Real Life On Hold - these are the adventures of California native Travis Emmel, as he takes time off from the rat race to travel and see the world.

Journal Entries

Ingesting Culture in Hemet

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sushi shells containing bacterial bullets have been loaded into my stomach chamber and now I sit and wait to see how this game of e.coli roulette plays out. My father and I have just returned from one of my most unique trips to a sushi restaurant and, while I don't expect Hemet to be a leader in world cuisine, there are certain criteria that I assume are met in such an establishment. First off, the place was a ghost town; at 8:00PM, we were the only customers in the eatery. Believe it or not, however, this didn't make me that nervous as this is Hemet and all of the seniors have already hit the early bird specials, driven their enormous cars into various buildings around town, caught the 6:00PM news and been asleep for an hour by that time. What did make me a little nervous was my ensuing conversations with the "sushi chef" or, more appropriately, the man behind the sushi bar who held my intestinal fate in his hands.

"What's fresh today?"
"We got our order the other day, so there's nothing that's really fresh."
"Uh-huh."

I pretended to focus on the menu, but really I was offering up a little prayer to any benevolent deity that would listen.

"Could we please get an order of salmon nigiri?"
"What's nigiri?" responds the befuddled chef, whose resemblance is much more Karate Kid (replete with gi and bandana) than sushi master.
"Um, just an order of salmon sushi will be fine."

I let a few minutes pass before succumbing to my curiosity, "so, uh, how long have you been doing this?"
"Oh, about three or four months; I started off as a bus boy and the restaurant was short staffed so I started working behind the sushi bar." Isn't becoming a sushi chef something that people train 10 or more years for? Does a couple bottles of sake contain enough alcohol to kill bacteria?

I tried to take my attention off of the food for a moment and glanced over at the big screen TV in the corner. All things sushi immediately left my forethoughts as my eyes transfixed themselves on the couple fucking on screen. Evidently, the stand-up comedian who was being showcased on the TV when we walked in had been replaced by HBO's Real Sex 97 (or whatever number they're up to now). I don't know if I was more surprised that my dad and I were watching porn in a Japanese restaurant or that the people on the show were uncharacteristically attractive.

It was a lot to swallow in one evening.

Status Update

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Here's a short synopsis of what's been going on lately:

Got back from Europe in the middle of August and immediately left for
the annual Poker Group trip to Vegas a couple days later (review from
that trip forthcoming). Upon returning from that, I went up to San
Francisco with my parents to do a trip with them through the Redwoods
(entry half written).


Made a very quick trip down to San Diego and then took off for another
Vegas run for Kevin's bachelor party and left for Hawaii a couple days
later for the wedding (entry still in my head). Hawaii was amazing,
by the way! On the way back from Hawaii, I laid-over (lei'd over?) in
San Francisco for a few days with my sister and then flew into Vegas
for Los' bachelor party and the Frozen Fury hockey game. Still trying
to recover from that little adventure before flying out on Monday for
New York, where I'll be until Thanksgiving.

Please Don't Let Me Catch The Garter

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Herzlichen Glückwunsch!" My attempt to wish Philip's father a
heart-felt 'congratulations' in my best German is only good enough to
garner a universal look of bewilderment. The end of a long,
joy-filled day has arrived; champagne glasses have run dry after an
exhausting workout, fellow guests gather their belongings and deliver
their final well-wishes to the newly married couple and the rain,
which has managed to stay away all day, has begun to fall again
outside.

I always enjoy going to weddings, even if they make me question my own
marital fate; everyone (save for any bitter souls) is in a good mood
and I always find it a great opportunity to connect with people who I
haven't seen in a long time. Add in all of the excellent food and
drink and it's particularly hard not to enjoy one's self. Lianna and
Philip's wedding was a brilliant time on all accounts. From the
garden-centric ceremony to the Harry Potter dining hall-like dinner,
it was exactly how I envisioned an English wedding.

My nom ist Travis, ich bin eine Troublemaker

Monday, September 17, 2007

(Bad Nauheim, Germany)
Powered by equal parts electricity and anger, the hot plate of the iron sails across a black, wrinkled cotton sea, smoothing the shirt’s temporary flaws imposed by the recent trip through the washing machine.

How dare that young man come into this house and expect me to do his laundry for him; treating me as though I were simply here to serve.

***


“Philip, I am in desperate need of doing laundry; is there a Laundromat within walking distance of the house?”

“The house isn’t really close to the town, but you should be able to do laundry there, we’ll just need to check with Bärbel first. She won’t be there when we arrive, but you can gather your clothes together and we’ll put them aside.”

***


This coming after I went out of my way to arrange for him to stay at the neighbor’s which was subsequently turned down.

Philip, Kohei and I have just descended the 17 varnished stairs into the neighbor’s basement. The room is arranged as neatly and with as much order as its sealed brick floor. There is a small desk to our right and floating adrift the middle of the room lies a lone bed; the mattress is sized for one person but it is adorned with two sets of bedding, each topped with a piece of chocolate. My emotions begin to clash – the uneasiness of sharing a 3’x6’ sleepspace with another man who I have only met hours previous mixes with the fear of insulting my hosts who have graciously agreed to welcome two unknowns into their house for the next four nights.

This torment continues as we head back to Bärbel’s house for dinner and, although not helpful to the situation, I take some comfort in sensing I am not the only one with these feelings of apprehension.

***


Does he even appreciate that I am up at 1:00AM in the morning ironing while everyone else sleeps? The iron leaves its smooth wake across another shirt.

***


Paul finds me at dinner the next night, “Hey Travis, I checked with my host family regarding the extra bed that’s going unused – they said you’re more than welcome to it.”

“Thanks, I’ll just double-check with Bärbel that it’s ok and take my stuff over there later.”

***


After the third morning in a row, I’ve become accustomed to waking up to the dog’s nose in my face, letting me know that he doesn’t appreciate me taking up residence on his sleeping grounds. Angry wet noses aside, I rise to meet the morning and notice my clothes, dirty the day previous, are neatly pressed and sitting in a pile adjacent the couch.

A slight miscommunication snowballs into an enormous misunderstanding when I seek out Bärbel to thank her for going way out of her way and doing my laundry for me. I find her setting the table for breakfast.

“Thank you so much for doing my laundry, you didn’t have to-” The dropping plate and accompanying reply signal that I am to stop talking.

“I think it was very impolite of you to have Philip ask me to do your laundry for you.”

The china’s resonance and her words hang heavy in the air as I try to grasp where things have gone wrong. I am so shocked by her response that it would not be until later in the day that I figured out that the request to do my own laundry had been horribly misconstrued.

“I-I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to cause any trouble...” the words dribble from my mouth.

“While I did not mind washing your clothes, understand that I am not an employee of this house.”

“I know, er, I mean I would never, uh…” I stammer to explain myself, but instead seem resigned to the hopelessness of the situation. A final “I’m sorry for causing problems” is my parting contribution to the confrontation as I tuck my tail between my legs and duck out of the room.

***


The ensuing awkwardness of the following days is eased by a natural scarceness courtesy of sightseeing plans. When I am around the house, I do my best to just be a good houseguest and avoid further rocking the boat anyway I can.

On the final morning, I awake refreshed having been offered a bed in the main house for my last night; a gesture that both the dog and I greatly appreciated. The time has come to say our final good-byes.

“Bärbel, thank you so much for all of your hospitality over the past week, I have really enjoyed my time here.” I consider offering up a final ‘burying of the hatchet’ apology, but think better of simply letting the past be forgotten.

“It was nice to have you and you are welcome to stay in this house again any time you want. I really mean that. We had a misunderstanding but that is ok now.”

We embrace in a genuine hug, each relieved to be parting under good graces. While not a mind reader, I can only hope to guess at Bärbel’s final thoughts…

That young man, he’s ok in my book.

On The Run

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Been bouncing all over the place the last week and haven't had a chance to publish anything.  Look for new content on Monday.

Hits and Misses: Europe

Monday, September 03, 2007

Hits

Best Museum: Louvre, Paris.
Best Beer: Prague, Czech Republic. Hands down the best beer I've ever had in my life. Sampled the original Budweiser, as well. Honorable mention goes to the brewery tour we took in Heidelberg, Germany, but that was just as much for quantities sake as quality.
Most Attractive People: Toss up between Barcelona and Norway. Depends on your preference, but I would go with Barcelona for brunettes ("you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a 9 or a 10 in this town") or Norway if blondes are more your style.
Best Food: Bilbao, Spain. Had a foie gras tapa in Bilbao that was so good, I tried to order the same thing about 25 times at subsequent restaurants to no avail. I hadn't had foie gras in many, many years (if ever?), but asked the bartender what was good and he served me this version of crack on toast.
Best Metro System: London, UK. Easily the best designed underground system that we encountered on the trip.
Most English Speakers in a non-English speaking country : Italy. Seemed like everyone in Italy spoke English; probably because we were mostly in the tourist-y areas. I find this ironic considering that Italy as a country was the most outspoken about hating Americans.
Most Bang for the Buck: Prague, Czech Republic. Hands down, the best deal for the money. Everywhere else, the exchange rate absolutely killed us, but in Prague, we were able to sit down to a dinner consisting of sirloin in a cranberry cream sauce with dumplings (a traditional Czech dish) and two .5l beers for ~$6.

Misses

Rudest Person
: The pension owner in San Sebastian where we were storing our bags for an extra night while in Pamplona who kicked us out of the place and then turned off the light while we were trying to descend the stairs.
Worst Museum: The Guggenheim museum in Berlin. This place was as exciting as watching grass grow, namely because that was the exhibit at the time - a grass farm. On a scale from 1-10, I'd rate it a snore. Honorable mention goes to the Torture Museum in Amsterdam; truth in advertising was never truer.
Ugliest People: Probably Bilbao, Spain. The mullet was a leading fashion trend at the time I was there, so was the sloven look.
Highest Concentration of EuroFunk in a Public Place : Metro in Paris, France. I didn't know I could hold my breath that long.
Worst Use of a Schedule: Italy. I don't think any train in this entire country either leaves or arrives on time.
Worst Conversion Rate
: Toilet paper was stronger than the dollar in Norway. Seriously, this country makes London look like Walmart. I paid $25 for a hamburger; not a Kobe beef hamburger, either, just your run off the mill bun and patty special.


Copyright 2007, Travis Emmel