Click to enlarge.
It was like a fantasy: The carols playing, the giant Christmas tree, children on Santa's knee. One last sweep of South Coast Plaza mall and I'd fulfill my shopping duties for 2011. "Such a beautiful dress in this store window." I remembered having a crush on a mannequin just like that one when I was four years old. "Look at the interesting display in that one. I should take a picture of it," I thought to myself. "No. Never mind."
"Oh, look! They're serving champagne in that store! They have waiters. What's it called? Oh, it's called Assouline. Hmm. And it's a book store. I'm probably pronouncing it wrong."
Ah, French. So impossible for me to understand. So easy to mispronounce. Should I learn to speak French? No. Why? No practical reason, I suppose.
I have an American friend who speaks French. He moved to Paris with his wife. They got mugged on Christmas Eve. They'd seen a concert and were walking home when a small crowd of rowdy, bratty French teenagers came along. One grabbed his satchel. My friend tried to fight him off but failed. My friend's wife swore in English at the brats. She swore that she'd kick their asses if she got ahold of 'em.
My friend picked himself up off the ground. He'd lost his balance in the tussle. The brat ran toward the darkness with the satchel while my friend squinted, huffing and puffing, thinking dirty thoughts.
From the other direction, a whining, grinding sound swelled up from a dim alley. It was a Samaritan. The Samaritan was driving a Vespa. He'd seen what had happened, and like Batman to the rescue, he vowed to right the wrong done to my friend and his satchel.
The Vespa roared like only a Vespa can roar, thinly adolescent, yet insistently toward the thief. Four seconds later, the French brat was on the ground, tire tracks drawn up his back like a skunk's stripe, his face mashed into the sidewalk.
"Merci," my friend told the Samaritan as he took back his dusty satchel. "Joyeux Noël," he said.
The Samaritan responded in French. "You're not from around here, are you?"
Click to enlarge hand puppet.
I'm kind of lazy, so when I decided to rob that bank, I only disguised my hand.
Actually, what happened was that I baked something in a pan in the oven last night, took the pan out and removed the food, then a few minutes later decided to use the pan for something else.
The salad was ready. The potato was in the microwave. I had just opened a beer.
It didn't occur to me that the pan was still about 300 degrees Fahrenheit (down from 450) when I grabbed the stainless steel handle with my bare hand. At the emergency room they said, "I'll bet that really hurts."
A store window display in Rome. Click to enlarge.
The answer is, "You dream in English."
When you think about it, you can't sing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" in Italian, can you? (Look at the picture.) The song won't rhyme.
The creator of this store window display in Rome agrees. He/she knows that you don't mess with tried and true slogans and lines from Christmas songs. (Try singing, "Here Comes Suzy Snowflake" in Italian.)
They have a different approach in Asia, though, where anything goes. Look at a couple of examples of Christmas sloganry on www.engrish.com. example A - example B
Front of theater: Click to enlarge.
So why tear down a perfectly functional building when you decide that you don't want to use it as a movie theater any more?
Obviously, there's no reason to. Someone in charge in the Croatian town of Pula decided that they needed more parking spaces. Where better than in the movie theater?
Until 1990, it was called the Beograd Theater, then it was called the Pula Theater, then it was called the Sayam book store. Now you park cars in it.
Balcony of theater: Click to enlarge.
When my brother showed it to us, I asked him if people could sit in their cars and watched movies, just like in the good old days. (It was a funny thought as far as I was concerned.)
He looked at me quizzically and said, "No. It's a parking garage. They park cars here."
I said, "No... but wouldn't it be funny?"
"They park cars here now," he said.
He had a point. Besides, all the cars were pointed sideways which makes for a bad movie experience. (But still, don't you think it would be funny if they still watched movies there?)
An afterthought: I think there should always be a movie playing there... 24 hours a day. Maybe Easy Rider.
Japan's 1930s war tubas. Click image to enlarge.
_I've been mesmerized lately by a peculiar phenomenon that's been plaguing Los Angeles: Tuba thefts.
For what? Steal 'em for spare parts like a Cadillac Escalade? Hold 'em for ransom? Maybe even make music on 'em?
It appears that something called "banda," a type of polka-style brass band music from Mexico might have something to do with it.
Look at an example of banda music on YouTube.
According to a Los Angeles Times article, an abnormal amount of these sometimes mind-numbingly expensive instruments (worth as much as $5000 each) have been the removed from local schools during after-hours breakins.
Stolen by whom? Aspiring banda bandits, one might assume. I can imagine, if this theft trend continues, that in a matter of months one could assume that if he saw two banda groups in a given period of time, one of them would be serenading you with a stolen Los Angeles School District tuba.
But why would someone want to be in a banda group in the first place?
To pick up chicks, of course. What draws women like a tuba? (I once saw a didgeridoo player fail to pick up two girls on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. He failed because he wasn't playing a tuba.)
Curiously... on the other side of the world, a similar brass music phenomenon (minus the tuba thefts) has been sighted. It's in a town called Gucha in Serbia where, every year, the Gucha brass band festival and competition is held.
What's a Gucha band sound like? It sounds like a banda band. Click to listen.
(Hey, that tuba looks familiar.)
When we stopped at an Autogrill, a chain restaurant on the freeway between Trieste an Milan, this was written in the no parking zone. I'm not sure if helpy is some international code (For, oh I don't know, "emergency vehicle?") or if it's the name of the eighth Disney dwarf who happens to have VIP parking privileges at Autogrills worldwide, and who happens to be their honorary goodwill ambassador... a sort of Ronald McDonald. (No, the space next to it did not say Dopey.)
If you're feeling helpy today, let me know what you think.
Click to enlarge.
Deborah's nephew David, the architect, likes to travel light. Rather than carry a tripod and risk losing it or forgetting it in a restaurant, he carries three kids, kind of like Sherpas. In this case, at the Roman Coliseum, it's Alexander, his oldest son who's serving as bipod. To the right in the background is Kate, mother of Alexander, the bipod.
I noticed that everyone else who had kids at the coliseum started doing this too immediately afterwards. They must have sensed that we were trend setters.
My brother Mirko was having a little trouble with the camera I suppose. There's a spot in Pula, Croatia where people can sit - newlyweds, lovers, tourists - and take a picture in a giant picture frame that's strategically placed in the sight line of the Pula Coliseum in the background.
Sounds simple. The camera used for all the trip photos on this blog is an iPhone 4. Let's take a look.
Just to recap: This is supposed to be a blog about a trip to Italy, and then a trip to Croatia where I, for the first time, met face-to-face with my long lost half-brother.
People who'd seen the blog said it was amusing. One person said it was clever. After being encouraged by those comments, it seemed smart to let other people know about it too so that they might also be amused. So I sent out some emails.
About a hundred emails and a couple of days later, I was stunned to see that I'd sent out the wrong link. Why? I was hurrying to send it out before leaving for work and I left out a critical vowel in the web address.
What to do? Well, explaining where to insert the missing letter "e" somewhere in the 50-character-long address would probably be asking a lot of my potential readers. "I know!," (I exclaimed.) "How about I just fix it so they can go to www.antsinthesnow.com and click on the blog link?" All I have to do is take the DNS and the URL and the A-record and transfer the IP address to the new host and, voila! (Oh yeah, I don't know what half of that means.)
Well, the antsinthesnow part was a good idea, but in the process of testing the changes and experimenting with the proper numbers, I effectively erased my entire site. It didn't help that the changes in question take between 1 and 72 hours to take affect, depending on who you ask, so I wouldn't know for sure until then what the real damage was. It also doesn't help that the intended web host only has email tech support.
The solution in this case is not to default to panic mode. Rather - all the while swearing, cussing and self-flagellating - the solution is to step back and let the stew cook. So at about 6:45 tonight, I clicked on the address, and guess what? It was stew! (It didn't take quite 72 hours.)
Now I have to decide whether anything is actually better than before. (Do they have pills for people who constantly try to fix things that aren't actually broken.)
Sorry, this is not a capri. Just a random stock photo.
_At the freeway rest stop/restaurant in Italy on the way back to Milan:
(Lou speaks Italian to the lady behind the counter after eyeing a sandwich called a capri.)
Lou: Una capri per favore.
Lady (in English): Anything else?