Token Drawdown

Within the next few weeks the President will make what I believe is a very important announcement as to the number of troops he plans to have brought home from Afghanistan. Currently we have approximately 100,000 troops there and we have been fighting the war there since October 7, 2001.

It is hard to believe that this October we will have been there ten years and the estimated final date of withdrawal has now been pushed back to 2014. If all goes according to plan we will have been in Afghanistan for a minimum of thirteen years, but I have my doubts and we will probably be there longer.

I saw where John McCain weighed in and said he believes we should bring home only 3,000 of our troops and that we can still win this war. I understand the fact that we don’t want the loss of life of our soldiers that have died there to be in vain, but does anyone honestly believe that we are winning anything ?

Last week the Congress held a vote which would have attached a mandate to the $690 billion supplemental defense bill spending (estimates are that being in Afghanistan is costing us $3 billion a week) for 2012 requiring the negotiation of a political solution and reconciliation in Afghanistan along with an intelligence estimate as to the number of al Qaeda we are still fighting. Its been reported that most of al Qaeda have moved into Pakistan over the past ten years.

The house vote was mostly along party lines with 178 Democrats supporting the bill with 26 Republicans joining them. All opposed were of course Republicans. Recent polls show that 70% of Americans believe it’s time for us to get out and I am one of that 70%. The frustrating thing is that if 70% of Americans believe this why can’t we get a simple majority in Congress to force the mandate I have mentioned above. The problem I think is no moderate politicians.

I was listening to a conversation last night between two individuals and one said to the other, it’s not like we are losing thousands of American lives over in Afghanistan we are only losing a few every couple of days. Have we become so callous that most of us now think this way ? I hope not.

Whenever I read in the paper of more war dead I think of the picture above, some ones mother, some ones father, some ones aunt, some ones uncle, some ones sister or some ones brother. It’s only my humble opinion, but I am comfortable that our mission / objective in Afghanistan is done so the faster we bring our troops home the better.

Heat Wave

It has been brutally hot in Columbus the last few days, with the mercury nudging uncomfortably close to the triple digits.  When I left the office tonight, heat seemed to radiate from the buildings, the street, the alley, and the very air.  I felt like panting like a dog.  Instead, I thought of the classic Motown tune Heat Wave, by Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, and it made me feel like I just needed to get into the summer frame of mind.  This ’60s video of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas belting out the song helped even more:

Skidmarks On The Bridal Gown

We’ve all heard stories about wedding day disasters involving a vomiting usher, an inept or appalling toast, a fainting groom, a participant left at the altar, split trousers, conga line failures, and other dance floor mishaps, the acting-out bridezilla, drunken, brawling guests, and countless other variations.  However,  this story about a telltale skidmark left when a kilt-wearing groom sat on his bride’s lap, causing the wedding to deteriorate into an alcohol-fueled melee, seems pretty hard to top.

As with so many stories of this type, the article covering the incident raises more questions than it answers.  Wouldn’t the groom have detected, through smell or other senses, the presence of issues below the equator?  Could anyone really be so drunk?  Or was the crass Scottish groom at about the same level of gentility as the face-painting clansman of Braveheart?  And if the groom actually sat down on his new wife’s lap in such a condition, wouldn’t his soiled rear end actually come into contact with his woolen kilt, rather than the white bridal gown?  What, was he wearing some kind of mini-kilt?  (If so, pity the other guests!)  Or did he flounce down on the bride so that his kilt flapped in the breeze like Marilyn Monroe’s dress in The Seven-Year Itch?  In short, could this story actually have happened?

If it did, the bride will want to get her gown cleaned before she stores it as a keepsake.

Eurotrip 2011: Copenhagen

The Distortion music festival.

When I checked into my hostel in Copenhagen, the receptionist asked if I came for the music festival.

“What music festival?” I asked him.

He explained that Copenhagen was halfway through the 5-day Distortion electronic music festival. He marked down on my map where the festival would be taking place that night. It sounded interesting, so I bought a few beers (very expensive, like everything else in Copenhagen) and headed over.

I immediately liked the festival. There were numerous dance parties around different DJs scattered around the neighborhood. They were playing songs I liked (such as “Windowlicker” by Aphex Twin), and, despite the energetic dancing and club-style music, there was a friendly atmosphere. I saw a guy wearing an Ohio t-shirt, so I went up to him and asked if he was from Ohio. He was just a local wearing an Ohio shirt, for some reason, but he shook my hand and yelled “go Buckeye State!”

I was standing in the crowd, enjoying the music, when a young guy asked me something in Danish (the Northern Europe segment of my trip is also the segment in which I’m often mistaken for a local). When he learned that I was a foreigner at the festival by myself, he invited me to hang out with him and his brother. So, I spent the rest of the night with Michael and Martin and their friends. We ended up at a bar where they bought me a rum and coke and some tequila shots. Everyone in their group of friends was very friendly – the Danish like to speak English, sometimes even slipping in phrases in their conversations with each other. They speak English better than in any other country I’ve visited on my trip. Martin explained it to me like this: people in small countries like Denmark and the Netherlands have to learn English, because no one else in the world speaks their language.

After sleeping off my hangover the next day, I checked facebook to see that I had received a message from Michael inviting me to join him and his friends at the last night of the festival. I met him at the Islands Brygge neighborhood of Copenhagen, a former industrial district that has recently been gentrified. Michael pointed out some modern apartment buildings that were made out of cement silos.

People hanging out by the canal in Islands Brygge before the festival.

A former industrial buildings converted into apartments.

After drinking some beers by the canal, we walked to the festival. The last night of the festival was in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district, which is in the middle of a conversion into a neighborhood of dance clubs. The final party was supposed to cost something like 40 euros, but we snuck in over a roof.

The party was even crazier and more crowded on the last night. Part of the party was in a pool. I jumped into the water in my boxers, and regretted it later.

The pool party.

I traveled with Michael and his friends from one dance floor of the party to another, drinking many beers and Jagermeister shots, until I finally walked back to my hostel at 2:30 AM. Imagine my surprise when it started getting light outside on my walk back, and the birds started chirping.

Michael invited me to a barbeque at his family’s house in the suburbs the next day, so I took a train out there. Michael, Martin, and their mother treated me to a delicious meal of salad, potatoes and grilled chicken in their backyard. They claimed that their neighborhood was really crummy, but it seemed nice to me – maybe Americans have different standards for crummy neighborhoods than Europeans.

I was inexpressibly thankful to Michael and his family for giving me a nice meal at their home – the first home-cooked meal I’ve had in months. I think they enjoyed using their impeccable English with an American, and I think they also wanted to give me a good memory of Copenhagen. They certainly succeeded at that. Thanks in large part to their friendliness, I would rank Copenhagen among my favorite cities in Europe.

I especially appreciated their friendliness because my hostel, Hotel Jorgenson, was sort of a dud. Although the staff were friendly, the breakfast was excellent (plenty of cereal, meat, bread, and chocolate), and everything was clean, there wasn’t much of a social atmosphere. If I hadn’t met Michael and Martin at Distortion, it probably would’ve been a lonely four days for me.

Apart from going to Distortion and sleeping off the resultant hangovers, I ventured into Christiania, a neighborhood of Copenhagen that considers itself independent of Copenhagen, and Denmark, and even the European Union. At the neighborhood’s exit there’s a sign that says, “You are now entering the E.U.” The neighborhood was founded in 1971 by hippies who occupied former army barracks. Today, it still has a hippie atmosphere, with artful graffiti covering every surface.

The sign at the exit of Christiania.

There was a lot of great architecture in Copenhagen, including many interesting spires. I also spent time in a beautiful park near my hostel. Copenhagen was experiencing perfect weather while I was there (which is unusual, according to the people I met), so the park was always crowded.

A canal in Copenhagen.

On Monday I took a train to Berlin, carrying lots of great memories of Copenhagen and its locals with me. Thanks to facebook, I’ll be able to keep in touch with Michael and Martin. I deactivated my facebook account when I left for this trip, thinking that it would be good for me to get some time away from it, but I quickly reactivated it because it’s a good way to keep in touch with people you meet while traveling.

Eurotrip 2011: Bruges and Amsterdam

Eurotrip 2011: Lisbon and Porto

Eurotrip 2011: Madrid

Eurotrip 2011: Barcelona

Eurotrip 2011: Rouen, Le Havre and Paris

Eurotrip 2011: Paris

Eurotrip 2011: Nice and Marseille

Eurotrip 2011: Venice and Milan

Eurotrip 2011: Interlaken

Eurotrip 2011: Florence and Pisa

Eurotrip 2011: Rome pt. 2

Eurotrip 2011: Rome pt. 1

Eurotrip 2011: Palermo

Eurotrip 2011: The Journey To Palermo

Eurotrip 2011: Santorini and Athens

Eurotrip 2011: Athens

Eurotrip 2011: Istanbul