Internal Dialogue My body responds to jet lag in odd but extremely useful ways. "Okay, Stu," it mumbles, "You're going to stay up drinking until 4am here as well as back in the Homeland, I realize that. Just please, be aware that at 8am, I'm going to wake you up regardless, and we're going to pretend this all never happened."
So everywhere I go in Europe, I sleep four hours a night, while drinking to excess, and wake up feeling ready to face the day. Which makes days really long when you're up for twenty hours at a time.
There is only one minor drawback to this. Apparently, jet lag and the four hours of sleep a night turn me into a fucking moron. It makes the notion "Hey, maybe I should walk to the city center of Granada at 6:30am instead of taking a cab or waiting until the buses start to run!" seem like a viable option rather than the stupidest fucking idea in Spain. "There are signs pointing the way, after all!"
[walk] [walk] [walk]
"I wonder if the guide book says how far it is.
"Shit. Three kilometers. That's, umm, about two miles.
"Oh well, I must be almost there.
"I should turn here, I think. There's no sign, but I must be close.
"I wasn't close, but I must be getting there now."
[Cigarette break, glancing back the way I came from, to see a sign saying "Ciudad Centro" I've circled completely around it.]
[walk] [walk] [walk]
"I hate you, brain."
I hate you too. Why do you think I do this to you?
"Tonight, I'm drinking until you don't work anymore."
Fine by me. What do you think I was doing this for? You are so predictable
"That's it. It's absinthe time. Time for you to lose weight, brain."
Oh goodie! I'll finally be able to fit in that skirt of mine!
"... "You are very weird, brain."
This is your feet. I hate you both. Thank you, that is all.
"I didn't know feet could weep"
Fuck you both.
* * *
So I eventually found a place to stay--difficult early in the morning, but not impossible--and made my way up to Alhambra. Alhambra isn't much to look at, at first. There are no good approaches to it, and the first 500 feet of walk into the grounds are dull unless you like simple topiary shapes and an unassuming chunk of vaguely fortress-shaped stone getting gradually closer. So I talked to myself.
"Shit, I feel kind of gyped. Why is this place a highlight of Muslim architecture? Why does it get mentioned in the same breath as Topkapi Palace?"
Shut up. You always do this! Why can't you at least reserve judgement until you've reached the place? Why must you once again use this as an excuse to namedrop a place you were at years ago?
"I'm just saying that the Red Fort in Jaipur was much more impressive, even from afar. You remember that. And all that Mughal era stuff in Delhi? Much more impressive than this. I don't even have a twinge of a temptation to bow to Mecca, yet."
Do you even listen to yourself? You think anyone is impressed that you've been to all these places? Must you always do that? You pull that shit in ordinary conversation, you realize. "Oh, yes, that reminds me of my time trekking through Turkey. Luckily, I had been well-prepared by my weekend in Phuket." It's not like it's actually all that much of a feat to have done all that. The only reason you're free to do it and others aren't is that you don't have a girlfriend to spend money on or pay attention to, and you don't have any hobbies other than drinking alone and pretending people want to hear what you have to say--online, not even in person--you second rate Bill Bryson wannabe.
"I'm not even going to dignify that with a response, you fuck."
Oh, the truth hurts, you worthless drunk. Remember last night, when you got drunk enough to take a dozen pictures of your feet? They were that interesting, weren't they? It's silly. Pony doesn't drop constant references to her travels around the Indian Sub-Continent--"I went to this nice authentic Indian reference yesterday--it wasn't as good as that place in Kashmir, but still pretty good."--and Pony's trip was much more impressive than anything you've done.
"Wait, shut up. We're getting somewhere."
Oh, yes, we're about to have a breakthrough. All our neuroses will be healed, and we can embrace as the final credits roll down the...
"No, shut up, we're actually getting somewhere."
Don't you tell me to shut up! I'm just...oh, you're right. Huh. Alhambra is rather impressive.
"Agreed. Let's go for a walk and I'll buy you a drink later."
It really does always come back to booze for you, you two-bit hack.
[Exeunt, into a really impressive section of Alhambra]
* * *
Lest you think it's all fun and games and schizophrenia inside my head, here's a more typical account of what's going through my head while traveling.
"Okay. We're entering Cordoba. Cordoba. I wonder how I pronounce that. Cordoba. Hit the Mezquita and Catedral. Or is it Metquiza. I think Mezquita. Don't have much time. How little? 2:30 now, bus to Madrid at 5:30. 2:30. 5:30. Three hours. Three hours for Mezquita and Catedral. Metquiza and Catedral. Three. Three hours. Then to Madrid. Five hours to Madrid, about 20 euro. Arrive in Madrid at 10:30pm. 45 minutes to the hotel, if there's room. Hope there's room. Wouldn't it be apropos if there's no room at the inn on December 24th? Three nights there, day trips. Where to? Three nights. Might have to pay up front for that. 15 night. Maybe 20. Maybe 25. This could be expensive. 45-75 euro. Should I stop at an ATM? Three hours in Cordoba, gotta get to the Mezquita. Then five hours to Madrid. This is expensive I wonder if I have time for a drink? Where are my cigarettes? Why does Dillon hurt so much?
"13 degrees Celsius. that's...divide by five, multiply by nine, that's about twenty-two, plus thirty-two, equals fifty-five degrees. Not bad.
"Could be expensive. Seventy-five euros, by 1.2. 0.2 is 1/5th, so fifteen plus seventy-five, that's ninety dollars. Thirty dollars a night. If fifteen a night, that's forty-five, 1/5th is nine, so that's fifty-four dollars for three nights. Better. I guess. Leaves forty-five euros a day for spending money, on top of hotel bills..."
So apparently, walking around turns me into an idiot savant math geek.
* * *
Finally, a bonus conversation from 1998. Just think of this like an extra on a DVD of one of the artist's earlier works. If I could have hidden this like a cookie for only the dedicated, I would have. I present to you my side of a conversation with my mother, in India, as we traveled together for two weeks, and I struggled with my inability to remember that smart people don't know everything I know, but might in fact know things I don't.
"You've lived in Singapore for a year and you don't know the difference between Muslims and Hindus? How did you manage that??"
"Okay, sorry. It's just...anyway, okay, the...yeah, the Hindus have about three million gods and demons, not all of which are like Kali from 'Temple of Doom,' and they only worship a dozen or so as the big gods. Muslims only have one god, who is essentially Yahweh from the Old Testament with an extra prophet and a worse temper."
"Yes, Muhammad is his name. So, if you see a statue of a god, that's Hindu, but Muslims aren't allowed to make graven images, so if you see fancy writing, that's probably Islam."
"Yes, Islam is the same as Muslim."
"Yes, really. A Muslim is someone who is Islamic. Also, Hindu women sometimes have that dot on the forehead, while it's often hard to see the foreheads of Mus..."
"Yes, thank you for the chessboard, it's very lovely. Chess is Indian, after all..."
"I did thank you for it! I didn't wait. Remember, I thanked you when you bought it for me at that..."
"I'm not ungrate...mom! Please, just a second. Don't change the subject. You should know this!"
"Yes, it's important! There are nuclear weapons pointed at us right now because of the difference!"
"No, I supose your understanding won't stop an ICBM."
"Okay, sure, let's go eat."
"No, I'm not craving a steak right now. You can't get them here, anyawy."
"Yes, I did see the cows on the street. That's why..."