Tokyo Damage Report

Norway 666


this trip. . . . it is dildos, page 9

 

WEDNESDAY

 

Get up. It is totally raining! Decide to catch up on internet and laundry at the local tourist information shop, which oddly has both! I put my clothes in the washer, come back an hour later. It is still not done! I try to mess with the machine, but that just made it start over again. The tour-info-lady (poodle perm, jacket with patch reading “foxy”) tells me that sometimes it takes 2 hours just to wash. Plus an hour to dry. During this time I am stuck in my huge parka and Bermuda shorts and nothing else, looking like a flasher. I can’t go nowhere looking like that so I sit in my car and eat cold soup in the rain. Yaya vacation!

 

Finally get dressed, and then go on a 10 mph ride behind a tanker truck on a one-lane road, all the way to Sondal, where there is bike rental. As you can imagine my mental state was not too good to begin with at this point, so I was utterly unprepared for the following brain-buggery. See, I have reserved a room in a cabin at “Sondal campground.”

 

I ask directions at the general store, which is by a bridge, but as soon as I get outside I realize the directions make no sense. I cross the bridge and stop at the first building, a little restaurant, where a guy tells me go back past the bridge.

 

No sooner do I cross the bridge than I am back in the parking lot of the general store!

 

This time I leave my car parked and WALK back, and find a sign by the bridge leading to a tiny trail which leads to the campground. I enter. . . there is no staff there! At all! It is impossible to check in.

 

I ask a random camper lady, who points me to a big red house in the hills, and says the owners live there. I get back in my car for the 5 th time in 10 minutes and drive to the house, which turns out to be an empty barn.

 

At the edge of hysteria I drive back to the little cafe and ask if THEY have rooms. They do. At this point all I want is a safe, quiet place to get drunk.

 

I go back to the general store for the third time, only to find out that they have closed 10 minutes ago, while I was at the empty barn.

 

The punchline? The restaurant guy, mr. Karl, says THERE IS NO BIKE RENTAL IN SONDAL. The whole thing was a total charade. Plus as I walk past the rent-a-car I see that somehow I have destroyed the rear blinker.

 

I sleep…. have all kinds of dreams ? zappa in a wheelchair, fjords, 60-year-old gay guy vinyl costume party. . . but no dreams of Japan.

 

THURSDAY

Non-rainy. I hike to the glacier (Sondal’s claim to tourist fame) for 4 hours, and took these photos:

 

 

 

 

 

I come back early to go on a bike ride?Karl (a German ex-hippy who moved to Norway and calls tobacco cigarettes “joints.” (“do you think we are crazy here? We are!!”)) has generously agreed to loan me HIS bike (“What? No problem! ! I never use it! Take it ! I have ein car! I have a driving license!”) but it turns out he has three bikes ? the one with no brakes, the one with a punctured tire , and the new beautiful one with no air in the tires. Luckily, Karl has provided me with a pump. The pump nozzle does not fit the tires. I go back up to complain, but as luck would have it, the lunch rush is just now starting, so I have to wait like 90 minutes before Karl can come look at the bike. He insists that holding the pump nozzle at this exact angle and applying 300 pounds of force is enough to wedge air into the tire, just enough to go like 5 kph on a straightaway. I thank him and take off on the bike. It immediately starts to rain.

this dude got soaked too:

I wait forlornly by the side of the road and the rain slows down eventually to a mist. I start biking again but around the next corner is a very very gentle upward slope, which slows the bike down to like 1 kph. Whimpering, I turn around and bike as fast as I can to the general store, this time catching it 10 minutes BEFORE closing time, and get a six pack of beer. You can imagine how desperate I was for booze if I buy something as weak as beer.

 

I go back to the glacier trail (suddenly sunny now that I am off the cursed bike) and find a spot by the river’s edge, out of sight of what I call the Happy Family Fun People (another horrible thing about vacations). I play music, drink can after can, gaze at the shifting patterns of white water on the river, and actually smile and laugh. Somehow I even manage to get drunk, a first for beer and me.

 

Come back, nap. Wake up at 11 pm. There is no table in my room and Karl locks up the dining room at 10 pm, so just like yesterday I eat cold soup cross-legged in front of my bed, using the mattress as a table, and wedging my knees underneath the bed frame. Vacation time!

 

FRIDAY

Sunny as hell!

I say an oddly awkward goodbye to nice old Karl. for some reason I am so ashamed of myself that I answer all of his small-talk questions with complete lies. What am I supposed to say? “Sorry I hate your town and had a miserable time, dude! It is not your fault! I’m fighting with my Special Person, and I am spending like 200 bucks a day in Europe to have a shitty time, plus my visa situation is bad, my finger is sprained, I can’t get real booze and I traveled like 200 km for a nonexistent bicycle.”

 

Drive back to, Rosenthal. They DO have a bike rental, run by a dude named Lars. I go to the shop and say hi. Lars says, hi, ok, and then abruptly leaves the store ? locking me inside!! What the eff??? He comes back maybe 7 minutes later and gets me an awesome looking bike and tells me where there is a good trial. I am out of there fast, biking past the next town, enjoying the sunshine and green grass, stoked at this sudden turn of good luck. After 10 km, I am going up a modest hill and the bike flips out. I look down and find that the left pedal came off! I try to screw it back in but the threads are stripped clean off. In fact, the friggin pavement is littered with individual stripped threads, looking like Colossus’ toenail clippings. With eerie calmness I sit down right there and eat lunch. Then I walk the bike back to town the whole way. Lars is apologetic and offers to get a new bike, and even drive me back to the trail where I broke down. I am like, no. no,no,no. Christ no. if the pedal don’t break, something else will. My eyes. My head. My ass. This is just beyond cursed.

here is something that took my mind off it:

cow brassieres.

 

as if that were not a fucked enough concept, they are fishnet.

 

 

Instead, I try hiking up the local mountain. They say it is a brutal hike ? good! I want to be so tired I can’t think. The trail is no namby-pamby baby zigzag. It is straight up a more-than-45 degree angle slop the whole way. I get to the top of the first mountain *(there are two) and decide to call it a day. Drink the last half beer of the sixpack (preserved, warm and flat, in a squeeze bottle) and just check the nature. Go downhill, where I am suddenly passed by a grandfather scampering down the slope like a . mountain goat or a mountain elk, or some unholy elk/goat hybrid. . .at any rate the dude was fast. Get a good dinner (spicy herb chicken, funky looking gray cat, no baby) and study Japanese.

here’s the mountain from below. . .

and from above.

 

 

All the old ladies in the tv room of the hotel are looking at me hard when I walk past. I guess they were having a kind of awesome conversation about vaginas and I was cramping their style.

 

Lady one: you have a vagina too? That is so bitchen! Does it make sense to you?

Lady two: ja! I have it totally figured out by now.

 

Lady one: I really want to pick mine up and throw it at a movie or sports famous person!

Lady two: me too! We owe them that much.

 

Lady one: what comes out of yours?

Lady two: what DOESN’T come out of it? Blood, hymens, pee. . .

 

Lady one: babies, herpes. . .

Lady two: placentas, cats. . .

 

Lady one: wow! How many placentas?

Lady two: let’s see. . .oh crap it’s that guy again! Let’s ignore him till he leaves.

 

Lady one: he is cramping our style.


this trip. . . . it is dildos. page 10

 

SATURDAY

 

Get up, check out in a hurry to try to make the 9’30 ferry back north, only to find that some Swedish mountain climbing assholes have totally boxed in my car so I can’t move it. They’re still hanging around the parking lot luckily so I ask them to move their car. The dude, whether from assholeness or just sheer stupidity, moves his car from behind-and-to-the-left of me to a spot directly behind-and-to-the-right of me, so it STILL takes me like 5 minutes to wedge myself out of the parking lot, and even then the hikers are clustered directly in the effing driveway of the parking lot and just stare at me dumbly as I advance my car on them. What is wrong with these pricks??

 

Anyway I do make it in time for the 9:30 ferry, barely. Only to discover that I read the sign wrong, and the ferry leaves GERMANSHAVIN at 9:30. it gets here to ROSENTHAL at TEN thirty. That gives me and hour to study Japanese, fine. But the only table at the ferry is inside the bathroom. Like someone stuck a picnic table in the waiting room for the toilets! So I am studying while every 5 minutes there is someone taking a piss beside me. I last half an hour until some dude begins to drop his morning poo and am like, ok, and sit in my car.

 

Drive back to Bergen at maybe 25 mph the whole way in the rain. It is actually relaxing and fun. Back in Bergen I run through a huge list of errands. I return the car to avis. The dude tells me that even though I paid through Sunday, anytime Saturday after 11 am COUNTS as Sunday so I don’t get any money back, plus I gotta pay $600 for a new tail light. Then I go check my email. Get a letter from the host of my website, saying every single webpage has been taken offline because I did a terms of service violation. They don’t say who is accusing me or what the violation is. So now on top of my vacation, my right hand, my marriage, and my visa all falling apart, my website is now also ruined. This isn’t even a travel trip ? it is a . bad magnet that gradually is sucking every aspect of my life into its madness.

 

I send a very polite mail back to the host company and ask what is the problem. They write back the next day saying that I have obscene content on this one page (out of 1,000!) (easily half of which are obscene!). they do NOT say who decided it was obscene, which particular images on that page are the problem, or why that particular page, when like there are 100 pages on my site that are worse, nor do they explain why they took down every single page, without any kind of warning.

 

I go to the Thai restaurant again (the good one). Hey, no babies! I order at the exact same time as the guy next to me. he receives, eats, finishes, and pays for his whole meal TEN MINUTES BEFORE MINE EVEN ARRIVES. And as soon as I pick up my fork to start eating, a family with a baby comes in and sits right next to me. fortunately the kid is hella sleeping, and the husband is a really friendly French IT motherboard designer. What is up with me meeting scientists on this trip? First the 3 DNA researchers, then the Danish army computer guy, now this dude. Is Scandinavia just like the preeminent nerd destination?

 

Sunday is “no booze day” in Norway, so I try to buy “pre booze”. No luck! After going to 7 different convenience stores and supermarkets, I find only one with booze ? a sickpack of TWO PERCENT BEER, sitting in the middle of FOUR DIFFERENT KINDS OF NONALCOHOLIC BEER. I didn’t know there EVEN WERE FOUR KINDS OF . NONALCAHOLIC BEER. What is the . deal with Norway and booze? This is particularly funny because you look anywhere in Bergen and you will see straight-up heroin junkies, these pale wrinkled anorexic cadavers staggering around. But you can’t beer, let alone gin.

 

Compare this to Japan, where every 100 meters is a convenience store selling 80 proof hooch. You could say this means Japan is less civilized because they are basically encouraging alcoholism. On the other hand you can say that they are MORE civilized because they have one of the lowest crime rates of any country despite having a bunch of drunks wobbling around.

 

MORE GENERAL STUFF

At first, it is cute when European tongues (especially Norwegian and Dutch) change two letters of an English word and attempt to pass it off as a real language. But after a while, it is just annoying. C’mon! quit it! Chinese, dude!!. That is a real language, not just English with two letters switched around.

PRIVAT PARKERING.

 

What is that about? That is supposed to be a real language?

個人駐車所 ?now THAT is a real language. Also, Urdu. Finnish. Try harder, guys!

PARKERING?? What? Who is that fooling?? Why not just admit you mean parking. What is the Norwegian Spiderman’s secret identity? Petir parkerer?????

Ju kan sij whatz ai mjin here!

 

European signage ? icons and symbols – is way better than in America, but in contrast their character and mascot designs are just beyond crap.

 

American women in their 40s and 50s are kind of bummed about their sagging titties. European women of that age, however, seem to look at the sagging as a good thing. “freakin’ sweet! They’re finally sagging! That means I get more cleavage every freakin’ day! I can’t wait to show all this extra junk to everyone on the freakin’ sidewalk!!”

 

MIKI CALL

 

I call my wife. She went to the immigration office, to file my marriage visa papers, 2 weeks ago but never told me. Apparently the immigration officer told her she needed a marriage certificate from the u.s.a, even though we got married in Japan! So we are still one document short! . If i woulda fucking known that, i never woulda gone to Europe in the first place!! Besides which, the whole point of the europe trip was to kill time while waiting for the visa paperwork to come through. so now there is no point to my trip! i gotta go home fast and get the marriage certificate! I am trying to get to the bottom of all this complicated emotional and personal delicate stuff, when the TV starts beeping with an alarm. The alarm just won’t shut up. I try to unplug the tv and unplug the phone instead. Dial miki back and try to explain that I am not mad at her, the . tv was beeping, but the short-circut in the cord makes the signal go out. ., everything is an ordeal.

 

 

SUNDAY

Saw a tour group being led through the streets by an intrepid umbrella-wielding guide. You have to have BALLS OF STEEL to lead a Sunday tour here. Not only is it raining miserably, but every single shop in the city closes on Sunday! Unless the tour group is some kind of Municipal Rainwater Drainage Study Group they will want their money back.

 

I gotta take the first plane out of here and try to rescue my marriage/visa situation ,but naturally today is the one day that all the ticket agencies are closed. I go to the internet cafe, but it is closed too! That means I will have to stay another day in Bergen waiting for stores to open on Monday. I might as well just pull out $200 in small bills and set it on fire, or get deep-frozen for 24hours like on futurama. It is not like there is anything to do here. However, I do find one cafe open, and they have ok falafel and utterly awesome lasagna. I stay there and study for awhile, and then go back to the internet cafe on a hunch ? it IS open now and plus I DO find a flight back to s.f. tomorrow for only the price of one car. However, I can’t buy the ticket on line???? Some kind of “e-ticket I can’t do an e-ticket” error.

 

Rush back to the hotel to try to call the airline’s reservation desk directly before their office closes. But now my . room key doesn’t work! ! The lobby was empty when I came in but I am sure that it will be full when I go back down to yell at the concierge. Sure enough, when I get there, there is like 8 people in line that weren’t there 2 minutes ago! And worse yet, they are all like 80 years old! When I finally get back to my room with a key that works, I dial the airline and actually get a ticket, which means I can relax a little.

 

I spend the rest of the day hiking up hill to the cablecar station and buy tourist items at the top.

here is the view of bergen from the top:

and again , this time with a flash:

l then the usual “Sunday in Bergen 30 minute fruitless hike in search of a restaurant that is open” ritual. As I am about to give up, I notice a joint right next to the Thai place, a place that I must have passed 10 times already, is a . Ethiopian place! I just never realized it because the store sign was all in Norwegian and the word Ethiopia was not even written. But I go in and get good food but above that, the other customers ? all Africans – are having a freaking awesome yelling nonstop argument at the next table. It turns out to be some spastic Dominican-sounding lady taking on like 6 north African guys in some argument about third world politics. She’s all, “LISTEN TO ME! I AM NOT A POLITICAN! DO YOU KNOW THE PRESIDENT? I COULD GIVE A FUCK! LET ME FINISH!” . it was such a relief to hear this kind of thing after all that taciturn quiet Nordic ness.

 

MONDAY AUGUST 6

UNREAL!

 

Today is Travel Day AKA Getting The Hell Out Day.

I axed for a wake-up call at 4’30 am , but I wake up at 3:30. just as well because I forgot to pack my stuff last night, plus the WAKE UP CALL NEVER COMES, probably because of that damn broken phone. There is not enough room in my suitcase, what with all the books and souvenirs I got, so I wind up throwing out the CDs of my band. I brought them to give to metalheads and musicians if I met any, but I didn’t and now I am throwing them in the trash to start the day. I get to the airport an hour early ? it’s a 3-leg flight and only the LAST leg is international so I didn’t have to arrive 2 hours before. Whatever.

 

Take a plane to Oslo and then another plane to Frankfurt. Where the window-seat view is AWESOME. ! The whole concept of space is so different from anything in America! It’s all a mess of crop-fields, with little towns in between them. America got big cities and suburban sprawl. We got the country, with one farmhouse in the middle of a hundred fields, Germany is like a town of 100 houses followed by fields of approximately the same size followed by another town. It’s like where does one town end and another begin??? Plus oh yeah, it’s beautiful!!

 

But the airport is a mess. It is basically a central corridor with a million tourists camped out on the chairs, the tables, sitting on the floor, squatting like homeless people or refugees waiting for the gas to come in through the vents. Meanwhile, flanking the corridors are like 50 huge waiting rooms with 150 chairs in each, that we are not allowed to go in. they actually say that on the loudspeakers; “All passengers are required to exit the waiting rooms!” I gotta eat some soup here before I go through the x-ray machine where my soup will turn into a bomb or islamist death soup or whatever. I find 3 chairs, and sit at one. The other two are soon occupied by a succession of 3-person families that can’t all sit down because I am taking up one of the chairs. The husbands all remain standing and sort of vibe me for being single and taking up space in my one chair.

 

here is their system: we cue up for like 30 minutes in FRONT of the waiting room, where we are fighting for space with all the people sitting in the hallway. Once we finally check in, we walk directly THROUGH the empty waiting room onto the plane. As I exit the waiting room, I notice a PERFECTLY FUNCTIONAL CHECK IN COUNTER at the REAR of the waiting room. What the hell, Germans???? I mean I know you like cramming people into camps and train cars and stuff, but you are also supposed to be good at making the trains run on time. Come on, now.

 

Get on plane, seat 34d. 3 empty seats to myself! good stuff. even better: this flight is almost totally baby-free. I am just starting to relax when another announcement comes on: “HELLO AND ACHTUNG. OK WE ARE 30 MINUTES LATE FOR TAKEOFF BECAUSE WE ARE STILL CHECKING IN NEW PASSENGERS. A WHOLE BUS OF THEM WILL ARRIVE MOMENTAIRLY.” Sure enough, 3 Italian guys come to claim the 3 seats I was chilling in. turns out I am not 34d, but 36d. and guess what? 36d is RIGHT NEXT TO LIKE THE ONLY BABY ON THE . PLANE. The Pilipino dude with the baby looks at me and says, “aw man I thought that seat was gonna be vacant the whole flight!” there is a I-wiped-something-off-my-infant tissue on my seat which he does not pick up. I look at him like, dude? This is what is happening: you are a person with a small baby on a plane, COMPLAINING ABOUT HAVING TO SIT NEXT TO AN ADULT. This is some record-breaking stuff you are doing here. I couldn’t even say anything. I was just staring at him in slack jawed amazement, and that is when the stewardess-guy comes up and says “Sir, you left your camera behind, on seat 34d.”

 

Not only that, but our seats are right behind the kitchen area of the plane so there is nowhere to put your legs OR store your backpack. they give us mini pretzels with a napkin. On the napkin in English is written ‘UNITED AIRLINES. MORE LEGROOM THAN ANY OTHER AMERICAN AIRLINE SERVICE.’ Then they serve lunch and screw up the vegetarian meal I requested when I bought the ticket ? I swear I have forgotten to specify veggie the last 5 times I flew a plane, and the ONE TIME I DO . REMEMBER they eff it up. Jesus. And on top of everything, I glance at the map of our flight path ? on the way to S. F., we pass within . 80 KM OF BERGEN, WHERE I STARTED OFF AT 3:30 THIS MORNING!! . curvature of the earth!! Fuck you!!!

 

At least the baby is mellow. The kid crashes out and is basically comatose. After a couple hours in flight, I get my ipod and my blindfold and as soon as I put it on and try to sleep, the kid wakes up and starts squealing. How did it?? But on the other hand, the old lady next to me is Japanese so we have a great time talking. She is studying Finnish just for fun. We bought brought eccentric food with us and eat out of sandwich bags the whole time like crazy cat-ladies.

 

After finally getting back to the airport, I get into the taxi.

Taxi guy: where you come from?

Me: I just came from Norway.

Taxi guy : you are a lucky man, my friend!

 

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