Here it is, what you've all been waiting for, I'm sure. A story about our trip to Europe (Belgium in particular). It starts with some background for those of you who know nothing regarding some of the things of which I'll be speaking. I hope I haven't offended anyone. Enjoy.
Ron (Warner) and I left from St. Louis on December 26th, 2000, and returned on January 06th, 2001. We flew into and out of Paris, but spent all of our time otherwise in Belgium. Ron lived in Belgium for two (non-consecutive) years, and his family lived there for the same two years, in addition to the year in between them (Ron moved back here for a year to graduate high school and whatnot). Four years ago, in late December of 1996, a then-friend of ours (Matt Ressler) and I visited Ron in Belgium, as he was living there at the time. While there, I made a few friends, and it was rad seeing the country again, not to mention that it was nice to see the friends again, too (as well as to meet some new ones). So, when we arrived in Brussels, we had one of Ron's (and now, my) friends, Andrew Thiermann (please correct me on the spelling if I screwed it up, Andrew), pick us up. We stayed at his house on the nights of the 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th, which worked out nicely. We hung around in Waterloo and Brussels, saw some sights, like the hill which marks the spot where Napoleon was finally defeated by Nelson & the old ruins of some Abbey (both in Waterloo), went bowling, visited bars, the whole nine yards, all with Andrew and his Chiléan cousin Catalina. On the day of New Years Eve, we went to Bruges, Belgium, a city that's pretty much like old Europe (of the 19th century or so). We spent New Years Eve in a bar in Brussels, but since Andrew was leaving the next day or so, we couldn't stay at his house that night or thereafter. So, we were to stay with another of Ron's friends, Thomas (pronounced Toe-maw, rather than Tom-uss, as he was a Belgian native), at whose house we had dropped off our luggage on the evening of the 31st. He said he wasn't planning on staying out late that night, and that we should just come when we were done doing whatever we were doing. Well, we left the bar (called J.J.'s) at some point (prob'ly around 3:15AM or so), after I had been dancing on it for upwards of three hours (I was often the only person up there during that time--naturally, this didn't happen until after a few drinks), to go get some fries with Andrew, and then bid him farewell to return to the bar. When we got back to the bar, they weren't letting people in anymore. We snuck around to the back door to get in, and some friends of ours were still there, just about to leave. They didn't really know what they were doing, but we didn't wanna show up at Thomas's house as early as it was (4:00AM), so we meandered around the nearly empty streets of Brussels with this band of Hooligans for some time, looking for another bar, or something to do. We eventually settled on a Pita restaurant, but since Ron and I had already eaten, we did more watching of other people eating than actual eating ourselves. After that, we went looking for bars a little longer, but it was generally decided that it was a fruitless effort, and that Brussels was closing down overall, and Ron and I decided to head to Nivelles, where Thomas lives. We got there around 7:30AM, but decided just to walk around aimlessly 'til about 8:00AM. At that time, we rang his doorbell and knocked, but nobody showed up. We went to a local bakery and called our other Nivelles-resident friend, Kate, whom we woke up, and who had been studying like mad for her crazy-intense Belgium-school University finals the entire week, which is why she was at home rather than at her flat on University grounds. Well, she was a bit irritated, or crazy, or tired, or any combination of the three, prob'ly cuz she'd just woken up and cuz she'd been having a hard few weeks, but she told us she'd call Thomas until she found out what was going on, and we left the bakery, wandered around for a short spell, and then went to Thomas's house to try again. Again, no answer. So, instead of calling (and thereby aggravating) Kate again, we decided to take refuge in a local Fortis Banque (in the foyer where the ATMs are). The weather was at a miserable drizzle, and was rather cold, so the radiator in the bank foyer quickly became a hanging-place for our clothing. The table in the foyer quickly became a resting place for myself, as it was now something like 8:30AM and I hadn't slept all night. We periodically went back to check Thomas's house until 10:30AM, when I decided we should return to the bank and stay there 'til noon, as that seemed like a nice round time to check to see if someone's home (incidentally, at that very time, 10:30AM, while it was 3:30AM here in Missouri, a friend of mine(Doug Ashton)'s fiancée was having their baby. It's a boy--Isaac Ashton). So, I slept in the bank while Ron just kind of paced around and went insane, all the while bank customers coming in to use the ATM (the bank was closed on account of holiday, but the foyer area with the ATMs was not, as it never is...though it did, as usual, require the swiping of an ATM card to enter). Anyway, I woke up at noon, and we went to Thomas's once again. Still, no answer, so we went over to Kate's, wondering what else to do, but were afraid to knock on the door or otherwise disturb her. Suddenly, Kate's mother comes around the corner, walking the dog, and sees us. She tells us that she'll let us in, if only we'll come with her to walk her dog around the block. We do so, and she lets us in, and then takes off for Holland or something. I fell almost immediately to sleep on the couch (but not before Kate came down and saw us after having been called by her mother to alert her to our presence), Ron took a shower and fell asleep somewhere else soon after. This was around 2:00PM. We awoke several hours later, and Kate made us a nice little pasta dinner. We finally got a hold of Thomas and found out that he had locked himself out of his house the night before, and had to spend the night at a friend's house. We ended up at his house to spend the night that night, after watching a movie (Trainspotting, with Dutch subtitles) with he and Kate there. The next day, we did a bunch of stuff in Waterloo, like went to Ron's old house and school to see what was up, bought some candy, et c. That night, we ate dinner with Thomas's family, which was nice, and following that, we went to a bar in Nivelles. We stayed that night at Thomas's house, and went into Brussels the next day. We went record-shopping and saw a lot of sights there as well, such as the famous tiny statue of the pissing child, some nice architectural pieces, and a life-size Nativity scene that included the use of actual animals (only up for the season). We then went to the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, where we mainly stayed around the modern art section, which was cool; we saw a lot of paintings by the Belgian surrealist Magritte, one of my personal fav'rites. We got lucky, cuz that was Wednesday, and it was after a certain time, so admission to the art museum was free. After we left it, we went to some mall just outside of Brussels to look for a certain type of French shoes for our friend Padt (couldn't find 'em), and bought some more candy (We even found GREASE MOONS! HOORAY!). We went back to Thomas's after that, but only to pack up our stuff, as we couldn't stay there anymore. Thomas had to return to Brussels or something like that; he lives in some kind of dorm there for some reason...or maybe I'm dead wrong, who knows? Anyway, that was okay; Kate was returning to her flat on the University grounds that night, and her mother was driving her. So we lugged our bags from Thomas's house to Kate's, and packed up the (brand new?) Alfa Romeo, and went to Louvain-La-Neuve Université. We stayed at Kate's flat the nights of the 03rd and 04th. On the night of the 04th, we went to the house of Lise Johnson, a friend of ours that I'd visited at University of San Francisco (where she currently attends school) back in October while on Fall Break and staying at my Grandmother's house (which is about 40 minutes from USF). At any rate, we surprised Lise by showing up at her house, where we hung out for awhile, played some Chinese Checkers, then we went into Brussels for more general hanging out. We went to some Pita restaurant (there are dozens of them all over Brussels, it seems), ate a little, and were going to do some more stuff, but the last Metros and trains to the places we were going were leaving, so we had to hurry to the train station. We did, only to find that Ron and I were pretty much too late to catch our train back; we'd have to take a taxi. Lise got on a metro that went at least somewhat closer to her house, at which point she took a taxi, we later found out. We took a taxi back to the Université, it cost 2000 Belgian Francs (roughly $44.00), but it was really the only way to get back at that point, and the cab driver actually gave us a 400 franc (approximately $8.80) or so discount. On the evening of the next day, the 05th, at about 8:30PM, we had to catch our train to Paris, cuz our flight left the morning of the 06th but none of the public transportation (beyond walking, that was all we really had access to after leaving Andrew and his car) would have left early enough in the morning to get us to the airport in time. We went to the train station a little early and met Lise there again, hung with her at the train station, got some food (since we knew we wouldn't be eating much for the next several hours before we got on the plane), then this other guy Victor shows up, but only about fifteen minutes before we have to catch our train. A whirlwind of a personality (not to mention, a mouth) on that guy, lemme tell ya. Well, at least he got suckered into carrying my VERY heavy and uncomfortable suitcase (he actually suckered himself into it). We got on the train, which went straight to the Paris airport, where we were basically stuck for the next ten hours and forty-five minutes (our flight was to leave at 8:45AM on the 06th). We had a couple of French francs, with which we got some drinks at the airport, then we basically just sat around, got a few sandwiches, neglected to go to sleep, and waited for the TWA checking counters to open up. A little while after they did, we found out that the flight was delayed 'til 11:30AM, which was a pain, especially since we were so tired and hungry, but we checked our baggages, went to the terminal, and fell asleep there, since we got there around 8:30AM or something. We made it back okay, obviously. So there are the details of the trip. It was overall a fun time, and basically the very lowest point was on New Years Day in the morning. I took pictures of most or all of this, so I'll have to show y'all sometime.
So classes have started. I'm rather looking forward to this semester. It may be a little more difficult than last semester, but it will also be more fun, I think. Actually, in the first half of the semester, I have only four classes (I do not consider "French Lab," which meets for a mere fifty minutes per week, a class), and in the second half of the semester, I'll only have three classes. Of all of these, only two of my classes last all semester long. Those are "Myth And Modern Literature," a 4000 level English course (and the last English course I'll have to take to become an English minor), and Elementary French, semester II. For the English class, there's a heavy reading load (titles include Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Shepard's Buried Child, Woolf's Between the Acts, Morrison's Song of Solomon, Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Cunningham's The Hours, and Guare's The House of Blue Leaves; plus, there's a viewing of Being John Malkovich...major score). I've already signed up to do a project or presentation of some sort on the Pynchon work. My remaining classes are "Film Appreciation," "Introduction To Film Theory And Criticism," and "Introduction to Media Production." So, now that I'm working on classes for my newly-decided major, I should be kept better entertained this semester, if nothing else. It should do me some good.
Yesterday, I took a placement test for French, and it placed me in the level I wanted to be in. I was pleased to find, when I came into the class, that it should be rather easy for good ol' veteran French-dude me. I wasn't really looking forward to taking first semester elementary French, in which I was originally enrolled. Anyway, what was cool about the placement test was, that for ten bucks, I could get three credit-hours for the French class out of which I tested. I paid in cash promptly, and that was a pretty keen transaction.
I once went to High School with a girl named Amanda Thomas, and she is now in my English class. It was odd, but quite nice, to see her again. I hadn't seen her since High School, but we had a short spell of E-Mail correspondence last school year.
Since I have started school again, I have at least seen, and in most cases conversed with the following Webster University people that I know:
- Adam Neal
- Brett Henley
- Hannah Wolfe
- Bob Goss
- Megan Campbell
- Erin Cooper
- Coire Reilly
- Russ Olson
- Matt Kleinberg
- John Lowery
- Ron Warner
- Dalmes _____ (not sure of her last name, or the spelling of her first, for that matter)
- Amanda Thomas
- Immanuel Guest
- Michael Allen
- Keith Welsh
- Alex Cannon
- Tiffany Hacker
- Lyndsey Brack
- Charles Evans
- John Waters
- Zack Bauersox
- Jim Schulman
- Amanda Allen
- Emily Morris
- Josh ______ (I forget his last name)
- Miriam Leal
I think that's all; at any rate, I don't really plan on updating this list. Don't be offended if you were left off; I'm a forgetful person.
Jason and I were supposed to install my new bad-ass hard drive tonight, but he didn't call 'til it was too late. Oh, well. I watched Bullets Over Broadway, which I bought for two bucks recently, without ever having seen it, instead.
Besides all of that, Xmas was pretty nice, I got The Beatles Anthology book; an R2-D2 3-D puzzle (it lights up and makes noises, even); Cassablanca, Batman, Se7en, and The Princess Bride on DVD; Chaplin's The Tramp and Hitchcock's The 39 Steps on VHS; some rad Pirate T-Shirts; a Bob Dylan watch; some pirate socks; some Muppets bubble bath; a children's Polish Dictionary; some hard copies of past Onion issues; a photo album; $25 at Borders, $15 at Barnes & Noble, $5 at Einstein's Bagels, and $5 at Best Buy, all in Gift Certificates; The Gentleman's Guide to Life; a 30GB Hard Drive; some CDs (to be addressed soon); and several other smaller things.
About CDs: I've been buying and otherwise acquiring them like a friggin' madman recently. Since the beginning of December, I've acquired the following:
- Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits (For Xmas)
- Cat Stevens's Greatest Hits (For Xmas)
- Dave Matthews Band - Before These Crowded Streets
- Harry Belafonte - Calypso
- Tom Jones & Engelbert Humperdinck's Greatest Hits
- Belle & Sebastian - Lazy Line Painter Jane (3-CD)
- The Frank Sinatra Collection, Volumes I & II
- Catherine - Hot Saki & Bedtime Stories
- Fats Domino - The Fat Man Keeps On Rockin'
- Cult Classics of the '80s (2-CD)
- Hits of the Century: '80s
- Chloé - Talc
- Flowers For Breakfast - Baron Samedi Conducts the Onion Philharmonique
- Flowers For Breakfast - Quicksand Valley (Single)
- Bettie Serveert - Private Suit (Single)
- Bettie Serveert - Rudder (Single)
- Bettie Serveert - Co-Coward (Single)
- Bettie Serveert - White Tales/Unsound (Single)
- Tracy Chapman - Crossroads
- Björk - Telegram
- Blonde Redhead - Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons
- Beastie Boys - Hello Nasty
- REM - Green
- The Pixies - Surfer Rosa
- The Best of Arlo Guthrie
- Soundtrack - O Brother, Where Art Thou?
- Piano By Candlelight Favorites (3-CD)(For Xmas)
That's all I remember right now. Like y'all cared anyway.
Furthermore, I bought Contact and The Big Lebowski on DVD with the Borders Gift Certificates, and The Simpsons book The Complete Guide To Our Favorite Family with the one from B&N. Also, at this new store in town called "Deals" (where everything is a dollar or less), there's a video rack from which I acquired Fellini's La Strada, the acclaimed documentary about the Seattle music scene of the 1990s, Hype, and the Danny Kaye movie The Inspector General...all on VHS, but it doesn't get much cheaper than a dollar, really.
Work has been pretty rad so far, at least tolerable. I hope I don't have to work there over this coming summer, though. Not that it would make me suicidal, or anything, but I'd really like to get an internship of some sort in media of some sort. Anything to get away from Ron Weathers, and yes, I'm looking into it.
I'm also looking into European scholastic study. Webster University doesn't, I don't believe, have any trans-Atlantic programs for film production majors, but now that I'm an active member of the foreign language departmental community again, it'll be easier to find out if a joint-University type program with some sort of French cinema school would be a plausible option. Naturally, I'd have to learn French, or bring a bilingual friend with me. I'm not especially opposed to either idea.
So I reckon that most of you think this is long enough already. Well, enjoy it while it lasts; you know I always post long to make up for my tendency to go for long periods of time without posting.
It's 1:00AM. Catch y'all LateR.