The return

Sep. 22nd, 2005 07:30 pm
aparrish: (Default)
Tallinn turned out to be my least favorite city on the itinerary, owing to its reluctance to give up any signs of actual existence. The Old Town was empty of habitation except by tourists - stag parties, large groups of elderly folks being led around by a tour guide, younger folks trying to pass off their dodgy passports in order to buy beer - and places that might attract these tourists. A German beer hall. A Depeche Mode-themed bar. A marzipan museum. The density of souvenir shops nearly reached Chinatown levels.

We made it out of the Old Town for an afternoon, strolling out to Kadriorg park where no fewer than four recently married couples waited for their turn to pose in front of the palace there, which resembles a pink plastic Barbie dream house. On the way back to the hostel, we saw the same musical group that had perplexed us in Vilnius - three or four men, dressed up in full stereotypical Sioux costume (feather headdress, mocassins, war paint), playing pan pipes over taped, diluted new age music. They attracted a lot of attention - apparently the Wild West is in vogue in the Baltics - but not a lot of revenue, as far as I could tell.

Our Esperantist hosts in Riga were more welcoming than we could have imagined. They fed us ceaselessly, to the point where I was sure they were fattening us up in order to eat us, and kindly drove us into town. A young Russian man approached Josh and asked him if he'd like to buy a greeting card, the proceeds of which, he was assured, would go toward the promotion of morality. Josh pretended not to speak English. I was making a recording of some kind of wind-driven sculpture at the time. (I have a lot of recordings from this trip, which I hope to share with everyone soon.)

If a trip to the Baltic states is in the cards for you, I highly recommend visiting the various Occupation museums - there's one in both Tallinn and Riga. We visited both. The museums helped me understand what the Cold War period was like for people living on the other side - a story that wasn't really available to folks from the U.S. until very recently. I had no idea that the deportations to Siberia were so extensive, that the press and the local languages were so censored. Some of the exhibitions in the museums had press clippings from the New York Times next to them, which professed vague knowledge of whatever important event had just happened but were helpless to give any details, since that it was so difficult to get any information in or out of these countries. Now, of course, what a change - you can't spit in Estonia, for example, without hitting a wireless access point or Internet cafe.

The journey back to New York was exhausting. A flight from Riga to Stansted; a bus from Stansted to Heathrow (which cost circa $40, nearly more than all the money I spent on bus travel in the Baltics put together); an eleven-hour wait in Heathrow (made easier by the presence of music and book stores in Heathrow's mall-like terminal); a flight from Heathrow to JFK (which I mostly slept through); a subway ride from JFK to my apartment (which are about as far away as two locations can get and still be on the A line). The immigration officer said "Welcome home" as he checked my passport, and that was comforting. I'm glad to be home.

Top five favorite places that I visited on the trip.

1. Tahkuna Peninsula, Hiiumaa, Estonia
2. Vilnius Old Town, Lithuania
3. Cathedral Hill, Tartu, Estonia
4. The Baltic Sea off of the Curonian Spit, Lithuania
5. Upe Record Store, Riga

Top five places that sucked on this trip.

1. The Tallinn Bus Station. This is the worst bus station I've ever been to. The food choices consisted of weird pink stuff on toast, coffee, hot dogs, and kiosk junk food. An old woman wandered around the place aimlessly dragging a broom behind her. It cost 4 EEK to use the filthy bathroom. Dear whoever is in charge of Tallinn: Your bus station is truly terrible. Sincerely yours and concerned, Adam.
2. Wherever it is that I lost my debit card.
3. There was this bathroom in one of the places that we stayed, and I feel bad about complaining, because our host was very nice, but it was a pretty disgusting bathroom. More disgusting even than the guy who didn't have running water in his house.
4. Hausma Hostel in Kärdla. Don't go to this hostel! You will feel threatened by the dead in the middle of the night and the people who work there will be mean to you, and also the water tastes like rust.
5. The filthy bathrooms at JFK. All public facilities in the Baltics are next to immaculate - coming home to such second-rate hygiene didn't exactly make me proud to be an American.
aparrish: (Default)
A few days ago I took some photos of these inadvertent works of abstract expressionism in the 190th St. subway station. (I hope you can see them. I haven't really figured out how to use flickr.)

These rectangular spaces are usually pasted over with ad sales or subway maps, but I guess selling ads that far uptown is tough - for months now the spaces have been vacant. Or almost vacant, I should say - when the last round of ads was torn down, they left behind the strata of ads past, along with layers of paint and dried adhesive. I think it looks kind of neat. So there you are.

(I'm sorry the photos are kind of crappy - I should have used the flash, I guess? I don't know.)
aparrish: (Default)
Although a glance at this livejournal would indicate otherwise, July was actually an action-packed month for me. For your convenience and mine, I present a retelling of this eventful month in the much beloved, time-tested trope of magazine writers 'round the world: the list of faux statistics!

Games

3,328,856 was my final score in my first NetHack ascension (Päike the neutral human Wizard ascended to demi-goddesshood)

2 turns into my next game (as an orcish Rogue), I died ("A trap door in the ceiling opens and a rock falls on your head! An arrow shoots out at you! You are hit by an arrow! You die ...")

Literature

3: The number of books I read in July

4 ... if you consider that I read Everything Is Illuminated two times, back to back

5: The volume of Harry Potter which seems to have been, inexplicably and hopelessly, replaced with Lemony Snicket's Harry Potter fanfic (how else to explain why everything goes wrong for everyone in this damn book)

6: The volume of Harry Potter that everyone on the subway thinks I'm reading ("Actually, I'm still on five ... I've heard six is pretty good, though")

A dose of Mormon history

650 costumed cast members participated in the Hill Cumorah Pageant ("the world's largest outdoor pageant") in Palmyra, NY

5 members of my immediate family, including myself, were in attendance (my older brother somehow weaseled his way out of it)

0 people were anywhere near the Pageant's "Información en Español" booth, as far as I could tell

9 "protesters" stood at the entrance to the pageant, most of whom were bent on telling the Mormons that they're hell-bound cult members

267 miles separate Palmyra, NY from Kirtland, OH, our eventual destination

5,830 cubic meters of water pass every second over Niagara Falls, which we visited along the way

11.50 dollars is the amount we paid, per person, to board the Maid of the Mist, thereby getting a sizeable amount of that water on ourselves

7,432 is the measure (in MTUs, or metric tacky units) of how tacky the Maid of the Mist gift shop is (Maid of the Mist hockey sticks? Yes. Maid of the Mist boxer shorts? Of course.)

0 gift shops were to be found at the Sacred Grove (though both my little sisters expected one)

1 gift shop, however, sits in a small building next to the Kirtland Temple, which is owned and operated not by the LDS church but by the Community of Christ (formerly the Re-organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)

6 total hours were spent sitting in airplanes waiting to take off, if you include both the flight to Rochester and the flight back to JFK

My job

3 developers in my department have been thinking about polishing their resumes, due to the fact that ...

2 new managers had been put into place while I was on vacation, as ...

1 of my old managers had gotten the axe

My family in NYC

0: number of times that my dad has liked eggplant, before having eaten a dinner prepared by S's mom (a good impression was thereby made)

1 is the subway line that I took the most frequently while showing my family around New York City

2 (i.e. both) of my sisters enjoyed the Chinatown Ice Cream factory, and

3 is the Serendipity that we visited for my mom's birthday (and, incidentally, the number of hours we had to wait for a table)

Music and product placement

5 bands that I have learned to love in July (the Fall, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Teenage Fanclub, Suicide, Mojave 3) thanks to a paltry ...

40 downloads a month at emusic.com

March 2016

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