Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, various creatures smart enough to operate the internet- Bloggie is back and more Mediterranean than ever! Tom Johnson, I hope you're out there; haven't received a life-threatening fan letter in quite some time. If you're stalking some other blogger these days, I want to win you back.
Ok, so the drill goes like this: I give you titles and brief tidbits tangentially related to those titles. If it looks boring, it is. Skip it. If it looks like I went cross-eyed while writing it, I probably did (and you should too just in case I slipped one of those Magic Eye Pictures into the text.). That being said, lets' go ahead and take a look at the first days of Paul Storm's trip to Malta!
I think an Invisible Falcon just pooped on my carry on luggage
Wow, Paul. You really started with something pretty ridiculous. Yes, yes, I did. So here's the explanation that puts it into context. I had a layover in Detroit. If 8-Mile taught us anything, Detroit is a tough town. Fortunately, I suffer from the delusion that I'm highly alert and aware of my surroundings. So there I am, listening and looking and smelling and touching with all my sensory might when all of the sudden, I hear what sounds like a screeching bird-of-prey attacking (and presumably killing) what sound like tiny mammals. None of the employees of the airport seemed to find it unusual. 5 minutes later, another innocent marmot or ferret or maybe a vole squeaked it's last tiny squeak (this time I was sure I heard a vertebrae snap too.) Turns out, Detroit's airport has a set of speakers set up that play the sounds of Predatory Birds. Really, I’m not making any of this up. While I was being searched (Yes, I got picked for the “random” search) by Yolanda, the security guard, I asked about it. As Yolanda tested the pH level of my tea (yes, holding a hot tea is a potential sign of terrorism that warrants additional searching, and yes they actually tested the pH level of my tea with litmus paper), she explained that a lot of little birds found their way into the airport. As you can imagine, that means random splats of bird poo fall onto the heads and shoulders of travelers. The solution the airport came up with (aka plan to scare the birds shitless...yeah, pretty corny joke there, but I'm just getting warmed up and a few duds have to fall every now and again...baddum chhh!) was inflicting psychological warfare on the trapped birds...I can’t imagine what sort of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that must cause, but I’d be a pretty paranoid little sparrow dealing with some serious fears of invisible psychotic falcons if I was trapped in D-Town airport.
Shining Time Station's got nothing on poor Maltese fishermen
Right now I’m sitting on my balcony looking out at the waterfront. Yes, I have a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. Big glass windows, comfy chairs, the whole I-don’t-deserve-something-this-nice package. Luzzas are small rowboats painted like bathtub toys. The harbor is full of them. Somewhere along the way in Malta's history, someone got the idea of painting eyes on the front of his boat to scare away evil spirits. And like the LaCoste Alligator, Starter pullover half-zips, and Zoobaz, a status symbol was born. Suddenly everyone had to have eyes on his boat. With big bushy eyebrows.
We Built This City. We Built This City On Rock And...More Rock!
This city is nothing but hasty rectangles stacked on and squished between other misshapes. Like the way kids draw cities. Just row after sloppy row of rectangles getting progressively shorter the closer they get to water. The streets are European-narrow. Maybe half the width of Summit Avenue. Cars whiz by each other with inches (well, this is Europe, so I guess it’s centimeters, but you get the idea) between the rear-view mirrors. There aren’t really “lanes” on the road so much as suggestions about where to point your car. People drive down the middle of the street until they see oncoming traffic, then it’s a game of chicken. Most cars here are tiny hatchbacks. Occasionally a Ferrari or Porsche or Aston Martin shoots by blaring bad accordion-based techno music. The sidewalks, where they exist, are hardly wide enough to walk on and seem to double as parking space. There's no green space, very little of what we would call "fertile topsoil" in the midwest, and most things are carved from rock or made of rocks carved into the shape of bricks. There are a few trees, but no one's building a log cabin here anytime soon.
THE CATS OF MALTA 2010-2011 CALENDAR
Yes, there is a calendar called “The Cats of Malta” in one of the shops I went searching for postage in. Not only that, the calendar features 12 feral cats. Celebrities of the gutters apparently. For whatever reason, Malta is a fan of the feral cat. People sometimes leave water dishes out for them. Not sure what the feeding policy is.
Do you have a Flag? No Flag, No Country! That's the Rule...That I just made up.
Malta has a weird history. Since prehistoric times, an army from one corner of the world or another had landed and declared itself the ruler of the Maltese as part of some sort of pyramid scheme to rule the Mediterranean. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Napolean for a week- everyone throughout the ancient/not-so-ancient-but-still-pretty-darn-long-ago world seems to have shacked up on Malta and plunged a flag between the rocks at one time or another. The Maltese weren’t too keen on the idea at first, but they eventually accepted that, like bird poop on your windshield or random acne flare-ups, there just isn’t much they can do about it. So the Maltese made lemonade of the situation by developing one hell of a fusion cuisine culture while the powers-that-be killed one another for control of Malta’s harbors and strategic location. Once everything calmed down, they made a 45-minute documentary I had to watch on a tour we took through the oldest, most important city on the island; Valleta.
There are no cars in Valleta. The streets are too narrow. Buses and cars must park outside the walls of the city. Yep, walls. Carved right out of the rock itself. 30 feet thick in some places and as tall as 60 feet (I did the metric conversions for you). Valleta was a giant military-industrial compound before it became the bustling center of Maltese social life it is today. This is where I will attend school while I’m here. The streets are always filled with people and music and street performers. Food smells are everywhere, and the plazas are littered with monuments to people I’ve never heard of but apparently did a lot more than I have at this point in my life. Lame little blogs just do not get you statue status apparently.
Saturdays in Malta are for one thing and one thing only; beaches (which in my case means that Sundays are for aloe vera and loose clothing). Yes, now is an acceptable time to get jealous. A crew of us boarded one of the Oscar Meyers (my name for the buses because they’re painted in the same colors as the WeinerMobile) around noon and rode North to a beach recommended to us by some locals. The WeinerMobilemen (bus driver) must have watched The Transporter a few too many times. Gas pedal firmly stomped to the floor, he was taking hairpin turns all the way up and down the coast slowing down once for a goat, but otherwise trying to move fast enough to violate some basic principles of physics and pass through the oncoming traffic unharmed. The bus creaked and swayed like it wanted to get up on two wheels whenever the driver spun his steering wheel. All the Maltese were calmly reading or looking out the window while the white-knuckled Americans started picking out deities to make absurd promises to in exchange for a safe ending to t- OH MY GOD HE JUST GAVE A HIGH-5 TO THE DRIVER OF AN ONCOMING BUS! THE MANIAC DID A 100KM/HR HIGH-5?! DOES HE STILL HAVE HIS ARM?! THAT’S IT, I’M SACRIFICING THE WOMAN’S CAT IN THE 4TH ROW TO ONE OF THOSE ANIMAL-HEADED PAGAN DEMONS, I WANT OFF THIS BUS NOW! GRUNGLEMEBADESH, I SWEAR ON THE LIFE OF THIS FELINE THAT I WILL COMMIT MY LIFE TO SPREADING WORD OF YOUR COMMANDMENTS IN EXCHANGE FOR THE BEACH. PLEASE OH PLEASE JUST LET ME FEEL SOFT SAND, HOT SUN, COOL AND SALTY WATER, AND MAYBE ENJOY A KLONDIKE BAR!!!!!!
Which reminds me, have you heard the good word? No? We’ll talk later.
While some of the others splayed out on their beach towels, I decided to talk a walk down the beach; see the seeables, smell the smellables, etc. I grabbed the ol’ iPod and started strolling. I’m not the dullest crayon in the box, so I noticed right away that beach-goers in Malta avoid tan lines. Women go topless, men sport the speedo, kids rock the naked. Whatever clothes is on people gets wedged up into whatever crevice is available to hold them so that even the places meant to be covered find their way into the UV rays (You don't like the visual that paints? Well I had to look at the real thing. You're lucky I'm leaving out the guy who altered some sort of sports bra to fashion a unique little pair of skivvies for himself.).
You’re wondering about the iPod? Well, I'm an expert rock skipper (Those of you who've figured it out can quit reading now. Those of you a few feathers short of a duck, sharp as a marble, or an enchilada short of a fiesta platter may need to read on.). The Mediterranean has some pretty choice skipping stones and, being an expert skipper, I got to work hurling stones seaward. I got a few 7 and 8 skippers (and one 11 skipper! Ok, so that's a lie) before I saw something metallic skip a few times across the water before sinking out of sight. All the arm whipping I had done dislodged my iPod from my armband...yes, I wear my iPod on my throwing arm. No, this was not my proudest moment. If I were any slower in the ol' brain box, I'd need to be watered once a week and occasionally rotated. Anyway, I ran out into the water (of course there wasn’t soft sand at this part of the beach, just big, hard, uneven stones) searched around, found it, pulled it out, but, I’m sorry to say, it was too late; the iPod is no more. So it seems Malta is on a mission to strip me of all my electronics. Grunglemebadesh, I don’t suppose you can tack a new iPod onto my list of goods and services I'm trading for eternal enslavement? Please?