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Puget Sound is no place for winter.  Our proximity to the ocean means heavy, wet snow.  Our proximity to the mountains means too many hills.  Our proximity to Canada means sudden cold snaps often immediately after heavy, wet snow.  Our proximity to Tim Eyman means too little money to pay for better roads, better equipment, better government, better transit.  Our proximity to everywhere else means an influx of a-holes.

Nevertheless, winter has arrived like your mother-in-law:  Sneaky, mean, passive-agressive, and with no sense of when to go the fuck home.  As a result, for the past 48 hours, I have gone exactly no place to which I couldn’t walk, which around here is no where.  Instead, I have watched video after video, news update after update, and picture after picture of stupid, incompetent people doing stupid, incompetent things in laundry baskets, on motorcycles, in their cars, and even on their feet**–to name a few.  And I am over all of this non-sense, you dickbags.

As self-proclaimed Governess of the great State of Washington, I have a proclamation to make.  Puget Sound is fucking closed tomorrow (Friday).  Everything, everywhere, all day long.  No one is permitted to do anything stupid or incompetent that involves any type of transportation.  Just sit down and shut the fuck up for a few more hours.  Tell your boss to go to hell.  Tell your kids that they can eat dry cereal, pine nuts, and that expired can of re-fried beans for dinner just one god damn time in their privileged little lives because you are not going to the grocery store.  Tell your significant other to go scrape the walk until his hands are blistered JUST LIKE YOU DID TODAY, god dammit.  Tell your co-workers that the ice ruined your Internet connection and destroyed the cell phone tower nearest your home.  Tell your friends not to call unless they want to bring alcohol and give you some hot, nasty lovin’ in the hot tub.  Tell yourself to stop obsessing and squeezing your own belly because you have not been able to go the gym or go for a run for what feels like a month and you have several swimsuit or underpants-themed trips in the VERY NEAR FUTURE.

Mark my words:  Tomorrow is going to be a shit-show from a transportation perspective.  It is going to rain like a cow pissing on a frozen, flat rock, on top of two days worth of slush, snow, ice, snow, slush, ice, and a fair amount of frozen dog pee and a little bit of blood.  Don’t ask.  Just prepare for the worst now and get yourself ready to stop you and your friends and family from doing stupid, incompetent shit.  It will be a test of mental acuity and common sense, but we can do it.  Together.  While trapped in the Alcatraz that have become our homes.

Weeble

This could be you!

**A special thank you to the very fat, clutsy man with a blood alcohol level of at least 327.6 who, after leaving Leny’s last night, entertained me and my intrepid gays by falling down not once but TWICE within the course of one block.  The first time, he just flailed around like a Weeble-Wobble on his belly while trying to regain his footing.  After our inquiries into his health, he assured us he was fine before marching down to the other corner, where he promptly toppled over sideways into the bushes like a giant Sequoia.  He did not even bother to remove his hands from his pockets to brace himself.  After our inquiries into his sobriety, he assured us he was completely sober and that he did not need or want any help.  We quickly skated away from him before witnessing his inevitable brain injury.

Remember, tomorrow, nothing stupid or incompetent because you do not want to be someone’s equivalent of the fat, drunk Weeble-Wobble for the rest of your lives.  As always, you are welcome.

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I LOVE France.  It is a beautiful country.  The food is delicious.  The wine is magnifique.  The architecture is amazing.  I even like the people, who I believe get a very bad rap for being unjustifiably rude and ill-tempered with foreign travelers, particularly [stupid] Americans.  After my travels with Americans this past week, let me tell you that any rude or ill-tempered behavior on the part of the French (or any other European) is most definitely justified.  Allow me to set the stage: 

THE PLAYERS:  18 Americans from all over the country and walks of life, most of whom do not know each other, who come together in France to celebrate a common friend’s 40th birthday (and, I guess, the birthdays of the other 5 of us on the trip who also turn 40 this year).   Straight, gay, married, divorced, new parents, old parents, black, white, Asian, Latino, etc.  These are very accomplished people, most with advanced degrees, and most of whom are well-traveled.

THE SETTING:  A 12,000 square foot chateau in the foothills of the Alps, half-way between Geneva, Switzerland and Lyon, France, on 17 acres, with 10 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, a theatre, a billiards room, a chef, and enough wine and liquor to open our own brasserie.  The nearest village with a store, church, or train station was 5 miles away. 

THE FIRST PROBLEM:  When I travel, I like to be fairly inconspicuous, and I do what I can to blend in as much as possible.  I at least make an effort to speak the language (and, by the way, je parle français.  En fait, je l’ai étudié pendant 10 ans et j’en ai reçu un diplôme universitaire après avoir passé quelques mois en Belgique avec une famille d’accueille*).  I try to dress appropriately.  I’m flexible and am willing to get out of my comfort zone, especially when it comes to food and wine and local customs.  And I am polite to a fault. 

THE SECOND PROBLEM:  Newsflash:  There is nothing about a large group of Americans that is inconspicuous, and it was almost entirely impossible to escape the throng or subsets thereof and break off on my own with my little domestic partner in tow.  It was day after day of excursions and events, by tour bus, with tour guides, or by shared rental car.  As a result, we always had to coordinate with at least 1 other person for transportation and the minute we opened our mouths, 2 or 3 or 4 or 7 or 17 other people wanted to do whatever we were going to do.  

THE THIRD PROBLEM:  Although individually these people may have been tolerable, collectively, they were fucking assholes. 

I know what you are thinking:  Takes one to know one.  Ah, oui.  Touché.  Before you get all high and mighty on me, however, let me describe a few of these people for you so you can feel my pain and angst (I have changed their names in order to protect the guilty):

  • Mikey:  He is the birthday boy who organized this trip and who talked his INSANELY RICH friends into giving him the chateau for 10 days as his birthday present.  He is the gay son of a very conservative southern politician, and he is his mother’s golden child.  He has a chronic disease, which I like to call “Disrespect of Other People’s Schedules,” and he will absolutely, unequivocally be late for his own funeral.  So bad is his chronic tardiness that it has become a running and very pointed joke amongst his friends, family, and colleagues.  When he says, “The birthday party will start at 7:30p,” you easily have at least another hour or 90 minutes to get ready.  In addition, he is a sweet but culturally insensitve, bumbling fool.  You know, the kind who thinks it will be cute and funny to show up in France wearing a beret, a clown nose, and a “wrap” made from a French flag.  The kind who thinks it will be fun to wear his gal pal’s flowered jumpsuit to pick up and drop off guests at various small-town train stations in France.  The kind who accidentally forgets to grab his passport from his boyfriend before heading back to Geneva to fly on to Turkey with his best girlfriend Dana (see below), thereby delaying their trip and costing LOTS of extra money. 
  • Darryl:  Darryl is Mikey’s boyfriend.  Darryl wears those god damn 5-toed “shoes” so that he can feel more connected to the earth.  Darryl is controlling, and holds on to Mikey’s passport, money, and other documents, which he forgets to give back to Mikey before he leaves to spend a few days alone in Paris.  Darryl doesn’t want his time in Paris to be ruined, so when it is discovered that Mikey and Dana cannot make their flight to Turkey for lack of documentation, he makes them take the train from Geneva to Paris and back to pick up the passport.
  • Valerie (Val):  This woman is a starving “playwright” in New York, who, although she has been invited to spend the week celebrating Mikey’s birthday, is desperately trying to make plans to go to Bilbao or Paris for a few days to see other friends.  However, not only does Val not have the money to go anywhere but she cannot grasp that, although smaller than North America, Europe is an entire continent and you can’t always  just hop a train and get to another city in 90 minutes for 5€.  In addition, Val has come to France after losing a substantial amount of weight (which I applaud), but GOD DAMMIT she is going to stick to her low-carb/no-carb diet even if it means insulting every waiter and restauranteur in France, eating nothing but salad in a country well-known for its cuisine.  Even more exciting, this is a woman who will drink nothing but a White Russian (very diet, non?), and it doesn’t matter how many times she is told by waiters around the country that they can’t make one or don’t know what one is, she is going to demand them anyway and then get hostile when she can’t get one.  She is also going to demand that I translate her personal recipe for a White Russian into French for the edification of the waiter.  Finally, Val’s preferred look for our excursions is a t-shirt emblazoned with a giant picture of Oprah Winfrey or the letters “OMG” across her tits IN SILVER SEQUINS, matched perfectly with rolled up, cut-off jeans and sandals.  And finally-finally, she is always looking for someone from whom she can score some weed.  It probably goes without saying, but she could be a little crazy.  Not certain.
  • Carlita:  After openly and loudly criticizing several of the gay men on the trip for knowingly and intentionally deceiving the women they were in relationships with early in life and before they came out, Carlita drops a bombshell:  At 40, she has finally found a husband.  Who is in his 20s.  And doesn’t speak a lick of English.  And was a friend of a friend’s sister’s son.  And who doesn’t even live IN THE UNITED STATES, but who is going to re-locate to be with her “soon.”  Can you say “Green Card?”  Sure you can!  Obviously, this woman is an expert on relationships, let alone deception.
  • Karl:  Karl is a photographer, mother fuckers, and he doesn’t have the time or the patience for sight-seeing, tours, or learning about French history or culture let alone any of the subjects of his photography.  Karl IS HIS ART, and he is so good at it that he doesn’t have to bother with the type of depth that comes with understanding or knowledge.  When Karl isn’t slaving away for his art, Karl is applying salves and lotions and potions to his body, which he gets from the salon that he and his partner own and run in New Jersey somewhere.  And when Karl gets a facial from the esthetician who comes to the chateau, he apparently does it NAKED.  No, I am not shitting you.
  • Dana:  Dana gets very angry when she hasn’t eaten.  Tonight, she is fed up with you mis-pronouncing her name, and she is going to call you out at the communal dinner table while waiting for our meal to be served.  Her name, you stupid slob, is Dana and it is pronounced “Dan-na” as if it had two Ns, not “Day-na” as if it had just one.  Wait.  It does only have just one N in it, you bitch, and I don’t give a shit that your father’s name was Dan or that he was obviously illiterate.  I digress.  Anyway, she is a former Christian fundamentalist who traveled extensively in order to force her brand of religion down other people’s throats.  She is, however, by far the easiest person in the group with whom to travel.
  • Ben:  Ben is a well-preserved man of a certain age, who has had the same boring but high-paying job for 25 years, advising a mega-corporation that was partly responsible for the economic crisis that we are currently experiencing.   He lives in New York City and is about as warm and fuzzy as an ice cube.  When greeted by another guest on the trip with a hug, he responded quite sourly, “Oh, you’re a hugger, aren’t you?”  As a result, I highly doubt that Ben has ever had a long-term boyfriend.  Despite his aversion to human contact, however, Ben is exceptionally gifted at one thing in particular, which I will leave to your imagination.  (Or so I have heard.  😉 )  Ben also puts the freak in “control-freak.”  He has to have his own map in the car, which you cannot borrow despite being quite lost trying to navigate a mini-van crammed with people out of the second largest city in France, and he has to question every right turn.  He gets to order the wine, even if he can’t understand the menu or his choice does not really go with the food that was ordered.  He gets to decide when the waiter will take our drink or our food order, and he is the arbiter of whether the service is good (which it never is) and whether the meal took too long (which it always does).  He is a waiter’s worst nightmare.  Dear Ben:  if you want fast-fucking-food, either stay home or eat at a sandwicherie or any one of the MacDonald’s or Subways that have popped up all over France.  Apparently you haven’t heard, but dining at a restaurant in France is an event, complete with several courses, lots of wine, a digestif, interesting conversation, and maybe even a post-meal cigarette.   
  • Olivia:  Olivia is book smart.  She has an undergraduate and graduate degree from Ivy League schools.  In her personal life, however, she admits to being retarded.  She was married to a man for 10 years that, according to her, she “hated even before she married,” and then had 3 children with him.  Olivia has never met a period of silence that she did not immediately cram-pack with words.  After traveling with her, I have a hunch that, even at home in the States and despite speaking a few languages, she greets each new person with the following four words:  “Do you speak ENGLISH?”  She is also Mikey’s kindred-spirit when it comes to being late to everything.

These were not the only people on the trip, just the most noteworthy.  Now, imagine, if you will, being a person who would like very much to blend in but, as the only French speaker, is constantly forced into the very untenable position of trying to translate, explain, apologize, and in general navigate this band of fools through parts of France and Switzerland for 9 days.  So as not to sound ungrateful, I did enjoy my travels.  But, for the record, I will not go on a group tour of any sort for the next 30 to perhaps 1,000 years, and I will have to have complete control over the selection of the people in the group.

And a taser, just in case someone acts like an ugly fucking American.

*Translation:  I speak French.  In fact, I studied it for 10 years, and I even earned a degree in it after spending several months living in Belgium with a host family.

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Cheval en France

C’est vrai.  I am on a plane somewhere over western Illinois, on my way to ze France to drink ze wine and celebrate various and sundry quarantieme birthdays.  Please do not do anything to annoy me whilst I am away.  If ze French cause me to need to rant (and it is highly likely ze stinky Frenchmen will), je vous promets that I will keep you posted continuously. 

If you don’t hear from me, it’s because I am in the middle of a menage-a-trois!

Grosses Bises!

HK

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