31 March 2006

SPQR


It all began just scant steps from the front of St. Peter's Basilica. It bagan innocently enough: a tourist wanted to know the meaning of "SPQR" the semi-ubiquitous acronym found throughout the city. I collected the group and for their edification proceeded to explain it's meaning:

"SPQR stands for Senatus Populus Que Romanus, or ‘The Senate and People of Rome’. It has been used in the city since the ancient Republican times. It is inscribed on anything paid for with tax dollars. You can see it on temples and triumphal arches in the Roman forum, and on manhole covers and garbage cans around the city.” But I didn’t just stop there. I had to update it a little bit…

“It also has a couple of others meanings, the gentler version is ‘Sono Pazzi Questi Romani’ which means ‘They Are Crazy These Romans.’ That’s the one Katie Couric used on the Today Show when they taped here in Rome. The other version, which the Romans find really offensive is Sono Porci Questi Romani’ which means ‘These Romans Are Pigs’”

The moment this translation was out of my mouth a rabid Italian (and presumably Roman) tour guide leapt out of the crowd and shooting daggers out fo her eyes and breathing fire, she tore into me:

Tu sei pazzo! Non hai ragione! You’re crazy for living here!! Where are you from? I don’t call your city crazy! You don’t pay taxes here! You’re a bad person! Va funcuolo! I wish you were dead and I wish I wasn’t so deeply sensitive about Romanness!” The last two sentences she didn’t say, but were certainly implied.

It would’ve been impossible to demonstrate my point any better. And in a sense that’s what makes my tour so wonderful. However, getting yelled at by that crazy crazy Roman tour guide and then getting yelled at by Vatican Museum custodians means that while my tour may be memorable for the elegant delivery of the factual elements it’s also marred by the consistent run-ins with the locals. I chalk it up to being a little out of rhythm after being on holidays. I sure as shit hope to not draw so much ire in the future.


Unfortunately, henceforth any time any tourist asks me about the “SPQR” I’m going to want to tell them about “this one time this high-strung, crazy, and ultra aggressive tour guide came literally screaming out of the crowd because I told this one tour group about the insulting Sono Porci Questi Romani translation…” At which point I think we all know that that bitch will be back.

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28 March 2006

Rome

I'm back. back in Rome. Back home in Rome. Back to work. And it's getting busy. tourists galore. My throat is hoarse from all the talking, i've been out of practice. talking and listening. Well that's gonna stop now that I got my tour guiding hat on again.

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FlyQuil



Home again home again snoozety snooze.

I left Vancouver on Saturday evening and arrived back in Rome on Monday morning. That’s about the speed of an ocean liner, minus the elegance.

However, I didn’t mind a bit because this leg of my journey I came prepared.

On my flight to Vancouver I thought I’d be covered for the long 14 hour flight by taking some melatonin, the herbal sleep enhancer. However, the unfortunate side effect of melatonin is that once awake one feels well rested and alert. That’s usually not a problem, however, after our departure from London Gatwick I awoke feeling well rested and alert somewhere over Manchester which meant I endured the duration of the flight (all 13 hours of it) wide awake, watching tiny movies. Trying unsuccessfully to sleep, switching seats three times.

Fuck this, I thought, and for the return trip I scooped a couple gravols into my mouth and washed them down with some NyQuil. Too easy. Every time I woke up I’d have another swig of NyQuil and I woke up right in London, feeling fantastic. As a bonus, any cold or flu symptoms I may have had were also gone.

I even had time in London, thanks to my 12ish hour layover, to head over to Highbury, to enjoy a curry and some beers with the mighty DFS and his bird Jo. A small apartment, but delicious curry (my first London curry) and though the apartment was small, certainly smaller than Gatwick, it was way more enjoyable than rotting in the airport.

After keeping them up until two I departed. Hopped a cab, a train, and then a plane and arrived nice and early back in Rome to be greeted by an equally ecstatic Chiara. Then we fucked like bunnies.

Thanks Nyquil!

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PILLOW FIGHT!!!

The coolest thing I've seen in Vancouver in a long time. I heard about it. I went downtown and situated myself in the neighborhood of the Vanbcouver Art Gallery for around three o'clock, just to see if the "pillow fight" would happen. Not daring myself to hope that it would be very successful, not in the no fun apathetic city I am from, a place where even I, excited as I was, was just too disaffected to tote a pillow around all day. Turned out I was in the minority.


A couple hundred, at a generous estimate, turned out to engage in the longest pillow fight i'd ever seen. this was not your standard sleepover in-like-a-lion-over-in-two-minutes affair.

Oh no it wasn't.

And when the feathers settled, Robson was coated in feathers.




Shocked and amazed, i was, and cursing my lack of pillowhandedness.

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24 March 2006

Best Game

The Vancouver Canucks are a sad sack group of overtalented, underspirited shitbags. Or, they were. But something happened to their long painful slide out of the playoffs. That long painful slide, sy the way, coincided quite neatly with my trip here to the Pacific Northwest. I watched one game with my father the first week I was here. It was reeeaaally shitty. We went directly to bed afterwards. Flash forward to the game last night. At the pub, having dinner and drinks, and outlandishly wild hockey drama, a 2 goal lead squandered by some mistakes, some third period heroics by the sniper Marcus Naslund, looking in form again, and then overtime and a shootout, with The big talented lazy lumbering Todd Bertuzzi coming correct on his backhand for the win.
We stayed up a little later last night, because the mood was good. MOre bonding time thanks to the Canucks pulling their helmets out of their asses. Let's hope it continues.

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23 March 2006

Working Holiday

For anyone who thinks that i've just been loosey goosy cruising for three weeks here in Vancouver/Victoria, hanging around on holiday doing not too much of anything, here's proof to the contrary:



Now granted I may have just dropped in on the Loui-Ying family and helped make and pour cement for an hour before playing trucks and dinosaurs, but the documentary evidence backs up the hard working I was doing. Me and the four year old. I was in charge.

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21 March 2006

National Trivia

Rome doesn't have much of a pub culture, there's a couple Irish Bars, actually more than a couple, and I've logged some time in a couple but it's just not the same situation as we've got here in Vancouver. Last night I had an impromptu pub crawl with some improvisers. Allen J. and I were all set to hit the stage together but alas, performance requires an audience, so the pre-show hanging out was uninterrupted by a show. In the end 6 of us guys headed out for some beers and yam fries up the street at Hell's Kitchen. I think only two of us six were actually friends, but after our next stop at the Jolly Alderman we were all, if not friends, at least respected trivia adversaries. Late Night trivia battle until closing time. I won the first round by thousands of points and finished second in the next and final round. Yup, I'm actually bragging. In your face!

The point is, that's the kinda thing I've been missing. Just going with the flow, hanging out with a good group of guys, having some brewskis, talking shop and talking shit, finish up with a joint and head home lightheadedly realizing that this night did not turn out as expected, yet still turned out well.


So says the Trivia Champ

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First Day of Spring

The weather has been beautiful in Vancouver the past couple of days. I've been enjoying the sunshine playing frisbee, sitting in the aforementioned sun on Grey Rocks, even fence building with the Loui-Yings, but then BAM! Today the first day of spring and it is Vancouver at it's dreariest.

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20 March 2006

Lazy Sunday

After a raucous Saturday nights potato gun and gourmet feast, Sunday came along and was even lazier than Adam Sandberg's and Chris Parnell's. Cruising in the sunshine enjoying delicious breakfasts and nursing monstrous hangovers. The brains were working, but oh so slowly, however Brotz and I did emerge on top of a hard fought game of Trivial Pursuit.

Being so deeply dumb mentally one would think that would be a bad time to do some improv. And it was. However, the temptation of doing some more improv with the !nstant Theatre boys proved to be too much for me and after enjoying some fish and chips with the mighty Geordie Aitken and watching the terrible vancouver Canucks embarass themselves I headed to Wink to do a little embarassing improv of my own. IT wasn't too bad, actually, but there was definitely some struggling. I think I did my best just to stay involved but not get in the way. That's not necesarrily the strongest way to approach improvisation, but under the circumstances it was what had to be done.

Unfortunately, because there was no Monday Night Urban Well show, this was to be the last of my Vancouver improvs for a while. Improvs like shooting a potato gun: you can create a vacuum seal with the potato and spray hair spray into the back, but sometimes you can just press and press and press the igniter button without getting it to fire.

Fuck! is there anything that potato gun analogy won't work for?

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18 March 2006

Sunshine and Islands

Today is Saturday. I've already had an awesome homemade eggs and toast and smoothie breakfast with one Josh Young. Played frisbee (or disc) with same in the crisp cold clear Vancouver spring sun. And spoken at length with one Brad Macneil, an element heretofore sorely lacking from my Vancouver trip. Telephone talk isn't the same as playing video game golf or improvising, but it'll do.

Saturday sunshine also will be including some sweet island time at my favorite island: Grey Rocks, with some of my favorite peoples... This is holiday vacation as it should be.

Current mood: upbeat.

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The DOLLAR STORE!

I've been to a couple dollar stores since I've been back, and like anything else that gets romanticized in memory, the reality can be a cold wake-upcall. There's a whole lot of junk. IN fact, it's exclusively filled with junk. Some junk can be another mans treasure, but most of it is still junk. My purchases were some one dollar headphones (which, we should've known, would be completely worthless) and a Canada pen for souvenir giving. I haven't tried the pen, but i bet it functions. It still is however, junk. But in Italy, that trash will be treasure.

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THEYES


Despite the fact that I'm a tour guide in Rome, I don't get much time to create and disseminate programs and information and ideas to people. But this week I had a whole lot of group time to make up stuff for people, including creating and co-leading some group games with my sister, creating an ad hoc sketch for the YES Camp talent show (featuring two fishermen in cowboy shirts and some dark secrets), and of course my big finish for the final session of the week of leadership camp that concluded with the words "...uh, it's not important." Referring to the pseudo-inspirational final thought I was trying to articulate, but effectively undercutting the importance of our whole workshop.
Yup. Still got it.

However, the best damn thing about spending Two and one half days at the YES Camp for young leaders was seeing all the people on staff I'd gotten close with and now miss, and getting to meet some young leaders and just having good clean wholesome fun.
That's one of my favorite types of fun.

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14 March 2006

The Whip and Nostalgia

Vancouver. It feels a lot like I never left it, it's how I remember it, with the memories making it all shiny. Everything here is just as I left it, although most is a little bit better. People moving up and moving on: getting married, having kids, making movies, getting sorted. Everyone, it seems, but the Canucks.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Last night: Jolly Alderman for Veggie burgers, some Shaftebury Cream Ale, and another round of being disappointed by the Canucks. The latest in their losing streak that is my return visit. It's just nice to have some consistency.

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11 March 2006

Roll Up The Rim!


The rest of the world has MacDonalds. Canada has Macdonalds and Tim Hortons. Everybody in this cold wide country loves the donut n' coffee chain started by former hockey player Tim Horton. His jersey recently retired by the Buffalo Sabres, but his biggest contribution to Canadian culture defintely being in the realm of donut science. The cruller, the Boston cream, the double double...Krispy Kreme eat your heart out.

And speaking of eaten out hearts...

A discarded cup. An unrolled rim. A community torn apart. In small town Quebec two girls play she-said she-said as their families fight to claim a $29,000 SUV that was hidden under the rim of a tim Horton's cup, allegedly found by one girl in the schools garbage can. When the girl couldn't roll up said rim she enlisted her friend and together they found the prize. Now a school employee says it was his cup and everybodies fighting for custody of the prize. What nobody's fighting for is to not look like a horribly greedy bad parent.

It's a pity obviously, that the iconic Canadiana of Tim Hortons, and their adequately decent coffee can be caught ruining these families lives. Scandalous!!

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10 March 2006

Milestones

First steps, first words, first day of kindergarten, learning to ride a bike, first date, first kiss, first time stealing booze from your parents liquor cabinet and getting drunk in the bushes, learning to smoke cigarettes, first girlfriend, getting dumped by that girlfriend, first after school job, drivers license, graduation, getting your own apartment, quitting smoking, travelling to Europe (or South America, or Thailand). One hundred blog postings.


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Coffee

Canadian coffee is like dishwater. Sorry Canada, it's true. Sorry palate, it's not very tasty.

I might sound like a eurosnob fancypants when I say this, but so what? Maybe my pants are fancy, and maybe the coffee here needs alot of milk and sugar to make it alright.

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Yellowpoint Fever

Today: Island time. From a Chemainus to Cassidy Airport drive with my Mom, to contemplative ocean time. Then some relative family time visit.
Grandma's getting old, she's till sweet, and pretty upbeat, but not very communicative. Her talking consists mostly of repeating your last sentence and adding the word "lovely" or "wonderful" afterwards. She's gone simple, but she's happy.

I then went to visit My favorite Uncle Owen, and my Auntie Birdie. Good quality time with cucumber sandwiches, cigarettes and a game of Scrabble I won quite handily. Then they sent me home. I guess I deserved it.

But a nice visit just the same. That's why I came home, really. That and the hockey game with Dad tonight.

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08 March 2006

Benny One SIx

Even though I'm now 7,000 kilometres away and a non-Catholic,I still can't stay away from Vatican City and it's protagonist.
Pope Benedict XVI does look like The Emperor from Star Wars, and is the dogma bulldog. Or rather, he was back in his other life as Cardinal Joe Ratzinger. But these days, as the pope, he's smarter, softer and faster and more likeable. He's hip. The Pope has an iPod.

...can't you see? Sure, he's the Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, also Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, as well as the Patriarch of the West, and Primate of Italy, the Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, plus the Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City and finally the Servant of the Servants of God. But really he's just like you and me. I too want an ipod from God.

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06 March 2006

Vancouver Early

I got in saturday evening. It's now Tuesday morning and Vancouver has been true to form. Full of friends, laughter, improv...general goodtimes. And rain. It hasn't stopped, really, since I arrived, but today's the rainiest yet! Not something I really missed, but nostalgia plays with the true memory. Saturday night I had clubhouse sushi feast and revelry. Geordie brought me a "welcome home" balloon, Magda brought me fake flowers, Shep and Lea brought me from the airport. After 18 hours of travel I was pooped. So I took a well deserved 5 hour sleep break Saturday night and woke up to the dark. After false starting I went back to bed, actualy getting up at a more reasonable 7:30. I had coffee. I read Vancouver free papers and the Sunday Province.
Other things that happened
-Sunday Afternoon eggs benedict
-Oscar hotdog party with Dylan and Chelsea and co.
-Sunday improv at Wink Cafe . It was great, fun funny abstract small staged with Beil and Taz and I loved it.
Monday
-75 dollar renewed drivers license, fuck you very much
-Temporary Vancouver mobile phone
-New onsale trousersfrom the Bay
-Transcripts from SFU, the university I graduated from though I've never seen the physical degree. Wouldn't know what to do with it anyway, I don't have an office.
-Fun fondue going away party, washed down with some limoncello. good times.
-Urban Well improv: anticlimactic letdown after Sundays fun fantastic show. Probably shoulda stayed at the going away party for charades. The show wasn't that bad, but after the church scene with the really old lady who sucks alot of dick and has AIDS and a bag of cocaine in her 80 year old vagina, I was with the audience and visibly wincing.

Today: Millar Family Reunion
Tomorrrow: Paint the baby's room.

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03 March 2006

GI Mike's Fondled Piece

There's this guy I work with named GI Mike, though his ID reads PFC Michael Barnett. The guys pretty crazy. His tour consists mostly of jokes and gypsy defence techniques. His favorite conversation topics are his crazy Italian wife, bodily functions, and convincing ex-smokers to go for smoke breaks with him. He's not terribly well respected in the tour guide circuit because of his lack of diligence and general amokness. But he's got some charm and good stories. For instance yesterday when I arrived he was beside himself because some guy touched his balls on a very crowded metro. GI Mike then chased him down and was pretty keen on breaking his nose. Unfortunately he didn't find the guy at an appropriate nose-breaking time. He was pretty angry. I don't blame him. However I suggested that he gives off pretty gay vibes and that's probably why the guy fondled him. And winked at him. It's funny, and we can laugh about it, but GI Mike is not a guy that I won't going over the tipping point. So no more ball fondling. You hear me stranger?

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