- 22 October 1997
- Princess Grace Slept Here: Twenty-Nine Scenes of Luxurious Monacan Horizontal Excess
- I thought a trip to Monaco would provide some respite from the Princess Die fallout. I was right, but it didn't do much good, for Monaco is chock-full of Her Serene Highness Princess Grace memorabilia, shrines, as well as tons of knickknacks and trinkets. (The less said about the novelty items the better.)
Her Serene Highness: what a great title! I wonder how I can get to be His Serene Highness? (Actually, that's a rhetorical question.)
There's no escape from Her Serene Highness in the claustrophobic little principality. Even HSHPG's burial site, La Cathedrale Monaco, features "tasteful" vending machines, a tacky practice even by my low standards. I got caught up in the fifteen year old hysteria and made Princess Grace Slept Here: Twenty-Nine Scenes of Luxurious Monacan Horizontal Excess. (It's available in the PDF format).
At least there weren't any photographs of the car in which Princess Grace died. What is it about princesses and automobiles?
- 23 October 1997
- A Trochilidae Conundrum
- My father taught me everything I know about birds: there are only two types of birds, big-ass birds and little brown jobbies. I've recently spotted a bird that, impossible as it may seem, appears to belong to neither of these two known bird families. I saw a bee or a wasp or a hornet, then realized it was neither a bee nor a wasp nor a hornet. The creature was actually an insect-sized hummingbird. (Other sources have since collaborated my sighting.)
It's too bad I'm not very excited by pure science, otherwise I might take more pleasure in discovering the third bird family. Since the tiny critter is too small to shoot or eat, I doubt anyone will be interested in my find.
- 24 October 1997
- A friend of mine bet me I wouldn't find a MacDonald's "restaurant" in Monaco. My friend lost the bet. It turns out that MacDonald's executives were approached by royal representatives on behalf of "a high-ranking member of the royal family." No one is willing to name names, but all the evidence suggests that Prince Albert was personally responsible for allowing the siting of the de facto American embassy.
I read a story in the Monte Carlo Tattler that claimed the burger building is periodically sealed off from the public. Harried cooks then prepare 700 sandwiches (sometimes hamburgers, sometimes cheeseburgers, but never fish) for the allegedly anonymous royal. (The number is chosen to commemorate the seven-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Monaco.)
He (or could it be a she?) arrives in an armored royal limousine with armed guards and enters the "restaurant" through a secret entrance. Once inside, the anonymous royal(s?) eats/eat perhaps one of the sandwiches, but usually just take a bite or two. (In addition to avoiding the known health risks from eating at McDonald's, the royals are as scared of obesity as their wealthy subjects.)
The uneaten sandwiches are dumped in a garbage container. This might seem like a terrible waste; but for palace guards it's a cost-effective way of minimizing the risk of intentional food poisoning.
Ever since the Tattler reported on the royal visits, things have become even stranger. Local residents reports hearing explosions and feeling tremors in the middle of the night. Could it really be true that workers are building a tunnel from the castle to McDonald's?
- 25 October 1997
- Art et Souvenirs
- I was disappointed to discover the famous gallery Art et Souvenirs had recently gone out of business. A waiter in a nearby cafe blamed it all on Monsieur Junot, the owner: he refused to serve customers who couldn't tell the difference between art and souvenirs. I wonder how many galleries would still be in business if all proprietors were so picky about their customers?
- 26 October 1997
- Three-Dimensional Cabs
- How are Monaco cabbies supposed to make a living when they only three and a half square kilometers to cover? They've come up with an ingenious solution, "three-dimensional fares." Since Monaco is built into a steep hillside, they formulate the fares based on a complex calculations involving the distance traveled from North to South, East to West, altitude gain, and angle of incline. The rules are so ridiculously convoluted that no one except the cabbies understand them, which is of course the formula's raison d'être. The cabbies overcharge the tourists, who enjoy being charged exorbitant prices, which is of course the Monaco's raison d'être.
- 27 October 1997
- How Loews Can You Go?
- My stay at the Loews Hotel is proving to be quite amusing. This seems like a ridiculously expensive place to stay, but since I usually sleep on friends' couches when I travel I don't have many similar experiences to serve as guidelines. And since a sponsor insisted I stay there--and paid the bill--how could I say no?
I'm enjoying pretending to be a rich American. I called the front desk and requested three clean washcloths for each finger and two towels for each toe. Within an hour a young man delivered twenty towels and twenty-eight washcloths to my room. (I wonder how they knew and remembered I was missing two thirds of an index finger?)
While I was waiting in the lobby to meet a friend, the concierge asked if there was anything he could do to make my stay more enjoyable.
"Jump!" I replied.
"How high, monsieur?" he asked.
I told him such a clever answer was worth a ninety centime tip, and apologized for only having forty centimes with me. He accepted the gratuity gratefully; I suspect he's underappreciated.
Since I had a huge room, I invited a friend to stay with me. Two or three times a day we'd roam the corridors looking for half-eaten trays of food left in the halls for the room service people to collect. We ended up with huge feasts of rolls, croissants, breads, jams and butter, and buckets of fresh fruit. (About the only thing we didn't find is a good bottle of wine, but since wine's cheaper that soda pop here that's not much of a problem.) I've always figuratively described my financial strategy as an artist as living off the scraps from an affluent society, but this is the first time I've literally used the approach.
Hunter gatherer artist: that's the life for me!
- 28 October 1997
- Monaco Means Motor City
- For a while I thought I was in Detroit: everywhere I looked there were huge cars with Motor City bumper stickers. It took me a while to learn that the "MC" ovals also were an abbreviation for Monaco. For me, it's the same thing, for Monaco is just like Detroit, albeit without the culture.
The parking lot in front of the casino is the main drag for cruising. Since Monaco is so small, a lot of the cruising actually involves simply parking in a long row of the world's most expensive cars. Imagine how you'd feel is you just parked your $400,000 Ferrari there, then someone else parked the same model of Ferrari beside yours ... and that the other one had a bigger engine, wider tires, fuzzy dice, curb finders, and a bumper sticker that said "I brake for hot babes" in six languages.
I don't have to imagine what that would be liked, I talked with Enrico, the man who just had that unpleasant experience. Enrico comes to Monaco every Saturday night, parks his Ferrari in front of the casino, then sits in the cafe across the street watching people admire his car. (It doesn't take much to amuse an accountant.)
Enrico was very depressed by the appearance of the über-Ferrari, so I tried to cheer him up by telling him the old joke about the mouse, the elephant and the Ferrari.
One day an elephant was walking in the jungle when he fell in a deep elephant trap. A mouse heard the pachyderm's cries for help and came to his rescue. The mouse drove his Ferrari to the edge of the hole, tied a sturdy rope to the bumper and threw the other end to the elephant. The mouse revved the Ferrari's huge engine and pulled the elephant out of the hole with ease.
A few years later the mouse found himself trapped in a hole, and who should come to the rodent's rescue but the same elephant he'd previously extricated from a similar predicament? (It was of course the same elephant, but I'm not going to say that in so many words because the answer was implied in the previous sentence, which was a "rhetorical question," a literary device I just read about; it provides a welcome break from my only other literary device, the run-on sentence.) The elephant lowered his penis into the hole, which the grateful mouse used as an escape ramp.
The sad look on my companion's face indicated he hadn't heard the joke before, so I delivered the punch line. "The moral of that story is that you don't need a Ferarri if you have a big penis!" I exclaimed, but Enrico just stared glumly at the car that was bigger and more expensive than his.
Since there was obviously nothing that could be done to cheer up Enrico, I walked back to my hotel through some of the planet's most exclusive carbon monoxide.
Monaco Means Motor City: kick out the jams!
- 29 October 1997
- The Art of Gynecology
- Another Monaco walk, another tedious sculpture. Today's silliness is Guiseppe Bergomi's Grande Nude di Adolescente; I believe that's Italian for Waiting for the Gynecologist. A steady stream of male tourists approach the life-size figure, stop, then gaze between the young woman's open legs as if they're consulting an oracle. I don't think very many of them are really gynecologists.
- 30 October 1997
- Affluenza Redux!
- After watching all the vulgar rich people strutting around the Monte Carlo shopping district, e.g. Monaco, I've come up with a great entrepreneurial marketing venture.
I got the idea when I watched a couple with a thick Oklahoma accent come out of the Bulgari shop laden with gold-plated doodads and leather knick-knacks. They seemed quite happy with their overpriced purchases.
And that's how I came up with the idea for the "Vulgari" label. Imagine how many people would wait in long queues to shop at the snooty Vulgari stores and be patronized by the haughty employees! Imagine the snide pride consumers will enjoy wearing Vulgari clothing and accessories that cost twice as much as my nearest competitor's shoddy products! Imagine all the merchandising and licensing spinoffs!
- 31 October 1997
- From Monaco to San Francisco to Halloween and Back Again
- Having persuaded the Monaco authorities to return my notebooks only after some bizarre negotiations, I'm en route from Monaco to San Francisco. Unfortunately, the terms of the agreement preclude me from explaining just how weird the talks were: all I can reveal is that I agreed (under some duress) that I would never publish photographs of the very tasteful vending machines in the cathedral where Princess Grace is buried. And no matter what the erroneous press reports said, I was not deported; I left voluntarily.
I'll miss the cheap wine, but it will be good to get back to San Francisco on Halloween. Actually, any day's a good day to return to San Francisco, and Halloween is like any other San Francisco day except that the people from the suburbs all come to the city dressed up like they lived there.
- 1 November 1997
- Morrie's Stories
- I love talking with Morrie, and today was no exception. Sometimes he'll take forty minutes to tell an anecdote fully, carefully; other times he'll come out with a single sentence that's simply brilliant. Today he did both.
I don't have the time (or the skill) to retell the epic tale of Morrie's long night in Tokyo, an evening that involved love, death, wild men, wild women, wild men posing as wild women, and enough whisky to disembowel an entire fraternity house. The story could be, should be, an opera.
As for Morrie's profound observation, he said "Edward Weston made documentary statements about his own worth." I wish I could come up with brilliant ideas like that.
- 2 November 1997
- First Class Grill
- Another day, another jet crash. This latest disaster was attributed to the failure of the grills in the first class cabin. It seems that Southern Aviation Airlines installed grills in each first class passenger's dinner tray to allow first class passengers to grill their own food. The gas barbecues were thoroughly tested for safety, but nothing's foolproof given the right fool.
The right fool in this case was Charles "Chuck Boy" Ablan, a Texas oil magnate. He was cooking a huge steak when he decided to sear the meat by augmenting the modest gas flame with some Old Carcass Kentucky bourbon.
Chuck Boy connected the hose from his bar connection to the grill, and that's when the problem started. (Southern Aviation Airlines connected hoses from each of the first class seats to central liquor reservoirs allowing rich customers to mix their own drinks. "We adjust the altitude, you adjust the attitude" was the advertising slogan that had originally caught Chuck Boy's eye.)
None of the plane's designer envisioned that Wild Buzzard, 89.5 percent alcohol, would be popular enough to fill the largest booze reservoir. When Chuck Boy connected the Wild Buzzard tube to the barbecue, it started a cabin fire that was quickly extinguished by the safety equipment installed in each grill. The tragedy occurred when the flame traveled down the liquor distribution tube and ignited the reservoir of Wild Buzzard. That explosion wasn't large enough to bring the plane down, but it was strong enough to set off an explosion in the main fuel tank.
Et voilà! 747 flambé!
- 3 November 1997
- Computers On Fire
- My computer's acting strange again. Today it's inserting characters seemingly at random. Since it's eager to type and I'm not, I'm going to let it work while I go for a walk.
- 4 November 1997
- Da Wrong Woid
- I didn't learn fuckall during my formal education; my teachers just taught me useless shit like "respect your superiors even if they're assholes" and "never use profanity in an essay." I nevertheless got excellent grades by developing my short-term memory: I'd memorize everything the night before the exam then regurgitate everything during the test. I binged and purged my way to what passes for academic excellence.
I was reminded of the deficiencies of this approach when I came across a copy of a ninth-grade textbook, Introduction to the Poem and found a poem by the noted Latin poet Anonymous:
Spring in New York
Der spring is sprung,
Der grass is riz,
I wonder where dem boidies is.
Der little boids is on der wing--
Ain't dat absoid?
Der little wings is on der boid!
That's certainly not how I remember it. This is obviously a bad translation, for Anonymous clearly intended to use the Dutch "da" instead of the German "der." (The Brooklyn accent is a hangover from 1636 when the New York City borough was a Dutch settlement; dat's why da people dat live bote in Brooklyn and da Nedderlands talk like dat.)
Spring in New York
Da spring is sprung,
Da grass is riz,
I wonder where dem boidies is.
Da little boids is on da wing--
Ain't dat absoid?
Da little wings is on da boid!
Memorizing poorly-translated poetry for good grades: ain't dat absoid? Da stupid poem had da wrong woid!
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©1997 David Glenn Rinehart