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Friday, 30 May
Now Don't Hear This

Last night, the wife fixed for me a delicious meal of steak and broccoli, and as I finished up, I asked her for a toothpick. But nothing can be that easy; as often happens, the phrase picked up some resonance in my brain, and I found myself singing the request to her using the chorus melody from Foreigner's "Juke Box Hero."

Hand me a TOOTH! PICK! BABY!
Got fooood in my teeeeth!
Hand me a TOOTH! PICK! BABY!
For paaarticles of beeeef!

(To be honest, I only sang the first two lines; the last two came to me a bit later, but my unlucky readers deserve the whole unfortunate quatrain.)

I do this all the time; I find some rhythmic match between any given banal sentence and any given pop song, and then I wander around with it in my head all day. It had even happened moments before last evening; terribly . . . it really hurts to confess this. But my mind wrapped itself around this desperately awful phrase, set to John Denver's "Annie's Song":

You fiiilll up my stoooomach,
Like . . . food in my stooomach.

Hold me.

Anyway, from there I moved on to idly thinking about Mondegreens (which I realize those aren't). If you don't know the term, Mondegreens are basically misheard or misinterpreted lyrics; it comes from a woman who for years thought the lyrics to an old Scottish ballad were "Oh, they have slain the Earl of Morray and Lady Mondegreen". They weren't; the actual lyrics were "Oh, they have slain the Earl of Morray and laid him on the green". A couple of other classics are "The ants are my friends/ They're blowing in the wind" and "The girl with colitis goes by." We've all done this at some point; here's a couple of my favorites. Feel free to share yours.

1. An old girlfriend of mine from college had a good one from a song by Simple Minds--remember them? They were an earnest bunch, and made clangy, anthemic pop songs that sounded like a bit like they were mixed by Phil Spector's talented dog. They seemed to hang out for a while, waiting for an entire arena of screaming fans to be built around them, but unfortunately, only John Hughes showed up. Anyway, their song "Alive and Kicking," a typically hollow, boxy song, was continually heard by my girlfriend as "I Like It Kinky." Sadly, she herself did not, as I recall, particularly like it kinky.

2. This one is mine. My friend M. had, one night, cooked me dinner at her place, and was driving me home after an excellent feast. We listened to the radio, and presently a Filter song came on. Now, for some reason, I like Filter, despite the fact that I realize that they are the answer to the question nobody asked: "Who will fill in for Tesla when the 90s roll around?" Anyway, I turned up the radio and began lustily singing along: "That's why I say 'Hey man, nice shirt! What a nice shirt, man!' " M. turned to look at me. She said, "Wha- . . . what did you say?" I sat there silently like a crushed bug; something was wrong. She cackled at me. "Nice shirt? The song is called 'Hey Man, Nice Shot!' " She swerved dangerously as the laughs kept coming. I muttered sullenly, "Fuck. I always thought those were some pretty twee lyrics for such a menacing song."

Thursday, 29 May
Holy War

O iMac! Flawless iMac!
How your graces have
Been trumpeted while I
Have owned you! You

Were given to me by
My father, who declared,
"Swounds! My son,
This is a mighty machine
That gives no plaint, nor

Argument, nor anything of
Discolor. It shall serve you well,
And displays much porne." It was
This that I thought on, as I
Composed a post, just now.

Moments ago, it lay on my
Screen, a lovely thing,
A swan of uncommon beauty,
But unfortunately swimming,
Unbeknownst to me, on a pond
Of sentient, deceitful shit.

My swan is, I mourn, dead and ugly.
Gone. Eaten by the angry, traitorous
Shit that lives and lives not, for
The iMac is alive and not alive,
Canny and mechanical, and,
Finally, an abrasive on my tender cock.

Fuck you, gentle iMac, you kicker
Of slight balls, thou eggbeater of
My goddamn fucking nuts. You siezed
Up like a chilly epileptic when I asked
For nothing but internet access,

And my thousand-word post died
Like the career of Eddie Murphy.
Fuck you, shitpond of computers,
Whose vaunted uncrashability
Is belied by your feculent malevolence.

Soon I will consign you to the grave.
You will inhabit a landfill somewhere
Close to Bothell, and I will don an ebon
Cloak; and mourn the shit-consumed
Post that fed your angry stomach.

(Dedicated to A Very Fine Post, forever lost, and which I will try and resurrect tomorrow. While the post remains dead and gone, however, it may soothe its troubled soul to know that, upon its death, I kicked the ridiculous shit out of an innocent kitchen drawer as a gesture of grief and honor.)

Wednesday, 28 May
Is That All?

I've been reading James Gleick's biography Isaac Newton for the past couple days. I'm enjoying it well enough, if not as much as the much longer Genius, his previous biography of Richard Feynman; Feynman was, of course, colorful as hell, slyly pyrotechnic both in word and deed, a biographer's dream. The monkish, reclusive, devout Newton is himself naturally very fascinating, but as a literary figure, doesn't quite offer the same wealth of anecdotal material. But it's a minor deal, given Newton's simply stupefying output of ideas and calculations over his lifetime. Lest anyone need brushing up, here's a (wildly abbreviated) list of some things he did:

--Well, he invented calculus. "Heigh ho, I've got murderous gout; might as well invent a new mathematical system."

--He described the laws of motion. By comparison, I maintain (by which I mean, someone helps me) a website called "Izzle Pfaff." It's close, but I think he edges me.

--He figured out (and named) gravity. Not incidentally, while doing this, he happened to whip the hot piss out of perpetual rival Robert Hooke (the microscope guy) and managed not to get laughed out of town for gravity's apparent "action at a distance," which made people queasy all the way up until our own century.

--As a happy corollary to that, he fucked around a bit explaining planetary movement and the tides. Oh, he also defined certain essential qualities of mass, time and space. Uh, and invented his own reflecting telescope. Oh, and was an alchemical wizard. Unfortunately, he also nearly poisoned himself handling (and tasting) mercury, so that at least wins me some points. I've never done that. Sheesh, Newton! That was kind of a boner!

--He explained betting odds to Samuel Pepys; he corresponded with John Locke in secret about his very heretical biblical treatises (he hated the idea of the Trinity--kind of a big deal) that could easily have gotten him jailed; he made a virtual errand boy out of comet-lad Edmond Halley, who wrote the adulatory introduction to Principia and then cheerfully flogged it to anyone who would listen, which hardly mattered, since only a very few people could understand the fucking thing in the first place.

--And my personal favorite, when worried about the double-bind of understanding the human senses when those are exactly what we employ to, well, understand things, he took a large, blunt needlelike thing and shoved it into the corner of his eyeball socket and started gingerly pressing the tip around. By comparison, I once considered going to a laser show, but we had, as I recall, run out of pot.

Isaac Newton, ladies and gentlemen. Titanic genius, but he didn't play well with others, couldn't keep from eating the paste, and liked to poke himself in the eyes. It's sad to tarnish such a reputation, but that's the kind of hard-hitting reportage my tens of readers have come to expect from Izzle Pfaff.

Tomorrow: Michael Medved: Tortured Genius? Or Literary Colossus?

Tuesday, 27 May
Some Of The Rest Of The Story

Well, even after a few different postings on the subject, I still have a bit more to yammer on about Belgium. So fuck it; I will. Here then is just some of the bits of the honeymoon that I didn't manage to fit anywhere else.

The Immobile Elderly Woman

On our walks to and from our hotel, we passed along a couple residential streets every day, and with startling frequency, we would encounter the Immobile Elderly Woman. She had lost a leg somewhere along the way, so she sat in a wheelchair, right in her doorway, apparently--it seemed--for hours. It was like someone had parked her there, because I seriously doubt she had the motor skills to whip that chair around. At first we smiled politely as we passed, but then she started speaking to us. "Mlab," she'd say, craning her head around. We tried to respond, first with "Bonjour!"--most Bruggeans know French, and our Dutch is ghoulish. We got nothing. We passed her the next day. "Blem." So we tried our butcherous Dutch. "Goedemorgen!" we chirped. "Lahr." She turned her head away from us; whether out of disgust or incomprehension or simple motor dysfunction I can't say. Naturally, I immediately assumed failure on our part. "Our Dutch chews," I said, "We probably just told her that her cat was Jewish."

Finally one day, we did see the parker: a young woman with a little child were getting her arranged in her doorway and chittering at her companionably. Then the young woman rushed away with the kid, calling out goodbyes to the other woman, who called back to her, "Ylaaa." So: monosyllabic granny who just likes to sit in the sun during the day, and presumably is pretty used to people not knowing what the fuck she's saying. So that was all right. Beats a nursing home.

Restaurants

The wife and I ate like fucking royalty on our trip, I must say: we made Falstaff seem like a starving ape casting around his denuded rainforest for a goddam wood grub. Belgians, it should be known, quietly eat some of the best food on the planet while France gets all the big ink and then whams you with monstrous bills to boot. But a couple of our favorite experiences were at relatively smallish, modest places anyway. One of those, "Den Wittenkop," looks like it's been kicking around since the canals silted up, and features the best waiter in the world. When we first went in, he presented us with our menus, and then when returning to take our orders, he noticed that he had neglected to also give us a wine list. His attitude immediately became mournful. "I am . . . so sorry." he said funereally, as if this lapse in server etiquette was the equivalent of vomiting in our laps. On another visit, I asked for an after-dinner scotch, and his eyes gleamed with the unholy light of one who recognizes another single-malt fiend. "The fifteen year is better than this eighteen year. I know, it makes no sense!" he cackled, and no fool I, I ordered the fifteen year. He came back with both, so I could see what he was talking about, and of course he was right. That evening, we produced the inevitable camera, and he bustled over saying, "Yes, I will take your picture!" I brought him up short saying, "Actually, this is one of our favorite restaurants here; I'd like to take your picture." He puzzled this a moment, as if I had suddenly lapsed into Tagalog. "What do I do then?" And then he struck a freakish heroic pose; at well over six feet tall, he looked like some heraldic jumping spider. We settled for a normal shot of him with the wife, but in retrospect, I shoulda got the first one when I had the chance.

Another place we loved, "De Bottelier," was run by a placid man who rather reminded me of Christopher Walken, but with all of the frightening weirdness excised. He often allowed a traveling group of buskers in to his place, where they performed bits and pieces of song classics along with their fiddle, guitar and stand-up bass while people ate and then tossed them euros after. Pretty nice . . . unless you were a dog. People in Belgium think nothing of taking their dogs pretty much fucking everywhere with them, a policy I endorse with vigorous nodding: I love dogs. However, on this night, there was obviously some tonal dog-torture emanating from one of the instruments--my guess is the fiddle--and right as they started up playing "Yesterday," the dog lost it. "YICK! YICK! YICK!" it screamed, startling the hell out of me: I had no idea there was a dog in the place, but sure enough, looking over to the next table, I could see the crazed little beast, barking with bloodlust, looking like a tiny, angry, fanged pile of rags. The buskers didn't give a fuck, and kept playing, so the owners of the dog whipped right out of there--but making sure to quickly tip the buskers first.

Terrastje

Meaning "terrace," the Terrastje is a tiny bar right across the canal from our hotel; we spent many evenings hanging out there, having a couple beers and playing Yahtzee with dice and paper. It's run by this fantastically crusty older couple, who, when the mood strikes them, will suddenly throw on ancient French tunes and croak along with the lyrics. The wife is particularly singular; she will often simply make up sudden, seemingly random house rules according to her whims. One night we ordered food; she laid down menus in front of us and said, "I don't know. You point, and I say yes or no." We cautiously pointed to macaroni and cheese, which was apparently a legal option; we were fed and fed well. One night the wife ordered a martini--by the way, a very different thing than what Americans or Brits are thinking of--and she said, "Martini? I make it, but I think you're crazy." Noted. Perhaps best of all, one night I ordered a beer and a whisky chaser. She nodded, poured the beer, then looked behind her at her liquor bottles. She looked back at me. "Beer, but no whisky," she said firmly. "No whisky?" I asked, staring at the bar. The inebriated guy beside me heard this too. He turned around. "No whisky?" he echoed uncertainly, as if he had heard of an impending comet strike. She ignored him and gave me my beer and no whisky.

Our second to last night there, we walked into Terrastje, and . . . what the holy fuck? The music was blasting at a mind-shattering volume; weirder, it was Ricky Martin, and the wife-owner was grooving behind the bar. Some locals were also up on their feet, dancing like mad, while others observed with amusement from the sidelines. It was like turning on the TV expecting BJ and the Bear and getting The G.G. Allin Batfuck Variety Hour. We goggled for a bit and then settled in to a table. We chatted and laughed with a nice British couple next to us on holiday with his tiny, aged French mother. (We initially took her for a tiny, aged man, because of her thinning white hair; in truth, she looked exactly like that terrible old crazy fucker from Poltergeist, but without, you know, the unspeakable evil.)

This of course did not last; soon we were all dragged into the mad dancing, even at one point the tiny French woman--Edith Piaf got her out of her chair. We danced for a while, nuttily, and then someone twigged to the fact that we were newlyweds. Frank Sinatra was played while we danced our very own dance, and the British fellow snagged my camera and took some shots of us. It was all very sweet, and very romantic, and very embarrassing, and in a fairer world, it would have lasted much longer . . . but that's what keeps one coming back, I suppose; the perfect waiter or a silly dog in a restaurant can keep you coming back. Even if it's only to park yourself in a doorway in the sun and watch the world pass.

Friday, 23 May
In Dreams I Walk With You

One day after work, I fell asleep on the couch, as I am wont to do, and this was my dream. It's the most vividly remembered dream I've ever had.

It was a brilliant summer day, and I was walking through a city park with my friend K. K. is an actress friend of mine, and she is very beautiful; in the dream, she was wearing a gorgeous, low-cut slinky green gown, and she held my hand as we walked. But there wasn't anything erotic at all about the whole scene (for one thing, K. is a lesbian); it was all quite solemn and stately somehow. I don't recall if we talked while in the park; what I mostly remember is walking serenely and noticing things like the beautiful motes of dust hanging in the sunbeams and the feel of the soft grass under my feet. Everything was hyperreal.

Then, at some point where the dreamlogic dictated it was "time," I walked K. home. We approached her brick apartment building, which I now know is just some random place I pass on my way to work, but in the dream, it was where she lived. We stopped on the stoop of her building, and K. turned to me and smiled.

"Thank you," she said, still kind of warmly solemn, if that makes sense, "that was wonderful."

"I want to tell you something," I said softly, and I swear I had no idea what was going to come out of my mouth, but I knew that it was important. We looked steadily into each other's eyes.

"When Lawrence Welk died," I continued, "he was given an autopsy. The doctors cut him open from here--" I touched the top of my sternum-- "to here," and then I touched my belt. My voice was steady and calm. "The doctors opened him up, and they cut out his heart and they held it. They held the heart of this man whose life and music had touched millions of people all over the world. Can you imagine? That's what I feel today."

We were quiet a moment, and then K. said, "Yes," and smiled sweetly, and went inside. Then I woke up.

Playing on the TV was The Lawrence Welk show.

Thursday, 22 May
Things I Have Shouted In Belgium

(But first: I will probably misspell many if not all of these Dutch words because of my serious allergy towards doing any kind of research at all, but please don't interprete that as disrespect towards a very fine language. Rather, you should just consider me bottomlessly lazy. Another thing is, the wife and I are actually good, quiet, polite travelers, so we didn't really shout anything in the streets of Belgium; in fact, we were constantly stunned at how loud the Germans always seemed to be. But we spoke these words to each other sort of sotto voce, but the tone was one of shouting. You know what I mean.)

Gevaar!

Basically, this is the word for "danger," and Brugge has many cute warning stickers with little pictogram men falling down stairs, being electrocuted, or failing to obtain efficient service all over the place indicating various dangers. For our purposes, we co-opted it to mean, yes, danger, but also "oh fuck!" and "this is terrible" and also anything else we felt like.

Examples:

"Are you enjoying your stoemp?" (Stoemp is a regional mashed potato dish that incorporates leeks and caramelized onions into it. It is an uncharacteristically terrible culinary idea for the region.)
"Gevaar."

"I want to go bra shopping."
"Gevaar!"

Jupiler!

Jupiler is a mass-produced Belgian beer that is responsible for roughly 90% of Brugge's cafe awnings. Sadly--and this is a stunningly uncommon thing to say about a Belgian beer--it's swill. It's basically the Budweiser of the place, but when it costs all of around a buck more to upgrade to any of a hundred other vastly superior beers, it's not that oppressive. But I used it as an all-purpose term to simply express glee, I suppose because of its resemblance to the word "jubilee," which I associate with the good sense of the makers of the X-Men films in their decision to marginalize the presence of Jubilee, wisely noticing that she was one of the lamest X-Men ever.

Examples:

"Look at this. They serve over four hundred kinds of beer here."
"JUPILER!"
(Bartender): "One Jupiler, sir?"
"God, no."

"The Justin Timberlake video is over."
"JUPILER!"
"The Madonna video is coming on."
"Gevaar."

Gruuthuse

This is some weird little museumlet in Brugge that apparently features old tapestries and furniture and crap; we didn't go. When even Rick Steves--a man so perfectly square, he is nearly a Platonic ideal--says something is boring, I take that to heart. But we did take to saying "Gruuthuse!" a lot just for the pure joy of its mouthfeel. We said it any time we saw the place and also any time we didn't see the place: "Gruuthuse!" Lovely. But then I noticed a little bit down the road a little cafe called the "Gruuthuse Hot," and I got really excited. "Gruuthuse Hot!" I would exclaim. Then, for some weird reason, I started developing this persona of some officious college professor, and I would start sternly mock-instructing the wife. "Gruuthuse," I would turn to her and say gravely. I'd raise my finger in the air. "Gruuthuse hot!" Giving the "hot" a clipped, imperative tone. "Go away," she would sometimes reply; yes, we are magical.

I don't believe any examples are required here.

De Groepe

One day the wife just struck out on side roads, looking for stuff we hadn't seen and getting away from the other tourists. We eventually found ourselves wandering in a mostly residential area, which was nice and tranquil. Briefly. For presently we were wandering past a larger building that looked possibly like a school of some sort, and on one wall it had the letters "DE GROEPE." Unfortunately for the wife, I noticed this, and, figuring it's always best not to ignore hints from the World Brain, I took its advice. "Honey?" "Yes?" "It's time for . . . DE GROEPE!" I yelled (quietly), and then remorselessly grab-assed her. "EEEEE!" she shrieked and wriggled away.

This of course became a theme. At any given time, anywhere, for the rest of the stay, the mood could strike me, and I'd start breathing heavily, and I'd put on a sort of weirdo face and start slowly curling and uncurling my hands into claw shapes. The first couple of times, the wife noticed, and would ask "What's wrong?" Rising to the bait. "DE GROEPE!" I'd howl and grope her again. After a couple times of that, I had to stop the maniac routine, because it would tip her off and she'd run away, so I had to content myself with simply shouting at random intervals "DE GROEPE!" and then lashing out at her ass like a viper.

I think the best part about being married might be not having to pretend you're not a half-deranged pervert any more. It's so freeing. And now we have our own kind of language to express it, or at least I do.

Skot: "DE GROEPE!" (Skot gropes his wife.)

Wife: "GEVAAR!"

Skot: (rejoicing) "Jupiler!"

Wife: (looking kind of hunted these days) "This is going to wear off at some point, right?"

(Pause.)

Skot: (stentorially) "Gruuthuse. Gruuthuse hot."

Wife: "Go away."

Wednesday, 21 May
Their TV Is Different From My TV

Well! I was just now about halfway through composing a longish post in Movable Type, and accidentally, somehow, managed to delete the whole fucking thing! Isn't that just twist-your-dick superb? I know how pleased I am. I'm too irritated to go back and rewrite it now, so instead I'll just cut loose on the BBC, which the wife and I would watch in the hotel after a long day of fun and frolicking and not fucking deleting things.

What's going on with the sudden auction craze in Britain? I noticed at least three different shows that all involved some way of getting people to dig up their old shit and hustle it for cash at auctions. The only American near-equivalent I know of is "Antiques Roadshow," but that program doesn't even show you the auction itself, which is sort of the focus of all the British shows. But the format is similar: show a huge crowd of local hopefuls all clinging maniacally to garbage they rummaged out of the attic who will all go home sad, and then cut to the three lucky souls who actually managed to scrounge up non-crap items. The items get a teasing little analysis by the experts, who then inevitably ask, "Do you have any idea what it's worth?" This always gets me. Of course they don't, you fuckhead. This would be like your accountant calling you up and baiting you for a while before then asking, "So, any idea what you owe this year?"

But the British shows then go ahead and show the items actually being auctioned, which is pretty smart: auctions are naturally tense little affairs, tiny mini-dramas. By comparison, the hopelessly staid Antiques Roadshow is depressing and boring and sad, like Quaker pornography. So you watch the items being auctioned, and naturally they cut back and forth to the seller, who usually fidgets around trying not to look too avaricious as the bidding goes on. And of course they show the bidders, most of whom have some odd personal tic or spasm that indicates a bid increase, even though they all have handy signs they can wave, but rarely do. There are also the paid lackeys on cell phones there too, bidding for someone too rich, famous or snotty to show up on their own, and you can kind of tell that the bidders who actually bothered to show up don't much like the phone-monkeys at all, and why not? There's a little bit of gamesmanship to the process, and watching people's body language, and not a little excitement too, and suddenly when you're bidding against some gum-snapping tart with a phone screwed into her ear, nodding cutely every time Robbie Williams or the Duke of Filligrinigainian or whoever costs you another twenty fucking clams, well, that's kind of a shoe-pisser, I would think.

The most popular of these programs seems to be the one with, to American ears, the most wonderful title: Flog It! It also has the very best cheeky voiceover when it's over, spoken in a lovely proper plummy British voice: "You'll have another chance to flog it tomorrow at seven-thirty . . . "

The other program of note is familiar to Americans: The Weakest Link. Now, as an American, I know full well I'm on pretty shaky ground when it comes to complaining about the export of cultural horrors, but really Britain: What the fuck? It's worth noting that the show didn't last over here with the British host Anne Robinson, and was quickly relegated to daytime programming with a new host who is about as barbed and biting as polished marble, but it's still going strong across the water, and it bewilders me. Why would so many otherwise nice-seeming chaps and ladies willingly submit to the sort of awful bullshit that happens on every program? For those that don't know, this quiz show features nine contestants every program that steadily vote each other off until only one person is left standing to take home the loot. But the real horrifying nonfun of the program is between rounds when the dominatrix-cum-schoolmarm hostess Anne Robinson hectors and harangues the contestants, insulting their intelligence, their hairlines, their weight, their jobs, everything. One favorite trick is insinuating that people are gay. Another is, weirdly, boob size. One poor bastard was a toilet salesman; she gnawed on him like a Christmas ham. Another guy sold condom-dispensing machines, but while he was being mauled, he at least managed one terrific--if inadvertant--line. Anne had barked at him, "Any hobbies?" He said, "No, just work." She repeated with icy contempt: "A condom salesman." "Yes," he replied. "Does your wife have any hobbies?" she fished. He sighed and began wistfully, "Well, she doesn't really have any time, Anne . . . " and the whole place gave one huge stifled snort of laughter; even the normally cutting-torch demeanor of the host broke down, and she snuffled into her collar.

But that was a rare moment of levity. Almost all the rest of the time, it's just mean-spirited abuse for the hell of it, and it really just makes my stomach hurt. I once woke up from a nap because it had come on and I felt like Anne Robinson had climbed out of the set and started pouring poison into my ears. Honestly, Britain, how can you watch this terrible program?

That's what we're here for. That's why we take the trouble to cough up old episodes of Alf and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to the BBC for! Jesus, don't do this to yourselves. Watch our appalling dreck. Or anything else! Anything! You'll feel better. That's it. Sit back. Relax. And flog it.

Tuesday, 20 May
It's Like I Never Left, Except That I Did

Yes, I am back from the Belgian honeymoon, and yes, it was fantastic, and yes, we ate chocolates, and yes, we drank beer, and NO, Belgian beer does NOT give you a hangover, and believe me, we tried. I cannot emphasize this enough. It was sort of like getting away with murder. Or, more accurately, it was like getting convicted of murder, and then having the judge say, "But everyone hated that guy anyway! Get out of here, you scamp!" And then everyone goes out and eats wonderful stew. Or something. I'm still fried from the flight, so don't expect much in the way of linearity or coherence--a rather silly warning to give to regular readers of this site, I suppose.

And they didn't even hate us! Or if they did, they were very circumspect and polite about it; if they covertly spit in our food, all I can say is: Belgium, your citizens have ridiculously delicious spit.

Even their television is wonderful, provided you get a kick out of not knowing what the hell anyone is saying. On my very first day, as the fiancee wife (hey!) and I lolled bonelessly in our room after the flight over, I was informed by a Belgian ad (in Dutch, of course) that Calgon (hey, they have Calgon!) will definitely clean the shit out of any KALK! you might have in your home. I naturally don't have any idea what KALK! is, and didn't bother to find out, but there it was on my screen, KALK! and sure enough, Calgon came along and blasted the letters all to hell. It was great.

Okay, not everything was great, strictly speaking. There was the music--and I know I wasn't exposed to the great Flemish alternative scene or anything--but the eerie ubiquity of Phil Collins was greatly unnerving. And literally seeing the video for Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body" video every day for the first week was positively shattering, especially when we found ourselves singing along. Oh, and of course Madonna's "American Life," a hauntingly poisonous song replete with a pungently embarrasing rap was all over the place, handily answering any lingering questions as to why perhaps other nations hate us. But there were bright spots too, mostly of the deeply weird sort. One young group of lightly scrubbed boys named The Androids were clearly shooting for a spot next to Eve 6 in future 99-cent bins with a catchy ditty called "I Want To Do It With Madonna." Clearly, they hadn't heard the new single yet. But they had some stiff competition from another group of aggressively market-tested moppets named Busted! (very focus-group edgy) with their massively catchy and utterly inane songsicle "The Year 3000." Sounding a bit like Green Day as interpreted by Up With People, Busted! brought the goods with these classic lyrics: "Well, I've been to the year 3000/ Nothing's changed, 'cept they live underwater/ And your great-great-great granddaughter/ is pretty fine." O manna, Nickelodeon! O fuck me in the ears with your lyricism! You can't tell me that's not some quality schlock, especially the casually tossed in bit of info that, um, our descendants will be marine mammals.

It occurs to me that maybe these kids are all the rage over here in America too and I just didn't know it. You know you're getting old when it takes a transatlantic flight to get exposed to youth culture. And speaking of youths in other countries--just so everyone knows I didn't miraculously shed all of my neuroses while abroad--can I just say that little kids speaking Dutch freak me out? While I know intellectually that of course, it's their native fucking tongue, it still made me feel terribly inadequate. There would be some little kid unspooling mystifying Dutch sentences, and I would be standing there thinking, "Wow, that must be a smart kid. Dutch is hard!" Then it would occur to me that this was a country where practically everyone at a minimum is at least trilingual, and I'd feel really dumb.

Then I'd remember I was on my honeymoon, and that I was damned lucky to find someone who'd marry such a goddamn weirdo, and that it was practically MY DUTY to enjoy myself, and we'd go have a beer and do just that.

Hello again, faithful tens of readers! It's good to be home. But it was even better to be there. You'll hear more, of course. Please stay. I wanna rock your body. I gotta have you naked by the end of this blog.










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