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Monday, March 14, 2005

Perspective and perspectives from Vienna

Lufthansas' planes don't have little TV screens in the seatbacks. I didn't mind so much. The movie was "Finding Neverland" and, though I didn't know it at the time, I'd have a startling dream starring Johnny Depp in a few days. So, I drifted in and out of sleep. I was one of the lucky ones on this trip, I'd eventually find. Between bad weather and a Paris air controllers strike, some of the people trying to make the same trip were stuck in various international airports with no hope of making to Vienna in time for the poker tournament.

Landing in Frankfurt, Germany, I privately laid 3:1 odds against my luggage arriving in Vienna. I think my handicapping was a little generous. I should've known by this time that my bags don't like Europe and ony come when they are duped into thinking they are going to Vegas...or even Boise.

As the cab driver wound through the streets of this old city (where I still sit waiting for a flight to Zurich that will eventually take me to Nice for a helicopter ride to Monte Carlo), I stared out at the falling snow and realized that while it has snowed in my hometown this winter, I've only seen the falling white in foreign countries this year. The thought made me a little homseick.

My bags would eventually arrive and I'd spend another several days in a foreign cardroom watching angry and elated poker players playing for a lot more cah than I made last year. Unlike other trips, I was pleased to see a lot of familiar faces. John, a friend from home, was in the country on business and joined me for a night of fun. I also saw a number people I've seen on other trips. One in particular was a dealer who always greets me in the same way. Though I hadn't seen her in two months, she didn't disappoint. The first words out of her mouth were, in fact, "How's your ass?" She had been witness to a particularly low point in my life in which in an unbelievably inebriated state, I climbed a large fake rock and promptly fell off. Apparently, she tells the story all over Europe. She was kind enough to stand and talk with me for a while which made the city feel a lot less lonely.

I feel as though I'd be doing all my readers a disservice if I didn't mention one of the most obvious things about this city. To the more worldly, it likely seems no big deal. I'll let you be the judge.

I set up my workstation in the tournament area against a locked door. As I started to work I couldn't help but notice the sound of female voices through the door. Later in the night, I heard lots of music and more voices. Later, I went outside and took a look at the adjoining building. It all made sense when I looked at the sign on the giant building. Even a midwestern boy like myself knows that a sauna in a building that big is not, in fact, one giant steam bath.

Later, a European player who tends to chat me up a bit suggested that I looked worn out.

"Lotta long nights," I said.

"You should go next door," he suggested with an elbow in my ribs. Apparently, he was speaking from experience.

I patted him on the back and didn't say out loud what I was thinking. "Number one...I need to stay married. Number two...coming home with the crabs would be a very bad idea."

It's hard to sum up these weeks in Europe. Most of the interesting stories involve poker, a subject about which only a few of my readers here care (I think). However, there are a few things I can offer future European travelers...just so you know.

1) European computer keyboards are incredibly hard to use. I've typed this entire post on one and I'm about to lose my mind. For instance, the "y" and "z" are switched. The @ symbol is on the "q" button. The apostrophe is where it normally is, but requires hitting shift. If you miss the shift button, you end up with a #. The the quoatino marks are above the 2. And that's just a few things. I'm still not sure what to do with the € or $ or ß or ä or µ symbols. Oh, and I still can't find the backslash.

2) I spent the first couple days here thinking everyone was calling me Peter. I'm still not entirely sure what they were saying. My best guess is that I was misunderstanding the German word for "please" which is "bitte." I may be wrong.

3) Bring a book because CNN International is about the only thing you'll find on TV in English.

4)I've not been in a European hotel yet that has an iron in it.

5) Every hotel I've been in has had fantastic pillows.

6) I could get used to the Euro (€). No bill smaller than a five, with 1 and 2 € coins. I find it much better than the Danish Kroner (although I really did like the Kroner with the hole in it)

7) Goulash gets old after a few days.

8) When you order toast in Vienna, they give you a dish of ketchup with it.

9) European drunks are just as annoying as American drunks.

10) Major airports in Europe really need to reconsider the material they use for their waiting chairs. Waiting in a metal seat for three hours is about as uncomfortable as it gets.

11) I still haven't gotten used to the time zone switch. I won't bore you with when I'm sleeping, but it just ain't right.

When I was trying to go to sleep this morning, I listened to a continuous loop of programming on CNN International. In a story about the Pope, I learned that Easter is a week from today (er...yesterday).

I've never been much of a religous person in the traditional sense and the Easter holiday has never meant much to me on a spirtual level. Still, I have very fond memories of Easter from my childhood. For many years it meant a great meal at my grandma's house, followed by an Easter egg hunt. Unlike a lot of the hunts I saw in my later years, my childhood searches involved a search for a real, personal, decorated, hard-boiled egg. Sure, we'd get candy-filled eggs, too, but the real find was finding your own egg with your name on it.

So, I got a little sad when I realized that I won't be with my kid on Easter. Sure, he won't know the damned difference. Still, it made me a little homesick.

Around five in the morning, I logged on to the Net and chatted with some friends in America. As I sat bitching about how I wanted to be home, one of them offered me a bit of perspective. She lost a good portion of one of her breasts during an unexpected surgery last week.

So, again, my life ain't so bad.

It's now a little after eight in the morning here in Vienna. I still have to kill a couple hours before I head to the airport.

Eventually, I figure, I'll get my head wrapped around this trip and the ones before it in a way that might make for some interesting reading. For now, though, I'll leave you with this drivel.

Next stop: Monte Carlo. Then home for a blissful two months. If I'm lucky.

1 Comments:

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3:28 PM  

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