Day 21 -- Russe and Veliko Tarnovo

Jun. 21st, 2017 07:04 pm
skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

The boat docked this morning in Russe, Bulgaria, which you will also see sometimes spelled "Ruse". We had a brief bus tour of Russe on our way out of town, but this was one of those days where our destination was a couple of hours away on the bus, so it was very brief indeed. Read more... )

<

Read more... )

Day 20 - Vidin, Bulgaria

Jun. 20th, 2017 07:00 pm
skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

This morning we are still in Bulgaria. As we dock in Vidin, we see a small chapel-like building which turns out to be a memorial to those who died under Communist oppression. We board our tour buses for the long drive up into the mountains, over 90 minutes each way, to see the dramatic rock formations of Belogradchik, which were once used partly as a fortress for the town.

Read more... ) Read more... )

However, we had already signed up for the afternoon cooking lesson group, so after lunch out we went again. The cooking lesson was a group of a dozen or so of us, and hosted in a local home with a woman named Ramona. Ramona had lived in the US for many years, and noted that her house at this point probably resembled an American style home more than a typical Bulgarian home. However, she seemed to really enjoy welcoming us in and giving the cooking lesson. Her Auntie Rosa did not speak English as easily, but assisted by preparing measured ingredients and whisking extra dishes out of the way. We immediately determined that everybody ought to have an Auntie Rosa.


Above left: Ramona's house, with Auntie Rosa and her friend Pavel on the porch. Above right: Ramona and Auntie Rosa demonstrate the banitsa mixture.

Read more... )

Day 19 -- Iron Gates

Jun. 19th, 2017 09:50 pm
skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

Today was a sailing day, with no actual stops to explore towns - just a day of relaxing and admiring the scenery. In the broadest sense of the name, the Iron Gates is the gorge lying between Serbia and Romania, which contains the Danube River. It is a national park on both sides. I will not waste too many words on the basic info you can read in Wikipedia except as it relates to various photos. (Feel free to click the various links for more info.)

Read more... )

Read more... )

Why are you not louder?

Jul. 15th, 2017 11:57 am
fj: (Default)
[personal profile] fj

In the 90s, there were plenty of opportunities for me to sero-convert. What kept me negative was luck, and wanting only to top, and iron discipline in my practices. That discipline (and my guilt the few times I lapsed) came from the memories I have of people who had become poz before anything was known about the virus expressing to me, especially while managing their live with AIDS, how urgently they wanted me to stay negative. I remember arriving at a play party in 1993 in San Francisco and seeing and greeting Max who was there socially, and how immediately, out of nowhere, he put his hand in a bowl of condoms, grabbed a few, and handed them to me and telling me to make sure I always had some and to use them. He hadn't gone much beyond small-talk before that. Don't do this, was the message from the ones sick and dying, we know better now. Stay healthy.

At the same time, plenty of urban poz and PWAs at the time were creating a rebel mystique about how HIV / AIDS was another marker of having been thrown out of society and being counter-cultural if not outright edgy and hot. Of course HIV created its own aesthetic of danger in the communities that had it, and poz people deserved it because they were not garbage to be shunned, as much of society was treating them at the time. They were still sexual and alive and worthy and their sexuality was real and valid. But personally, I found glamorizing the punk of HIV / AIDS, (yes, at the time still also AIDS, you couldn't really hold the AIDS part back much) to the point that people WANTED to earn that bio-hazard tat, well, too much. I carried Max and other older men warning me in my head with me for years. Don't fucking be stupid. You know better. Many voices out there trying to keep us negative young men negative. "Don't end up like me." They would be disappointed and heart-broken at one more person to worry about and maybe lose, and I looked up to them.

I am thinking about that now because while HIV became manageable, the other thing I encountered first on that trip to San Francisco, meth, is not. It's been in my life 25 years now peripherally, and recently has tripled in force as I have become close to a number of people who are barely managing, or trying to climb out of a relapse, or fucking succumbing to it. They are, in my opinion, spectacular human beings whose addiction is stopping them from being the forces of light they have every right to be in this world that so needs their light. Meth is now closer to home than ever.

Here in London fucking club drugs are fucking everywhere, utterly normalized, as is binge drinking. One of my closest friends here told me how he literally can't go dancing any more because the drugs make him feel so awful in the mornings. When I tell him one can dance sober, he dismisses me: it is not the same, and sober it is so much less it is not worth doing. In this culture, a month of being sober is considered a feat of fortitude enough to justify fundraising for doing it. And yes, it gets to me: sometimes I feel like my abstinence means something is wrong with me. That is just how being a social species works.
New friends always wonder a little when they find out I don't and haven't done club drugs, tell me a little MDMA would be fun, discuss the quality of coke to be had openly. I'm pretty sure that if I smoked a little hit of meth at a "chill-out", just once to know what it was like, just a smoke man, nothing major, inhaled once, all under control, and then had sex with some guy for the next 8 hours, most of my gay friends would pat me on the back, and only my straights would be worried. And maybe they shouldn't be worried. Maybe it was only a little hit just to find things out. Doesn't mean I'll go out of control right away. Totally overblown worry. Lots of guys do a little meth on weekends. Right?

Yet yet yet yet. I know so many gays for whom it is no longer a little fun treat, especially now they are sober. Losing relationships, jobs, NA meetings, relapses. Seared in my brain is this memory of standing on a street in New York and hearing this amazing person tell me "You know, the weirdest thing about addiction is how it makes the outrageous seem like a good idea. Injecting yourself with tap water because you are out of sterile seems totally normal all of a sudden."

I was horrified to hear there was such a thing as a bare-backing party in 1992, or that they knowingly allowed bug-chasers. But then I got told I needed to be cool and respect bodily autonomy and other people's decisions. Now I look at the remnants of that sex&death edginess (thanks, Treasure Island Media), take my PrEP, and smirk at guys excitedly talking about wanting "toxic poz loads". Shut up, asshole, there's no such thing anymore unless you are dumb enough to be with someone dumb enough to not take daily meds and lose the undetectable status.

Slamming is now the frontier here for the out there and cool, the tragic messes to be revered for their plugged-inness and the reality they are serving, away from us bourgeois sell-outs to marriage and suburbia. The guys I am close to I mentioned before truly do not want to do it any more, but they seem utterly alone in there. The one thing I am not hearing is anything inside their culture even trying to hold them back. There seem to be no Maxes, nobody who has been there, telling them it is a bad idea, or even metaphorically yanking a syringe away from them in some sense.

On the hook-up apps there is barely any filter, anybody moderating for what we KNOW are the keywords: chill-out, PnP, HnH, High and Horny, Slamming, Slam, Zlam. I see them every time on my grid, they reach out to me even though my profile says fuck no to that. I know tech, I know what is a real effort and what is half-hearted lip-service (surprise, they are doing only the latter). I know a bot could filter all of the profiles better than they are even trying, and filter chats real-time, and flag them up  for review instantly, but nobody in charge of the comms seems really desiring to do and be this prescriptive. How would they, why would they--I remember the Marketing dude for one big hookup fetish website, previously Marketing dude for another hook-up website, being at every major gay fetish party I was at for 3 years on two continents, eyes wider and buggier every time, until I did not, and have not, seen him around for the last few years. Facilitating chemsex makes the sites money over facilitating sober sex, and if they are on it themselves, because everyone is, because everyone can handle their drugs on a weekend, right, why would they clamp down? Why would our culture clamp down? It's just a bit of fun. A little release. Adults can handle it.

Twenty years ago there were voices from inside the community telling us to stay negative, not just external agencies and helpful initiatives. I remember going into cruising spots and finding community workers handing out condoms. I am not hearing, or hearing of, voices from inside the sex and especially chemsex community, on-line, off-line, organically saying, don't do this. It will kill you. I've been there. I barely got out. Stop.

We knew where men had sex and showed up. We know where the fucking dealers live now. Everyone knows who they are at the parties.

They say nobody proselytizes against a sin more than reformed sinners, but sometimes it feels to me like meth is bucking that trend. I hope it is just me being so out of touch with this culture I do not know where to look.

skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

After lunch and not expecting very much, we reboarded a bus and headed back into town for the add-on tour of the Opera House, or as it is officially known, the National Theater. Our guide this afternoon was a very upbeat young woman, obviously completely in love with the theater, the opera, and perhaps even her city. This was definitely a welcome and refreshing alternative view.

Read more... )


Read more... )

skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

Ah, Serbia. The only country on our agenda not a member of the E.U. We awoke to a view of a rusty corrugated iron wall and a warehouse with graffiti and several broken windows. (right) I joked about how nice it was that we had the finest docking spot in all of Belgrade. It turned out I was not joking. It was pretty much the best docking spot in Belgrade.

A momentary interlude about passport checks. For the first two weeks of the trip, we were entirely within the Schengen travel region and thus no border checks were required. Read more... )

And now, an even briefer interlude about Josip Broz Tito. Read more... )

Our guide for the morning... I spent the first hour or so of the morning tour trying to figure out if he was clinically depressed, or if Belgrade is really that bad. After awhile I decided that Belgrade is really that bad, and after awhile longer I decided it was both. He was absolutely dripping with sarcasm, which is somewhat amusing and some people thought he was a hilarious joker. In this case though, I got the feeling that is was the kidding-not-kidding sort of sarcasm that is just as depressing in the end. Read more... )

Day 17 -- Osijik, Croatia

Jun. 17th, 2017 04:09 pm
skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

Some days the Eastern Bloc is blockier than others.

We awoke to this lovely view off the balcony, a stained cement apartment complex in Vukovar. Over the next few days we would be repeatedly assured that most buildings like this in the former Yugoslavia are much, much nicer on the inside than the outside, it's just nearly impossible to get the unit owners to cooperate and trust each other enough to fix up the common areas and exteriors. So much for communism. To their credit though, upon closer viewing, some of the balconies are indeed fixed up prettily with flowers and sitting areas.

Believe it or not, this building is in pretty good shape for Vukovar. It took a real brunt of the violence and destruction during the 90s, being the largest Croatian town actually on the river, on the border of Serbia, and so was directly shelled from across the river for a long time before being occupied. Almost 90% of the homes in town were destroyed. Even now, over half the town was never rebuilt and is abandoned, the roofless smoke-stained stone exoskeletons interspersed with perfectly ordinary looking homes only a few meters away. Read more... )

Free Will Astrology for Libra

Jul. 11th, 2017 02:30 pm
nisaa: (Default)
[personal profile] nisaa
If I had more room here, I would offer an inspirational Powerpoint presentation designed just for you. In the beginning, I would seize your attention with an evocative image that my marketing department had determined would give you a visceral thrill. (Like maybe a photoshopped image of you wearing a crown and holding a scepter.) In the next part, I would describe various wonderful and beautiful things about you. Then I'd tactfully describe an aspect of your life that's underdeveloped and could use some work. I'd say, "I'd love for you to be more strategic in promoting your good ideas. I'd love for you to have a well-crafted master plan that will attract the contacts and resources necessary to lift your dream to the next level."

http://freewillastrology.com/horoscopes/libra.html

Day 16 — Kalocsa, Hungary

Jun. 16th, 2017 01:28 pm
skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

We pulled in this morning to a completely unremarkable private dock near a small building and not much else. But this was simply to catch our buses to the Puszta Farm Show out in the country past Kalocsa.


Now, I am going to take just a moment to explain the difference between the first two weeks in Western Europe, and the last week in Eastern Europe. Read more... )


So anyway, there we are taking the bus out into the country for a show by the Famous Horsemen of Kalocsa! As we pulled onto the side road to the farm, one of the costumed performers began galloping alongside the bus to escort us in, which is kind of fun.Read more... )

skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

As soon as we woke up and finished breakfast this next morning, we headed for the famous thermal baths before the day had a chance to get too hot. Viking had a tour the previous afternoon which took a group to the Széchenyi baths located in the city park of Pest, which is quite large and busy. When we told Michal that we intended to go the next morning when it was cooler out, he immediately referred us to the Gellert baths on the Buda side of the river instead, which is a bit smaller and prettier, attached to a boutique hotel so it is quieter, and somewhat closer to the ship. The front desk attendants there would reliably speak English, which is not always the case. He said that Gellert was actually his second-favorite bath house, but his personal favorite was Rudas which has separate bathing areas for men and women and is clothing optional. Jon and I did want to spend the morning together, so we opted for Gellert.

Read more... )


Read more... )

skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

We headed back to our bus for a lift down to the ship for lunch, running into Michal on the way (for those reading out of order, our ship's program director). Budapest is his hometown and he was obviously enjoying showing it off. I noted that I had just been pointing out a walking path along the back of the hill to Jon, which I thought led the Hospital in the Rock, built in the years leading up to WW2 in the vast network of caverns underneath the hill on which we stood. Michal looked surprised, "Yes, the hot springs make the caverns and there was hospital down there. *confused* Why you know this?" I sighed and replied, "Oh, believe me, I read way too much."

Read more... )


Above left: the entrance to the underground hospital. Above right: a panel from the photo commentary which lines the lobby, once the ambulance arrival area.

Read more... )

Day 14, part 1 - Budapest (city tour)

Jun. 14th, 2017 12:56 pm
skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

When I woke up this morning we were a little behind schedule again and not quite in Budapest, even after I finished breakfast and gathered my things for the morning tour. I headed out to the sun deck with many fellow passengers for the first glimpse of the iconic Hungarian parliament, which in time appeared in the distance, past the busy bridges and bustling river docks.


Left: Hungarian Parliament in Pest. Right: the old palace in Buda.

Read more... )

Day 13 - Vienna (dancing and dining)

Jun. 13th, 2017 05:38 pm
skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

The second day in Vienna, Viking had offered a number of add-on options, one of which was a full day of activities centering around an excursion out to Schonbraun, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. The add-on was pricey, and we didn't really want to spend one of our days outside of town with so much to see right in the city center. I did, however, want to take the Viennese Waltz dance lesson which would have been included in the package. I can't go to Vienna and NOT waltz! I even packed my dance shoes!

Read more... )

Read more... )
Page generated Jul. 22nd, 2017 06:51 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios