Monday, August 24, 2009

Mad Woman

I occasionally display compulsive behavior. On Friday I met my homie at Barnes & Noble for some gossip time. We browsed around the store and I picked up the Season 1 Blu-Ray of the television show Mad Men. This was compulsive because I had not seen any of the show at all, nor do I really know anyone who watches it. I had simply heard that it was stylish and engrossing. The Blu-Ray was on sale for cheap, so I picked it up and brought it home.

I'm obsessed. I've already ordered Season 2 and I'm only about halfway through Season 1.

Also, I'm in love with Scottish band The Fratellis. I've played "Costello Music" on a loop in my truck for a week now and I can't get enough.

Sadly, these obsessions indicate that I'm about two years behind on my pop culture.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Time wasted

No earth shattering news to report this week (thank goodness). However, I have wasted plenty of time. Thus in keeping with my blog name, here are some of the things that I have wasted time doing in the past couple of weeks.

I didn't go to Romania! Hurray!

I watched a documentary about John Huston to begin my homework. I'm teaching a class on Huston in less than a month and I haven't seen many of his films. I think I'm boned. I had better memorize his wikipedia page.

I saw (500) Days of Summer and I quite enjoyed it. Before the film they showed a preview for Drew Barrymore's Whip It. Though I'm too much of a puss to play roller derby, I think it's awesome and I'm surprisingly excited about this movie (which is probably a bit lame).

I bought a dress to wear for the Dragon Con. No costumes for me, I'm too lazy for something like that. However, I would like to look my best if I get to meet Terry Gilliam. I wasted hours online searching for a decent dress before finally settling on a vintage 50s party dress with black, orange and yellow stripes.

I finally, finally started reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road. It's a delightful, spirited romp about the bond between a father and son. No, of course it isn't, this is Cormac McCarthy, silly! It's a relentlessly bleak tale about human survival after apocalypse. It's a damn good book.

Watched the movie If.... , featuring Malcolm McDowell in his first starring role. I knew nothing about it, my boss lent it to me (he wants me to get it signed for him if possible). The movie is wild, surreal and punk as F^Ck. I had no idea what to expect, but it was crazy.

I went to Richmond to see my sister and it was a good visit. This was not a waste of time.

Actually, most of these things were not complete wastes of time. Never mind.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Response to my rant

I fully expected never to hear from Tours of Terror again after sending my e-mail (see previous post). However, a little less than a week later I received an e-mail. Tours of Terror forwarded my e-mail along to our douchey tour guide. He wrote them back. It's excellent. The guy is a complete turd who had no clue about my job and claims that I asked him to stay away from the group (simply not true, though I wished to God that I could have stayed away) and then goes on to explain away some of the points I made without actually explaining anything at all. This is his most excellent, awesome e-mail that should give you all an idea of the shit I had to listen to for a week straight. Please note that I copied the e-mail directly, I made no changes whatsoever to misspellings and grammar. I did remove some names.

Thanks for your email. I so appreciate you taking the time to write.
I wish I was on the tour to play games on the long coach trips, and to help make the time go by faster.

I forwarded your comments to XXXX (tour guide), and he responded:

U know that the trip is allways in he Gothic type...so if we want to do the program we have to be in a rush...
So eating at the gasoline stands is a must.
Also u know the problem with the arranged meals on the route that we had last tour ..I tried to avoid any prerecommended restaurants..
Now regarding with Maria and her husband ..
I spoke with them a lot ..They live in Virginia she work for the cultural department of a city hall..so in way a little bit away from the usual type of a Dractour client ..but they are a very nice and pleasant couple
Also they told me that they never travel with groups because they dont like to stay together with other( a lot of people) so they asked me from the beginning to stay away from the group this is the reason why they stayed away and not because they have been rejected by me or by the other.
I dont care who knows and who doesn't know about the book.
In the last day they ave to travel 8 hours to arrive in Sibiu...so the only think they can do is Biertan fortress...we just visited the spot and not eated there.
Regarding the arrested ..I take it like a joke...the bus couldn't stop in the front of hotel so I argued with a civil guardian to free my way from the cars witch were park illegal instead of car ring the bag 400 ft...but for the spice of the trip it should be nice next time to arrange a pseudo one for me or for Fane.
I will call u from skype during the day...

If you'd like to discuss further, please call or write. Thanks again.

This was the big response for my nightmare vacation. Our tour guide got into a screaming match with a police officer and was dragged by the arm down the street and into the hotel where he was surrounded by about 5 more police officers. They were all yelling and screaming. All of the tour group waited outside as we freaked that our guide would be arrested and we would be stuck in some foreign city. Finally the issue was resolved. Later the guide confessed to calling the police officer stupid and illiterate. Even if the cop was indeed stupid and illiterate, it's probably not the best idea to scream that to his face. So the tour guide thinks it was a joke. The tour group didn't find it terribly funny, though. That was the response from Tours of Terror.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Insert expletive here

I was just made aware of a book entitled The Dead Travel Fast by Eric Nuzum. This book details the author's own harrowing experience on the very same damn Dracula Tour that I went on. Tours of Terror made the claim that they have never had a bad report about this tour. Maybe they were exaggerating a bit.

I wish so very much that I had known about this book before I plunked down big money for the Dracula Tour. Dammit.

Post Romania

So perhaps you read my previous post regarding my "vacation" to Romania. Upon my return I was exhausted, irritable and very, very happy to be home. About a week and a half after we returned, I finally received a follow up e-mail from the tour company. It was both funny and shocking at the same time. The company seemed to be somewhat misinformed about our trip, so that was funny. The follow-up also included the names and personal e-mail addresses of each of the tour group members, including myself. This list of personal e-mails was sent to the whole tour group without my prior consent of releasing any personal e-mails. Boy, oh boy, was I not pleased. Below is the follow up e-mail from the tour group (please note that I have deleted passages in which they promoted upcoming tours and also removed some names):

Dear Fiendish Friends & Transylvania Travelers,
Fang you for being part of our Summer Haunted Vampire Vacation to Transylvania. Although I didn't go this one personally, I've been in touch with Radu and he's filled me in on how great it was. Thanks from him and the driver.
Now we would love it if you shared your feelings about the trip with us: What were the highlights? What did you love the most? What wasn't so great? More importantly, we'd love it if you shared your photos with us! We are looking forward to getting XXXX's tour report to put online, but we really need everyone's pictures to add to our website.
On behalf of Radu (and the fearless coach driver), my business partner XXXX (who was jealous he didn't go when he heard how nice and normal and well-behaved this group was), and XXXX in our dungeon (oops, we mean our office), allow me to thank you all for being such a pleasure to work with. We wish every tour group of people were as nice and friendly and fun and weird and as intoxicating (and as intoxicated?) as this one.

Cheers & Chills & Thrills & Beast Witches,

Here is the email roster of our "SUMMER DRACULA TOUR 2009" gang of guys & gals & ghouls:
{Insert list of names and e-mails here}

I was very quick with my response. I had a response typed and sent within hours. Here is my response:

Dear Tours of Terror,
Thank you for the follow up. Here is my honest opinion of the tour:
I was not prepared for the amount of time spent traveling on the tour bus. The trip was anything but relaxing, having to get up early each day and be on a bus for hours on end. We ate most lunches at gas stations and then ate dinner very late at night, as late as 11 pm one evening. We were not given a lot of time to explore on our own, and it was anything but restful. And as for well-behaved, I would beg to differ slightly. We were awakened on a couple of different nights by our drunken American cohorts banging on hotel room doors and carrying on conversations in the hallways, etc.

Radu was extremely knowledgeable, though he managed to sidestep a lot of the history of Vlad Tepes as well as the history of the novel. Though I had read a good deal about Vlad Tepes and Bram Stoker, my husband had not. We were both disappointed because we were treated as though we were supposed to already know about Vlad the Impaler and were supposed to be extremely familiar with the book. When we asked questions about various cities we stopped in and sites we saw, we were treated with a somewhat condescending attitude and were ridiculed.

Don't get me wrong, some of the trip was absolutely delightful. However, one day we spent over 8 hrs on a tour bus and stopped briefly to see a random church. We did no other sightseeing this day and nothing related to Dracula at all save for the fact that we were in Romania. Then later that day Radu almost got arrested. Have you heard that story yet?

Thank you for the update on the travelers that were not able to join us. I wish you success in future tours, though I don't think that I will ever join another group tour for as long as I live. I believe many of the other travelers enjoyed themselves greatly, though I found out the hard way that I am not suited to this particular mode of travel. I hate to be rude, but I am not pleased that my e-mail was shared. I do not recall agreeing to have my e-mail shared with the group. Yes, some of the folks we met were lovely people and I gave them my e-mail. However, there were others that I hope never to see or hear from ever again.

Thank you for the extraordinary opportunity. I have stories that are unbelievable and the pictures to prove it. I have an interesting cautionary tale that I will be able to share with my friends and family for the rest of my life. Nevertheless, I have never been so happy to have a vacation end and I am now in desperate need of another vacation.

Next I will post the amazing and bizarre response from the tour guide. It's awesome.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why my trip to Romania blew

I can think of so, so many reasons why my trip to Romania blew hard and why no one should follow in my footsteps and take a group tour there. So I have decided to type out as many reasons as I can think of. This list will grow as I think of things.

1. The hotel was an hour and a half bus ride away from the airport. When you have been traveling for almost 24 hrs, this bus ride is just horrid.
2. You have no control over your fellow tour members. They may just be awful (we had a few horrible ones in our group).
3. There must be some trick to the hotel showers cause ours kept flooding the bathroom floor...this occurred in a few different hotels.
4. Most mornings our wake up calls were between 7:30 am and 8:30 am. It is not a relaxing vacation when you have to be up at 7:30 am so you can hurry up and get on a bus.
5. Once you are awake, you must hurry so you can shower and eat breakfast at the hotel. It is pertinent that you eat breakfast at the hotel as you never know where your next meal will be coming from or when you will be able to eat again.
6. The tour bus will take you on journeys through the countryside. This sounds nice but these bus rides last for endless hours. One day we were on the bus for over 8 hrs total.
7. Our tour guide really, really enjoyed the sound of his own voice. Though knowledgeable, he was quite pompous about it and often quite patronizing.
8. Most of Romania is just like Borat's version of Kazakhstan. No, I'm not making a joke.
9. Did I mention the fellow tour members? There is a reason that Americans have a bad reputation as loud, obnoxious and xenophobic. Chances are, you'll be travelling with these sorts of people on your group tour.
10. When we finally got to eat lunch, often we were deposited unceremoniously at gas stations and told to grab something to eat on the bus.
11. Oh, the "Dracula Tour" left out a lot of that boring vampire stuff. We were promised vampires, Twilight, True Blood, etc. and not much of this was even mentioned. We got one cool themed hotel and one themed restaurant. No other attractions were vampire related.
12. The rest of the tour was occasionally related to Vlad the Impaler. We were expected to know a great deal of his history already. If you were not terribly familiar with Vlad Tepes, you were pretty much screwed. Basic questions were scoffed at.
13. In one town, they had a few museums. Not really museums, just a couple of rooms with some historical artifacts. In one room, there were some weapons. Instead of talking about the artifacts, the tour guide talked for a good 20 minutes about the Vikings invading Russia. I pretended to be claustrophobic and left because I was so utterly bored.
14. In Romania, they love raw bacon. They served it at a few different restaurants. This may not necessarily be a drawback to all, but probably to some.
15. If you are a vegetarian, be warned: it is assumed that pretty much all you eat is cheese. I was served appetizers of cheese followed by entrees consisting solely of cheese. It was not really an identifiable cheese. I think it was a cousin to feta cheese, perhaps, but I'm not sure.
16. Did I mention the fellow travelers? Well, they also take endless pictures of everything in sight. We had a pair that took pictures of the bus, getting off and on the bus, the gas stations, the gas station attendants, the bathrooms, etc. They also composed still life pictures of the things that they bought at gas stations and around town. They stopped tours in order for other tour members to take photos of them doing things like disembarking from the bus. They also really liked group photos, which I abhor. I don't want photographic evidence that I spent time with some of these folks. Many probably thought that I was a snotty bitch, and you can probably understand why. I didn't mind that people didn't care for me, this meant that the ones that I didn't care for stayed away from me and didn't try to talk to the bitchy girl.
17. Shopping was lame. It was mostly like a big dollar store. Everything was made in China, handmade goods were almost impossible to come by.
18. Oh, the fellow travelers! They will get impossibly drunk and bang on adjacent hotel room doors at 3 am. They will hold loud conversations in the hallway. They might even have loud drunken fights in the room next to you. They might also have loud drunken sex in the room next door. It's all wonderfully fun and relaxing at 3 am.
19. Back to the meal thing: you never know when you will eat dinner each night and you have no control over this. Remember to stock up on snacks at the gas station as you may be eating your dinner as late as 9, 10, or even 11pm at night.
20. At the themed restaurant, you get to meet an aging actor playing Dracula. He may not bite you, but he just might drool on you. Dirty old goat.

That's quite enough for now. I may add to this list if I have the time and wherewithal. Next I will post the follow-up e-mail that I received from Tours of Terror following the ordeal.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A wasted life

I spent about 6 years of my life wasted, then had a life-changing experience and now I've spent 6 years and 9 months sober. 6 years and 9 months seems like a long time, but it often feels like 6 weeks, or even 6 days. I find that sometimes I feel like I've got this thing beat, but mostly it just beats me and breaks my spirit and makes me feel like I cannot be a part of anything real anymore.

Gogol Bordello played Friday night. The band was as raucous as ever - the concert was more wild and dangerous than any metal show I've ever attended. The air stank of sweat, but mostly it reeked of beer. I wanted that so badly- on my left, a bar, behind me the exit door. Someone actually threw a beer cup at Matt and it was making me lose my mind. I stayed for as long as I could, and I bailed fast when I couldn't take it anymore.

This is a damnable thing, it is. Because of this I missed seeing one of my dear friends and I feel terrible. Plus, I cried most of the way home and probably made my poor husband feel like crap, too.

I miss looking forward to weekends for excitement and relaxation and I miss proper parties. At this point, I don't think that sobriety is ever going to get any easier. It's always going to be day by day, and often minute to minute. I shouldn't be posting this, it's far more personal than I usually like to get on this blog. However, sometimes a confessional is somewhat healing, even if it's just me feeling a bit sorry for myself and having a semi-public pity party.

I promise that either later today or tomorrow I will begin posting about Romania, particularly the aftermath of the experience.