Tuesday, April 25, 2017

on starting over

My spiritually minded friends would protest that I'm not starting over, rather, piling new life experience on top of a continuous process of growth that knows no continental limits. It's a lovely thought, but this free spirited kumbaya hand-holding attitude does little more than reveal that they've never moved countries while mercury is in retrograde.

I identify more with Bukowski at this particular moment:

"what makes a man a writer?"

"well, it's simple. You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge."

or Kafka:

"every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy."

The fact that I am a UK citizen with alleged rights has done little by way of sheltering me from being made to feel like everything I attempt to do is a criminal act. As a result, until my affairs are in order, I have accepted the generous invitation by my father to stay with him in the suburbs outside London until I am more than 50% sure Her Royal Highness isn't going to bulldoze my life with her Range Rover (love her!) and send me back to wherever I came from. 

There is not much to do in this small town beyond the nail salon, gym and funeral home. The house is under construction so I'm indefinitely on a very comfortable air mattress and presently listening to the builders listen to "No Scrubs" by TLC while I scheme how and where I might find a friend outside of a book. 

Last week while attempting to buy an avocado and a pack of "not too hot not too mild" green peppers, the cashier stopped me to make a comparative analysis of the signature on my credit card receipt with that of my driver's license. She analyzed my appearance with much suspicion, to which I responded by gently reminding her that:

1. The photo on my ID is obviously me and the name matches the name on the credit card 

[fail.]

2. I had signed the document digitally with my finger which is not the same as signing a paper document with a pen 

[fail.]

and finally, as a humiliating last ditch effort to be left alone with my not too hot not too mild green peppers:

3. I am a doctor and my signature has become more sloppy over the years

[fail fail fail.]

At this point the ninety-something cashier was so riddled with disbelief over my identity and quite possibly feeling bullied both by my vulgar American accent and pink hair, that she paged the store manager to provide reinforcement. Anyway, in the end I got my avocados, but not without a fight. 

I'm off to open a bank account. The bank of England requires proof of my address at:

Air Mattress
Hertfordshire
United Kingdom

But only a predetermined official document will suffice as proof:

-Utility bill with my name on it

[fail.]

-Bank account with my address attached

[fail. i mean, are you effing kidding me? the employees don't even seem to understand the irony behind requiring proof of a bank account in order to open a bank account]

-Voter Registration Card

[fail.] 

The final bullet point seemed to be my only hope, so I log onto the voter website and begin the registration process. Initially it seems pretty straightforward, until the final portion of the application where I am asked to enter my national insurance number- the equivalent of the American social security number or codice fiscale in Italy.

[fail.]  

So I google:

"h-o-w  t-o   g-e-t   N-a-t-i-o-n-a-l   I-n-s-u-r-a-n-c-e   N-u-m-b-e-r"

I book an appointment by phone for the following week and am required to bring proof of identity and "acceptable" proof of address:

-utility bill with my name and address on it (here we go again).

[FAIL.]

-bank statement with my name and address on it

[FAIL.] 

-Voter Registration Card

[fail fail fail.] How is this even possible? I need a voter registration card for a bank account, but need NI number for voter registration card. But need bank account for NI number. 

I plead with the woman over the phone who agrees to allow me to bring in a letter from my father confirming that I have residency on his air mattress until further notice.

I attend the interview for the national insurance number accompanied by my father who is immediately asked to wait outside the building because inside there is a "no wait policy". Right. 

I present with a portfolio of all the documents that make me ME, all my passports even the expired ones, birth certificates from America, UK, Hungary. Letters. All the letters that exist for anything. My official documents. Dad's official documents. University Diplomas. Transcripts. Pap Smear Results. I am extremely and overly prepared. I am called for my interview and despite my right to work in the UK, I am nervous as if I were being prosecuted:

[Woman stares at me suspiciously.]

"So, why do you want a national insurance number?"

So I can work in this country.

"You have never worked in this country?"

I have never lived nor worked in this country.

"Are you married?"

No.

[Looks at me verrrryy suspiciously]. "Have you ever been married?"

No. [Suspicion heightens]

"Are you single?" 

[She upward inflects 'single' forcing me to wonder whether these were official questions or just manifestations of her own curiosity.

"Yes"

[This sends her into a frantic assault of her computer keyboard for about 45 seconds, after which she looks back up at me.]

"So you're single and you've never been married?" 

That is correct

[Returns to frantically typing on computer keyboard.]

"Ok, please sign here."

[I sign. She looks at my passport and then at my signature.] 

"Your signatures don't match."

[AGAIN? Really?! I am too exasperated to try a different tactic so I recite the same script from the supermarket the week before]:

The photo on my ID is obviously me and the name matches the name on the passport. 

[fail.]

I had signed the document digitally with my finger which is not the same as signing a paper document with pen 

[fail.]

and finally, as a humiliating last ditch effort to be left alone with my not too hot not too mild green peppers national insurance number:

I am a doctor and my signature has become more sloppy over the years.

[SUCCESS.]

"Why of course it has! I will put a note in your file attesting that your signature has changed over the years and that you cannot replicate it. You will get a response from us within 3-4 weeks as to whether or not we have approved you for a national insurance number."

Wait so I am a British Citizen and a doctor with an offer to work at a major London Hospital, no felonies no arrests no work or marriage or adoption issues that could complicate my application, but you might deny me of the right to work

"Well not me, specifically, but, yes. If we are not in touch with you by May 22 please call this number. Here is your reference number. Bye." 

It was almost as warm a welcome to the country as the fifty-something drunk chap at the corner pub who watched me roll by with my suitcase on the way home from the train station:

"OY! OYYYY!! LUV! Whee ya frum?!!" [spills beer over railing]

"California."

"Oh I've bin theh! It's shhhhite!" [Laughs, spills pint over railing]

Anyway, as much as I hate to use it, sometimes the "I'm a doctor" thing works. People have this perception that if you're a doctor you're rich and trustworthy and really got your life together. The reality is that I'm in my 30's and technically jobless and homeless. My pants have been on backwards for 17 hours and I've got so much dry shampoo in my hair that fruit flies keep getting stuck in it. 

It was time to have a shower and head into London. I made plans with an Italian friend who arranged "tickets" for us for Friday night. She is a generally vague person but also highly cultured so I took it to mean she arranged after-dinner theater or art or music tickets. 

NO.

I arrive. We grab some Asian food in Bethnal Green which is famously Jack the Ripper territory, and where Martina casually mentions that the last time she was there, there was a murder in the park across the street. She walks me into a dark, empty alley while I launch into a monologue on twisted Italian literature and she listens intently while finishing her cigarette.  We walk up to an anonymous black door against a graffitied brick wall and she knocks. A skinny, shaved headed guy answers.

"are you on the list?"

Yes.

"there is no list. Come in"

The doorman then draws a penis on each of our hands with thick permanent black marker and lets us in. 

There is loud cheering and a wrestling ring. It's Lucha Britannia. I'm pushed right up to the front just in time to watch the previous match end and the next act begin.





A voluptuous woman comes out in a bear suit and does a strip tease to the tune of Ludacris' "What's your Fantasy". Very different from the week I'd spent reading books and watching the builders stack cinder blocks (who by the way are now listening to Will Smith's "Gettin Jiggy Wit It"). 

I spent Saturday at the Wellcome Trust Museum and on Saturday night had dinner with my Italian friends at a pizza place in Southwark called "O'ver" which in dialect means "REALLY?!" or "WTF?!". It reminded me about my feelings on the fact that there are no bloody electrical sockets permitted in bathrooms in this country.

On Sunday I embarked upon a social experiment of sorts in search of a new friend. Somebody. Anybody. I walked down to Pop Brixton, ordered a big bloody mary and sat by myself with a book in hopes that a stranger might come and talk to me. It never happened. Well, twice I had a near success when someone tapped me on the shoulder asking if I could slide down on the bench to make space for them and their burger. 

I have been in England for a week. This may be the country of royalty, the beloved Prince Harry and cream tea, but in the more appropriately revised words of Ed Sheeran- the bar isn't a good place to find love, so the buffet is where I go. 

For now, I'll stick to my books, my bureaucracy, and my air mattress. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

ciao ciao italia

On my final morning as a resident of Milan, I watched the moon rise over Torre Velasca, and everything felt decidedly symbolic. This building has been voted again and again one of the world's ugliest structures, but when it was propositioned to be bulldozed, the people of Milan revolted. It is an icon, one of the city's greatest treasures.


One of the things I have so desperately loved about this city is how little it gives away for free. It is a place that has to be worked for.  It is raw. Harsh but in its hidden compartments so delicate, ugly yet strikingly beautiful, grungy but so impeccably chic.

In a country that inherently possesses an exaggerated richness of landscape, architecture, art, culture, and cuisine, Milan stands alone as the easily overlooked and frequently misunderstood black swan of the boot.  There is nothing obvious about it. It is not a city that attracts people in search of an easy life or a dreamy weekend getaway. It is driven by hunger and perhaps a bit of madness.  It is possessed by those in pursuit of a dream, meanwhile equivalently dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure, in that way only Italians really know how.

I passed both the most difficult and most beautiful years of my life in Italy. The greatness it and its inhabitants possess petitioned my humility, the cultural richness and rigidity forced me to adapt. This city does not accept anything but the best version of yourself. I have never known a community to be so vested in helping, supporting, loving, and generally enjoying the company of its members. What Italians lose in nationalism they gain in altruism and culture. 

People ask me all the time why I moved to Italy and now I tell them I moved for love but stayed for the tagliatelle.  If you have ever dreamed of living in this country, I could not encourage you more to do it. Or at least for a bit. Whether for the love of food or art or lifestyle, Italians will teach you how to live simply but with passion. And you will no doubt emerge a better human having spent your time in their company, with those who through and through really do do it better. 

I have taken the initiative to procure a brief cheat sheet to your transition in the event you decide to pack up and go: 

1. The bureaucracy and general life maintenance procedures are riddled with kafkaesque catch 22's. Most people think there are no rules in italy, that anything goes, but this couldn't be further from the truth. There are instead so many rules and regulations (many of which are laughably draconian) that they actually compete with each other, forcing you to break one just so you can adhere to another. Cheating and cutting corners is basically built into your survival code. 

2. Do not order a cappuccino after 11am. This is social suicide. 

3. Forget about paying for things with your credit card. You need cash. And you need exact change. Tellers, cashiers, and store clerks will deliberately and audibly sigh of exhaustion and scorn you if you are not prepared with the precise amount of coins. 

4. 15 minutes late is officially still considered on time. This is not a joke. In universities it is called a "15 minute academic delay" and you are still within your rights whether you are a student or professor. 

5. There is no snacking so stop randomly eating and do not dream about eating on a public train or bus.

6. Lunchtime is at 1pm. You stop what you do and you go there. And by there, I mean some designated place devoted specifically to dining. There is no chow permitted at your desk. And if you are eating at home YOU MUST SET THE TABLE.

7. There is no life before 7am. so plan your gym session for after work. 

8. If shit appears to be hitting the fan, everyone will panic and complain for a few hours/days/weeks, and then spontaneously all will be magically resolved because someone important somewhere made a phone call. Go ahead and join the catastrophe club but remember it ALWAYS works out even where the possibility seems impossible. 

9. Do not wear open toed shoes until sandal season. It doesn't matter how hot it is. Ladies, that means May. Gentleman, you wear socks with your dress shoes until late June and there is no exception unless you're ok appearing really smug.

10. When driving your car, do not make the mistake of parking in front of a driveway or inside the lines deemed for residents or on the curb on a night when there is street sweeping. Simply park your car on the sidewalk and all is good. 

11. People still smoke. Get over it. You may actually start yourself and LIKE IT. 

12. When your gym says it closes at 10pm it actually means 9:30pm. 10pm is when the employees get to go home and now they need to spray off your elliptical. 

13. There is no fettuccine alfredo, garlic bread, or spaghetti with meatballs. This was all a hoax. Also, there is no salt in the bread in Tuscany so stay away from it, not worth it. 

14. Nobody here appreciates a snitch. Ever. So mind your business and keep your mouth shut.

15. If you forget your wallet, come back and pay later. It's never a problem.


Italy, you have been a dream, and while my heart breaks to leave you behind, the fact that there are seemingly more Italians under the Queen Mother mends my achy heart. And besides, now that I'm in your system, we will always be tied by that inescapable bureaucracy. 

Arrivederci ai miei amici piu cari, vi porto sempre con me. 

CIAONE! 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

| intrōˈspekt |

I have felt quite introspective of late, both for what regards my political microcosm as well as the global state of affairs.

But it requires almost no time spent gazing at my navel to notice that the only hope i have for claiming balance in my life is by summing the parts of my totally polarized states of existence and then dividing by two: either too lazy to put on pants, or out running a marathon. eating spinach and lentils with a silver spoon or tearing into a pannetone with a claw like fist of passion. sequencing genomes or riding the metro in the opposite direction of my final destination.

I have been particularly confronted by my laziness these days. a couple weeks ago i broke the handle on the bathroom sink and immediately resigned myself to washing my face and brushing my teeth in the bidet. I'm really not an elitist when it comes to my water sources but there IS notably another bathroom just down the hall (too far) that wouldn't require me to stare into the eyes of the faucet that was intended for my ass. Actually it was during one of these moments of self imposed humiliation that it occurred to me i might consider the possibility of hiring a life coach; begging the question: at what point does one accept it's time for an intervention?

i guess a lot has happened in the world and also my private life since i last wrote. America is about to inaugurate a living meme for a President.  As a consequence, the Italians seem to enjoy rubbing their superiority in my face, highlighting the fact that there exists a nation worse than that which willfully placed Berlusconi in power (to which I respectfully riposte that their citizens are still those who are so unaccustomed to things going as planned that they rejoice/clap when the airplane lands.)

the whole affair reminds me of other things that funnel me into a vortex of despair, things like having my ankle sock fall down around my heel but being too imprisoned by circumstance to have the leisure of reaching down to pull it back up. Or the righteous attitude of the milanese with their pets in public. a couple days ago I encountered two older ladies engaged in a heroic battle of justice in a congested women's clothing store in Milan. It was immediately obvious in this case where I would land my metaphorical gavel on the table of jurisprudence. One of the two had allowed her tiny dog to take a shit on the floor and then tap dance in it, eventually leaving a trail of tiny shitty paw prints between the jewelry section and the exit. Not only that, but the dog owner was completely unapologetic and even defended her agnostic point of view claiming that she did not have control over her pets continence. While this may be a very logical point, it doesn't take a particularly decent or educated individual to comply with the unspoken guideline that if you can't go out in public without leaving trails of excrement on the floor, you're better off staying at home. Perhaps in this sense I'm a bit old school. Anyway, lock them up.

In other news, I recently returned from England where I was given the unlikely opportunity of interviewing for a clinical position at one of the most prestigious universities in the world (*toots own horn*). All was set to go as planned, but in the face of all those skeptical eyebrows aimed toward my personal bubble, I'm pretty sure I killed 2 out of my 3 hypothetical patients. No rejoice/airplane clap for this girl. I was evidently so stressed out that even my nasal herpes resurrected itself, effectively gluing my right nostril shut. And then I vomited, obviously not on the floor or to the tune of Justin Bieber, but still. The debacle served as another reminder of how unprepared people sometimes get elected to power while prepared people sometimes miss the mark. We are all born inanimate blobs of flesh. Brilliance is cultivated. You only get smart by constantly surrounding yourself with people who are in your mind brighter, stronger, more talented, more laden with character, and generally more successful than yourself. That's how you grow. But growth comes at a high price- a lifetime dedicated to humility, of being tirelessly committed to feelings of inadequacy. And perhaps it is only when we are confronted with the prospect of death that we are finally able to appreciate our conquests, our faculties. 

But I'll tell you, introspection seldom does much good and we're all better off just thinking like biological creatures about how to get our next meal. But if you must, may I recommend an even faster, more modern, and less risky approach to gaining insight into yourself, achieved by simply looking at your frequently used smartphone emoticons. Mine tells me I live in a perpetual state of cheekiness, reality, and irony:

 

Cheeky: Eye roll, myopic guilty as charged toothy smile, monkey who just stole your french fry

Reality: Dog, shit (see above), grimacing face, apathetic face, question mark (seriously though, WTF?!), turkey, embarrassed with exophthalmos

Irony: Moneybags (32 and working for free), cool guy (cuz let's get real I'm really not), bride (because the last gentleman to invite me to dinner was 24), round of applause (because I deserve more like a pat on the head), TOP (BOTTOM).

For what regards the jack-o-lantern and crocodile, I really have no words. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go pull up my socks. 


Saturday, November 5, 2016

that ain't kosher

I wake to the inescapable scent of tempura in my hair. This falls second on the humiliation scale only to waking up with partially masticated chicken in my mouth, which may or may not have happened once in my early twenties when I was highly intoxicated .

I fumble in the dark for my security blanket. It has been charging all night and its warmth comforts me in a way that can only make even the modestly thoughtful person profoundly sad. But my toy phone holds both all the answers and all the secrets! It tells me it's 6:33am and that the last thing I googled before falling asleep was "what should I do with my life".

I desperately want to go for a run but I cannot. I cannot because a few days ago in my overly zealous attempt to recover from the insult of the scale telling me I had gained 13 pounds this summer was to chaotically sprint around Milan like a baby gazelle and then wake up the following morning with achilles tendinitis. So instead I'm feet up drinking a mocha and trying to make it an even 14. 

Surely I get this polarized tendency toward periods of extreme productivity and extreme laziness from my father. He is very gentle and totally an enabler. This summer after returning from Bali, I spent a week at his home barely getting out of bed save for the random times I resurrected myself to dispense a generous bowl of cereal and milk. At a certain point I began my lamentation about feeling guilty and worthless for having been so lazy, to which he responded by SENDING ME A TEXT MESSAGE FROM THE ROOM NEXT DOOR linking me to an article about how intelligent people are lazier because they sit quietly with their thoughts and are therefore less often bored/compelled toward the activities of daily living. 

It was in this moment that I booked a plane ticket to California for the following day because flying 6000 miles away from the bottomless bag of granola was my only chance for salvation. And yes I know problems eventually catch up with you, in fact I have so many of them that they travel with me in real time even at 550 mph. 

The next day on the plane the man two seats to my right snored so loudly he overpowered my earplugs AND my xanax, while the two women to my left spoke at 194 decibels until the moment I finally surrendered any attempt to sleep, at which point they agreed to "try to take a nap" and then went silent. The woman behind me coughed every 11 seconds for the full 11 hours. The flamboyant steward patronized me for having requested a black tea with milk, responding "oh you mean white tea??" I could handle neither his attitude nor this level of ignorance and so respectfully informed him that the classification of white, green, or black tea was based on the amount of processing/oxidation of the leaves and not on the addition or not of milk. This proved a massive mistake, launching him into cycles of pure and passive aggression for more than eight hours. Even the beautiful, emotionally intelligent woman immediately to my right spilled her entire tomato juice on my white shirt, jacket, and designer backpack when we hit a patch of rough air. Standing in line at the airplane toilets I emotionlessly gazed at the emergency exit door where an unattended toddler dangled with all her body weight on the big metal lever/handle that could have sucked us both out into oblivion had she been just a few kilos heavier. I had zero volition to attempt to stop her. 
  
Anyway, ten days in California went too quickly and before I could even eat a burrito I was on another plane heading back east. A pit stop in Milan for focaccia and a baggage change preceded the early morning flight out to Israel with Yarden and Alessandra. The trip was inspired by our friend Nadav's nuptials. Aside from being defined by his recent status update as a husband and physician, Nadav is also one of the five readers of this website and self-proclaimed #1 fan. He actually sends me hate mail when too much time has passed between posts. From the moment we touched down he interjected his not so subtle hopes that this would be his fifteen minutes to break out into Vive la Liv fame. It worked. (HI NADAV!)



In addition to the beautiful matrimony, this ten day trip to Israel was extraordinary. If you're looking for a place to go that has history, culture, spirituality, extreme landscapes, delicious food, excavated kingdoms and major metropolitan areas, look no further. There weren't even any episodes of diarrhea or vomiting, just one solemn afternoon when I lost a few significant chunks of hair following an aggressive blowout at a shitty salon marketed by the skanky south african employee as "the best in tel aviv." I so obviously should have known better. 

that ain't kosher. 

























And now I'm back in Milan and back to work, with more body weight and markedly less hair that also smells remarkably of tempura, reminding me of those days in Israel and the dream that is falafel. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

fresh highlights

The picture of jet lag.

It's so dark outside it seems as if the sun may never rise again. For a moment I have no idea what bed or timezone I'm in but after a few sleepy blinks I am sure to be in England, comforted by the notion that there is family just down the hall. I put on my thin cotton robe. it's black and white and covered in pineapples, and I admit I enjoy the fact that I appear to have a couple screws loose whenever I wear it. 

Despite my tiptoeing, each step creaks with a greater conviction than the last. I reach the kitchen and pull out two Portmeirion mugs- one designated to the expensive loose leaf vanilla black from a tea shoppe in Cambridge, the other, future home to a heaping teaspoon of instant french vanilla coffee. I can't help but notice that I live my life in a perpetual dichotomy of appreciating both high-quality and absolute junk. Michelin star or drive thru milk shake. Renaissance era literature or astrology.com. Cashmere sweater or fleece pants. It's always polarized. The middle is a mediocre place I'd rather avoid. 

I sit at the kitchen table with my laptop, it's been almost 8 weeks since I've written more than a lyric and my sense of being out of practice is aggravated by the leaky faucet that is rapidly eroding my already fickle attention span. 

I was prompted to think back to the last occasion in which I analyzed the contents of my purse. On a random day in May 2015 I held hostage inside a pack of Haribo, a bottle of Rosé, a box of xanax, a single tampon, journal, and case of ray bans. In this sense my personal life as mirrored by the contents of my bag hasn't changed much, only now instead of a pack of benzodiazepines, there is a half eaten pill wedged into the memory card drive of my laptop, while the bottle of bubbles has been replaced by an auspicious can of tuna. The ray bans have been substituted by my seeing glasses because I've accepted that I'm rapidly going blind with each passing day.



I pop the xanax into my change purse for later, replacing it with the memory card from my Lumix. My desktop lights up with hundreds of photos from the last two months and I'm met simultaneously with the sensation that it was all just a dream, as well as the frustration that is present-day iPhoto software. 

In July I culminated 24 years of formal education. It doesn't mean much as I still have no job and am 32 and still using my father's address. I have no possessions other than books, old letters, notes from medical school, and some clothes for my back. (In the same vein, my mother also recently accused me of smoking e-cigarettes because she found these tabs in my bedroom. i explained very defensively that they were just mosquito repellant.) 


But for what I lack in things and responsibility I seem to make up for in freedom. From here I embarked upon a phase that I wish could last just a little longer, a phase marked by excess distilled beverages, socratic seminar, and one impetuous plane ticket after another. I chopped off all my hair and dyed it pink, drank a bottle of Cristal with my girlfriends for no better occasion than sitting on the sofa and softly critiquing Jlo music videos on a Wednesday night, moved out of the apartment I had shared with the man who broke me into a million pieces, and then with middle fingers up, I left the country. 



First stop was rural Hungary to get a little tipsy with my granny for her 91st birthday. just look at her tongue!


Then I peed in a pod in London


Rode floaty objects in the Hamptons


Flirted with my nephew in California. noticed he and granny make the same face after feeding


Saw the silver lining in Paris


Ate mont blanc and stared out the window in Versailles



Drank rosé in Provence.


Danced with cousins in the Cotswolds in the spirit of holy matrimony 


Road tripped around Iceland with my high school sweetheart
















Rode solo through Hong Kong in a tesla




And hiked volcanoes at sunrise, trampled rice paddies, chased dolphins, and snorkeled with tropical fish in Bali













But wait wait wait. it couldn't have possibly all gone off without a hitch.

First there was a terminal-wide power outage at JFK and my luggage was consequently lost somewhere "between San Diego, New York, London and Brussels", leaving me with only the bare essentials for five days- a passport, cotton dress, and single pair of undies. If it happens to you: American Airlines will refund your money for all "essential items" purchased while your luggage is delayed, providing you save the receipts and mail them in within 45 days.

Then my hair turned bright blue from an overly chlorinated pool filled with well water (ie copper). If it happens to you: blend up a shitload of tomatoes and soak your hair in a bowl for 30 minutes. Repeat. Took me three tries. 


Then an aggressive pedicurist in Seminyak not only shaved off half my big toe with a callus remover, but in a fit of panic scooped up all the dead skin from the floor and piled it on top of the hemorrhaging wound as a sort of skin graft. If it happens to you: vent your expletives and then stay calm. Remove the dead skin. Compress the wound for 20 minutes until bleeding stops. Get betadine on it immediately. Refuse to pay for the pedicure when they try to charge you anyway. 

The morning I was to catch a plane out of Indonesia was conveniently met with a resurrection of the previous night's banh mi. If it happens to you: don't eat or drink or try to resist it. Make it rain from all orifices now because it's going to eventually have to come out and better now in the comfort of your hotel than in the shuttle to the airport or airplane lavatory. When things calm down, sip coca cola and have a few salty chips. You'll be fine. 

Which brings me back to the present. My clothes were returned to me. My hair is once again blonde. Toe is on the mend, and my bowels appear to be back to normal. It's raining in England and Dad has gone up to Cambridge to replace the supply of expensive loose leaf vanilla black tea. He asked me if I wanted to come, but I declined, remembering the temptation I faced the last time I joined him in the University District. He had taken me to a sporting goods store to buy my hiking boots for Iceland. The flirtatious shop manager was complaining about how sore he was, clearly begging that I ask him why, so he could brag about the fact he'd just returned from a big trip to the Alps. He asked me if I'd ever been before and I coyly admitted to having snowboarded there "once or twice". He asked if I lived in Cambridge, to which I responded that my current address was the luggage tag on my suitcase. When he asked me if I had a job and I told him I was unemployed, he lit up like a californian at a free ziggy marley concert and told me he was looking for a female for the winter season to sell snowboards. I smiled and politely declined, I'd prefer to work in a tea shoppe.