Tuesday, August 25, 2009

battle of the aRRdennes

I know pirates aren't cool anymore. They are sooooo 2003. I mean, I made pirate movies with friends back in high school, which was the last time it was cool. We rode around with a hobie cat attached to a jeep and marooned ourselves on the island in the middle of Lake Maitland. It was epic, not to mention Oscar worthy. Now, one of the original land pirates of the Pirates of Edgewater is currently in the US Navy. About as anti-pirate as you can get.

But avast! I digress.

Last weekend, 13 lucky landlubbers voyaged to the rough seas of the Ardennes, and dressed up as pirates anyway. And here lies the Tale of the 13 Pirates of the Ardennes.

Yo ho, yo ho....abandon all hope, ye who read this...

It all began on a beautiful, not dark, not stormy night. The pirates had been merrily kayaking along a river, accompanied by their pet crocodile. They already had found some treasure, but were quickly running out because they kept stealing it from one another.

This caused a mutiny, which happened when the pirates had docked their boats and were busy drinking some more of their treasure. The mutiny started because all of a sudden, random pirates started dying, one by one! Shiver me timbers, what's a pirate captain to do?

Why, accuse Jing the superdeadly Chinese pirate of murder and make her walk the plank, of course! I mean, she just looked guilty, come on, everyone knew it. The only problem was, she wasn't.

Before Jing could come back from the dead and get her otherworldly revenge, the pirates saw a ghost!
They were surprised because dead men, as it turns out, do tell tales. Really long ones, in fact. But only in French. Also, dead men can't do very much - mostly they just raise their arms on different parts of a castle. And look vaguely like Klansmen.

The pirates were pretty disappointed because they had already hoisted the colors, savvy? They had gotten all ready for an epic pirate battle with the ghost of a Klansman just to see him disappear in a cloud of smoke and fireworks...

"What a no good lily livered scalawag!" the 13 pirates said, vowing to return to the ghostly forest some other weekend and get the vengeance that was rightfully theirs. And drink some more grog. Because it was a pretty sweet weekend.

To be continued?

Monday, August 17, 2009


This post is for all of you back home who imagine my life on the continent as a carefree blur of sitting in cafes looking European, smoking cigarettes with a gold cigarette holder, spending a few hours pretending to work, drinking some wine, reading some Sartre, eating some stinky cheese, and then treating myself to some Belgian beer to celebrate a long day of work accomplished.

Well. I have some news for you.
So, I've now officially been an illegal immigrant in Belgium for a full week. (I feel for you, Elian.)

It's not that I dislike living on the edge - in fact, I love it! Just ask those of you in the know about my semi-legal status in Poland. But this time, I am not illegal by choice and convenience. I am illegal because the Antwerp registration office has lost all of my paperwork not once, but twice.

Here's the deal for newbies to the Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit hole that is European immigration policy. Everyone gets a three month visa when they arrive, which is supposed to be plenty of time to get a residence card. This card is important because it allows you to travel outside of the country (the visas are single entry).

I applied for the card within hours of my arrival on May 11th. The registration office assures me that "it's normal" that my paperwork was lost and that I will have to wait until October to be registered because "we are on vacation."

Unfortunately, I can't use my normal tactics from America to get what I want - that is, asking to speak to the manager and yelling at someone until I get free stuff. (Customer service, baby.)

So, I'm trying to be creative with some alternative solutions. Any other bright ideas y'all can think of?

- Kidnap the mean registration lady's bicycle (Belgians LOVE bicycles). Cut out magazine letters and make a ransom note. Price for return: one registration card.
- Call them using a disguised voice machine and tell them "Mijn noncle Salvatore langskommen met en paar zware jongens" if they don't give me my card.
- Call up my BFF Jean Claude, better known as "The muscles from Brussels", to show 'em what's up. It might involve a roundhouse kick to the face, but that's just guessin'.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Give me the splendid silent sun

Do you ever feel like you spend all day waiting for something interesting to come into your inbox? I don't have a crackberry or another one of those newfangled creations that makes you take your work home with you and allows your boss to email you while you're asleep at night, but I still sometimes find myself compulsively checking my devices to see if something new came in. And then neglecting other things that aren't new, just because they have already been read.

I read recently that something like 70% of people admit that they connect to work using their PDAs or laptops while they are on vacation. What do we expect, an email saying we won the lottery? A call from the big boss that he will give us a raise if we do a task during our vacations? A text telling us that our secret true love has felt the same way, all this time?

I don't know. But I do know that the whole thing really makes me want to unplug myself before facebook figures out how to put a chip in our heads. Or before google installs ads that pop up when I open my refrigerator. Last Friday, I unplugged myself by going to a concert in the middle of the Rivierenhof park right outside of Antwerp. If I could always hear some tasty funksoul music out in nature with 30 foot tall trees all around me, I would move to the countryside tomorrow. (check out Moiano)

It does make me wonder, though, if there will ever be a backlash from all this technologizin' that seems to rule people's lives. A former coworker once told me I had socialist tendencies because my ideas to improve the workplace involved a vegetable garden and a bike rack. The ideas might have been a little facetious at the time, but he's right: I could see myself doing just like Ryan Adams in this video, moving to Jamaica, playing bongo drums all day and feeding rum to my donkey.

And Ryan Adams himself wouldn't be too bad of an addition either...