Pink Trash Travels


I'm always trying to save a buck. So when I was planning my trip to Chicago, I thought it would be nice to use my friends' vehicles. The first week it was Joel and Mike's Tahoe. The second week, Tom was gracious enough to let me use his Volvo convertible. However, after today, I've now decided it's not worth the money saved to rely on their hospitality. Next time, Enterprise can pick me up.

Last night, I pulled into Tom's parking garage. I scanned for space 140. I parked the car. This morning, with my gym bag in one hand and protein shake in the other, I entered the parking garage. What I found was an empty space.

I began to sweat. It was similar to the time I came out of our home in Denver and realized my car was missing. In that circumstance, my Acura had been stolen and later found propped up on cement blocks across town. This time, however, I quickly realized I parked the car in space 138 - not 140. Tom's baby had been towed.

I felt horrible. I'd been anxious about driving since I hadn't been behind the wheel in months. And with me already being a passenger in a car wreck this past week, let alone Joel and Mike having a fender bender this past Saturday, I felt a bit superstitious about operating a vehicle.

"How could I be so stupid?" I thought (similar comments noted by Chris when we discussed my blonde moment). One $8 cab ride later and $150 deducted from our bank account, I had the car back in my possession. Fortunately, there were no scratches, dings or malfunctioning axels. This still didn't ease my mind.

Tom finally put me at ease once he inspected his car around 6. After that, I headed to dinner on foot. Just like in Paris, I'm back to walking and public transportation until I depart on Monday. I wouldn't want to get too comfortable.

Time for Change

Today, I happened to glance at the blog. Sadly, somehow the format was altered. I'm not sure how, or why it happened. In any case, I'm now forced to "start from scratch." So, Pink Trash Travels will have a new look that evolves over the next few weeks.

I guess it was time for a change...

Home Report

It's around 2:40 a.m., and for the first time since arriving, I can't sleep. This probably has something to do with the fact that I had two margaritas at dinner. I don't drink. And when I do, my body responds accordingly. So, here I sit adding a blog entry to PTT.

My trip home was originally to end on July 25th. But I realized a few days ago I wanted to stay longer. I miss Chicago - my friends, the house, Walgreen's... I shared my enthusiasm to be home with someone in Paris via email. What I received back was an interesting take on my happiness and one that made me assess just where things stand with France.

Someone in Paris told me "I didn't adapt and that I don't admire Europe for the reasons I should... because my education and culture are too different and that the more complex profile of people are too much for me." All this from me stating, "I love being back home and that I miss it dearly."

I'm not quite sure what lies at the heart of this response. Sure, I'll be the first to admit I'm not a fan of museums. But my education surely allows me to appreciate European culture and the supposed complex people who walk the streets of Paris.

Our main purpose of moving to overseas was to travel and experience new things. We determined this was the best course of action considering I don't like to fly. And so far, we've maintained a consistent flow of acquiring air miles with visits to Spain, the UK, Sweden, Austria and Italy with upcoming visits to Germany, Russia and Portugal.

So, I'll continue to enjoy myself in Chicago for another 10 days. The Gay Games finish on Saturday with a closing party at the beautiful Aragon ballroom. I'll see movies with friends. I'll eat Mexican. I'll visit Walgreen's five or six more times. And while I do, I'll appreciate the fact that no adaption is required - because I'm home.

Chicago Bound

This week has been a bit busy as I’m preparing to leave for Chicago tomorrow for 9 days. I wish it could be for more. But with Chris traveling as he is, it’s a bit difficult to be gone more than a week. It’s nice to know that I’m needed!

I gave Maddie her first shave in France. With our afternoon walks along the Seine, I thought a shorter “doo” would do her good. But yesterday, for her first outing, she seemed sluggish and overheated. They say sometimes the fur protects the animal from heat exhaustion. For Maddie, that’s never been the case. I’m beginning to think we’re not the only ones who’ve changed in Paris.

We had dinner with Xavier on Wednesday night before he headed to Amsterdam to see his newfound friend he found in Madrid. Who knows what goodies he’ll get this weekend since his host works for Armani. I told him to be on the lookout for two things: (1) a small bracelet, preferably in brown and (2) The attractive Australian we met in Madrid. Both would make me quite happy!

I started packing on Thursday. It is common for me to forget something. So, I was determined to avoid my usual pratfalls. It’s Friday, 1:14 p.m., and I think I’m set. With the gym not opening until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, I won’t be able to go. This unfortunate timing conflict saves me from running around in the morning with the usual consequence of forgetting my iPod, toiletries kit or other item I use while at the gym.

We’re getting ready to see Superman. The critics seem to agree it’s good. Consumers, on the other hand, are mixed regarding the superheroes rebirth. My expectations are low so I’m excited to see the film. And with our monthly movie membership, we must see two movies a month to justify our 18-euro/month charge. Yes, it’s cheap - especially if you see a move or two every week. But lately, I’ve found myself unable to go. Now that I’m beginning work on a McDonald’s Quarterly Newsletter, I’m focusing my energy on completing the project by the end of July, first part of August.

So, until my return on the 26, enjoy the summer. I’m somewhat leery of posting this entry as I don’t like to leave voice mails, etc. before flying. I partially blame USA Today for my feelings. They seem to always print stories describing letters received after the tragedy. And I don’t’ want my fame to come from such grave circumstances. With that being said, here’s to a follow-up post once I’m back in Paris.

Our Day at Wimbledon

The day started relatively calm. We awoke around 8, got dressed, enjoyed an egg McMuffin downstairs, and began our journey to Wimbledon. However, within 15 minutes on our way to the tennis championship, it turned slightly sour.

I had forgotten my toiletries bag before leaving Paris. As a result, I didn’t have my razor. So, for Wimbledon, I opted to forego shaving. After all, with my constant five o’clock shadow, I didn’t think it was necessary. I was wrong.

After stepping onto the train (Chris sacrificed our car service as not to be problematic to our hosts), Chris began to knit pick my appearance. For starters, he didn’t approve of my unshaven neck. That, combined with my “flowy” Diesel rooster shirt and “unfallen” hair, gave me the appearance of someone he “found on the street.” But we were on our way so there was nothing I could do. That was, until, he realized he forgot his Wimbledon ticket. So we quickly switched trains and headed back to the McDonald’s flat (an apartment owned by McDonald’s we rented in London for a mere 75 euros a night - simple in design but ideally located).

While Chris ironed my shirt, I shaved with a blade. Since I usually use the electric version, I was concerned this method would irritate my skin and make it bleed. Not that day. Our luck must have been changing.

With tickets in hand and wardrobe change complete, we hopped back on the train. We arrived to join our party for lunch at the Wimbledon Club only 30 minutes late. They had just received their starter so nobody was punished for our tardiness.

After finishing a lunch of mixed meat tarts and other unappealing side dishes, we crossed the walkway to reach the stadium just before the 2:00 p.m. coin toss. There was no rain delay (which apparently is common for Wimbledon). Our seats were 1/3 the way up behind the baseline – perfect for viewing the match. I was surprised at how small the venue is. But as they always say, “everything looks bigger on TV.”

The crowd was amazingly quiet for play. Spectators shouted a few random supports chants for Nadal and Federer between points. But for the most part, they were respectful of play (unlike other tennis matches where apparently the crowd is a bit more rambunctious).

While I was watching the match, it was hard for me to grasp the fact that I was there, in person, enjoying the tournament, rather then viewing it on TV. Usually, the finals take place around the 4th of July. So, in past years, I’d watch it at home in Kansas with a/c cranked high to combat the 100-degree weather. Or, as in the last couple of years, we’d be watching the tournament in Saugatuck with friends gathered around the TV recouping from the night before.

As the hours passed by, I sat in my most uncomfortable chair looking around absorbing the sites and sounds of Wimbledon: the photographers amassed on the sidelines, the required “stand breaks” between set points, the policemen as they guarded the entryways.

After an invigorating three hours of play, my butt was ready to leave. With our hosts, we exited and returned to the club for clotted cream, scones, tea and a bit more conversation.

As the name implies, clotted cream is quite heavy and artery clogging. It appears to be vanilla frosting – thick and creamy. But the taste is subtly sweet. And when combined with preserves on top of a scone, it’s simply divine. As a result, we had possibly three or four as well as a few orange frosted cakes. Of course, I had to explain the Fat Girl philosophy to our table. Otherwise, they would have thought us to be barbarians.

With the sun shining, we returned home around 8 p.m. Our day at Wimbledon may have started rough, but it ended on a bright note. That was, until, we decided to have KFC (London style) for dinner and watch the World Cup. But that’s another story…

Pride in Madrid

With gay pride events, there are certain elements synonymous with each location. In Chicago, it’s the Jewel Cart. In Brussels, we discovered an unattractive crowd. This weekend, in Madrid, the city treated us to an onslaught of beautiful sights and cultural experiences.

With the help of our friend Stephan, we booked a new hotel, The Alicia, located in the heart of Madrid city. Fortunately for Chris and I, we received one of three junior suites with ample space and amenities. Xavier, however, obtained a standard room to share. It was perfect for one couple or individual, but not two acquaintances who both would prefer a bit of space. And for this, Xavier relocated on Saturday. He upgraded to the Urban Hotel, complete with a rooftop pool we all shared throughout the weekend.

We devoted Friday afternoon to sight seeing knowing the remainder of the visit could potentially be “gay, gay, gay.” So we headed to the Prado Museum. I’d never heard of the renowned museum nor the featured Spanish artists such as Goya. Even though the museum is quite large, we completed our tour within an hour. Considering I lapped the Louvre in 20 minutes, my tenacity was quite an accomplishment.

Our first official gay event took place Friday night at a penthouse party high above Madrid. It was a guest only event complete with two checklists to get through the front door. At first, I was a bit overwhelmed. It seemed somewhat straight out of Queer as Folk. Everyone was attractive. Substances were abound. And we were told the it could possibly turn into a sex party (though, after being there, I think this might have been an exaggeration). Needless to say, it was an interesting and exciting way to begin the weekend.

Saturday, I started my day with a visit to a gym stuck in 1968. The posters on the wall were priceles. But I can’t go more than a few days without a workout – especially with my visit to Chicago coming fast and furious. So, I literally ran across town to one of two fitness centers close to the hotel. It was scary. I don't like to work out with roaches doing curls next to me. It did, however, serve it’s purpose – combating the Spanish food we’d be eating during our stay. And with the possibility of me going to Space the next day for what is referred to as “the best party of the weekend,” I had to pump some iron.

While the other boys ventured outside the city for a relaxing day at the pool, we opted to immerse ourselves in the pride parade that took place around 7. With over 60K people expected to line the street, we knew it would be crazy. It was. And with an apparent backlog of flag carrying pride groups and oversized tour buses with drag queens and Chip n' Dale dancers, we decided to walk the route where we ran into Madonna carrying her boombox. After all, we didn't want to wait three hours to receive our whistle. Besides that, we had reservations at 9 for a traditional, family style Spanish dinner near our hotel. So with whistles in hand, we headed back to the hotel for a quick shower.

Chris is always good at finding places to eat. He scours through books, on-line resources and referrals to locate either top recommendations or hidden gems undiscovered by most tourists. From that, Xavier, Chris and I enjoyed a true Spanish restaurant at Marianna complete with locals celebrating a birthday party. To be honest, Chris and Xavier appreciated the dinner more than I (especially Xavier who was intrigued by the women and their golden fans). It was good, but I realized after Barcelona I prefer Mexican. Burrito anyone?

The following morning, I awoke with all intentions of Sunday being another sightseeing day. Then I received a call from Xavier about going to Space. I originally planned to miss the party. We hadn’t purchased tickets in time and I wasn’t going to stand in line for hours just to dance. And with Chris opting out instead for a bullfight later that night, I was fairly certain I couldn't do both. But after eating a light (and free) breakfast at the hotel, Xavier convinced me to go.

We arrived around noon. Luckily for us, there was no line to get in. And just after three hours, we departed. It was hard to leave the crowd full of attractive men gyrating to thumping beats. But with the bullfight just hours away, I knew I needed time to recover. So after Xavier said goodbye to his new tall drink of water from Amsterdam via Brazil, we headed for home (not before stopping at Burger King and clearing their waiting tray of all its items). Back at the hotel, I quickly showered and headed for bed. Chris was out sightseeing so I grabbed a little shut-eye before the bullfight that night at 9 p.m.

We met Xavier at his hotel around 8:30. Chris and I left alone 10 minutes later. Xavier had become preoccupied with his new comrade so we were on our own. After a quick ride in the Metro, we arrived at La Plaza de Toro. Just like at the movies, you grab overpriced snacks and soda before entering. With tasteless caramel-crunch almonds and dry licorice pieces in hand, we made our way to our box seats purchased for 60 euros a piece.

With horns blaring, the matadors entered the ring. I wasn’t sure I was up for a killing. However, in the end, blood was minimal and the show was not as traumatic as I originally anticipated.

Bullfight in Madrid


Simply put, the bull comes out. The matador plays with it a bit. A gold dressed man riding a fabric covered horse pricks the bull a few times. Another man in sequenced purple pants plops four forks on the bull’s back. The matador returns for a final blow by stabbing the bull in the back of the neck (he should only have to do it once, but at times, it takes more). The bull drops then a chariot takes it away. One bull was saved, though two should have been. The third bull outwitted the matador by surviving four possibility fatal wounds. I guess they have a limit.

Two hours later, we returned to the hotel. It was a full day and I was ready for bed. So with earplugs in place (to silence the busy square outside our hotel), I hopped into bed.

Our flight wasn’t until 5 the following day. I personally don’t like to wait around to leave. But in this case, we didn’t make the arrangements so we were going with the flow. Besides that, it gave us a few additional hours at Xavier’s rooftop pool (along with the other 15 unregistered guests - including an Australian lad whose charming accent and sexy smile kept catching my attention).

Apparently, some thought Chris and I weren’t having much fun. It was quite the contrary. For gay pride events or circuit weekends, we don’t participate 100%. Instead, we opt to balance the weekend with a bit of culture and down time. And with Madrid, I couldn’t have found a better mix of activities. There were boys. There was sun. There was sightseeing and dining with friends. And with that, I couldn’t ask for anything more (except, of course, the inclusion of my friends from home – but we’ll save that for Ibiza and beyond!)