Travel Diary: Vienna

By: S. Davis

September; Austria:

As I sit on the plane, flashes of the trip flicker and dance in my head like a slide show. Seeing the glass pyramids of the Louvre for the first time which made being soaked in rain worth it, Whitney spotting me and shouting my name across a packed hostel in Berlin on our first evening there, laughing loudly to myself when I was outside of the Louvre – before I encountered the glass pyramids – and how happiness and relief washed over me as I was dead tired. I needed a jolt to push me through the day considering the jet-lag I was battling. How stoked I was to see Nina and her smile as our eyes met after I finally arrived in Salzburg. She waved as I entered the airport corridor and that put me in a stellar mood considering I was sad over leaving Berlin. We shared a hug and it didn’t feel like the last time we saw each other was four years prior.

I deliberated for a few days but I decided to hop on a train to Vienna. I didn’t want to take the journey and I can’t discern why. The only explanation I can muster is that I was keenly aware that my trip was at the halfway point and I was feeling low energy; though not from partying and running around Europe. I felt sluggish over consecutive days and it was sapping my drive to explore. As usual I ate a lot of food in the morning and got my ass on one of the earliest trains out of Salzburg. How often will I be on this side of the world? That simple question motivates me on odd travel days.

Walking through Vienna was what I imagined. The architecture blended contemporary and classic structures effortlessly. The sky was overcast and I was a little worried about hard rain as I just missed a storm a few days prior. Austria was cloudy most of the week I was there so I was hoping for sun. Vienna supplied it for the majority of the time I was exploring. I had some crunchy, hot, street potatoes and a legitimately memorable cheeseburger. I’m a growing boy! I need the calories.

 

The sun broke out and I happily applauded that I went with my gut and left my jacket in Salzburg. I hit a museum briefly but spent more time outside in the courtyard. Museums are crucial on all my stops but that was a day I needed to be outdoors. Besides, I never visited Vienna so everything to me was a breathing exhibit.

Playing pool with Noa had me laughing. How I wanted to build a time machine to torture the city planners that drew up the city grid in Paris. The streets, pathways, etc; right angles don’t seem to be in style in France. Ha! The French look at streets the way I view traffic on the 405: All common sense seems to be of another language that I don’t care to translate for anyone. The fine dining was worth the flight alone. I missed the smell of the fresh bakery in the mornings – just about 60 feet from my bed. The black olive and chocolate baguettes I ate for breakfast – and purchased throughout the day make me happy just thinking about them. How I envisioned myself actually living in France because I was so surprised at how much fun I had. In my experience, French people aren’t rude. The women were nice to me.

The home-cooked meal with Nina and her hilarious mother…so much laughter in one night. The view from her balcony of those glorious mountain ranges and how she wanted me to return to hike the “authentic” mountains together; that was classic. How Nina and I sped through Salzburg singing rock music together. The cold I caught on my first night in Paris because I was too stubborn – until it was too late – to admit the rain was too much to tackle. How I fell asleep on the two-hour flight from Paris to Berlin. I remember taking off and landing; that was a two-hour nap that I don’t think will ever happen again.

How stunning Salzburg is; it’s very underrated. Mile-for-mile it may be the world champion of effortless beauty within the confines of a city. I could make a case for it against any place on the planet. The strange aura I felt while in Berlin. That’s a compliment, make no mistake. I was there and it felt like New York City – and it was my first time visiting. Everywhere felt like a NYC neighborhood with the only exception being a few more people spoke German. I will never forgive Berlin for trying to kill me every night. Ha!

I can’t wait to land in a few hours to roam the streets of London 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
Part 9: Somewhere in Kensington
Part 10: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Part 11: Strausbourg

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel Diary: Strausbourg

By: S. Davis

May; France:

I love you.

Whenever I find myself the object of that statement my brain processes it in such peculiar ways. Specifically, the first time they dance across my ear drums. Mind you I’m talking about love in the romantic fashion. Reflexively, I’ve seen people say it in return, seemingly, without thinking of its full weight and it bewilders me.. As in, “Is it nice outside?”  “Yes, it’s sunny and warm.”

Hmm…

It takes me a while to sift through my feelings at any checkpoint of a relationship but once those three words come to life, I’m deliberate in my actions and words going forward. My initial response is to usually wrap her in a hug, give her a kiss and look into her eyes. Since there’s never been a time where I said it first in a relationship – or in response to the first time it’s uttered towards me I’m overwhelmingly delicate in every single thing that I do. It’s a pivotal moment, most say. Wait…I was the first to say it in one relationship although I’m sure she would debate that. Ha!

Moving right along…

There’s isn’t a higher level of pressure that I feel but I know that my actions/words are going to be viewed under a different, more sensitive, microscope and that’s maybe why I begin to evaluate my feelings. Intricately.

I’m cerebral by nature. At times, it’s frustrating but it’s served me well for most of my life. In affairs concerning love I don’t know any other way. After the three words are present in the relationship I start back at the beginning. There isn’t a single detail that I overlook.

I think about how we met, the very first conversation and its conclusion which usually ends in me asking for her number. I go over the obstacles we had to clear in order to date, exclusively. The first date enters my analysis but more importantly all the subsequent ones that followed. I replay the sequence leading to our first kiss. Our first time sleeping together comes into focus as well.

Since sex isn’t emotional for me, I look into how important she’s become in my life outside of the bedroom. I can separate all emotion from sex. I don’t develop deeper feelings through sex; I’m not built that way. That’s not to say that sex isn’t meaningful with someone you care for because I think it definitely is but just that act of sex won’t fill me with something emotionally that I didn’t have prior to intercourse. The woman doesn’t mean more because of sex but I would say that the sex itself means more because of her. That may be the best way that I can put it into words.

I question and consider everything. In a lot of ways I reset myself, emotionally, once I know that she’s in love. It’s like I empty my bank account to start at zero and then work my way back to how I feel and try to navigate if I will find myself ready to say the words in return. So I’m playing catch up the moment she says the words because I have to start from scratch. I take my time as I need to take stock and begin working on making deposits into my emotional bank account to ultimately meet her. It’s no guarantee that I will feel the same way she does as more women have loved me than I them. This is not a case of me trying to be Macho Alpha Guy as expressing my feelings has never been a problem. I’m just speaking honestly.

I need more time. It takes me a while to develop those feelings. Just give me time…

That’s my response after the emotions have leveled – and for the most part it’s been well received. I take love seriously – or as seriously as someone can that doesn’t believe in the long-term viability of relationships. Look at the numbers, they’re everywhere. However I take the words – and returning them – deathly seriously. It’s not fun and games when those three words enter a relationship. There’s a shift and I’m respectful of that.

Why is this my process? I have no clue but exploring it seems compelling as I sit here with wine as another night in Europe is about to begin.

 

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
Part 9: Somewhere in Kensington
Part 10: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Travel Diary: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

By: S. Davis

September; Berlin:

Finally traveling to Berlin was about its relevance on the world scene: it’s past, present…all of it; specifically, the aura of the Second World War and how it transformed the entire planet. My first day was about getting acclimated after eating large portions of the local cuisine. After wandering away from the Brandenburg Gate I noticed rows of massive columns: grey, stone, unmarked but poetic in nature; unassuming but memorable. I sat down for a few moments because my legs needed rest.

 

As the irritating throbbing began to subside and calmed to a level where I could walk at a leisurely pace, I noticed a sign that transported me somewhere else. Mentally and emotionally this portion of the trip was sharply into focus:

“Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.”

As a slight wind tickled my nose I read it over…and over again, wishing the sign commemorated something else. I hoped that I was hallucinating and the lettering would change. It did not.

By this time the sun completely fell and the moon gleamed in its absence. The last group of visitors to the memorial exhibit inside began to file out so I strolled closer to see their faces. I can’t pinpoint why I thought to do it but I was drawn to them. A woman was visibly weeping as her husband fought back the emotions before wrapping her in a hug.

There were a group of kids – at what seemed to be a class trip – who used their phones to text. Some were quiet, others were in conversation and some went into their worlds as they slid on their headphones. She’s crying, they’re talking, an English national immediately dialed someone while massaging his temples. A young girl kisses her mother’s hand softly. Two men walk slowly, wiping their tears with handkerchiefs. I sit and almost feel like their energy is being transferred to me.

I feel a lump in my stomach and use my left hand to rub the back of my neck. I grab my water bottle from my backpack and take a few gulps. I begin walking to the entrance. The dim lighting pops against the dark of night and the last of the visitors exit through a nondescript side entrance.

I’m a few hours late.

We have time, Sean. We’ll be here for a week and this is our first night in town. We walked a ton…and I have an idea I’ll be going out tonight. (I did.) Pace…

As I stare at the aforementioned sign I feel anger bubbling inside. With sheer disdain I think about this area, this world and what Nazi Germany was like at its apex. I relax my fists as I felt the pain from my nails on the verge of breaking the skin inside both palms. After a few seconds to gather myself I take a seat on one of the concrete slabs. Is it disrespectful to sit here? This site will be a major part of this trip. I walked through the pathways and became disoriented – which, through research, I discovered was one of the purposes of its design.

There will be a point in the next few years where I fly to Poland and make the voyage to Auschwitz. There just isn’t enough time to get it done on this trip but since I have a strong feeling this won’t be my only visit to Berlin, a return after experiencing Poland seems apt. I think every human should visit Auschwitz to get an idea of what man is capable of when power – and the disease it can be if untreated – corrupts absolutely.

Good afternoon, Berlin. I make my way back to the memorial after an early lunch – and the line begins to form. I have to admit that I’m a little confused at the jovial nature of anyone here. This is a memorial to people who were murdered by a tyrant. Some of the actions by the visitors make me uncomfortable. Most of the people on this line are laughing, smiling, talking on their phones, sending and reading text messages as carefree as they can be. I should take the focus off my surroundings but it’s difficult. How should one conduct themselves at a place such as this?

I take my backpack off as I pass through security and leave it at the coat-check. Already the mood shifts – and there’s no way to hide from the history this place aims to memorialize: Tragedy.

It’s an emotional place to visit. One could complete the tour in about an hour but if you wish to get the most out of it – it’s best to reserve two or three hours. I was there for three. There are four main rooms that comprise the exhibit: Room of Dimensions, Room of Families, Room of Names and the Room of Sites. All the rooms are poignant and will pull at your emotions.

 

It was the Room of Names that put me on my backside. I sat and listened to the narrator as name after name was projected on the wall. A biography along with the dates of birth (and death) accompanied each name. The Room of Names is meant to provide information on the six million victims murdered due to the policies of Adolf Hitler – and if one were to try to absorb the presentation in its entirety it would take six years, seven months and 27 days.

Stop for a moment.

Imagine that – and let it land on you.

The memorial itself is not without its critics. I’m not going to take a side as that’s not why I wrote about it. Personally, I can see why it has vocal supporters and detractors. An undertaking so massive, wrought with so much emotion is not going to please everyone. To strive for that ideal is to aim for the impossible.

Throughout my week in Berlin, I spent time at the memorial on three separate days: the first night in Berlin, the next day (highlighted in the majority of this entry) and two days before I flew to Austria. It left me incredibly sad. It’s supposed to accomplish that – or at the very least remind everyone what’s possible when tyranny drowns out all reasonable thought.

 

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
Part 9: Somewhere in Kensington

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

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

A (Date) Journal

By: S. Davis

As a teenager I kept a journal. I probably started one around the age of 15 and kept it updated until 19 or so. In my twenties, I thought of starting a new edition but it never gained much steam. Honestly, I don’t find my life that interesting – although I’ve experienced noteworthy moments that qualify for a journal entry (or sixty). Keeping a daily – or weekly – statement of record isn’t something that appeals to me.

I remember I wrote to relieve the clutter inside my mind. Sometimes it helped, whereas at other times it didn’t produce a single benefit. What used to give me a great sense of levity was reading about the women I chased, argued with, kissed, etc. Another reason why the journal ceased is that I didn’t want to risk indicting myself; think of taking a notebook to chronicle a criminal conspiracy that you’re an active participant in. That’s not a sharp move.

Recently I found myself on a date. Ok. People in my life want to know why I’m single. I only have one answer: I don’t know. I’m intelligent, handsome and hilarious; I know I’m a catch but for whatever reason there isn’t a romantic relationship near my orbit. Also, I’m not actively seeking one.

A few months back I said that I’m going to try to date, seriously, as I’ve grown tired of casual dating. I rarely feel that way. I enjoy being a bachelor, but it’s not as exciting as it once was and I wanted to confront it directly. On a personal level, I think it’s pivotal for my emotional and mental maturity to try a stable relationship. (Of course it has to be with the right woman. I won’t settle; if I did I will eventually cheat, break her heart – or both.) The reasons are too deep to dive into now but I feel it’s imperative that I give it a solid attempt.

Back to that date I mentioned above…

Date? It was a great deal of fun. It lasted just under two hours. She was stunning, sharp, witty, introspective and a fantastic conversationalist. She fit the mold of the type of woman I could possibly date. I don’t have a type, by the way.

A few weeks earlier I spotted her – and had to talk to her. I don’t really do much of that anymore as I approached a woman a few months ago and she was 19. That’s younger than my little sister and the ages of 18-34 can be ambiguous in a city such as Los Angeles where women really cater, exclusively, to their physical appearance, naturally or otherwise.

After introducing myself to her we talked for over an hour. That’s not common for me. Usually I kindly ask if I can have a few moments to speak, offer a genuine compliment, I ask their name – offer mine – and ask if they’re in a relationship. That’s it. That’s my approach. After that 30-45 second interaction we’ll exchange phone numbers – or not – and I’ll continue with my day.

I didn’t advance to the number exchange with her until later in the evening as we fell right into a conversation that lasted…an hour. Odd. “Ok, let’s see.” That was my only thought as I walked to my car.

About the date…

I was impressed, truly. There wasn’t a hint of pretentiousness, arrogance or judgment. She wasn’t moved or motivated by material wealth. A rarity in Los Angeles, honestly. There was passion to her; in her dreams and her pursuit of them. Her perseverance was admirable; her conviction was evident and compelling. Her laugh brought laughter out of me. We talked about our respective schedules over the next few days and we both decided we could see each other the next day: 24 hours later. Being the guy, of course, I had to ask. Her response: Yes. A second date booked while still on the first? I am maturing. This is progress, right?

Prior engagements capped my time limit for the date so we walked towards her car. The positive energy continued to flow. I gave her some Valentine’s chocolates that I picked up on the way to the date as I had to make a stop at the supermarket for cereal. She was on my mind so why not? She appreciated the gift. We hugged and held each other for a bit. She smelled terrific. We kissed.

I don’t initiate kisses on first dates. Nope. It’s not part of my strategy – and it never has been. It’s psychological to me. I follow the tenet of always leave them wanting more but more importantly I just favor keeping the physical contact minimal. There are times though, when the moment is there.

She didn’t push for it, neither did I…it just happened. I’m glad it did. Cool.

We exchanged post-date texts. Cooler.

I ran my errands the next day inspired to clear the slate to open the evening – to see her. I left her a voice message to alert her that I was still on for round two. As I completed my last task an hour later and turned attention to actually planning the night’s activities I heard my text ringer.

There wouldn’t be a second date. In her words, she went from “excited to see me again…to anxiety” to dropping the whole thing because of how the anxiety affected her.

What can you say about that? How do you respond?

I asked if she was alright and/or wanted to talk. She reiterated how she couldn’t ignore the anxiety and that was it.

I wasn’t upset. I was confused. What the hell is going on?

It took me two hours to move past it which says something as I brush things off rather swiftly. I was disappointed in myself for wasting 120 minutes thinking about our initial meeting, the first date, her laugh, her eyes and the surge of energy I felt after we kissed and how she beamed directly afterwards. Ultimately, I really wanted to see her again. There’s no doubt in my mind that the second date produces a third date and then…oh well, whatever. She dominated my thoughts well into the next morning. I was frustrated. I had to reconcile it all within myself.

Dating is a murky enterprise. I can’t comprehend it or relationships to be honest. I don’t understand humans either, even though by evolution and my ability to put sentences together, I am one. I don’t feel connected to my humanity at times and when I do I can say that it’s a fleeting attachment. I hear humans say that relationships are an important component of a complete life experience, specifically romantic connections. I guess.

I’m better at one-night stands and casual sex. I don’t understand the machinations needed to foster anything more substantial. I’m single because I can grasp that. This is a journal entry in my thirties.

UFC 220 + Bellator 192 = Supercard

By: S. Davis

Can you hear that? You should be able to if you’re on this planet. The world has been entranced with the power of Francis Ngannou and it’s no longer a secret that the soft-spoken, jovial, survivor from Cameroon is on a swift track to stardom. We’ve seen improvement in his footwork since his debut even though he hasn’t spent much time in the cage – other than having his hand raised.

The UFC hasn’t ignored his rise in popularity and are primed to push him with the entire promotional machine. The official trailer/teaser highlights both men in the main event but there’s a certain angle they’re portraying – or, at the very least, attempting to. The production value is stellar and it’s driving a point home: Ngannou stock is being purchased in droves and they’re in the market for him as a face of the company…deeply.

The flavor-of-the-month cliché has been in full bloom. That’s not a slight to the challenger at all. In events such as these, when all the attention is devoted to the shiny new toy on Christmas morning it’s easy to overlook the action figures that were there when you were bedridden with the measles, the weekend at grandma’s when her wi-fi was down because she switched providers hours before you arrived and the time your little brother threw a fit because his favorite toy broke so you handed him yours. Remember that? Reliability. Consistency.

Miocic is the man actually in possession of the championship, just in case anyone forgot. He’s the one over there garbling his words, hanging up the phone on his wife while piling up an impressive list of finishes as well. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge his skill and technical acumen in the cage.

The champion seeks a successful defense to set the heavyweight record at three while the challenger looks to stamp his rise by winning one of the few, shiny, gold titles that actually mean something within the company. The problem with predictions in the heavyweight division is the fact that the weakest heavyweight can end the night with an accurate strike. These two both launch missiles to end fights but Ngannou has the kind of sudden power that’s both impressive and chilling. When his uppercut found Alistair Overeem’s chin, I was concerned that he might not walk again.

As for the bout itself, I want to see if Miocic pulls the fight into the later rounds as Ngannou has yet to enter the third frame in his entire career. There could be an opportunity to frustrate the challenger and test those lungs should the fight last longer than ten minutes. As a boxer, I give the champion the edge in terms of foot placement and movement. I also add a plus in the champion’s column as it pertains to cardio.

Defense is going to be paramount here. Miocic has been hit – and has survived in most cases but it only takes one to land for that belt to be wrapped around the challenger. As of yet Ngannou hasn’t been frustrated in a fight nor has he been tasked with fighting from a deficit. How will he respond if the champion remains poised, active and outside of his reach while scoring points? What’s the strategy if he finds himself pinned against the cage when he gets in punching range and can’t turn out the lights quickly? Will he use raw strength to escape a bad position over a technically sound option that leaves him vulnerable to being added to Miocic’s highlight reel?

I wonder.

I appreciate the fact that Bellator 192 – I wish they would change the name – is holding their event on the same evening as I’m melding both cards together. I’m not going to pay much attention to UFC 220 outside of the two title fights. The best fight of the night could be Douglas Lima defending his welterweight crown against Rory MacDonald. I’ll change that: It will be the best fight between both cards.

By the time Chael Sonnen vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson begins, I’m hoping that Daniel Cormier is walking to the cage so I can shift focus from my laptop to my television. I don’t have high hopes for that tilt and I’m concerned about the viewing experience for the customers when Sonnen does what he does. I think Michael Chandler is going to put on a show and Aaron Pico returns to kick off their main card.

A brief aside to discuss the circus around the UFC Lightweight Championship, if I may…

I think stripping Conor McGregor is too…clean. It’s easy and it would be the lazy course of action. Simply remove the “Interim” tag from Tony Ferguson’s portion of the title and name him the “Co-Lightweight” champion while also affixing the same label to McGregor. (It seems like they’ve done this at 7:49 of this video for what it’s worth.) Transfer the lineage of the 155 pound title to both men. Eventually McGregor will have no choice but to defend his half of the title – that would be split in this scenario – because he chose to sit on the bench. He’s healthy and therefore there’s no reason why he can’t compete. UFC brass capitulated and allowed him to box instead of draining his bank account in court proceedings when that was their standard modus operandi when they wanted to flex their power; at least in the Fertitta-era.

Of course if he’s truly stripped, he’ll rally his followers to dismiss Tony, Khabib Nurmagomedov or whoever reigns over the weight class. He’ll accuse them of being fake. MMA drones will agree and if he were to come back to capture the title a second time, he’ll boast about becoming a two-time champion, casually ignoring his refusal to defend. If he’s stripped, he dances around the responsibility of defending – and losing the title. It’s a hurdle that every combat athlete must clear. He’s not exempt from the same standard that every title holder in the history of sport is mandated to meet by virtue of becoming a champion. He’s a legitimate champion because he won the belt – and that can’t be dismissed. However he hasn’t defined his reign with a single defense. If McGregor were chasing after a champion that conveniently refused to defend, denying him the opportunity to share the cage in a title bout, fans of mixed martial arts would riot. It’s time to make the walk; put down the phone or become an asterisk in the history books.

Picks: Miocic, Cormier, Sonnen, Lima, Chandler, Font, Karakhanyan and Pico.