Travel Diary: Somewhere in Kensington

By: S. Davis

September; London:

Full Disclosure: This is written across several mediums: In the notes section of my phone while in bed, by hand on a notepad, and on a few napkins that were within arms reach. This is explicit in nature, it is scattered at times and trails off incompletely at others – and I left it in its original format for fun.

What day is it? My head feels cloudy and the sun is shining on my forehead. Of all the other real estate in the room, the rays hit my skin. I guess I need to get the hell out of this bed. There are bottles of water, chips and popcorn on the table nestled next to the window. I didn’t go to the store last night. Did I?

What happened last night?

There’s a stench in this room so thick where I can almost see it hovering below the ceiling. I can’t sleep any longer. I want to. There is some chic, navy blue, stilettos by the bathroom entrance, well there’s one that I can see at least. My vision is blurred and I feel a headache coming along.

What the fuck, Sean?

A jeweled purse hangs from the chair and there’s a glass, half full, of wine and an unopened bottle of Guinness. That’s me; definitely. I hear a soft groan and feel the heat of silky thighs as they meet my skin. Two kisses on my right shoulder and then…sleep. At least one of us can. How much hair does she have?

I smell…licorice for some reason; from her. Oh shit! I feel nose blind. I rise to blow my nose and the floor is freezing. I have flaky, dry residue on my stomach, inside my belly button, on my upper thighs. That’s sex. I brush my teeth, wash my face, and then search for the used condom – or the wrapper at least. I search and I can’t find it. Fuck! I’m getting nervous. Terrified! No amount of alcohol could distort me to the point where I don’t use protection, or am I wrong? Fuck that!

My nasal passages open and now a licorice scent is on my lips. I lick them and don’t taste anything but skin. I drop to my knees on her side of the bed and I locate a condom wrapper. She turns under the covers and her bare ass approaches the edge of the bed while a used condom plummets and lands on my left hand. Yes! The last thing I need is an international “She’s fucking pregnant!? Of course she is, Sean, it’s your life!” situation. Hmm…

I smell her back and last night begins to come into focus, it was a complete mess of booze, vagina sweat and absinthe remnants emanating through our pores. Absinthe does it again.

Her ass is appetizing. She definitely exercises that area of her body. I should bite it but I decline and pull the blanket over her bare skin after I run my fingertips across it. She’s dead asleep. I’m jealous. I flush the condom (and the wrapper) before retrieving her dress from the bathroom and hanging it on the back of the chair. I locate a second used condom in the shower drain, trash it and also collect her other shoe and neatly place both under the chair with all of her garments. There’s no sign of her underwear, or her bra.

I warm a pot of tea and butter a bagel before my eyes open with glee as I spot strawberry preserves. Winning! My phone’s dying and hers is at 1%. I plug both into the wall. I go back to the table and her dress smells so spectacular. What is that perfume? It’s understated yet glorious and…whewwwww. She’s about to have her sleep disturbed. Ha!

The sun is blocked out by the clouds and there’s a slight drizzle on the window. I open it ever so slightly and the screeching sound annoys the hell out of me yet she doesn’t even react. The wind enters: damp, chilly and fresh. It feels like New York. It feels refreshing.

 

I have 24 hours or so left on this trip…provided today is Saturday. Did I miss my flight? That would be uncharted territory for me. I started in France, flew to Germany, flew to Austria, took a bus to Bavaria – and then back to Austria – and flew to the UK. It’s been a month on the road and I just dread this part of the trip. The sadness that comes as it’s ending.

Why am I an actor? A writer? Producer? I know what I was getting myself into and yet it all seems so…odd, unfulfilling and shrouded in mystery. I wish I wanted to be a teacher or a doctor, maybe a lawyer but those careers never appealed to me. Maybe another office job? I’d rather slit my wrists – but I can recognize the stability in it all. I live a transient lifestyle. I’m a nomad – with a love of travel.

I love that I’m living my life on my own terms but I can’t say much of what I do is leading anywhere. It’s blunt, it’s direct and it’s the damned truth! It’s sobering. I’m still trying to figure this shit out. I should have it solved by now. I don’t – and I don’t feel close to capturing some clarity. Maybe it’s time to move…here.

One thing working in favor of London is that I don’t have to deal with a language barrier at all. Truthfully though, London is New York adjacent and I live in Los Angeles because it’s NOT the Big Apple. I love NYC but I don’t need it right now. It will always be home – and I will take up permanent residence there at some point but I need something else. Berlin blew my mind away and I can see living there. Paris surprised me too and I gave a lot of thought into calling the number I saw advertised a block away from the hostel for a vacant studio apartment. Salzburg is amazing but ultimately the locals will mistake me for a refugee. That’s an inside joke that none of you will get.

Rome. Which, if New York City is my wife, Rome is the girlfriend I’m falling for as I reach for the divorce paperwork; it’s that serious.

This needs to work out, this LA move. I know what I need to achieve in order to deem my time in the City of Angels a success and, currently, I am failing. It hurts. It frustrates me and it’s the major reason for my recent increase in migraine headaches. My insomnia has also been reactivated lately. Bullshit!

What’s the purpose of any of this? Maybe I should just pack up and move to Europe. It invigorates me. Just the thought forces my heart to beat loudly within my chest. However I know that at some point I’ll become restless and grow to hate my surroundings. Then what?

Who knows? I’ll probably get to Europe, love it temporarily, and then find myself looking for something else…somewhere else…in an infinite loop.

I don’t care to be a father or even a husband for that matter. I could be interested in a breathtaking fiancée – and travel the world together. I wonder if she’s single. Ugh…I should know that. Honestly that piece of information is irrelevant at the moment.

What am I doing? What have I done?

The rain intensifies as I eat a second bagel and stretch out, placing my feet on the chair with her dress. I spot a couple running towards a taxi while another runs to catch the bus in the hopes of escaping the downpour.

I don’t want to board that flight tomorrow. Yet I know I have to leave. It’s a quarter past eight which is too early in the morning to be waking up on vacation. (Or close to the time I arrived home on a few days while in Berlin!)

Absinthe. Sex. Women. Parties. Clubs. Festivals. Museums. Beer. New Friends. Hostels. Hotels. Apartments. Flights. Food. Culture. Euros. Pounds. Photographs. Dancing. Trains. Buses. Walking. Talking. Dancing. Kissing. Flying. Laughing. Sadness.

I crave the world. However the world wants to date other people.

There’s movement under the covers. I ignore it to stare into the sky. A groan. I breathe in the brisk air. She sucks her teeth. Seconds later her arm reaches for her phone – and I can see her sending a text. She then drops her phone onto the floor beside mine. I quietly fix her a cup of tea and bring her one of the bagels that someone paid for. I haven’t eaten a bagel since I was in the States and when I went to the market here, I bought salmon and chocolate chip cookies. She must have done this last night, I guess. I remember her attacking my face and biting my neck, hard.

Her toes peek out from under the soft blankets so I walk over and squeeze her big toe. She makes a weak attempt to kick me and I snicker.

Fuck off, Sean! Aren’t you tired?

After a brief chuckle I respond simply, “Yes, I am. I can’t sleep.”

As I placed her tea on the nightstand, she touched my leg with her hand and popped her head out. She cleared away all that thick, dark, luscious hair. Our eyes met, we both smiled and I motioned for her to sit up in the bed. She pressed her back against the headboard as I handed her the hot drink and the plate with the bagel.

Her piercing eyes followed me as I sat back at the table. I focused on the rain while she ate quickly, but with little noise. It was as if a hamster was nibbling on a treat. Cute.

She thanked me for breakfast and pulled the covers over herself. She mumbled, wondering if I was coming back to bed. I don’t recall giving her an answer. I wasn’t even sure of the day. Is it Friday morning? Sunday? Mid-week? Does she have a job? Or school? I hope she’s on holiday if that’s the case.

I want some of this shit to matter
I just want to stay awake
Thoughts varied and abundant like a succulent platter
This long journey is mine to take
I’m growing bitter
I’m confused
Keep trying to win
And yet I lose
Motivation waning
Feeling blue and abused
Life doesn’t want me to win
Burden drains my soul from within

She fell asleep. I clean a little. I got dressed and walked the neighborhood so I could feel the rain, the air. It’s my favorite weather, honestly. My phone’s upstairs; I’m not going back for it either. I better buy some headache medicine while I’m out here. I do.

I’ve got to go back to Los Angeles.

I return and she’s still asleep. What the fuck did we do last night? Besides have sex in the shower and the bed? I remember dancing and kissing – and I remember her hair in my mouth as we kissed. I see she pulled her hair into a ponytail while I was gone.

While urinating I realize that I haven’t showered so I undress to do so before taking the headache pills. I stink. As the steam begins to dominate the bathroom I open the window which gives me a glimpse of the neighborhood but more importantly the weather.

My life needs to make more sense than it currently does.

I sit in the bathtub and let the water glide down my back. I stand and lather myself with vanilla soap. Thunder booms in the sky above as the rain falls in full force. It’s loud, jarring and the pellets hit this window with the force of pebbles. I think I hear footsteps. Suddenly, lips on the back of my neck and another soft kiss on my cheek. Nails, gently but firmly, traverse my chest before they rub the soap into my skin.

A single, soft kiss.

Naturally I move her into the shower stream once I notice the prickling of her skin, goose bumps. I clean her skin, slowly, as we hold each other and I take my time as I lather her hips and butt. She rests her head on my left shoulder and exhales. We both stand beneath the water and wipe the soap away. She bites my neck, ravenously. Is she a damn vampire? We kiss intensely. I pull her hair, turn her towards the wall, trace her spine with my tongue and bite her ass as if I needed blood from it. She whimpered as she bit the inside of her fingers and then a sly smile formed across her face.

I have 24 hours before life begins again.

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)
Part 3: Berlin
Part 4: Salzburg Airport
Part 5: La Parrilla Steak Restaurant
Part 6: Salzburg Airport (Departure)
Part 7: Hostel
Part 8: Berlin Wall

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Travel Diary: Berlin Wall

By: S. Davis

September; Berlin:

The World War II era is a period of history that endlessly fascinates me. Europe, Asia and the United States were all pulled together in conflict. In our current age where hyperbole is the norm, at that time the world was truly engulfed in war and it isn’t an embellishment by any means. One of the biggest contradictions I find as an American is how the United States entered the war to stop the senseless oppression of an entire group of people but is guilty of the same sins, since its inception, and still carries out the practice presently.

Remnants of the war can be seen all over Berlin – a constant reminder I suppose – and today wasn’t any different. This city is connected to its past and it wants everyone to be reminded of it. They do a phenomenal job of striking the right balance.

 

It’s pouring! I’m standing underneath this building structure as my arms are tired of holding this umbrella to shield me from the deluge. Usually I don’t mind getting wet but I have a whole afternoon to bleed out before I inevitably find myself blazing a trail through this historic city. The last thing I want to do is get sick again…like I did in France. I’m off to the Naturkundemuseum and according to my map the Berlin Wall Memorial runs a few blocks over. Since I left the Dorotheenstadt Cemetery I feel that I need to reset, mentally and emotionally, before I spend time at another reminder of a war that probably couldn’t be avoided, sadly.

After leaving the museum – which was a great way to kill three hours – I ventured out into the rain and it tapered off a great deal due to the personal photo shoot I conducted indoors. I didn’t want it to stop completely! I stroll past a group of grade school kids, all holding hands at the teacher’s behest as they cross the street. A few of them smile and wave at me; I do the same. Rain pellets hit my neck so I reach into my backpack for my scarf. I thought I ate this cheese danish; oh well, I will right now. It’s not drizzling but the clouds are still above so I’m sure the rain will kick up. Weather, please cooperate with me.

As I make my way down Julie-Wolfthorn-Str there’s a quiet that wasn’t present just moments ago. I know I’m close to my destination. I spot a large block of greenery. I’m here. Depending where you happen to be in Berlin, there are times it will be loud and busy like any major city and then you travail a few feet and then it all stops. It was so serene that I could hear the couple across the street having a conversation.

I step foot on Bernauer Strasse where the wall ran, diving the east (Soviet controlled) and west (controlled by the Allied Forces) of Berlin. The apartments along the street were in the east but the streets themselves were the west. Think about that for a moment. Just attempting to venture onto the street that lines your apartment could result in your death…and for some that was their fate. A guard tower still standing is off in the distance and I’m sure troops fired from the high ground. I’m sad now.

I begin to read some of the stories peppered throughout the open air memorial here. Thin, copper-colored, columns stand in for the old concrete slabs that stood here not that long ago. The choice to design this memorial as an open, communal, space is a great touch but this is not a place of recreation. I choose wisely at it pertains to what I want to photograph. There are some moments that don’t need to be captured; some are meant to be felt above all else.

Could you imagine the struggle to escape the east? People swam, used cars, a hot air balloon, walked a tightrope, dug tunnels, diverted trains and some just opted for the direct approach: climbing, hiding and running. The ripple effects of war.

There’s cool graffiti on the walls here. A cemetery is just back there. I’ve had my fill of cemeteries for the time being. Besides, the grounds where I’m currently standing, well…you get the point. There’s a small map detailing the area around the wall while it stood. The memorial is poignant. It’s melancholy. The steel pillars are coarse to the touch. I step back and survey the cement. Although I fixate on the grooves, art and craters I’m reticent to place my hands on it. Once I do I look to the ground and say a prayer with my eyes closed.

My thoughts immediately transition to those crying on each side of the wall. To those killed for having the courage to escape Soviet rule. Man and his wars…

An installation of pictures memorializing several victims at the wall rests on the lawn so I get a closer look. A woman to my left dabs tears away from her eyes with a handkerchief. My feet take over as I peruse the grounds. I’m in tune with my mortality at this exact moment.

It had to be distressing to live at the border. I’m also thinking about what it had to be like to live in Nazi controlled Germany. What’s the recourse if you were opposed to their beliefs? Hmm…

I walk further, exploring all the nooks of the memorial. I wonder about the exact moment when people grabbed their tools to tear it down. What emotions coursed through their body as they converged on the cement with hammers, axes, screwdrivers, jack hammers, etc. The feeling when they were reunited with family members and friends; working to reestablish connections with cherished ones paused by politics, ideologies, pride and a lack of communication. I contemplate those who never were reunited, those who committed suicide and those who were killed. This is another special day for me in a foreign city that feels comfortable.

I’m calm. I’m relaxed. I’m mourning people I’ve never met. My mother, sister and aunt spring to mind.

My days in Germany are spent soaking up culture and my nights are a haze of booze, women, music and random eateries before I go to sleep when most people are starting their day. This vacation is attempting to end my life and I love it. My nomadic sensibilities force me to question my present and future…but I’ll leave that bucket of piranhas for another time. 

My time here is burning away but I’m going to make it count.  There’s a personality to Berlin that I connect with.

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)
Part 3: Berlin
Part 4: Salzburg Airport
Part 5: La Parrilla Steak Restaurant
Part 6: Salzburg Airport (Departure)
Part 7: Hostel

Travel Diary: Hostel

By: S. Davis

September; Berlin:

Evening.

What a night in this jubilant city. Not only am I burning the candle at both ends, I’ve dipped it in diesel fuel, hopped on the back of a dragon and tossed it into an active volcano. Am I high?

Did I coherently write that incoherent statement above?

I’m staring directly at a raucous Friday night after getting home just after 8am because Berlin gets in your bones and implores you to stay out. You find yourself in abandoned warehouses and office buildings dancing with people who can’t speak a common tongue but you connect with in…other ways. These last 24 hours have been a futile exercise in squeezing – or at least, attempting to squeeze – an abundance of activities to fit into a block of time that isn’t ample by any means.

Renate was calling to me; with their live circus, inside of the dance club, so everything in the last 8-10 hours was an exercise in body management while pushing through sleep deprivation. You only live once, right? I’m tired. I’m ready for tonight’s possibilities though.

I went grocery shopping to prepare my dinner. The local food is flavorful and plentiful but a few nights of expensive cab rides makes one reconsider taking another trip to the ATM for euros. Pasta, artisanal sauce, fresh baked bread, salami and green tea are on the slate. I didn’t cook too often in France so I’m walking as fast as I can to get this main course prepared. Damn it, I have to put these bags down and find a place to piss.

Why did I walk into that kitchen?

So I just survived a small accident on my way back to the hostel, partly due to the fact that I was processing one million fucking issues at the same moment and almost lost a leg. I just don’t feel like myself. I wasn’t myself in that brief episode. Trust me when I say that it has nothing to do with the scant nibbles of sleep I’ve been teasing my body with. I was off. Period.

After blazing through the room like tornado force winds – and ignoring Whitney who was fine-tuning her makeup and starting her pregame with wine to kick the night off, I dropped the bags and went to the shower. I needed to hear…just…water. I had to be alone at that moment. Between Whit and our kick-ass, cool, roommates I wasn’t in the proper frame of mind to be social – and I know I would’ve been pulled into the conversation so I had to be the one to remove myself…for now.

Once I turned the lock and heard the audible click, I pressed my forehead against the door. The pace of my heartbeat began to gradually decrease. I turned on the water from both the faucet and the shower and fixated on the liquid as I closed my eyes and took a long, deep breath. I exhaled once, then twice – and a third. My attention turned to the puddle resting in the sink and I stared for about 10 minutes without moving an inch before stepping into the actual shower. I studied the pellets dancing down my forearm. The off-white shade of the soap in my hands and the faint scent of rose hips emanating from it danced up my nostrils along with the steam.

I was searching for zen. It came. I recharged, dressed and headed for the community kitchen to eat, alone, and get myself ready for the club with a LIVE circus INSIDE. Is this city from a weird, children’s book or something? That’s a compliment! It’s time for some fuel.

Sean, why did you walk into that kitchen?

Upon keying in the code and entering the dining area there was a woman preparing…yeah, pasta. Having the space completely to myself was out of the window at this point. Whatever. Sand colored eyes framed by a gentle face…accompanied by a stern facial expression that could melt brick. Did I just infringe upon her search for tranquility while enjoying her meal?

Very brief “hellos” were exchanged. She told me where to find the clean pans and assisted me with the oven controls as they were a bit tricky. She mentioned how “dirty” the other guests left the kitchen when she arrived – and she was correct. I got started on cooking and took care of the stray dishes with full portions of rice and meat resting atop them as my pasta started to boil.

As I took a seat, a small conversation began to develop. Similar interests? Yes. She turned her attention to the shredded cheese she had to the left of her plate. “It’s ok.” It leapt from her mouth as if she wanted to convince herself that it was true. She shrugged her shoulders and said it was as if the cheese wanted to be mozzarella or parmesan but it “failed” at both.

She insisted that I try it. I did. It hit my palette and my brain surmised that it seemed as if mozzarella and…cheddar, I guess, had a baby so it was perfectly adequate. However I don’t favor a cheddar-lite taste with my pasta. I snickered about the cheese and we both laughed. A genuine smile formed upon her face. Her eyes were illuminated. They were suddenly green.

I went for my food, topping the pasta with olive oil, sauce, her depressing cheese, bread and thick slices of aged salami. She packed her plate with a second serving, emptying the contents of her pan. She eats, twice, and both of her servings were as large as mine. That’s rare – and a positive sight to behold. Honestly, I have to admit I wasn’t keeping score. I was having dinner with a compelling stranger from another country…in Berlin.

Further conversation birthed more laughter than anything else. My dinner was completely satisfying and I realized that I didn’t want to be alone in that kitchen at that moment. She mentioned her four-hour visit to New York City during Easter weekend a few years back and she described how, in her country, retailer H&M has a limited collection compared to other countries. We then discussed film production and our views as creative artists.

We described the day’s events in Berlin, our schedules over the preceding hours/days, being tourists, wandering, snapping photographs and enjoying the city. Her thoughts shifted to a local film festival and a movie that piqued her interest. She “might” see it in a day or two. “Or I might not,” she casually uttered as she stabbed four noodles onto her utensil. She then offered an invite.

“Maybe.” We finished our meals and started to tidy up. I cleaned all my dishes before eating my meal but I wanted to lend her a hand.

Why did I walk into that kitchen?

There wasn’t a romantic tone throughout our interaction. I’m speaking for myself but that energy didn’t come from her either. To be frank I turned off my body language meter once I got back to the hostel as my brain had other stimulation to occupy itself with. No touching of one another, none of those corny gazes; no.

I’m sorry I brushed against you…but secretly I was trying to brush against you. Were any of those moments present? Not a single one. She’s attractive, that’s actually a gross understatement, so there’s no disputing that but that’s not the reason I remained engrossed in the conversation. It was her mind. Her tone, direct, with no room at all for gray area when expressing her point of view; the piercing look on her face, it was her intelligence that was enthralling.

We shared a few laughs and exchanged contact information as we finished cleaning together. I did I swift profile scan of her. She’s a stunner. As we sat at the same table where we ate a few minutes prior, she released her hair from its tie. Part dark blonde, part brunette, curled, it fell to about her shoulders.

It would have been much easier to go buy dinner, Sean. I mean, really? I mean…

The focus, my focus, that was scattered earlier had been engaged and sharpened. Slow down, this isn’t the part where I go into pursuit mode. No. However I was aware that I was no longer viewing her in the same capacity. Honest.

I marked my groceries and she talked about her remaining days in town – as did I. Evening plans? She was thinking of shooting pool downstairs and then turning in for the night. I told her that my itinerary for the night wouldn’t truly begin for hours. She welcomed me to send a text and “if not, cool.” I told her that I would do so in “a few minutes.”

I caught up with Whit, grabbed a sweater and headed down. The hostel was awake. It was noisy. The music pulsated throughout the entire first floor. Chatter among travelers filled in for the lyrics. Girls were dressing to go out and guys were, well, trying to see where they were off to. I love it. Energy.

There was an active game of pool going with a large number of spectators and yet there wasn’t anyone who was next up. I sent a text and…a response: Hold the table! I told her that she didn’t need to worry. Two or three minutes passed before I noticed her approaching with a purpose. An abundance of eyes and neck turns were left in her path, I have to admit. I met her a quarter of the way with two pool cues. She smiled. I nodded. She snatched a cue from my hand and told me, confidently, that she was going to win. Escalation much?

Confidence. She boasted about her skill level. Her trash talk was sharp and she did back, most, of it up. I playfully ignored her which earned me several middle-finger salutes. She nudged me with her hips, pushed me, and completed the assault by aiming the cue at my head. Can I report this to someone? Ha! Ultimately the focus was on the competition; winning the match and all that. She prevailed.

Immediate rematch? Yes. This game moved at a quicker pace than our initial meeting. There was considerably less chatter but more gestures: eye rolling, laughing, mocking, blocking each others’ walking path, etc. I took the rematch, naturally. We rested the cues atop the table to dive into conversation. She mentioned her thoughts on how the tie-breaker could be postponed until tomorrow night. I was fine with that. Once again her thoughts turned to the movie she was interested in seeing at the festival. She started to search for the show times but her phone consistently lost the connection to the wi-fi. I didn’t mind. She talked, I listened. Staring at her phone, she then blurted that she’s “impatient.” I asked if that just occurred to her and she burst into laughter; I followed shortly thereafter.

Whit came over and asked if I was having a good time. “Yeah,” I replied. “It sure looks that way, Sean.” I blew off her response. I knew where she was going with the comment and it wasn’t something I was ready to acknowledge or even entertain. Go that way, Whitney. Thank you.

Naturally, I’m respectful to women. Additionally my default behavior is to be kind, attentive and charming. That’s not flirting. It’s my standard modus operandi. Now has it been confused or taken as “flirtatious behavior” from the opposite sex? Yes. Women have perceived it as such whereas I’m just being kind. True.

I never initiate physical contact with women. Key word: Initiate. I could be on a date for hours and I won’t touch her at all. If we’re on the dance floor, that’s one thing, but taking that atmosphere into consideration my hands are on her hips for the time we’re that close. It’s about respect and I wouldn’t want to make someone spending time with me uncomfortable in that manner. I leave it to the woman to dictate the physical terms. I might gently tap her shoulder or softly place my hand on her back if I need to get her attention.

Anyway…my dinner mate/pool adversary returned just as Whit strolled away with the cheesiest grin on her face. A pool cue was thrust into my chest and so the final round was set to begin. I kind of felt like I didn’t have a choice; I doubt I did. Whitney returned, “What about tonight? Are we going to see this circus…in the middle of the club?!”

Remember how I spoke about throwing the candle into the volcano? How my body has been alarmingly without rest? Whitney and I walked over to the bar to discuss the night ahead. She had a look on her face that I recognized. I had that look after a few hours of sleep earlier in the day while brushing my teeth in the mirror. She, too, had been pushing herself to the brink in Germany and she, mentally, wanted me to confirm her true line of thinking. She didn’t want to go the circus, not because she wasn’t game for it; she was tired. She also had a date on the other side of town that she didn’t want to miss.

She needled me about my new friend to which I simply stated that we’re having a “good time.” Whit and I continued on just as my competitor started the game. Whit finished her beer and uttered, “I see chemistry there.” My brow furrowed slightly and I shook my head before stating, “No, Whitney; I don’t think so. I’m not paying attention to that.” She took a drink of water and replied, “It sure looks like it. No?” She giggled with her entire upper body, we hugged, and she left me with another cheesy grin as she vanished into the swath of travelers at the hostel bar.

Round three began and it was much slower than the previous two matches but there was much more talking and laughing. I noticed the streaks of blonde in her hair, her posture, her smile and her walk. I won the game and we hugged. She wanted to turn in for the night. I understood. We went to a quiet corner of the hostel and talked for few minutes about…life. About 20 minutes later we walked to the courtyard and shared a few more stories before hugging. She told me to “be safe” and I wished her a blissful evening of sleep. Goodnight.

Why did I walk into that kitchen?

I glanced at my watch for the first time all day and it was a few ticks before midnight. I grabbed my phone from my locker and did a final scan in the mirror. Yeah, I’m looking good.

I exit the hostel and walk a few blocks away. Groups of people are buzzing around from every direction; into and out of cabs. A bar on the opposite of the street seems promising. One, two, three, four, five…six women just emerged from a taxi and entered the front door. It’s obvious where my night will begin.

There’s a faint smell of rain in the air. I take a massive, deep, breath. I begin to walk. Alone. I’m in Berlin with a whole night to explore. I don’t need to be anywhere else.

Cooking dinner was a smart decision.

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)
Part 3: Berlin
Part 4: Salzburg Airport
Part 5: La Parrilla Steak Restaurant
Part 6: Salzburg Airport (Departure)

Travel Diary: Salzburg Airport (Departure)

By: S. Davis

September; Austria:

I’m about to fly out to ole England and I’m furious and depressed. This is leg four of my trip. The only flight remaining after this is…home. Ugh! Push past it, Sean; we have time in London – which will be the first international city I’ve returned to. I’m looking forward to it.

I want to staaaaaaaaaaay in Salzburg for a little while longer. Maybe an extra day? Who am I kidding? That’s not enough time. At every airport I’m both excited and sad: elated to get to the next destination while lamenting that I have to leave the current one.

I really wish this annoying dog would stop pawing at my feet. Doesn’t it know that I’m trying to sulk in my despair while making eyes at the red-head with the braid crown? I softly pat its head which exacerbates the issue and it stands on its hind legs with its front paws on my knee. I try to ignore it by staring at my phone screen but the curious critter licks my knuckles. My cold, dead heart melts so I place my phone into my pocket to give him some attention. His owner laughs as I surrender.

I’m going to miss Salzburg. It’s a stellar city. From just about any corner of it, taking a photograph is a carbon copy of any expensive postcard you will ever see or purchase. Inch by inch it is quite possibly the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. The mix between contemporary and traditional architecture, the seamless balance between nature and city life; the fortresses, castles, trees, food, etc; it’s going to stay with me for an abundance of reasons.

That fresh air! About that air…

A major part of this trip centered around World War Two history. Berlin is a lively city – and I enjoyed that but I wanted to really see it: Bradenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, the Berlin Wall, etc. There’s an energy in the city that’s aware of its past and that’s never lost no matter where you happen to be.

I’ll get to that in a future entry, I promise. It’s going to take a while to craft – and honestly, to sit down to type it all recalling those moments, hours will be tough. The entry’s already written but I’m missing a page that I’m positive is somewhere in my messy bag – that’s still unpacked from the trip. I’ll locate it and it shall be posted.

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)
Part 3: Berlin
Part 4: Salzburg Airport
Part 5: La Parrilla Steak Restaurant

Travel Diary: La Parrilla Steak Restaurant

By: S. Davis

September; Berlin:

It’s been a blur the last few days. Partying in Paris all night, riding the train to the airport – during rush hour; that was smart – and making it all work while not speaking French at all. I should work a little harder on that at some point. I’ve always been pretty good with directions. Being a native New Yorker, all I need is a local train map and I’m comfortable anywhere.

I should be pacing myself better but being away feels gratifying and energizes me to the point where my internal battery is fully charged. It’s not, by the way. Does this sound corny, Sean? Yeah, it does. As much as I’m working to create my own luck and career in Los Angeles, if I could travel for a living I would sell all my belongings, break my lease and grab my backpack and passport in a second – and head to LAX.

When I’m enraptured in a new culture and I have my passport, backpack and foreign currency I’m as close to experiencing nirvana as I’m ever going to be. Berlin doesn’t feel foreign. I’m not sure there’s a major city that will ever feel unfamiliar. Boy I’m happy that I grew up in New York City. I have a big city perspective that allows me to navigate other cities around the world with a confidence that would take years to build.

I’m sitting in La Parrilla Steak Restaurant as my two main courses are arriving. Currywurst, fries and salad along with a lamb plate with two chops, green beans and fried potato-ish rolls. Think fried yucca or a potato knish, rolled and breaded. They’re about the size of an adult index finger. Wait, I think these are actually croquettes. They are.

While all the flavors are a treat to my palette, the green beans are the champion. They’re delicately sauteed, al dente; still firm and not mushy at all. Olive oil, garlic and onions make the vegetables excel. The portions are Sean approved as well. No offense, France, but I like a heavy plate. It’s simply another reason why I love Italy and Italian cuisine.

Money isn’t a factor as it pertains to my stomach – or when I travel for that matter. I like to feel completely satiated after a meal. It’s vital to the overall experience. I’m ordering two tonight because I’m a fat ass.

This city is for walking, biking and public transit…like somewhere I know well. Large pockets of Mitte and greater Berlin feel similar to the West Village – or for those familiar with Los Angeles, West Hollywood; while not as flamboyant. I like the energy I feel on the streets of Berlin.

A newly relocated resident, from Bensonhurst, asked if I could see myself living here a few nights ago. “Who knows, anything’s possible,” I said. I went on to explain that Rome sits comfortably atop any list addressing an international, permanent, move. It has everything I get from NYC – and on a smaller lever, LA – with better food and a city that manages to balance it’s past and future in such a stellar manner; no small feat. The city also showcases some of the most stunning women on par with any region on this planet. Rome burned its way into my soul. NYC is my wife but Rome is the ex that visits when my wife’s away and we have these moments together that are unforgettable. Is that unfaithful of me? Shut up. I’m single and I have an extraordinary imagination.

Tackling the nightlife had me wiped out all day yet I’m sure I’ll be going out again this evening. I’m on vacation and there are hundreds of women I haven’t had the chance to meet…yet. I’ve been drained the last few days – fours hours of sleep seems to be the culprit I’m sure – but all the natural energy I have flowing through me makes it hard to sit idling. However my body actually proved its limits on my two-hour flight from Paris. I fell into a deep slumber for the majority of the flight, with the exception of the last 8-10 minutes. I went out so swiftly that I don’t recall the flight ever leaving the ground. I do remember the pilot announcing our approach to Berlin. Once we did, I clapped as I always do in that situation and I was amazed that I slept.

My final night in Paris was a late/early one so I just accepted that I would zombie through my first few hours in Berlin – which still happened by the way. The fact that I had a true moment of sleep on a flight is an accomplishment as it’s never happened before. The longest time I’ve grabbed any portion of sleep was my departing flight from Barcelona when I may have stolen 40 minutes of real slumber. A two-hour nap for the record books! Thank you, Paris.

I like it here a great deal. Berlin. The pace I’m pushing will require a vacation – from my vacation. Now if I come across a German Wonder Woman, my itinerary will definitely change. I have a few days on the back-end of this trip that I can move around. Sorry, England. Some of the reactions I receive when locals hear me speak are hilarious. I don’t know what I sound like so I can’t relate to what they process but it’s always a positive interaction. It’s led to some memorable interactions with women…

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)
Part 3: Berlin
Part 4: Salzburg Airport

Travel Diary: Salzburg Airport

By: S. Davis

 

September; Austria:

Berlin tried its best to kill me and although I resemble humans I’m not of this earth; I’m from a planet long ago destroyed by the name of Krypton. My resistance to alcohol, nightlife and women are far greater than that of mere mortals; well…let me think about that last one a while longer.

When the bus shuttled across the tarmac to meet the humming jet for my next flight on this trip, longingly I wanted to remain in Berlin. Let’s stay another day? We can push the itinerary out! No! Dude if we stay longer we’ll have less time in Salzburg – and Austria’s a large component of this trip. Besides those German women are smart; if I’m exposed to them for another 24 hours I’m sure a shard of kryptonite will miraculously appear and then I’ll have to worry about applying for a work visa, future residency, a shotgun wedding and learning a new language. That escalated swiftly now didn’t it?

We’re approaching the landing strip and there’s a 360 degree panoramic view of glorious mountains, luxurious green spaces and clouds both thick and thin. How is this an airport? I admire how the city engineers drew this up when they were mapping Salzburg. I feel as if I’m going to a camping retreat of some sort.

I clap and whisper a prayer to God as I always do when I land safely on solid ground and power up my phone. A cool text from Sprint greets me, welcoming me to Austria and I check my messages to see if there are any new replies from Nina. The flight from Berlin was delayed and she and I were messaging up until I had to power off the phone. Her message explains that she’ll run home to charge her phone battery and drive back to pick me up.

As the staff lead us off the aircraft I take in the view and feel my lungs expand. That’s no exaggeration. My chest inflated, as if my lungs got an upgrade and went to higher level, similar to a video game achievement. The sinus pressure in my head and ears were released like the air from a tire and I truly thought I was on the verge of levitation. At least that’s what I was hoping to do. I still think I’m going to wake up one morning and fly; I want to be Superman. Don’t judge me, please; like you wouldn’t want superpowers.

I check my mobile: She’s waiting.

As I stop in my tracks and smile at the buffet my eyes are feasting on, an older couple smiles and I wave in response. I snap a few photos. This is how you greet visitors or locals to Salzburg? I like this.

We’ve all seen movies, television shows or other people have someone waiting for them at the airport, right? Isn’t that cool? I’ve always thought it was. Specifically, as in a person there as you enter the airport waiting for…you. Neat. I breeze through baggage claim as I’m reasonable enough to travel with one carry-on (with a backpack that collapses into it if needed) even though I’m on a month-long voyage. I don’t have time for extra weight. With my personality, if I felt my bag was too heavy I would either throw the extra clothing away or wash them and find a local church for a quick donation. I actually feel this bag could be lighter. I’m into my third week in Europe and I have shirts I have yet to wear.

As the automatic doors slide open I see a familiar face. “Seaaaan! Heyyyyy, you’re here!” We laugh, we hug. I thank her for coming to collect me from the airport to which she tells me to “shut up.” Yeah, that sounds like the drummer girl I met four years ago when we were both figuring out what the hell we were going to do in Los Angeles. Her, a talented musician looking to follow her career path away from her home; myself, a writer and actor chasing a purpose, happily, with New York City in my rearview mirror. Los Angeles is definitely a city that brings dreamers together. That should be the official slogan of the city tourism board.

She expresses herself in the most straightforward way; blunt and unapologetic. Intelligent, funny, kind and her accented English is a treat to the ears. Make no mistake she’s fluent although she’ll ask me if she’s expressing herself correctly. Like I created the English language; keep on talking Nina. Ha!

“It’s been four years since we were in the same place,” and she nods before laughing. Her maniacal driving forces me to tell her about it and she says she’s not “that bad” as if she’s aiming to convince herself. Ugh! I haven’t had to drive in over two weeks and I’m getting flashes of the assholes on the 405. I’m sorry Los Angeles; traffic on that slab of concrete bullshit will hasten my move back to NYC before anything else does.

We mention how glad we both are that we stayed present with one another. It wasn’t always consistent communication but we hovered around one another through our fb inbox. She’d send a message, I’d send a Motorhead song and we’d remain active, I would say, in each other’s lives. Months ago she sent a picture of the Hohensalzburg Castle with a caption that read, “Get your ass over here!” She should teach English. I remember getting the message and spitting my drink all over my laptop. It was worth it.

In the car she’s going from topic to topic, all over the place but under control at the same time and I just nod my head. Her hair’s dark again, letting go of her blonde look of years prior. She still has that weird smile and her eyes are as expressive as I remember. Bright. She laughs with her whole head and neck as I recall. This is familiar again, it’s like we left off at the hostel or when we were roaming Hollywood after leaving Denny’s on Sunset Boulevard because she just had to eat pancakes…again.

She doesn’t put up with bullshit and I think that’s the characteristic that resonated with me. I think I have to keep her in my life – or make the attempt to keep a line open to her. That was the most potent thought in my head once I left the hostel in LA. I’m not the type to stay present with people – a characteristic related to my upbringing – and it’s not that I pull away from those that matter, it’s just…I’m comfortable living my life without updating every one on every thing…for large chunks of time. As crass as it may sound, it doesn’t bother me if people I care about are upset over that. If they truly know me, they know me. They know that. We stayed in touch and it wasn’t the least bit weird when we were in the car, talking, after all these years.

We dropped my things off, went to pick up groceries, eat and then stroll around her neighborhood. This is crazy! We walk about five minutes from her apartment and this is the type of view Salzburg supplies:

I haven’t been in town two hours and I want to live here. Or over there where the horses are eating…five minutes from Nina’s apartment. Oh, wait there are cows over there. We talk about deep, life, subjects and we’re blowing past all the superficial friendly talk and real substance is on the menu now. It’s seamless, it’s raw, it’s heavy, it’s funny…it is real.

As we walk along another path a kind stranger waves at me, specifically, obviously, as if he wants me to know he’s welcoming me to his country. Nina and I look to one another, I shrug my shoulders and then we both laugh. Without missing a beat, “Yeah, he thinks you’re a refugee.”

We both laugh, loud. “I’m American; I’m not here for your jobs!” This becomes a running joke for the remainder of my trip with Nina coming close to taping my mouth closed at every inappropriate public place that I utter it. With the way things are in the United States, I might have to seek refuge soon. I might be back in a few months for everyone’s jobs. Did everyone on the flight think I was a refugee? That charming couple on the runway that smiled at me?

Her skills as a tour guide are without peer. “Fortress, fortress, fortress, green, green, green…take pictures here or do whatever. You already paid me so let’s get on with this.” I’m so glad she’s a musician because she’d be an abysmal person to lead tourists. They’d get lost while she’d be drumming somewhere or eating noodles.

We’ve got a week to renew our friendship. I’m glad we didn’t lose touch. I’m glad we didn’t lose touch. She’s unique.

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)
Part 3: Berlin

Travel Diary: Berlin

By: S. Davis

September; Germany:

Why am I crying? Of all places, here?

As I’m connecting the dots over the last 24 hours and strolling to the Naturkundemuseum with a chunk of cheesy bread in my mouth the noise of the city begins to dissipate, as if the volume is controlled by a DJ. There are fewer people on Chausseestr and it’s now silent in the early afternoon. Shops are busy, life is abundant yet you can hear whispers as if they were screams. According to my map, I’m a few blocks away from my destination – which happens to be in close proximity to the Berlin Wall Memorial as well. I have this afternoon filled just like that.

My neck is tight. What the hell happened last night? Did I go clubbing again or did Whitney and I get drinks? Was it both? Was I with Natasha yesterday? Maybe I should check my phone for clues. That’s not going to shed any light on what happened before I fell asleep; my nights are meant for memory-making and not picture-taking, especially when I’m on vacation. My phone spends most days, shut off, and in my locker. There’s no real point to being on vacation and being tied to an electronic leash. Its primary use is as a backup camera to my traditional model.

I’m rambling now and I’m flummoxed as to why my neck feels like someone put a screwdriver through the left side of it and kicked it through, puncturing the skin on the right. I need to eat more. Rewe’s right over the bridge…done. Wait, I already went there and I haven’t finished the bread or fruit cup yet.

The clouds are gathering once more – and I’m certain it’s about to rain shortly. It’s quiet, even the cars are less noisy along this street. Greenery, fantastic; oh, this isn’t a park in the city. It’s the Dorotheenstadt Cemetery. It’s so peaceful. Tranquil. Is it open to the public?

I have time. I can walk around for a bit, I think. Let’s put this food away, this is not a space of recreation at all. After taking a gulp of water I carefully enter the gates and feel the ambience. Two senior women are wrapped in a conversation on a nearby bench and smile as our eyes meet, I smile in return. I examine the headstones: the names, dates of a human’s existence, the family plots, the long lives and the incredibly short ones all resting here.

Pellets of rain rest on my right hand and I look to the sky. There’s still a great deal of sunlight so I have some time before I have to find cover, maybe 15 minutes or so…I guess. A marble headstone catches my attention and then an intricate tomb, another plot holding several generations of an entire family line, a teacher, a wife and her husband, a mother and her son, a beloved brother, the headstone of a child; the rain subsides.

My feet swiftly become fastened to the cement. My shoulders feel heavy. I rotate clockwise and counter-clockwise. I’m centered and I’m not able to move forward or backward; I stop spinning. As I look to the sky, the tombs, the women on the bench near the entrance and the dog walking its owner along Chausseestr…

Why am I crying? Of all places, here?

I spent hours at the Holocaust Memorial and I felt intense gloom. The lives shattered, entire families wiped out of existence; pointless extermination. Murdered; killed for no other reason than they were born and were labeled by a tyrant as different. Some of the notes I read at the exhibit forced me to sit and soak in the despair. Why didn’t I shed tears there? A few times I felt as if I was on the verge especially when I listened to the story of a woman in Nazi Germany, her name adorned the wall from the projector and under her name was a date of birth yet there wasn’t a date of death. It was empty. I’m melancholy as I type this with that image so clear in my mind. I’m in that room once more; that sad, elegant, respectful, poignant, tragic presentation that I listened to for a long stretch of time.

Tears traversed my eyeballs and not a single one escaped my eyelid. Could it be that I expected to cry, at least subconsciously, and therefore it didn’t materialize because of that same underlying expectation? There’s no answer and I’ll leave it at that.

Clouds are beginning to block out the sun as a tear runs down my cheek. I focus intently as it splashes on my sneaker and I look up at a statue of a pained woman. She’s braced on an urn, unable to stand upright with her grief. It took wind out of my chest. Maybe I’m repressing inner pain but I bent over, almost taking one knee, stared at my sneakers and let the process take over. It hurt and I was heartbroken.

I licked the tears from my top lip and exhaled. There was a child’s headstone that took me to another level. I’ve been in cemeteries before – and I’ve never had a reaction like this…but on this day, for reasons unknown, it was befitting. I grieved and didn’t wipe a single tear from my face. I wanted to feel it all. There are times I can be robotic, to the point where I even question what’s brewing within my soul. My heart’s beating and I’m in tune with my emotions. A human exists; Sean is still there.

Death doesn’t shake me; I’ve been exposed to it more than I’d like to admit. When life gives you lemons, right?

My brain begins to send signals to my feet and I’m able to move again. The tombs are intricate, large and small. Some are worn and others look new or freshly cleaned. A small portion of the headstones have recent dates of death and those affect me immediately. A light drizzle turns on a dime and the rain intensifies which forces me to pull on my beanie. I feel angry, I feel depressed, I feel weak, I feel strong, I felt it all. I shut my eyes and say prayers as I walk along the resting.

I mourn. I’m sure the emotion here is connected to this cemetery, these people, and the experience at the Holocaust Memorial. This was a slight detour. The ones I love when traveling without a plan. It’s the reason why I don’t make any.

Lastly, to the three joggers and two bikers: You’re assholes.

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)