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Mike's Random Thoughts From The Road #4
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it's been a while since i've sent one of these out. without further delay i offer you another collection of experiences i've had on the road that didn't make it into the updates. this list isn't for children...i guess none of my e-mails are even though i am so childish. enjoy.
1. i have so few things with me yet i always try to reduce my load even further. it's amazing how little you need to survive happily. every so often i go through all my things, contemplate each item's usefulness and then decide if it stays or goes. since i am on a bike and have to haul everything i own around with me at all times, this filtering of objects has reached a mentally ill obsessive level; if i find a superfluous receipt amongst my things that i have been unknowingly carrying for a few days, i get mad at myself, even doling out self-punishment (like no gummy bears for 2 days.) anyway, about a month ago i was going through my things when i came across a pair of tweezers. i sat there for about an hour studying them. i had been on the road for 3 months and had not tweezed a single thing, not a one. yes it's true that tweezers don't weigh much but if an overhead bird drops a feather onto my panniers (bike bags) it slows me down, so i gave this instrument some serious thought, turning them over and over in my hands (this kind of thing is the most difficult stuff i think about now-a-days.) after much thought and the creation of a pros and cons list leaning toward "keep 'em", i tossed them back into my bag.

a few days later i was staying in a youth hostel in a room with 4 beds. the guy across from me started snoring like an erupting volcano so i jammed a finger into my ear to drive the ear plug farther in. it blocked out my roommate's snoring, but when i awoke in the morning the right ear plug was gone. it was touching my brain i think. i couldn't hear anything out of that ear and i became a little scared. i reached in my ear with my fingers but couldn't even touch the plug. all i did was drive it farther in. i assessed the situation, concluding that there was only one thing that could get that ear plug out: tweezers.

i fumbled around in my bag and pulled them out, so glad to have kept them. i sat up in bed, arranged the tweezers in my right hand, inserted them into my ear, and started digging for the plug. remember that board game 'operation'? that's what it felt like, except i was not only a player, i was also the gameboard. well the red light and buzzer would have gone off a hundred times on me because i couldn't grab the plug with the tweezers. i don't remember how well i competed when i played 'operation' growing up but my pathetic attempts at extracting the ear plug from my ear lead me to conclude that i must have sucked at it. i got a hold of it several times but it refused to budge when i pulled at it. finally, after about 15 minutes - and several strange stares from my roommates - the plug popped out. ahhhh, that felt good.

so here's to you tweezers: you are worth the weight and wait. i'd proudly haul you across any country any time. (note: the tweezers have been granted diplomatic immunity from future filtering sessions - i will have them until someone steals them from me.)
2. while staying at 'an aharla' youth hostel on the aran island of inishmor, the oil tycoon and i were happy to have a room with 4 beds to ourselves - it allowed us to spread out our junk a little more. while whipping up our dinner, a polish couple checked in and we were disappointed to see that they were to stay in our room. he and i turned in for the night fairly early since we planned to cycle the island the next morning. sometime around midnight the couple came into the room. they lay there for a few minutes and then got up together and left the room. i went back to sleep.

at breakfast the next morning i asked kevin if i had been snoring during the night. he said yes. i said oh, i thought so because i felt you kick the bed. he said it wasn't him, said it was the polish guy. we began to discuss them. he said he got up at about 1 in the morning to use the bathroom, the only one in the place, but the polish couple was in there "making love." they didn't come out for 45 minutes while kevin's bladder throbbed.

"they went into the bathroom to have sex? man," i said. "they must be in a new relationship."

"nope," replied kevin. "they've been dating for a couple years."

there and then i dubbed them "the fuckers." clever name, huh?

later that day, after cycling the beautiful island and spending time hanging off the cliff-side of the ancient, 3000 year old stone fort of dun aengus, kevin and i returned to the hostel. it was about 15:00 on a perfectly sunny day in ireland. i went up to the room to get my stuff but the fuckers were in there doing it. i couldn't believe it. i tried to imagine their conversation shortly before i arrived:

"so, it's a gorgeous day on this amazing island out here in the atlantic ocean just off the coast of ireland, it's the middle of the afternoon and there are dozens of activities we could engage in. what would you like to do?"

"i don't know. wanna do the nasty?"

"let's go."

i went into the room and they pretended to be asleep, not opening their eyes once. i even stared at them for a second, lying there under the covers, just to make them sweat a bit.

kevin stayed on the island for a day longer than i did so we met a few days later farther up the road. we got to talking about the fuckers. kevin says "oh yeah, when i was checking out i said goodbye to them in the room and walked out but forgot my bike helmet..."

"uh, oh," i said.

"yeah. i had to go back up there and when i went into the room they were doing it again."

"jesus," i said.

"yeah, i just turned my head, made straight for my helmet, grabbed it, ran back out, and shut the door behind me. they are something else."

we had a good laugh and toasted to the fuckers - thanks for the story, and good luck with all the kids.
3. while out one night in gothenburg, sweden my pal ingmar from holland and i were arguing fashion. i said something like "all good fashion comes from america - the stuff you wear in europe is crap." he responded that all good clothes come from europe and that the united states is behind the times. i looked over what he was wearing and said "dude, that's a levis t-shirt you are wearing. and those jeans, they are levis also. that's american." he scoffed at that and pointed out that his shoes were k-swiss from switzerland. "and at least my underwear is from holland," he said as he pulled down the waistband of his jeans to show me. we both looked down at the brand written on them: USA menswear. he looked up with a crooked, embarrassed grin on his face.

oops.
4. while hanging out in lisbon, portugal with jack and phil, 2 fellas i met in lagos and traveled for 3 weeks with, jack suggested a bullfight. "no thanks dude," i said. "already saw one in spain." he tried to explain that portuguese fights were different but i wasn't into it.

the next day we met in a square and jack asked me again if i would go. i didn't really want to but always enjoyed my time with those guys so i agreed. we took a ferry across the tejo river and then a cab to the town of moita, portugal. we ate some bifana sandwiches and downed a few beers outside the bullring and then bought some tickets in the sol (sun) section for 20 euro each. the sol section is the part of the ring that will be in the sun for the duration of the fight. the fight was entirely different, and entirely better, than the spanish version.

about an hour later we witnessed something amazing and i looked over at jack, giving him a discrete thumbs up. he whispered "oh yeah" to me as we shared a quiet chuckle. in the ring below us, one of the guys was down and lay prone on his face waiting for the stretcher to haul him out. i sat in utter amazement everytime the event which lead to his injury occured: after the matador did his thing, 8 guys dressed in funny outfits would line up single file on the opposite side of the ring from the bull. one of the guys would put a floppy hat on his head and then slowly creep away from his 7 buddies toward the bull. with his hands on his hips, he would stomp on the ground, attempting to attract the bull's attention. when he got it, he would yell at the bull until it charged. the bull would shoot across the ring at full speed right toward the guy who braced himself for the impact. he would get hit smack in the gut each time, the bull's momentum carrying him into his 7 buddies behind him, each of them getting mowed down like bowling pins. bodies would shoot this direction and that into the air. i tell you, it is unbelievable to watch. their goal was to wrestle the bull to the ground at which point the fight was over. well this one time the operation went badly and a guy got stomped on the leg, probably breaking it. this is what jack and i were chuckling about.

i don't want to seem cold-hearted; i would feel bad for someone who got hurt in an accident on the street, but if he gets in the ring with a bull and entices it to charge straight at him, i ain't crying any tears for him - i want to see him get banged up a bit.

go see a bullfight if you are in portugal.
5. i am constantly looking for more energy since it takes so much to ride a bike through these countries, carrying myself and all my luggage every kilometer up hills, against headwinds, through rain, and past chasing dogs. but of course i can't load up too much on energy foods since i don't want to go flying down the road too quickly and kill myself. thus i've stopped eating glass so i don't fart too much.

wait....what? he doesn't usually talk that crudely, what gives? check out #6...
6. oh, didn't i mention that in swedish "glass" means "ice cream", "fart" means "speed"? does that explain it? and of course, never forget #7...
7. i'm not disgusting, i'm just swedish.
8. sweden sorta stinks, especially near the coast...must be all the speed
9. recently, i was staying in a very cool hostel and was discussing the interesting rooms with the receptionist. i asked her what she thought of them and she replied; "oh my boyfriend blah, blah, blah..."

huh? boyfriend?

if i wanted his opinion i would have called him - i was asking for her opinion. as i walked out, i wondered why that always happens; a girl mentioning her boyfriend in the first 5 minutes of a conversation? i suppose they think i am coming on to them and want to keep me from wasting my time. maybe it's that i smile too much? maybe it's because i stand too close? maybe it's because i act too confident? or maybe it's because i always stare deep into her eyes, smile coyly, and softly sing into her ear "hello, i love you, won't you tell me your name? hello, i love you, let me jump in your game. hello, i love you, won't you tell me your name? hello, i love you, let me jump in your game."
10. when i write these random thoughts, i often write them to a specific person amongst you. #9 was for my seattle-dwelling, former roommate, fellow michigan state spartan, forever great friend, brett gutride. i just thought that he'd like the ending. the last one, #11, is just for YOU....
11. i miss you (you know who you are.)
keep on keepin' on,
mike
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