Europe Is Different (from North America)


Europe is different from North America.  Here are a few things you need to remember.

Waiter (server in North America) is a respected profession in Europe.  It’s not just a stopover for university students and wannabe actors.  These people know what they’re doing.  Take advantage of it.

Criminal is also a profession (although not actually respected.)  There are people who get up every morning and head to the tourist attractions with the sole purpose of robbing you – or somebody else.  There’s no need to be paranoid, but you need to practice a little due diligence to make sure it’s somebody else.

There are two seasons in Europe.  Tourist season, when hordes of foreigners descend on the continent like an army of battle-hardened Assyrians — crowding the streets, cluttering up the restaurants and driving up the prices.  And Season #2 – October 22nd.

I hate to say it, but the days of the super bargains in Europe are over.  Armani suits are Armani suits all over the world, and you’re not going to get a discount just because they’re making them down the street.  Go for the small shops rather than the big labels.

Public transportation is the way to go.  In North America, we get in our cars; in Europe, people get on the bus, tram or subway.  Taxis are fine, once in a while (like from the airport) but if you want to see the real Europe, get on the bus.

European time is not North American time — adapt.

And finally:

The reason you crossed the big pond in the first place is you wanted to try something completely different.  Most times it’s fun but sometimes it’s a pain in the ass.  The truth is, on any vacation something is going to suck (it always does) but when that happens the best thing to do is don’t sweat the details – and keep on moving.

10 Travel Tips (Plus 1)


I love the art of travel.  (Have I mentioned we’re in Italy?)   Anyway, here are a few travel tips I’ve picked up that may help you in your journey.

Packing – Don’t start too early, or you’ll pack a bunch of crap you don’t need.  The accepted rule is 1) pack your suitcase; 2) pour an adult beverage; 3) take out the golf umbrella, the snowsuit, one swimsuit, the extra evening gown and four pairs of shoes; 4) bring the wine to the suitcase; 5) dump everything on the bed; 6) look at the mess you’ve made; 7) cry; 8) finish the wine and throw whatever clothes you can into the suitcase ‘cause your flight leaves in 4 hours.

Stuff you’re going to forget – Subconsciously, you didn’t want to bring it anyway.

Foreign languages – Wherever you’re going, learn to say hi, goodbye, please, thank you, where and how much in the local lingo.  After that, you can get by with a series of gestures, grunts, moans, puzzled facial expressions and pantomime.  Practice in front of a mirror.  (A dog ate my passport is particularly difficult.)

Foreign languages (Part Deux) – Don’t learn too much, and make sure your accent sucks.  If you’re too good at simple phrases such as “Where is the toilet?” the locals may answer you with detailed instructions– and then you’re screwed.

Money — The accepted rule is 1) make a stack of money (5 cm is a good start); 2) pour an adult beverage; 3) double the stack; 4) pour another adult beverage; 5) go all in and remortgage the house.

Airport Security – Don’t sweat the details.  At least you’re not totally naked – yet.

The flight – Getting trapped for 9 hours in a giant aluminum cylinder with a bunch of strangers is no fun.  However, if you can survive that, cobblestones, art galleries that never end, food that looks like it’s already been eaten and the surly waiter who brought it are no problem.

The Hotel – Of course it doesn’t look like the website!  (What are you — a child?)

Sightseeing — After you arrive at your destination, the accepted rule is 1) make a list of all the things you want to see; 2) pour an adult beverage; 3) burn the list.

Souvenirs – Aunt Mamie doesn’t want another snow globe of the Vatican.  That piece of the Berlin Wall – isn’t.  And the miniature Eiffel Tower that plays La Marseillaise whenever the wind blows is going to annoy the hell out of you in three months.

And finally:

Passports – Always remember that when you start to look like your passport photo — go home!


The Television Cure

remote-controlWe live in a complicated world.  There are any number of hairy, scary ooglies out there, trying to do us harm.  External germs, internal neuroses, the dolt down the block with his motorcycle — it just never ends.  Luckily, I’ve been around for a few decades now, and I’ve discovered that just about anything can be fixed with television.  Think about it!  When you were a kid and you got sick, what did your mom, dad or legal guardian give you to make you feel better?  A day off school and full control of the TV remote.  Parenting was a lot easier in those days, but it must have worked ’cause you’re still here.  So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at a few other ways to cope with these troubled times.  (BTW, for some of the bigger problems, we’ve added alcohol to the mix.)

Stress (Men) — Any television game that involves a ball — and beer.

Stress (Women) — Braless, red wine, chocolate and back-to-back-to-back Kate Winslet movies

The Common ColdMad Men and mimosas. It will dry the snotties, make you feel better about your lot in life, and the orange juice will give you a jolt of vitamin C.  (Plus, it kinda drags in the middle, so you might fall asleep.)

The Flu — Chicken soup and Daytime TV.  Trust me!  Bob Barker, The People’s Court and Days Of Our Lives have done more for the general health of this world that any pharmaceutical company.

Depression — Any recent Ben Affleck film.  Seriously, if that guy can succeed in this world, your sorry ass shouldn’t have any problems.

Road RageGame Of Thrones!  The worst commute in the world doesn’t hold a candle to what those poor bastards have been going through — for 7 years!

ProcrastinationLost!  This pointless piece of junk goes so far sideways that eventually you’ll just walk away and do anything — ANYTHING! — rather than watch another minute.

And finally:

A Broken Heart — Pizza, red wine, baggy pajamas and a weekend binge of Ryan Gosling movies.  For really serious breakups, throw in a couple of Ryan Reynolds movies and a tub of Rocky Road ice cream.