”

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To the bizarre:

I spent 20 damn minutes looking at this damn thing, and I couldn't find a single damn word on the list.

I spent 20 damn minutes looking at this damn thing, and I couldn’t find a single damn word on the list.

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To the inadvertently sexual:

They say that isn't a boner, but then what is that all I see when I look at that statue.

They say that isn’t a boner, but then why is it that all I see when I look at that statue is a dick?

To full on, land of 1,000 horrors creepy:

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Holy shit. Did I just stumble upon something from the novel "John Dies at the End?"

Holy shit. Did I just stumble upon something from the novel “John Dies at the End?”

This one is my favorite, and probably the creepiest. The spider one is pure horror.

This one is my favorite, and probably the creepiest. The spider one is pure horror.

On the other side of down town, and just across the river is Des Moines historic East Villiage. Over here you’ll find a series of shops and restaurants geared towards the younger population. There is an arcade bar that is pretty popular (it was closed when I was there), as well as several well-known hipstery clothing shops that also sold pot paraphernalia. Then there were these couple of headless, nude, department store mannequins  that oversaw the goings on of this section of town:

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Even farther east is the Iowa Capitol building, where state legislation is written and world food prizes are awarded, apparently. As you can tell, the Capitol building is surprisingly extravagant for something in Iowa, a state pretty much only known for its corn, but then again, they must have had a lot of extra cash once the rest of America started sucking on the sweet corn syrup teat.

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As you walk up to the capitol, you’ll notice a series of cannons, probably used to ward of pirates and lost French Settlers:

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But if you go around to the side, you’ll find yet another sculpture garden, this time all centered around the state itself.

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OK, I actually don't have a clue what this means.

OK, I actually don’t have a clue what this means.

So, all in all, Des Moines is actually a beautiful city, and small enough that a motivated person can walk around and explore in a day. Now, obviously there is more to explore in Des Moines than what I saw: Their Botanical Gardens, The Birthplace of John Wayne, The State of Iowa Historical Museum, which Paul and I happened to walk past twice, but didn’t even think to check out. There are other things you can do in Iowa too that you can find on your own. What am I, their tourism board?

Food

I ate a shit ton of Buffalo Wild Wings while I was there. I think I’m addicted now. I’m getting the shakes just from thinking about their Parmesan Garlic wings.

I really didn’t eat a lot of food that would be considered “Iowan.” I had some barbeque for lunch one day, but apparently it was a Texas style barbeque. Damn you Texas. I ate at a Mexican Resturant, an Irish pub, and cooked dinner at Paul’s place, and I doubt anything I ate was considered classic Iowa cuisine. I’m sorry, I failed you all.

However, there is a food story that I would like to share with you, and it’s pretty hilarious and awful at the same time. On Tuesday morning, I decided that Panera sounded like a great place to have breakfast. It was a crisp, early autumn day, and I wanted a warm sandwich to keep me full and happy as I wondered around Iowa State University for the day. I cannot really remember what the sandwich was, it was hot and had eggs on it, that’s all I remember, but I do remember what kind of coffee I had with it. See, I always drink my normal, homemade, straight from the coffee pot, gussied up with sugar and flavored creamer, coffee. This week, however, I decided to splurge right the fuck out. Every day I had a Café Mocha, and I sucked on that sweet caffeinated nectar like I was being nursed at the bosom of the gods. Tuesday was no different, and I bought my coffee at Panera. I finished my sandwich and took my coffee with me as I drove back to Iowa State to see what there is to see.

I hadn’t been walking for long before I started to feel a rumbl’n in my intestines. I casually wrote this off as “coffee poops.”  For those of you who don’t drink coffee (freaks), coffee has the tendency to make you want to poop. I, a mere mortal, have no clue why, but it happens. I’m sure Google knows the answer. Anyway, I am able to suppress the poop, and usually only have to deal with a cramp until my innards calm back down. This is a process I am both familiar with and accepting of.

I ignored my bowels plea for help and I continued around Jack Thrice Stadium, up the hill to the Alumni center, down the street to the fitness complex, then across the street and through a maze of buildings to their quad, my stomach growling and cramping more with each step. By the time I took the pictures of their bell tower, My innards were demanding relief, and I decided to call it quits for the day and head back to my car. Unfortunately, my digestive tract was impatient, and I only just made it to the men’s room inside the food sciences building.  After I had finished the dark, unholy deed, I decided that I had had enough exploring for the day and I decided to go back to Paul’s apartment and recuperate.

I hurried away from the Food Sciences building and the evil stench I no doubt left in my evacuation’s wake, and made it to the parking lot my car was in. That’s when I saw Paul. He was just getting back to campus and asked if I could drive him to his building. I obliged, but I began to feel the dark unsettled rumble in my bowels once again. I dropped him off, drove through campus, got lost, but eventually found my way back to his apartment complex. As I was driving past the complex gym (the one with the working toilet and toilet paper) I decided that I was probably well enough to stop at his apartment and drop my camera off before I drive back.

I was wrong.

As soon as I stepped inside his apartment, my emergency evacuation valve was turned. I waddled into his bathroom (the one with a broken toilet and no toilet paper) and I pretty much exploded. The sudden pressure change both inside and outside my body caused my ears to pop. Basically it was just like this scene from Dumb and Dumber, only less fortunate and without an attractive redhead.

My Lloyd is Panera’s coffee.

My Lloyd is Panera’s coffee.

Alcohol

I pretty much just drank beer in Iowa. Sure I had a couple of Jack and Cokes, but beer is what I consumed the entire trip. I didn’t even think to look to find local beers (they’d probably be made out of fermented corn anyway) so I either got high quality craft beers that will get you drunk quick, or the kind of piss water that will really make you evaluate your life choices. You know, Like Natty Light.

Natural Light: If you drink us, it’s because you don’t know any better.

Natural Light: If you drink us, it’s because you don’t know any better.

People

Well, there was Paul, but he doesn’t really count since he’s from Jersey. There were a couple of really friendly baristas in a Des Moines coffee shop that gave us a map of the city, and while I didn’t talk to many people at Paul’s school outside of his circle of friends, everyone seemed to be relatively nice there, and Paul’s friends and coworkers were pretty cool as well. Good Job with the hospitality, Iowa. And no, that wasn’t sarcastic.

Overall Atmosphere

Honestly, Iowa has a slightly-more-country Central Ohio feel to it, like if all the more rural parts of the state grew like weeds and were strangling out Columbus and Ohio State of their precious sunlight and space. But on the bright side, it doesn’t take long to walk from one  interesting place to another. Not like Paris.

But they do have a lot of Sundials. What the hell is up with that, Iowa?

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These are the two that I saw, but I bet I could find more.

These are the two that I saw, but I wasn’t hunting for sundials, so I’m sure there’s more.

Paix

That’s French for “Peace” motherfuckers.

The American Douchebag’s Guide to America: Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh n’at

Overview

Pittsburgh was settled in a valley where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio. This area was originally settled by groups of Hopewell and Adena Indians, along with many others who didn’t steal their names from buildings on OSU-Newark’s campus including Iroquis and Shawnee. During the 1750s, The French forced the British out of the fort they built there, and built Fort Duquesne. However, the French eventually did what the French do best, and  let the British force them out and built Fort Pitt in Duquesne’s place.

Over the next century, Pittsburgh became a large steel producing town. This became important during the Civil War because of the production of weapons. By 1911 Pittsburgh was producing up to half of the nation’s steel. However, over the years the steel mills closed, leaving Pittsburgh a polluted shell of its formal self.

Now a days, However, Pittsburgh has been making a small comeback. During the late 2000s recession, Pittsburgh was adding jobs and their property value was rising. Way to make the rest of the country look bad, Pittsburgh.

Initial Thoughts

For the initial thoughts, you really need to know what it’s like to drive into Pittsburgh, particularly through the Fort Pitt tunnels. You enter the tunnels from one side of a mountain, nothing but concrete, other cars and your fear of cramped spaces around you. And the more you reach the other side, the easier it is for you to breathe. And when you finally come out the other side, this is what you see:

http://old.post-gazette.com/pg/09189/982415-294.stm?FORM=ZZNR2

So, seeing as though that was the image I saw when I entered Pittsburgh, these were my initial thoughts:

“Wow! I’m back! And look at that view! There’s The Point, and over there is The US Steel building. Oh, and that stadium across the river is the one Bane blew up in The Dark Knight Rises. This place has mad History all over it. You better be ready for me, Pittsburgh, cause I’m coming for you harder than if I could ejaculate cinderblocks.”

Accommodations

Usually when I’m in Pittsburgh, I stay in the house I grew up in, but I once stayed in a hotel, so I’ll talk about both.

My old house is incredibly exclusive. You either have to be related to the current residents or at least close friends to them. Unfortunately, this exclusivity does not translate into high class. It was cramped. I slept on a futon. Most of the outlets were outdated and didn’t have the third hole. But on the bright side, the meals were free and they had free wifi. I wish that could make me forget about the insults thrown at me by the staff there, but it cannot. My blog does entertain people, dad. You wouldn’t know because you don’t read it. I AM DOING THINGS WITH MY LIFE! REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS THAT WILL MAKE ME A RESPECTABLE AUTHOR! GET OFF MY BACK!!!

The hotel I stayed in back in 2009 was much schmaltzier than my old house. Here’s a pic that will give you a good idea of how awesome it was.

Get out of the way, Aaron!

If you look at the lower left corner, you’ll notice the armrest of our couch. Then if you look to the right of Aaron, who is the guy clearly ruining this picture, you’ll see the TV. If you look further in the background, you’ll notice that past the barrier are out beds. Yes. Our TV could swivel so that you could either sit on the couch OR lay on the bed and watch it. There is a god, and he wants us to be happy.

Sites

Other than the aforementioned stadium that Bane destroyed, Pittsburgh has a lot of attractions for different members of the family. Kennywood is Pittsburgh’s amusement park and has some of the most historic and exciting rides in the country. Sandcastle is their waterpark, which is pretty run of the mill. You know, water slides and stuff. Pittsburgh is also home to the national aviary, which is essentially one of the more boring parts of normal zoos, just in its own location. If you like heights, go up the famous Pittsburgh Incline and look out at Pittsburgh from the best view in the city. If you’re into Hogwartsian style buildings, go to the Cathedral of learning at the University of Pittsburgh. Only a couple of blocks away is Pittsburgh’s museum of modern art. And last but not least, for you alcoholics, you will want to head over to Station Square and the Southside, where you will find some booze.

Looking down the Pittsburgh Incline

Pittsburgh Skyline from the Incline

University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning

Well, that’s kind of fucked up, University of Pittsburgh.

Hogwarts?

Food

There is a few foods that are Pittsburgh specific: gravy on French fries, city chicken (which isn’t actually chicken because Pittsburgers are weird), but the quintessential Pittsburgh food is, without a doubt, a Primanti Brother’s sandwich.

For those of you who don’t know, a Primanti Brother’s sandwich is what happens when the cook loses his shit and starts throwing all the food onto a plate with his hands. A normal Primanti’s sandwich starts off normally with some meat and some cheese, maybe even a couple slices of tomato. But then the meal makes a sharp left and starts driving erratically down crazy street. The sandwich also has French fries and coleslaw piled on, and the cook only cuts one slice of bread in half.  I didn’t take a picture of my sandwich because I am not an annoying girl on your Facebook homepage, but here is an image from Primanti’s website:

http://primantibros.com/02menu.html

My sandwich was a turkey and cheese, minus the tomato. After I did my best to tear through the meat, fries, and full slice of bread, I finally got to take a bite. It was amazing. The coleslaw was sweet, yet tangy. The turkey and cheese was savory and warm enough to be comforting on a cold day. The fries in all their starchy goodness acted as a balance between the coleslaw and the turkey. Normally, the coleslaw would over power the turkey, but the fries muted the coleslaw’s flavor and helped bring out the turkey and cheese favors. By the end, I wasn’t eating a sandwich so much as a ball of delicious, greasy goodness. Why Primanti’s has not expanded to other parts of the country is a mystery to me.

Alcohol

Yeungling. If you’re in Pittsburgh and you like beer, that is what you have to drink. I mean, sure, Pittsburgh has other beers: Rolling Rock, Iron City Beer, probably others.  Yeungling, however,  is the best. However, If you want to go against my always right opinions, then go ahead and drink an Iron City (Rolling Rock is now a national brand, so it doesn’t count). If you do choose Iron City, then you need to either drink it in their iron bottle or in a regular can. The iron can changes the flavor of the beer, but I cannot remember which one tastes better. But it’s not like it matters anyway; you aren’t even considering drinking Yeungling like I suggested, so why would you take my Iron City beverage container advice. Seriously, the whole point of a travel blog is to listen to my experiences and heed my advice. But whatever. Don’t listen to me, but don’t come crying to me when you realize that Iron City or Rolling Rock isn’t the greatest beer ever, you ungrateful bastards.

People

The first thing you need to understand about Pittsburgers is that they have their own accent. Well, actually, it’s not so much an accent as it is a dialect. If I were to describe it, I’d say that it’s somewhere between Midwesterner and Appalachian Hills people. Watch the first few minutes of this video to get an idea of what Pittsburghese sounds like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kOnYpxfZDs

Having introduced Yinz to how people talk in an around dahntahn Pittsburgh, let’s talk about the locals n’at.

The people there, are awesome. Granted, I know people there, and I got to hang out with them, but still, they’re amazing. For instance, here are my friends Julian and Danielle enjoying a nice dinner with me in Forest Hills:

They were pretty excited to see me.

Then here’s Dan Miller at the Primanti’s after we got done watching The Dark Knight Rises. He was pretty excited to see me:

“MINIGAN GODDAMN BLACKWOOD!!!!! I MISSED YOU!!!”
-totally what Dan said

Then of course I got to hang out with the Newlyweds Julie and Mark Lechliter and their gang of crazy friends. I’ll give you a hint of how this played out.

Minigan- Julie!!!!

Yay!

Julie- Oh Jesus…

Minigan-Ha ha! No, it’s Minigan!  I know, I know, my hair has gotten long, and I do look miraculous, but it’s just me. Plain old Minigan Blackwood: Doctor of Awesome.

Julie- No, Minigan, I know who you are. I’m just surprised to see you back here after they told you not to come back after that last time.

Minigan- Laws don’t apply to me, baby. You should know that. And besides, I left the Slappin’ Dick Machine with my friend Della, so it’s totally cool that I’m here to celebrate your Birthday!

Julie- Well, as long as you’ve found someone that’s willing to keep after it and you didn’t bring it back here…

Minigan- Oh yeah, Della totally has it under control. We’re mentally linked, so it will probably listen to her.

Probably…

Mark- [rushes up to Julie, not noticing Minigan] Julie, we need to get out of here, now. Apparently Minigan found out that we’re going to be here tonight and [now noticing Minigan] Holy Shit! Minigan! How did they let you back in PA?!

Minigan- “Let” isn’t the right word. It was more like I “forced” my way back into Pennsylvania.

Julie- We aren’t going to be arrested by talking to you right now, are we?

Minigan- Not unless you call the cops.

Mark- And if we do call the cops?

Minigan- if you do call the cops, I’ll just show them the proof that you smuggled me into PA.

Mark- What proof do you have?!

Minigan- When have I ever let that stop me before? [throws his hands up defensively] But look, I’m not here to send anyone to prison this time. All I want to do is Party with you guys for Julie’s birthday. Now, let’s do some shots. [runs off to find a bartender]

Julie-[calling after Minigan] Wait, Minigan! I can’t drink; I’m pregnant!

[Minigan came back with a tray of shots, the waitress he took the shots from silently weeping into her hands.]

Minigan- I got us the drinks! Julie, the orange juice is for you because you’re on your period or whatever you said.

Julie- Thanks, I guess…

Minigan- To Julie for her birthday, and for both of you wonderful bastards for getting married![they each do a shot. Minigan does two.]

Mark- [once his face returned to normal after the shot] so how did you get kicked out of PA, Minigan?

Minigan- Well, I created a machine that had a spinning wheel of dildos that  started trying to kill people. You know, it was a whole thing. I’ve put that behind me. Like a month behind me.

Slappin’ Dick- Machine- [comes in looking like a Wall-E with a hat of dildos, waving its newly attached robotic arms frantically and hitting people as it passed. It’s voice came from a Speak and Say attached to its backside. It yells] Minigan! Della is the worst human ever. All she does is insult everyone and throw things at me. It’s horrible.

Minigan- Yeah, she’s an awful, awful person.

Mark and Julie- [simultaneously] What’s wrong with people in Ohio?

Minigan- It’s really just Della. She is just a terrible person. [Mark and Julie say nothing, just look at each other. Minigan turns to the Slappin’ Dick-Machine and says] OK, SDM, which is what I’m going to call you for now on. I’ll let you stay with me and not with Della on two conditions: You cannot try to kill all humans and you must do everything I say. Do you understand?

SDM- I understand. What do you need, master?

Minigan- First, I like the whole “master” thing. Keep up with that. Secondly, go get me a drink.

SDM- Yes, Master. [SDM rolls off, attacks a waitress holding a beer and grabs it before she drops it, and rushes back to me] Here you are, Master.

Minigan-[takes the drink turns to Julie and Mark and says] And that’s how you train your murderbot.

And then we all partied and had a great time.

Overall Atmosphere

Now, I may be biased since I grew up in that city, but the atmosphere of the ‘Burgh is definitely welcoming, and friendly. Even though all of the people I talked to were people that I have known most of my life, the people there act like they’ve always known you. It is, simply put, an amazing  city.

The American Douchebag’s Guide to Europe: Greece

OK this is my last American Douchebag’s Guide to Europe post, so brace yourselves. Things are about to get epic like the Odyssey.

Overview

Greece is where that newfangled thick yogurt comes from. Also, democracy. It has been run by a bunch of sex crazed immortals, blood thirsty warriors, and men who really liked young boys. Pop culture as taught me that those are the only three groups of people from ancient Greece. I don’t know how women fit into this triad. They’ve also had their list of history’s greatest minds: the warrior king Alexander the Great, The philosophers Socrates and Aristotle, the  great scientist Archimedes, and that guy who you sell all your old clothes to: Plato.

He may have also invented Play-Doh

Now a days, The Greeks  are a little bit less on changing the world and more about fixing all of the problems of their fucked up government. Clearly the ones who invented democracy were not the ones to perfect it. U.S.A! U.S.A!

Initial Thoughts

There’s an awful lot of water here… like, a ton of water. It’s everywhere. Wait a second. [looks over the balcony] I’m on a boat!? Oh shit, my group got me deported! I need to get off of this boat! [runs inside and into Shar]

Shar! You got deported too? What did you do?

Shar- I didn’t get deported

Me- then why are we on this boat in the middle of the sea?

Shar- we’re on our way to Greece. How do you not remember getting on this last night? You threw someone overboard right when you got on.

Me- Hmmm… I don’t think that sounds like something I’d do.

Shar- literally every conversation that I’ve had with you makes me think that throwing someone off of a boat is exactly something you would do.

Me- Oh. [turns around and sees and island in the distance] IS THAT OUR ISLAND!?

Shar- How should I know?

Me- [after a few minutes sees another] IS THAT OUR ISLAND!?!?

Shar- [long sigh] I don’t know, Minigan. We’ll know when we get there.

I continued to ask her for every new island we saw, that is, until she got frustrated by something and went inside. But before she went, she did take this picture of me:

Is it just me, or do I look like I might have Down's Syndrome here?

Shar, was this our island?

Accommodations

Holy shit, check out the view from my hotel room:

Fuck yes! Every new hotel room Sammy and I had, we were always disappointed that we never got the nicest room. We never had nice views (well, except for in Austria, but everyone had good views from that hotel, and we had scaffolding right outside out balcony) and we kept telling ourselves that we’d have the best view/ room eventually. This was our best room. The room itself wasn’t that much different from anyone else’s room, but we were on the highest level and were facing the bay, so we won.

Now the hotel wasn’t spectacular. If too many people took showers at once, the water pressure would drop and the water would go cold.  I seriously had to crouch under the facet to rinse the shampoo out of my hair on our first night because so many people were taking a shower that only a trickle of water came out. After that, I saw to it that I took a shower when everyone else was doing some other activity.

Our hotel in Athens didn’t have the nicest view (it was down an alley) but for us having to walk our luggage a city block to get to it, it was actually very nice. It was quite modern and had a rooftop patio where my group spent our last night in Europe. I and my fellow Jersey Boys (I was inducted into the group in Rome) each bought a bottle of champagne for the celebration. Also two of the people in our group, Zack and Shar, got engaged that morning. So, you know, we celebrated that too.

Sites

The first thing we saw in Greece was this trench:

OK Greece, off to a slow start

There were a few sites to see in Poros, like this clock tower:

And these ruins:

I didn’t actually go to either of these things; I spent my 2 days in Poros bike riding through the town and relaxing on the beach. I did visit the temple of Poseidon, but I didn’t get any pictures. (I’ll explain why later).

In Athens, we got to walk up to the Acropolis and be jealous of the Archaeologists who were allowed to frolic through the ruins of the Parthenon. When we were there, it was 99 degrees out, which was kind of shitty to be honest. That isn’t even all that important to anything, I just wanted to point that out to all my friends back in the states because they couldn’t stop bitching about hot the temperature in Pennsylvania and Ohio was. It was 85 degrees, it’s always that temperature in July, and I climbed a goddamned mountain in weather fifteen degrees hotter, so stop your bitching and go someplace with air conditioning, you pussies.

Here’s some pictures of the Acropolis:

They apparently have modern day concerts here

Jersey Boys and the Parthenon

Food

I ate 2 gyros (pronounced yeer-oh, as Wikipedia tells me) one was chicken and the other was standard lamb. They were amazing, which is given, since “delicious gyro” is a redundancy. I also had a Greek salad. This is a lot less salady than you think. It is essentially fresh tomatoes, red onion, and green pepper with feta cheese, olive oil, and oregano. I’m not usually a fan of tomatoes, but the feta cheese made them very tolerable.

Then there was this lasagna esque dish. I don’t know what it was called because Sammy and I fell asleep and showed up while everyone else was on dessert. Luckily, my group saved me a plate. I love those guys. They didn’t save Sammy one because fuck Sammy.

What did I ever do to you, Sammy?

Alcohol

Greece has their own beer: Mythos (guess where they got that name). It was ok I guess. Definitely drinkable. Then there was this fruit drink that I’m pretty sure was sangria mixed with chunks of fruit. I drank a few of those, mostly because we did have some nondrinkers with us on the trip and I didn’t want them to feel like they were being forced into drinking…. we had that drink at our group’s toga party. That was a blast. I was sunburnt, I thought I lost 20 Euros, but it turned out that drunk me is smart and just gave it to Julie to hold. Then we also threw Andy (the coolest tour guide ever) into the pool behind our hotel. Later, Jon and Brennen got banged up on a old boat, Sammy got some from a girl in the group one day a head of us, Paul and I almost skinny dipped  with everybody else but decided to just go in in our boxers instead, and Paul, Ohio Michelle, and I got drunk in Paul’s room. Then, Jersey Boys (including me) and Michelle then busted into my room to catch Sammy nailing that girl, only to see that they were already asleep. The girl did wake up at one point to see the six of us standing at the edge of the bed looking unsure of what to do next. Simply put: We didn’t plan it well. Oh yeah, and Brennen and Cj started fucking around with a fire extinguisher. I ended up sharing a bed with Paul and Jon and we didn’t look at each other the next day. What I’m getting at with is that we had a good night.

People

This dog:

Daaaawwww!!!!!

I know I might have said that I would only talk about a dog in the people section for Venice, but I had to talk about this dog. In fact, I cannot talk about Greece without talking about three things, and all three of those things are that dog. The dog’s name is Paul Jr. and he is not named after our Paul. There is actually a story behind this that I had politely asked Brennen to write for me, just to give everyone a different perspective to view Europe through and not at all because I’m lazy, but he never replied to my texts. I even told him it would be OK if he didn’t want to, just as long as he told me so. But that bastard never did, so it looks like I’m going to have to tell his story for him. You brought this upon yourself, Brennen.

___________

I was drunk. Like, really drunk. I hadn’t felt this way since Rome. Minigan did this, I thought as I peered around the crowded club. I couldn’t see his head of majestic curls anywhere. Oh yeah, I remembered, Kevin asked him a question about his writing, and that had completely distracted him while a large group of us piled into the bus that was to take us to the club. Even while being drunk and partying I was just so irritated that no one else had tried that the entire trip; each of us asking that question at key times during the trip would have made everything run a whole lot smoother than what it did and probably would have saved a couple of lives. In any case, we really owed Kevin one.

Suddenly, I felt a slight pang of guilt (I’m pretty sure “pang” is a word), not about leaving Kevin with Minigan, but for leaving Minigan in general. I tried to shake the feeling by grinding harder with the girl I was dancing with, but it didn’t help. I just couldn’t stop thinking of how nice a guy Minigan is. No he isn’t, I tried to tell myself, he’s attacked a bunch of people on this trip, God knows how many more when I haven’t been around him. I then thought back to Rome, when Minigan, in a drug induced frenzy, forcibly made out with me. My heart fluttered. After a panicked second or two of wondering what that meant, I decided to push Minigan out of my mind for the rest of the night.

A few hours later, I was good and hammered and talking to one of the girls from the group one day ahead of us. As we talked, a strange looking, obviously Greek man walked up to us.

“Ello tere!” he said (I don’t really know what a Greek accent sounds like), “You Americans?”

“No, no no!” the girl (whose name I cannot remember) cried.

“Oh, no!” I laughed in my best foreign accent and continued, “I am Fredrico Bernardo, Treasure Hunter and this is Paul. She is a gypsy.”

I guess you had to be there

We talked a little while longer to the man, still pretending to be an Italian explorer and his gypsy slave and telling him of the adventures I’ve had and the women I’ve conqurered. But after a while, we grew tired of lying to the Greek man, so we agreed to walk back to the hotel.

The night was warm and conforting, like Minigan’s mouth when he kissed me. His hands were strong, but they held me so caringly that I had never felt more safe. And his lips. Oh! His lips were so soft, yet so passionate and forceful. I think I could go the rest of my life without finding a better kisser than Minigan. He has set the bar for the rest of the world.

Wait, was I talking about? Oh yeah, the night I found Paul Jr. Sorry about that. I don’t know what came over me. As Paul (the girl whose name I don’t remember) and I walked down the hill to head back to the larger island of Poros, we heard a light clattering from behind us. We both turned around to see a large brown dog trot up to us, its eyes bright and its tail wagging. I immediately fell in love. Despite my better judgement I knelt down, whistled, and beckoned for the dog to come closer. Its tail went into a frenzy as it bounded towards us. The dog was obviously a stray; it had no tags or collar, it was dirty and its hair matted, and it smelled like the ocean.  Despite the rest of its appearance, the dog appeared to be well fed. Paul and I petted the dog, and it seemed to be enjoying it, that is until it started barking like it just discovered it could.

Fearing that the situation was about to go bad, Lady Paul and I stood up and backed away from the dog. As I took a step back, I hit something warm and fleshy. I turned around to see the face of a disgruntled looking gypsy man. I let out a small, shriek and stumbled backward. The dog, took my spot and began to bark at the gypsy. The man became nervous just as Lady Paul and I had and began to run away. The dog chased him for a little while, and then trotted back to us, looking very pleased with itself.

“This is the greatest dog ever!” I said, beaming down at the dog.

“Yeah!” Lady Paul replied, “We should totally name it!”

“Well, that’s the best idea anyone has ever had,” I said rather hyperbolically now that I think about it, “We should name it Paul Jr.!”

Really, you just had to be there to appreciate it

We continued our walk back to the hotel, Paul Jr. merrily trotting along, keeping an eye out for any more of those Goddamn gypsies. After a few minutes of uneventful walking, we started to hear a strange noise. It sounded like someone was trying to mimic the sound of an old timey train engine. A few seconds later the voice grew louder and closer, and we could recognize that what the person was saying was actually, “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit…”

It was Minigan. My heart climbed into my mouth as he came sprinting up the hill, still saying, “shit” over and over again. He passed us, barely even noticing that I was even there. I haven’t felt that disappointed since I found out that Santa Clause isn’t real. Then, to my great pleasure, he stopped, turned around, and looked at us with his sexy, steely blue eyes. They reminded me of Anderson Cooper’s eyes, but more manly. My heart was back in my mouth. I knew how dangerous it was to look him directly in the eye, especially unwarranted, but I couldn’t help it. All I wanted to do was stand there and drink in those majestic blue eyes forever.

“What the fuck are you standing there for?” he snapped,  disregarding that I looked him in the eye, “RUN!!!”

Just at that moment, a horrible Earth-rattling screech came from the bottom of the hill. Fear filled Minigan’s  beautiful eyes. He picked up Paul Jr., turned to us, and said, “For fuck’s sake, follow me!”

He sprinted up the hill, and Lady Paul and I followed. There was another screech. I increased my  pace  to catch up with Minigan and his powerful, Olympian legs. Once I had, I said through deep breaths, “What is making that noise?”

“The Kraken.” He replied, somehow not out of breath.

“What?!” Lady Paul and I cried in unison.

Even he looks surprised

“The Kraken.” Minigan repeated, “I accidentally released the Kraken. Now we need to get to higher ground-“

“How in the Hades (zing) did you both find and release a giant sea monster within the past three hours?” I interrupted. To be honest, I didn’t really need to ask this question; I already feared the worst.

“It was actually pretty easy,” he began rather casually, seeing as though we were running up hill from a giant sea monster, “I just went to the temple of Poseidon that’s on the peak of the big island and told him that I was his son and if he really loved me, he would give me control of the Kraken.”

“So you released the Kraken on purpose?” I replied.

“Yes”

“That doesn’t sound very accidental at all!” Lady Paul, whom I had forgotten was still here, snapped.

“Well that is the definition of ‘on purpose,’ sweet cheeks,” Minigan snapped back.

“Why would you want to release the Kraken?” I asked, ignoring Lady Paul’s stupid, woman  remark.

“Well, first I thought it would be funny. Secondly, I wanted to conquer Greece. I clearly didn’t think things through.”

There was another monsterous screech, which was followed by  the sound of the trunks of trees breaking in front of us. About fifty yards ahead, a giant creature climbed onto the cliff from the ocean. The monster was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. If it wasn’t for how scared I was, I would have noted the irony of Minigan, the most beautiful man I know, releasing something so terrible onto the world. Anyway, the Kraken’s face was lumpy and twisted, like if Picasso did a painting of Barbra Streisand. It’s upper body was long and thin, but still noticeably muscular, and its lower body was made entirely of tentacles. It screeched again once it saw us, and began to lumber (as best as an animal with the lower body strength of a squid could lumber) towards us. Paul Jr. was barking even more than when he scared off the gypsy and had managed to wiggle out of Minigan’s tight muscular arms. The brown dog then ran straight for the monster.

“Paul Jr.!” I cried, wishing that Minigan would hold me in his arms, but it was too late. Paul Jr. had already reached the Kraken and bitten one of its tentacles. The Kraken let out a higher pitch, whipped its tentacle feet around for a second or two, and fell down the cliff and back into the water. Paul Jr., who had let go of the Kraken at the last second, ran back up to us covered in slime, but still very proud of himself.

“Wow,” Minigan said while staring at where the Kraken was standing (kind of) just seconds before, ‘That sure was anticlimactic.”

Happy to escape a run in with a giant sea monster, the three of us and Paul Jr. walked back to the hotel, swapping stories of what happened earlier that night. I wanted to be mad at Minigan for almost killing me again, but every time I see him all I can think about is how I want to taste his lips again. Minigan Blackwood is the most dangerous drug, and unfortunately, I’m addicted.
______________

See Brennen? That is what happens when you don’t respond to one of my text messages. All of you be warned.

Overall Atmosphere

The atmosphere of Poros was peaceful and relaxing, as you would expect from a small island town where your hotel is right across the street from a beach. Poros is just one of those places that you relax no matter what you do. When a group of us rode bikes around the island? Relaxing. When I was chilling on the beach with Paul Jr.? Relaxing. When we sailed around the island and Melinda, Kendra, Kevin and I sang Bohemian Rhapsody the entire way through several times? Relaxing. When I “accidentally” awakened the god Poseidon and released the kraken? Relaxing.

As for Athens, it wasn’t nearly as tense as you would guess if you listen to the news. We were all worried before we left when we heard about the protests in Athens, but it turned out to be not dangerous at all. I even tried to start a riot, but no, they didn’t want any of it. It, like Paris, Brussels, Salzburg, and Rome had the duality of being a city with a modern culture yet still retaining some of its old world feel. Granted, the “city with a modern culture” was mostly shown by cars and graffiti, but you can find places like that in every city or in all of Detroit. Plus, a lot of the Graffiti in Athens was street art, not random tagging, which added personality and beauty to the city.

But none of that is what I want to talk about. What I really want to talk about is that our night in Athens was our last night on the trip so we wanted to go out with a party. We went to the roof our hotel (we were allowed to) and drank the champagne that me and the rest of the Jersey Boys bought. This was the view from on top of the hotel:

That's the Acropolis

If you’ve read all of my “American Douchebag’s Guide to Europe” posts, you may remember a similar view from London:

And that is Tower Bridge

It was moving to end our trip the same we started it: by partying on hotel rooftops with views of well-known landmarks of the city we were staying in. It felt as though we had come full circle, but all becoming close friends along the way. I will never forget this trip or all the wonderful people I became friends with on it. I haven’t got to hang out with them nearly as much as I would’ve liked since I’ve been back, and because of this blog series I’ve been reminiscing about them and this trip just about every week since I’ve gotten back. Guys, I know you’re reading this. Or, I like to believe that you’re reading this. We WILL hang out soon, even if I have to drug and kidnap each and every one of you. You know I’m serious about that.

And as for everyone who didn’t go on the trip with me, I’d like to thank you for following this blog for the past 6 months. You have made this my most popular blog series ever. So popular in fact, that I might just start doing this with cities in America. But still follow this blog! I swear it’ll still be good! I will continue to do dangerous things while drugs in my veins put everyone around me in danger. It’ll be good fun.

Until then,

Peace

I'll never forget you Paul Jr.!!!!

The American Douchebag’s Guide to Europe: Rome & Pompeii

This isn't the When In Rome I was thinking of...

Here it is

You know what, I’m pretty sure the Lizzy McGuire movie was set in Rome too, so:

No, I didn't photoshop one of my tripmates face onto this pic.

Apparently only chick movies are set in Rome…

"WTF dude?"

Overview

Rome is the current capitol of Italy, and was the capitol of the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire.  At one point during its existence, a huge section was burned to the ground and was replaced by a Palace for Emperor Nero. I don’t really have a good joke for that, I just wanted to point out that if Nero didn’t cause the fire, then he was the most opportunistic dick ever. Rome is also the city where the Catholic Church (and all of Christianity) got its start. They also killed a bunch of people and exotic animals in the name of entertainment. I like to think of the Romans as visionaries in this area, mostly because the roman athletes weren’t really known for their life spans. My idea is this: Once an athlete from whatever sport gets on our collective nerves, we make them fight one another to the death. That way they still entertain us, but one of them is dead. Sure, this idea come too late to save us from T.O. or Kobe Bryant, but this could save us from us having to deal with countless other over paid clowns getting big heads and forgetting their place.

Pompeii was an ancient Roman city that was buried by volcanic ash from Mt. Vesuvius aka Europe’s Mordor.  It was buried for a few hundred years before it was rediscovered, which makes Italy the shittiest country to have a natural disaster in, because once a city is devastated, the goddamn government just forgets about it.

Thankfully, America has never done such a thing...

Initial Thoughts

I don’t remember my initial thoughts from Rome because at about that time the bath salts were kicking in, and I was busy being locked in the luggage compartment by my trip mates and tour guide, Andy to notice where we were. Actually that is the same thing that happened on our way to Pompeii. Damn, they really got me good, those bastards.

Accommodations

The accommodations in Rome were the worst on the trip after the hotel in Brussels (we didn’t have a hotel in Brussels). To get to our rooms my group (That’s right, all 36 of us) had to walk a labyrinth of hallways that I suspect took us from one building to another. Our hotel room was a little out dated, but OK, but it was our bathroom that is what really sealed the deal for this being the worst hotel stay. Here’s a blurry picture of our shower:

weird

Notice how the shower head is on the side of the shower, not the end. I don’t know the logic behind this, or if this even caused a problem, but it’s weird and I don’t like it. And then there was the doorknob leading out of the bathroom:

and this is ghetto

That’s right, it fell right the fuck off as I was turning it. Seriously, what the crap is that about? Rome, your city is beautiful, but your hotels are crap. Do something about that.

Sites

Well, there is a Hell of a lot to see in Rome. First off, I got to see the Spanish Steps:

I didn’t get to eat gelato while sitting on them, but I’ll just see to it that I do the next time I’m there.

Then there’s the Pantheon:

And the Trevi Fountain:

Fun fact about the Trevi fountain: if you throw three coins into the fountain, you ensure your return to Rome. Another fun fact about the Trevi fountain, there is apparently a special way to do this, which is over your right shoulder. I didn’t know that. So I looked retarded just throwing my coins right into that water like some asshole. Stupid Emily didn’t tell me there was a wrong way. She will pay for this.

Then there was the Vatican which is huge, crowded, and beautiful. As a catholic, I don’t really care all that much about religion, but I’ll tell you that the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel were the most impressive churches I had seen on the entire trip. I didn’t get a picture of “The Creation of Adam” because I didn’t want my camera destroyed by the Swiss Guards. Also, it was really dark and my camera sucks at taking night pictures.

As for the Colosseum, I think my following story tells you all that you need to know:

I don't remember taking this picture at all, and quite frankly, I'm impressed they got me to stand still for that long.

Jon, Paul, Brennen, CJ, Katie, Michelle, and myself stepped off of the heavily graffitied subway train. They actually invited me along this time; I think they had given up on trying to get rid of me. So I skipped merrily in the center of this uneasy pack of Americans, each of them knowing that if I broke out of that ring, bad things were going to happen. A shady looking man eyed me and my skipping from across the station. He made eye contact with me. Bad move. With a surprising amount of agility, I leap frogged over CJ (the tallest of us), and ran in a full sprint towards the man, our eye contact unbroken.  The screams of my posse and their echoing footsteps followed me as I ran straight as this mystery man. I stopped within inches of him, and he flinched as my abrupt stop made my upper body lurch forward.

Rome, this is as classy as I deserve.

We continued to stare at one another for a few seconds as  my group came to a halt a little ways behind me, about twenty feet. They knew better than to get too close to me once someone makes unwarranted eye contact.

“What the hell do you want?” the man said.

“All of your drugs,” I replied.

“What makes you think that I have drugs on me?”  the man growled.

“I can sense them on you. Now are you going to sell me all of your drugs, or am I going to have to take them from you?”

The man smiled and pulled out a handful of small baggies filled with an assortment of colored powders. I drooled a little. I handed him a fistful of bills and snatched the baggies out of his hand. I opened the bag with the pink powder and began rubbing it on my gums while making gnawing noises that made everyone uncomfortable.

“Do you even want to know what these drugs are?” The man asked.

“And ruin the excitement of taking mystery drugs? Puh-lease.”

“That just sounds stupid,” the man stated.

I smiled and then replied, “Not nearly as stupid as looking me in the eyes.”

Just like always, I punched the man hard in the heart before he or anyone else could react. The man stumbled backward before falling to the ground, dead.  My patented death punch claimed another victim. I pulled my cash out of his dead hands, and turned back to my posse.

“Let’s go,” I said brightly to their horrified faces.

We made our way out of the station and across the street to the Colosseum. By the time we got to the entrance of the Behomoth structure, I had finished all of the drugs that I had “bought” from the dealer.

As we entered the Colosseum, I had managed to break the circle around me and get to the front of the group. I walked forward for a few seconds when I noticed something disturbing.

“Hey guys,” I called back, “The drugs that guy gave me were shit; I’m not feeling anything.”

They didn’t reply. In fact they and everybody else went totally quiet. I turned around to ask why they  didn’t respond, but when I did, everybody was gone.  Hmm, I thought, if I’m alone, that means I don’t have to wear pants. Either do to some kind of magical force, or to the fact that I seemed to have temporarily lost control of my hands, I looked down and realized that my pants were already around my ankles. Thank God I decided to free ball it. At that same moment, a roar of applause thundered from above me.

“Well, it’s about time somebody cheers that I take my pants off.” I called out to the disembodied applause.

My good mood was almost extinguished when I felt four hands grab firmly onto my shoulders. I looked behind me to see two rather large Roman soldiers scowling down at me.

They turned me around, and one said to the other in Latin which I inexplicably understood, “this man is wearing very strange clothes. Do you think he is a gladiator?”

I slapped this man. “Of course I’m a gladiator, Roman,” I even more inexplicably said in Latin, “You people brought me from my country to fight, after all. And my name is Miniganimus Blackwoodsaccus. Learn that name, for it is the name that even the Devil fears.”

The two soldiers looked uncertainly at on another, shrugged, and began dragging me away.

“Well, Miniganimus, your fight is close at hand. You need to prepare yourself for the battle.

There was a burst of boos and catcalls from above. After a few seconds of confusion as to what’s going on, I finally figured it out. Because of how badass the Colosseum was and how awesome I am, when I entered the building it created a time portal which took me back to the Colosseum’s hayday. Yeah, that’s totally what happened. I probably had to right some wrong in the past and also bed some emperor’s daughter.

Excited about this revelation, I freed myself from their grip, grabbed one of their swords, and stabbed one of the soldiers right in his goddamn eye.  I screamed, “Miniganimus Blackwoodsaccus is going to fuck up some gladiators and exotic animals for some empress snatch!” I then hobbled off (my pants were still around my ankles) and into the lower levels of the stadium.

Once there, I found the place I was to prepare myself for the fight. In my room, or rather, the room that I had claimed for myself, there was a wire metal mannequin wearing my armor, protective belt, and helmet. The metal glimmered in the dim light. I hungered for it. As fast as I could with my pants around my ankles, I made my way over to the mannequin so that I could get ready for my fight. The helmet was easy enough to remove, but the breast plate refused to come off. After several minutes of fighting, swearing and threats to bestow pain that no one has ever felt before on the mannequin, it finally released my armor and belt. To teach the stupid wire-man a lesson, I picked it up and threw it out of the room. As it clattered on the floor, I turned around and put on my armor. The armor, simply put, was weird. It didn’t fit me well; it was much looser that what you’d expect armor to be, but it was very light and breezy, which I decided must help me retain my agility. Clearly the Romans had this whole armor thing worked out. But I guess they should, you don’t become an empire by killing off all of your soldiers.

I removed my pants the rest of the way, and made my way through the labyrinth  of passages to the Colosseum floor. I stepped out from the dark hallway and into the warm golden light of the open stadium and the crowd roared with excitement. I sauntered out to the middle of the stadium, waving to my adoring fans all the while. Then, I saw her. The emperor’s daughter sat on a golden throne at the center of the field. She was draped it a vibrant red dress that looked like it was made out of her own sweet breath. And boy was she hot. I mean Olivia Wilde’s level of hot. You know what, let’s just go ahead and assume that this empress was Olivia Wilde.

My sweet, sweet Empress

I walked towards the majestic beauty that was the Empress, and when she smiled at me, I felt a rush of adrenaline that made even my most violent of benders seem tame. I bowed to her, while being aware, yet indifferent to the fact that I was exposing my anus the rest of the crowd.

“I,” I called to the empress once I finished my bow, “Miniganimus Blackwoodsaccus, declare that the blood I spill on this day will be spilled for you, my radiant empress.”

She gave a curt smile, which I took as that I had properly moistened her panties. Fuck yeah, I’m practically in. I wish I could have continued with the wooing of Empress Olivia Wilde, but the crowd roared back to life as a group of five retiariuses stepped into the stadium and began their advance towards me.

Being out numbered and out weaponed, I decided that my one sword was not enough for the five sets of tridents, daggers, and nets that were going to try and ruin my day, so I ran to the closest wall and picked up a heavy metal chain that was laying there. I began to swing it over my head, and I waited for one of these dumb bastards to get too close. One eventually did, and with one swing of my chain, I was able to hit him hard on the head, effectively knocking him out. The next blocked my chain with his trident and attempted to stab me with his dagger. His dagger was too short, but unfortunately for him my sword was long enough to reach him (As it always is, ladies). I stabbed him in his chest and then slashed at his face. As he fell to the ground as a bleeding lump, the other three retiariuses (or retardiuses, Am I right!) stepped forward. Learining from the other two’s mistakes, they attacked me at once, using their nets to grab ahold of my chain and their tridents to stab me. But with one unexpected flourish of my wrist, I was able to knock all three tridents out of their hands. I rushed in and plunged my sword right into the first retiarius’s groin. I lifted him up over my head and let him land on his. I then turned to the second one, and swung hard at his temple. My sword made its mark, and that one fell too. The fifth and final retiarius, seeing what I did to his friends, decided to run away. Stupid move. I chased the coward down and tackled him. With one quick move, my blade sliced his throat and ended his weak existence.

I stood up to claim my prize of empress ass when I heard a roar come from behind me. Slowly I turned around.

“Tiger!”

AAAAHHHHH!

The large feline beast stared me down, waiting for me to make a move. I stared back, rapidly thinking of my best course of action to kill the beautiful creature. Before I had even made my decision, my legs were racing towards the tiger, the rest of my body being dragged along by them. With one impressive jump, I was able to leap over the tiger’s swiping paws, and land on its back. The cat kicked and thrashed, its sharp claws scratching my arms and face. After a few minutes of intense jungle cat wrasslin’ the tiger was too tired to fight on, and I was easily able to dispose of it. I did it quick because I felt that the tiger was a worthy adversary and that it deserved all of my respect.

After a second or two of silence, the Colosseum practically ejaculated with applause and cheers. I ran to the Empress who was now in the fighting arena. Her beaming smile warmed my heart, and I knew that I needed to have her right then. I wrapped my arms around her and filled her mouth with the most passionate kiss of her life. I felt her buckle as her tongue danced with mine, as our souls became one. I felt several guards pull me off of her, but I didn’t care; this was the happiest day of my life. I fell in love, I found my place in the world, and I got to legally kill people.

And as they pinned me to the ground, I could still hear the crowd chant my name, “Miniganimus, Miniganimus, Miniganimus…”

“…Minigan? Minigan. Minigan wake the fuck up.”

I stirred and opened my eyes. The first thing I saw were several thin, yet deep scratches on my arms. As my eyes moved their way up my arms, I noticed that I was wearing a turquoise floral blouse and a hot pink fanny pack that was blatantly not covering up my junk. I looked upward and noticed a pink brim right above me. I felt for it and realized that I was wearing a pink baseball cap as well.

“What the hell happened?” I asked, “Where’s the empress? I was so close to tapping that!”

“I don’t know that you’re talking about Minigan,” Paul snapped, as he kept me pinned firmly to the ground, “all I know is that you are a crazy bastard that probably shouldn’t be alive right now.

“I know!” I answered, “Did you see me fight those 5 retiariuses? That was so bad-ass!”

“No,” he retorted, “But I did see you beat the shit out of those five Colosseum guards with a billy club and a chain.”

“Wait. What?”

“Oh,” CJ said sarcastically as he walked up, “You’re confused? Here, we’ll start from the fucking beginning. After you punched that guy in the chest and filled yourself with the stolen drugs, we came over to the Colosseum. We were barely inside when you started to say, ‘guys, the drugs that guy gave me were shit’ before you trailed off. You then turned around and pulled your pants down. Two of the guards saw this and grabbed you. That’s when you said something in tongues, grabbed one of their billy-clubs and hit one of them in the face with it. You then ran into the woman’s rest room. Within seconds we heard a woman scream.”

Paul let me up and continued CJ’s story, “Apparently you stole her hat, blouse and fanny pack and then threw her outside. After about a minute you came out wearing the stuff you stole from her. You then ran out the exit to where we are now. You started to wave at no one until five guards came after you, two of which you had already attacked. You took them all out with a chain barrier and the billy-club.”

“and what about the tiger I fought?” I asked.

“What you mean the stray cat you tackled?” Jon replied as he handed me my pants, “It’s over there. Michelle is taking care of it. We’re amazed that you didn’t kill the poor thing.”

It still looks a little pissed at me

I looked over and sure enough, Michelle was petting a terrified looking cat while casting dark scowls at me.

“But, but what about the empress?” I asked, “Please tell me it was really Olivia Wilde. I so want to believe that I just made out with Olivia Wilde.”

“Well, you did make out with someone, but it wasn’t Olivia Wilde,” Paul replied, “It was Brennen.”

They turned their heads to a quivering mass about five feet away that Katie was tending to. She looked at us and called, “I think he’s going into shock.”

“Well that wouldn’t be the first time one of my kisses had sent someone into shock (ladies),” I replied, “but assuming from the amout of drugs I had injested, I’m going to go ahead and say he’s probably having some kind of messed up hallucination right now. We should get him back to the hotel so that he can sleep it off.”

“And that’s it?” CJ cried, “Brennen just sleeps of the drugs and the fact that you almost molested him and everything is OK?!?!”

“Yep,” I replied, “That’s usually how it goes.”

“Well, fuck you, Minigan.” He screamed, “you’ve taken this shit too far this time. I’m going to get you kicked off of this trip. I swear it.”

“Ah, come on, at least I didn’t do anything to you, and besides, think of the stories you’re going to have once you get back to the states. Now, c’mon everybody, let’s have some of that wine!”

See, everything turned out OK.

And then we had some wine, laughed at my antics and just generally had a good time tailgating the Colosseum. And everything was better.

__________________

Well, that went longer than what I was expecting. Here some info on Pompeii. You can adopt puppies from there. If there was one thing that I took from Pompeii, it was that. Not the fact that they recycled their broken pots my putting them in concrete, not that they carved penises into the streets to point horny travelers to one of Pompeii’s brothels, not even that you get to see the remains of dead bodies, it’s totally the puppy thing.  Honestly, Pompeii was the place I was looking forward to most on this trip, and it didn’t disappoint at all. How can it? It’s really just ruins. But it was still amazing in a desolate ghost town kind of way. I wish I would have got to see more of it.

he he he he..... dong

finally, a corpse that I didn't have anything to do with

Food

Before I go into anything that deals with what I ate, check out the pasta CJ got for lunch when we left the Vatican:

Now that's what I call penne pasta! HO! UP TOP!!!

That’s right, he got a plate full O’Dicks. What he ordered was the daily special, which gives us a lot of information to go on about the owner of that particular restaurant. CJ was a good sport though; he laughed with us, and ate all those dicks without any complaints or jokes about their being a weird cream sauce mixed in.

Other than the gnocchi that I ate on our second day in Rome (the same meal that CJ had the penis pasta), I don’t remember what I ate in Rome. For our second dinner, I was hammered, but I did get a pic of the bruschetta that we had before our main course:

That dinner, by the way, was amazing. That is, of course, a biased opinion because I was shit faced, but I had a blast drunkenly singing “That’s Amore!” with the guitar player that was entertaining us. Of course, the night wasn’t all fun and drunken games for those of us who aren’t Jon, Paul, Brennen, and CJ (They were out until, like 6:00 AM). No, sadly, two of our trip mates, Tristan and Erica were leaving the next morning. Tristan was going back to London to start her study abroad program, and Erica was just headed back to the states because her parents didn’t want her flying back from Greece. We missed them, and I assume they missed the Hell out of me.

Erica or Tristan, call me.

Anyway, as for the rest of the food I ate in Rome, I don’t remember at all. I remember eating at this place, even though I don’t remember what I got:

Also, I assume I ate more gelato. I fucking love gelato.

Alcohol

Good, cheap wine again. After our trip to the Vatican, Jon, Paul, Brennen, CJ, Katie and I stopped at a market to load up on cheap wine so that we could tailgate the Colosseum, just like the ancient Romans would.  We merrily drank wine from the Colosseum all the way back to our hotel, where we partied in Jon and Paul’s room. We then drank some Swiss beer that we had on our trip to the restaurant for dinner. What I’m getting at is that I got hammered that day.

we were drunk here, and this was early in the night

People

Well, other than Paul cussing out an Italian kid, who turned out to be able to speak English (Why is every European multilingual? Does our schools system suck that bad?), I didn’t talk to a whole lot of Italians. They mostly gave us weird looks for taking full advantage of their open alcohol container laws. Seriously, Europeans, you have no clue how lucky you have it with that. But with those people aside, Italians seemed to be very hospitable and laid back. Maybe it’s my Italian heritage, but I love taking two to three hours to eat a meal. And I’m not being sarcastic about that, nor am I going to say that I like it because it gives the booze a fighting chance to get me drunk (even though it totally does and I love that). It is just so relaxing.

I do have one caveat with Italians, however. They are kind of pushy when you’re walking somewhere. I guess that it may have something to do with them wasting most of their day eating their meals at a leisurely pace.

Overall Atmosphere

Again, this is relatively the same as Northern Italy, just with the added bustling city and ancient ruins of Rome. What the Hell do you people want from me? Just look at the goddamn pictures:

That's totally not phallic, Italy. Nope, not phallic at all

the ruins of "Old Rome" as I like to call it because I forgot its real name

Mt. Vesuvius, waiting...

I think these guys might just love my antics

inside the Vatican, I see God

My douchey artistic pic of outside the Colosseum

my douchey, artistic pic of the Roman Arc from inside the Colosseum

my douchey artistic pic of a alleyway in Pompeii

The American Douchebag’s Guide to Europe: Northern Italy

Overview

If you do not know the history of Italy, you are either way too young to be reading this blog, or you’re a complete moron. But either way, I’m going to tell it to you.  Italy is the place that we desperately tried to deport the Jersey Shore Cast to, The Ringo Star of WWII’s Axis powers, and the place where pizza originated from. This is also the country that is shaped like a boot.

No, that's Louisiana.

For a while, several centuries ago, Italy wasn’t called Italy at all; It was known as the Roman Empire and they did their damnedest to rule the world. They actually came pretty close too. As I mentioned with my blog about London, The Romans made their way up to what is now England and built the city of London. They also had control of the entire Mediterranean Sea as well as all of present day Spain and Portugal, most of France and Germany, and the northern most part of Africa, including the non- horrible death desert part of Egypt.

With time and a little bit of help from the Huns, The Roman Empire fell, which was eventually replaced by the Holy Roman Empire. But just like all sequels that aren’t The Godfather Part 2, this one sucked and was filled with Catholics. Gross.

As Wikipedia tells me, Italy after the Roman empires was separated into several city states, one of which was Milan. It was finally reunited in 1861 during a movement called “The Resurgance.” After that, Italy suffered no more problems and is currently the happiest country on the planet. That is, if you don’t count losing WWI, the fascist dictator Mussolini, almost losing a war against Ethiopia, the mafia presence, the failing Euro, and their former statutory rapist and overall sleaze of a Prime Minister.

… Well, their country is beautiful anyway.

Initial Thoughts

Here were my initial thoughts for Venice:

I was walking with Jon, Paul, Brennen, and CJ, or rather, they were walking around and I was following them. They didn’t invite me along, which I took as an insult, so I decided to invite myself. Right as they were about to cross the Rialto Bridge, I had a crazy thought.

This is going to be awesome. Or awful. I'm not sure.

“Guys!” I said, instantly in the center of their group. They all jumped away from me, each one screaming curse words at me.

“Jesus, Minigan,” Paul gasped, “What the hell were you thinking surprising us like that? You should know by now that when you do that, we assume you’re about to attack us.”

CJ added, “Yeah, and how were you following us? We were keeping an eye out specifically to make sure you weren’t doing just that.”

I honestly knew this much, but I was insulted by the fact that he had the gall to say it to me. I grabbed CJ by the back of his neck and forced his face close to mine. I then whispered into his ear with an inhuman voice, “I dwell in the shadows.”

When I let go, he slowly stepped away from me, his face had gone stony and pale. The look quickly spread to the other three guys. I was actually surprised that that frightened them as much as it did. I think it must have confirmed their fears.

“Anyway,” I said in an unnaturally bright tone, “Do you remember what Andy said about this city not having a sewer system and how it really just goes out under the city until low tide can pull it out to sea?”

That statement seemed to make them only more afraid.

“Well, I was wondered if someone could get superpowers by jumping into the water. Shit like that, no pun intended, would certainly give someone superpowers in comics.”

“Minigan, please-“ Jon started, but didn’t have the strength to finish the sentence.

“No.” I replied, knowing exactly what he was about to ask.

The looks on their faces only became more grim.

“It is out of the question,” I continued, “There is no way I am letting any of you get superpowers while I don’t have any.”

They all sighed with relief and Brennen asked, “So why did you stop us if you were just going to do it?”

“I need you guys to hold all of my stuff. I don’t want to get it wet.”

I handed them my wallet, ipod, cellphone, and my stack of faked passports to Brennen and my shirt to Paul. I then made my way to the top of the bridge, the four of them following close behind, so that I could jump from the highest point. About halfway to the top, I began to hear murmurings from them about whether or not they should let me jump.

Deciding to take the initiative, Paul called out to me, “Minigan, I think this is a really dumb idea.”

“Dumb,” I replied, “or best idea ever?”

CJ chimed in with, “No, just dumb. Really, really dumb. You shouldn’t do this, Minigan.”

“Listen nay sayers,” I snapped, turning around to look at them in their stupid, pessimistic faces, “I’ve worked this out. Even if I don’t get super powers, I will at the very least become a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and I am all for taking that risk.”

I stepped to the summit of the bridge and looked out over the main canal, while completely ignoring their protests. However, I couldn’t ignore the four sets of hands that wrapped themselves around me as I tried to climb onto the edge. They wrestled me to the ground, and said that they would not let me up until I promised not to jump.

“What the hell are you guys doing?” asked a familiar voice from behind us. The five of us looked up to see Kevin, Zack, Shar, and curly haired Lauren standing above us, each with a look of suspicion on their face.

“Nothing,” I said before the guys could say anything, “Just chilling out, having good times, wrestling each other to the ground on the top of a bridge. You know, the usual.” I then said to the guys, “You guys can let me up now. I promise I won’t do anything.”

“Won’t do what?” Kevin asked as the five of us climbed to our feet.

Before I could say mind your own business, CJ said, “This crazy bastard was about to jump off of the bridge.”

“But as I just said,” I snapped, “I am not going to jump, so you can back the fuck up!”

We all stood there in an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds. Each of us looked to each other to see who was going to make the first move; they were all pretty sure that I was still going to jump.

“I promise I am not going to jump,” I repeated, ‘but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to make someone test the water out first!”

Before they could grapple me back down to the ground, I had successfully lifted Kevin into the air and was hobbling towards the ledge. Fearful protests cried out from my group mates, and terrified squeals erupted from the captive that I was holding over my head. His legs kicked, but with no avail, and his arms twisted and squirmed, just trying to grab onto mine. But it was no use, my right hand was lodged inbetween his shoulder blades, making it impossible for him to move his arms back far enough to reach mine. The yells from our trip mates continued as I gave my directions to the now sobbing Kevin. I took my last step to the ledge, the only thing blocking me from the poo-watery depths below was the white marble banister. The group became deathly quiet; they knew there was no way of stopping me from do-

“GELATO!” Brennen screamed, startling everyone, including me. I turned around and faced him, Kevin still squirming and whimpering over my head, before Brennen continued, “Minigan, Gelato! You said you wanted Gelato when we got off of the bus. Let’s go get some now! I’ll even pay for yours, just put Kevin down!”

My heart jumped, “Free gelato? Fuck to the yes!”

I threw Kevin over my head, and started to grab my stuff from everyone’s hands. There were several screams, a crash, and then three spashes in the water behind me.

“C’mon,” I commanded to Brennen as he ran to the ledge, “I gots to get my free gelato!”

And not a single fuck was given that day.

And these were my initial thoughts for Florence:

I climbed over the seats of the bus gracefully. Like a spider to its prey, or like the little girl from “The Ring” climbing out of the TV. Silently (minus the protested yells of my group mates as I used their skulls for support) I moved forward my eyes transfixed upon my prey: the microphone for the loud speaker in Andy’s hand. Andy, who was distracted by Anna’s regular barrage of stupid questions, was completely oblivious to my oncoming ambush. It was only until I was three rows away from him that he noticed me and locked eyes with mine. Wrong move. With an unnatural snarl, I launched myself towards him and the microphone. With an uncharacteristically high pitched scream, Andy threw the microphone at my growing, drooling (I do it for effect) face and dropped to the floor. I caught the microphone with my mouth, and, with a considerable amount of force, slammed into the windshield. Instantly, I was back on my feet and removing the microphone that had lodged itself in my throat.

“Hello everyone,” I said suavely as I leaned against the driver’s seat and pointed and winked at straight haired Lauren. Once she had looked away in disgust, I continued with, “So now we’re on our way to Florence, which is the capitol of Tuscany, but more importantly is the place that the Jersey shore tried to ruin. Because of that last fact, it is safe to say that just about every Italian that you meet there is going to hate us Americans with the same amount of intensity that Lindsay Lohan has against her acting career.  Now, I know that up to this point that this trip has been a bunch of sit-com like antics and good memories, but in Florence is where we will really have to work.”

Kevin snorted at that remark. His face was bruised, his lower lip fat, and his arm in a sling, but he was decidedly not at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. As it turns out, when I threw him behind me, he landed on a passing gondola. His weight catapulted the gondolier and his two patrons into the water. Apparently, when they climbed out, they had grown large hardened lumps on their backs as well as a green, leathery hide.  They weren’t Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles per se, but more like turtle mutants. Man, did I owe CJ, Brennen, Paul, and Jon one big time. I had really dodged a bullet there.

I continued while pretending to not notice the interruption, “We need to reeducate these Italians that Americans aren’t just a bunch of alcohol and drug fueled attention seeking whores. We need to show them that we can be normal, level headed individuals that are not prone to fits of violence and cursing.”

Zack, one of my fellow Ohio Staters, raised his hand and asked, “So what are you going to be doing while we’re trying to win over the Florentines?”

“What are you talking about,” I shot at Zack, “I am heading this overseas relations operation.”

“But you are the antithesis of everything you just said,” Zack replied, “You are prone to fits of both violence and cursing, you are absolutely not level headed, and if you are not an alcohol and drug fueled attention whore, then I do not know who is.”

The entire bus got quiet. I cast a grim scowl towards Zack while, out of sight, I wrapped a length of the microphone’s cord around my hand. Without so much as a tale tell flash of movement, I threw the microphone at Zack’s face with deadly force and accuracy. “When referring to myself,” I said calmly as I whipped the cord back and caught the microphone in my hand, “I prefer the term ‘sex-machine.’” I then asked the rest of the bus, “Does anybody else have any condescending questions for me?”

There was a murmur that was accompanied by a shaking of their heads. Accepting that no one was going to stand up to me, I smiled and threw the microphone back at Zack’s forhead. It made contact in the same spot, which sent him back into his chair.

“Why did you hit him again?!” Shar cried while looking in between me and Zack, who looked very dazed and had a mixture of his blood and my drool run down his face, “He didn’t say anything this time.”

“I know,” I replied to her, “I was just so impressed with hitting him the first time, and I wondered if I could do it again.”

Accommodations

I really don’t remember much about either of the hotels for Venice or Florence except for one detail: they both had bidets! This was one of the major fallout of the hotel in Paris, which I had always assumed was the bidet capitol of the world. Anyway, here is a picture of me enjoying my hotel room’s bidet. [Warning, this will burn your eyes.]:

Fun fact about that picture- the bathroom in the hotel room was too small for me to take a picture of me using a bidet and the picture not just be of my ass and the bowl, so I had to open the bathroom door and build a makeshift tripod out of a step stool and some pillows out in the living area. I then had to balance the camera on pillow, set the timer, go back into the bathroom, and get into the pose with my pants down. I did all of this while my roommate was no more than ten feet away from me, asleep. It was one of the most uncomfortable things I did on the trip. I’m sorry that you had to find out this way, Sammy.

Sites

Well, I already mentioned the Venice’s Rialto Bridge, which is one of the three bridges that cross the grand Canal, so I don’t really feel the need to mention that again other than what I just said here. Then there’s the Piazza San Marco, which has a cool tower and a really nicely decorated building. Both of which I didn’t enter.

In Florence there was a bit more to talk about. There was the Piazza where Michelangelo’s David was kept, as well as a small square that held statues of famous scientists and artists like Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, and the Dante.

Put on some pants, perv.

Then there is the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge of Florence. This bridge has shops built on it that all sell jewelry.

And it isn’t a trip to Florence without stopping at the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Here it is in all of its epic wonder:

Food

I officially hate Olive Garden. Fo’ realz. That was my first thought as I tasted my Tagliatelle with clams and zucchini in Venice. And yes, I did have to search for a list of pastas on line until I was able to find the name of mine. There is no way I would’ve gotten close to that spelling. I swore there was a Z in it somewhere. Anyway, that was spectacular. It was savory. It was filling. It had tons of olive oil, clams, and zucchini. If it wasn’t for the schnitzel, this would have been my favorite meal on the trip. Unfortunately, if I ever go back to Venice, I doubt that I would be able to find the place again. It was down an alley way in a city that is one giant maze to begin with. The only way I would be able to find it is if I find this graffiti again:

Go find this for me, people.

This wall was the wall opposite the restaurant we ate at. Hopefully Venice doesn’t paint over it.

That night I ate an entire personal size pizza, which, being American and growing up on Pizza Hut’s Personal Pan pizzas, doesn’t sound like much. But in Italy, a personal size pizza is actually closer to an American medium pizza. Before this trip, I had never eaten an entire small pizza by myself, let alone a fucking medium. Then, I go on this trip and BAM! I end up eating an entire medium sized pizza twice within seven days. That’s right, I didn’t mention it. In Switzerland, a group of us ate at an Italian restaurant and we each got a pizza to ourselves. Then, like, five days later, I’m eating another goddamn pizza. How I was able to do that is very much beyond me. And they call us fat.

In Florence, The Jersey Boys (Jon, Paul, CJ, and Brennen) and I ate pesto ravioli in a nice little restaurant near the Piazza Di Santa Croce. Needless to say, it was delicious, but we barely had enough time to eat.  It was still delicious though. And, in case you were wondering, yes, I did follow them there.

Purchases

This will be the only post that I’m putting this section in, and that is because of this purchase:

sexy

I got this partially out of spontaneity, partially because I wanted a nice Italian suit, partially because I needed a suit, but mostly because I wanted to show up my stupid roommate. See, I had the idea to buy an Italian suit very early in the trip, but I only decided to when Sammy bought a new Swiss watch and wouldn’t shut the hell up about it. So, out of pure spite, I decided that I wasn’t going to leave Italy without buying an Italian suit. The Jersey boys even helped me pick it out.  I guess that means I owe them 2.

People

Look at this puppy!

Dawwww!

This is literally the only local that I want to talk about. Look at how goddamned cute it is! We saw this dog going after pigeons in the Piazza San Marco. The group of us that were waiting for the rest of the group to arrive got to watch the dog play, and it was probably the cutest thing I had seen on the trip up to that point. I decided to try to get a picture, figuring that it would most likely come our blurry, or that I would only end up getting a pic of the dog’s ass. But no. For that one brief moment as I took the picture, the dog paused and looked directly at me, letting me grab a perfect picture of it. This made my day.

Overall Atmosphere

Italy has got to be one of the most laid back places ever. It was weird to try to rush and do anything there, especially eat the pesto ravioli. The waiter even commented on how fast we ate, which I’m pretty sure is the Italian way of insulting us stupid Americans for ignoring their 2 hour long lunch rule.

The Northern Italian cities are majestic in a crazy and confusing kind of way, and the Tuscan country side is picturesque. I love this country.

Pictures:

We watched a glass blowing seminar here.

What's going on here? Wait. I don't want to know.

Brennen and Jon drinking one Euro beers behind a white van before we bought my Italian suit. Keep it classy guys.

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