Eten & Drinken: Haring

A happy me. Will it last?

Want to impress a pretty lady (mooie dame)? Need to fit in with the other gents (heren) nearby? Eat some herring (haring). Yep, the Dutch are nuts for these silvery “treats.” After some unnecessary background information, because I love history and have no restraint, I’ll let you know my verdict on these raw “delights.”

Popular since the Dutch pioneered the preserving method in the Middle Ages, the immature herring are ripened in a mild brine for several days. The fish are cleaned before brining, with the exception of the liver and the pancreas (gross) because those organs add flavor (gross). The Dutch brine is weak compared to the German style and the modern day process requires the underage fish to be frozen to minus 45°C to avoid infection by nematodes (gross). After eating the juvenile fish, consumers must introduce themselves to the neighbors as pedos.

Rain can get in the way of crowds.

This snack is called soused herring, maatjesharing to the Dutch or just maatjes if you want to be cool and like abbreviating. They’re sold at dozens of little huts around Amsterdam. You’ll know them by the Dutch flag, the signs proclaiming “Frens Haringhandel” or “Hollandse Nieuwe,” and the throngs of Dutch people in line. If these signs are too subtle, the rancid fish smell should provide the needed clarification.

Before refrigeration was widespread, and nematodes were discovered, the Hollandse Nieuwe was only available in the spring, after the first catch. Celebrations like the Vlaardingen Herring Festival and Vlaggetjesdag in Scheveningen honor this first catch of the year. The first barrel of fermented nubiles were traditionally auctioned off to charity. Nowadays herring is available year round, but the tradition of auctioning remains. How much would you pay for a barrel of nearly raw bait? The auction in 2011 raked in €67,500 (gross).

If you’re still reading, thanks. The unbearably boring history was a palate cleanser because you need a clean palate for raw fish, onions, and pickles. Lest you be flagged immediately as an outsider, please leave your civilized manners and love of utensils at the door. While you’re at it, leave fear of mildly awful smells and slippery textures at the door too. And, take of that terrible “Legalize it” shirt, dummy, you’re in Amsterdam. Also, grow 6″. Now you’re ready to fit in while eating your herring.

1/3 of a white flag. Submit!

It’s hard to describe the taste of herring. I want to describe it as a combination of the hearty texture of Cod without the “fishy” smell, like salmon. Then picture the buttery taste of a good piece of tuna. Now, realize that I’m lying. Herring tastes nothing like this. It’s slimy, pungent, and salty. That’s not to say it’s bad. In fact, I liked it quite a bit. The onions on the side give a nice, sharp bite that cuts the oily, savory taste of the herring. You have the option to eat it with pickles, but you shouldn’t. I know some may say that’s my opinion and it’s okay if I’m wrong. Well, I don’t dole out opinions, I deal with facts. Pickles are not a good accompaniment to herring. I don’t need pickled cucumber (komkommer) with my pickled fish.

*Taken last week (gross)."

Herring is served on a waxy cardboard plate, either cut into three pieces or served intact. The most traditional way to eat herring is to dip them in your onions and pickles, cock your head back, and scoff the thing down. That’s a kind of deep throat I don’t need, politically speaking of course. Some vishandels will cut your herring into three pieces. These places will thankfully give you a mini-spork, which makes the eating marginally less embarrassing. If you’re particularly lucky, your vishandel will give you an option of eating your herring on a piece of rye bread or roll (‘broodje haring’).

I know for a fact that I have not been clear. I like Hollandse Nieuwe a lot more than Liz. She gave an “Oh dear god” look when she placed the slippery beast in her mouth. I certainly don’t love it, but the silvery treat is good. Herring was once an incredibly important cash crop for the Dutch, and a lot of other northern countries prize this little “treat.” Try it. Love it or hate it. Repeat? Regardless, you’ve experienced something particularly Dutch and you haven’t had to eat rotting herring like Swedes, which is real (gross).


Ons Huisdier, Part 4

**Warning! Take off your laughing hats. This blog post doesn’t reach my admittedly low comedic threshold**

Imagine you lost your cat in a new city. You feel guilty because you left the hapless cat in the care of a questionable cat-sitter. You made the decision not to go with a cat hotel because the very concept of a cat hotel is ridiculous, and going with a cat sitter was more easy than right. You suppressed all the sneaking suspicions that something might go wrong because you’re a human, and that’s what humans do. The path of least resistance is a seductive wench and I am easily tantalized. How long do you stretch out the search?

Rookie cat owners, maybe a week and a half. Journeyman cat owners, two weeks. Veterans just that side of a healthy dependency on cats as social interaction, at least three weeks. Guilt is the wild card. Depending on the severity and the levels of internalization, guilt can add one to two weeks easily. Going through the motions and walking around a few streets while listening to This American Life is easy; Amsterdam can be impossibly pretty. And therein lies a distinction – those who keep looking with a sense of hope and those who just keep looking.

I’m no de Tocqueville. My social and cultural observations are not well-honed. Yet, my search for Julia did shine some light on how the Dutch think. One gentleman from the garden suggested I get the police to come to the garden with a search dog, you know, so I could at least find the body. Two others were thoroughly convinced that Julia had severely injured herself (broken legs and back were gently offered as possibilities) when she jumped into the garden. All but a very few people questioned whether Julia was even in the garden, unsubtly hinting that Silvia might have lied. And, when I called the police, both officers correctly guessed that I was American. Horrible Dutch aside, they nailed me as “foolish” enough to keep looking for a cat that had been missing for so long and still hoping to find it, er, her.

The Dutch are honest and blunt and they tend towards cynicism. Asking a woman how old she is, completely normal. How much does she weigh? Without a blink. How do I look in these pleated jeans? Tough one. The Dutch have a really annoying fashion sense. For the most part, the Dutch I’ve met so far aren’t mean, but they often see a situation for what it is, stripping away the false hope and wishful thinking hardwired into my New England brain. Expats beware! The aforementioned description is the good-natured and predominant strain of Dutchman. Some Dutch will use the “we’re very blunt” excuse to cover their predatory inclination toward assholery. Granted, it’s a good cover and I commend them for using it. Being forthright is one thing. Claiming to be forthright in order to take a dickish shot at someone else is quite another. Just taking a dickish shot without pretense is yet another thing, my thing.

I think my meandering point was that I held fast to the “aw-shucks” hope that I’d find Julia. The Dutch I met were not mean, but they were hardly kindred spirits. My Aussie and Kiwi friends were somewhere in the middle, supportive without gushing enthusiasm.

I sadly admit that my own hopes were straining after twenty-six days of fruitless searching. I’m no cat-whisperer. My attempts to rent a € 8,000 infrared camera were dashed in typically Dutch fashion. Quickly approaching the time when I’d have to drown myself Grolsch, an annoying acquaintance popped into my life. Religion.

My man Tony lost the top of his hair.

Religion is good. Bible-thumping asshats are annoying, but I know they’re not the majority. The “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” asshats are just as bad. I’m admittedly utilitarian about religion and that’s not a good trait either. Apparently there is this old Portuguese guy named Tony that will help you find lost things if you say a few kind words, and believe. As a promise to Liz, I said a prayer to this St. Anthony in the alley outside Julia’s garden. Over the next hour I remembered an older Italian? Portuguese? lady I worked with at a courthouse. She babbled continuously to St. Anthony to help her find her keys, her glasses, or the paperclip jar. She seemed pleased by the results, and Julia is at least as important as paperclips.

That night Liz and I were getting into bed when my phone rang. I looked at the number to see if I knew who it was. Hmmm, I don’t recognize the number. Of course you don’t, idiot. You been in Holland a month, you know no one, and you’re introverted to the point of agoraphobic. The woman on the other end thought she had found my cat. Tired and dubious, I asked for a description.

“She is grey and  … annoying meow … orange.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Similar, but without the carpet.

Across the street from the bench where I sat and said a prayer to Tony, I stepped into the lady’s apartment. She was easily 8 feet tall and dressed in a Jedi robe with a fitting Alec Guinness haircut. The floors were cracking cement with strange pools of liquid all over the ground. Well, all over the ground visible amid the kerosene heater, overflowing milk crates, shoulder high stacks of newspapers, and far too many metal pipes along the wall for comfort. Glaring at a bowl of milk, Julia quickly shot me a look before she ran off.

“Are you okay?” the giant Jedi asked.

“Huh? Yeah, I’m great. It’s all these kerosene fumes and the dust mites attacking my eyeballs making it look like I’m tearing up.”

I scuttle over to pick up Julia, expecting a warm reunion with a plush-feeling cat happy to see me. I grabbed a waxy-furred bag of bones whose first reaction was to take a swipe at me, reminding me that I lost her and that she was still a bitch. I’ll take it.


Ons Huisdier, Part 3

“Writing is a deeper sleep than death.
Just as one wouldn’t pull a corpse from its grave,
I can’t be dragged from my desk at night.”

Kafka's grave, I assume.

By Kafka, but nothing to do with his actual grave. It does have the word “grave” in it, and I’m frankly too lazy to find a more apt description. I shouldn’t be so lazy though, since Liz and I never made it to his grave and I can only assume he’s in a Mao-like mausoleum, all waxy and severe looking under a glass case. Mix cat milk, wasps, and the realization that Czech honey wine isn’t allowed on an airplane and you get the hilarious hi-jinx keeping us away from Kafka. That story coming soon, start bating your breath now. Okay, stop bating. It might be a while on account of me sucking.

After dropping off our luggage at Jason and Annie’s apartment (fellow expat friends), I skedaddled off to look sternly at Silvia and find Julia. It turns out men who use the word “skedaddle” have a hard time looking stern. Good for those 6 other guys to know. Be nice, save face. Liz was already walking around Julia’s new digs, which turns out to be a garden in the middle of Amsterdam roughly half the size of a football field. Proper football or American football, you ask? No one cares, jerk. The point is it’s a big garden. Luckily the garden had no open access to the street, so our genius cat was trapped, in a good way. Unluckily, the garden is less Versailles and more Mirkwood. With fences, trees, and sheds, there are more nooks and crannies for Julia to hide in than those things English people eat … fish and chips.

I gave Silvia a piece of my mind too. Mostly about how we enjoyed Prague and the surprising size of the garden. She looked with us for a whopping hour before giving up completely. Seems like appropriate penance for losing a cat, Silvia. Thanks. Liz and I searched until 11 pm with nothing to show; sure we’d find her the next day. Huzzah for blind optimism!

Ms. TarQwyn: America's Most Recognized Blah Blah Blah.

We didn’t find her the next day. Or the day after, etc. Liz and I kept up spirits by treating the first few days like picnics. We took breaks from the one-sided game of hide-and-seek to eat and enjoy the garden. With work getting in the way of her garden adventures, I became a regular Karin TarQwyn. Don’t be coy; Ms. TarQwyn’s website says she’s America’s Most Recognized Missing Pet Detective, so it has to be true. She also holds little regard for the pesky “qu” rule in English grammar.

My first week of hunting Julia led to a few tangible results. I met many of the lovely first floor residents surrounding the garden. They were all cat lovers, and that made me feel a lot better. I met many of the garden’s cats. They were also very nice, except for one, which was a mean asshole. I also made a snazzy flyer.

Impressively unprofessional.

My second week also had its lessons. Some of the cat-lovers were neither flyer-lovers nor people-lovers. I got an email telling me I was intrusive for handing out the flyer and an absolute joy of a woman telling me never to go near her garden again. Others at the garden really were great. One old lady called me several times to check on my progress and warn me about the mean cat starting fights. Another woman joined me several times as I walked around the garden for hours. She sheepishly approached me one afternoon. Very sincerely and with a twinkle in her eye, she asked if she could do something very important for me. Oh no. Was I going to have to tell her that sex with an considerably older woman, while flattering, would really hinder my ability to find Julia, and my ability to live a normal live thereafter?

The imagined sex offer may have been easier to handle gracefully than the reality. She told me about her spiritual beliefs and how she followed the teachings and practices of the Native Americans. Marc, don’t sneer. She pulled out a braided collection of “sweet grass” and herbs, a lighter, a dream-catcher, and some red string with beads on it. Marc, don’t laugh. She walked to place we suspected Julia might be, lit the sweet grass, chanted a prayer, tied the string to a tree, and blessed the ground for Julia’s safe return. I’m a very cynical person. I look for all the easiest jokes, on account of not being clever. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to attack this low-hanging fruit. The sweetness and genuine concern this lovely woman was showing to me, a nearly complete stranger, and Julia, a cat she had never met, was staggering. For a moment, all the snarky comments swirling in my head, and the other voices, were quieted by gratitude. Thanks Dutch Native American lady.

My third week taught me that even the really great people in the garden had their limits. Without access to the garden, I had to blindly ring doorbells and annoy strangers every day. People eating or relaxing at home love to be disturbed by dumb Americans who speak terrible Dutch and want access into their private gardens. Keep that in mind travelers.

Neither filling nor friendly.

More importantly, I stumbled upon what it means to be a man. It has little to do with having a good job, being a loving partner, or a caring father. It doesn’t boil down to how masculine you are, how well you fight, or your sexual prowess. Being a man is most accurately judged by how well you react to walking into spider webs. My friends, I am not a man. I lose my mind every time I see a spider, much less walk into their accursed, silky traps. When in Amsterdam, think twice about entering a garden, my arachnophobic brethren. It is not pleasant. Over three weeks of searching for Julia, I may have become less manly. Each day was a new nightmare, with spiders’ booby traps in every imaginable place, some with spiders, others without. The depression of not finding Julia after so long was nicely accented by terror from arachnids. If Julia was hiding from them, I completely understand why she was keeping quiet.

Week four started with less enjoyable lessons. Pet detectives in the Netherlands pretty much don’t exist. The literature on how to find cats in the wild continued to suck. The police told me to stop looking for a cat I’d likely never find. I kept walking around the garden, mouth agape, eating more spider webs than any one human should. And, an overwhelming sadness about losing Julia was staring to creep into my thoughts. I didn’t want to accept that possibility, but it was becoming hard to ignore. Then Liz’s mom told me about St. Anthony. Aren’t weird cliffhangers the worst? Keep your ear to the internet’s proverbial grindstone to see if Marc becomes a man, and if we find Julia.

Ons Huisdier, Part 2

It’s been a long time since I posted last. For those that care, I’m sorry. For those that don’t, I’ll cover my bases and still say I’m sorry. But, there is good reason for why I haven’t been posting. It’s this grueling schedule of being a stay-at-home boyfriend. Clean house, look for work, P90X, make dinner. See? Barely a spare minute for writing. I’ll thank you ahead of time for understanding, and shutting up about it if you don’t.

"I'm the worst!"

As I wrote about a while back, Liz and I were gallivanting off to the Czech Republic. On the last day at out hostel, I finished my nerve-wracking group shower, luckily in solo fashion. I walked back towards Liz and she looked as lovely and calm as ever. She looked at me placidly and said that Silvia, our cat-sitter, had lost Julia, our cat.

Well darn it all to heck! But, it was bound to happen sooner or later. We’ll get a new one.

Liz is a lot less creepy robot.

Huh? Who lost what? Just to clarify, Liz may or may not be a robot. She’s just a little too analytical, too brusque at times, she beeps constantly, and she delivers the news that our cat is lost with the calmness of a Hindu cow. Thankfully the facade broke and like a well-programmed robot, she immediately set off to fix the problem rather than get hung up on those pesky emotions.

Apparently Silvia had some friends over and one of them opened the back door. Julia, being brilliant, jumped down to meet the other MENSA cats in the garden below. So, the first half of our day in the Czech Republic was spend on the awful Czech keyboards of a shitty Czech hostel, triaging the damage done by an irresponsible cat-sitter and a stupid cat. After 30 minutes furiously typing at a computer, I stepped back to admire my work:


Liz, being fluent in binary, was much more efficient. Following her lead, we registered Julia with a bunch of lost pet organizations and learned that most people writing about how to find lost pets simply shouldn’t. Maybe the writers telling me how smart cats are and praising their resourcefulness haven’t seen Julia stalk dust balls, eat bugs, and jump out windows in Amsterdam. I’ll hang on to my own opinions for at least a little longer.

Healthy role model, Marc!

Memory is far from objective, and all I could remember were the cute things Julia did, making the sadness worse. Don’t get me wrong, Julia can be an asshole. To be fair, so can I.  But Julia was my asshole. That was gross and anatomically/onomastically confusing. Not erasing it. Like a mentally healthy individual, I settled into a comfortable depression about our lost cat, with a dose of irrational anger and over-dramatic extrapolation for good measure. Thankfully this does not compute with Robo-Liz and I was given a strong dose of logic. She really is a lovable bunch of circuits. Having done what we could and being optimistic about Julia’s swift return, we set off to have fun on our last day in Prague by visiting Kafka’s grave.

Czech Please, Day One

“Easy on the clutch, bub!”

Good one, voice in my head. We sure showed that airline pilot who can’t hear us and doesn’t know who we are who’s boss.

It's good, Ivan, but still too happy.

I know the Czech Republic isn’t a communist country anymore, but the airport planners aren’t making any big push to help tourists forget about good olde Husák. Arriving at the airport at night shouldn’t make a place seem more communist, but alas, there I was. Surrounded by what I hope is an unusually large amount of elderly people with missing teeth, there was a very noticeable lack of lights outside. It was very dark outside and the fluorescent-lit shuttle bus with one headlight cast its light on an awful lot of chain link fences topped with razor wire. I know all airports have this, but please shut up while I’m projecting unflattering impressions of a country before I even leave the airport.

Grumble grumble (in Czech).

Before we could find the shuttle bus to the subway, I did my best to communicate with an info-booth attendant doing his best impression of Argus Filch. He opted to drop the cat from the ensemble along with the charm. His lovely yellowing skin was probably from a few hundred thousand too many cigarettes or a pesky case of jaundice that never cleared up. I knew he spoke English because he was a regular Bill Shakespeare to the girl ahead of me. Along comes a penis, unassuming and in need of information, and he pretends there’s a language barrier. He pointed, said “D,” and “pay driver.” Then he went back to eating his sadness and regret sandwich.

I turn, no “D” in sight. I turn back to Filch. He’d receded into the corner of his booth like a feral dog, threatened by information-seeking tourists. That’s not really a problem if you’re actually a feral dog, more of a problem if you work at an info booth at a major international airport. At this point he developed a case of deafness, so my further efforts were in vain. The hearing impairment and English issue got better when Liz approached. Liz was a lot more successful. Maybe because she’s more insistent, clear-speaking, and direct, but also maybe because she has a vagina.

I fared a little better getting directions after flaunting my masculine charms to an older woman at the money exchange kiosk. She was pleasant and presumably helped me because I have a penis. My stringent scientific research tells me that gender roles are firmly in place in the Czech Republic.

We boarded the unflatteringly lit bus hoping that we could simply ask someone where we needed to get off. No dice. That Czech language is quite the communication barrier. Mandarin bad, except there’s a better chance that someone on the bus or the subway will mutter a word of English at you. Dutch can be a throaty mess of a language at times, but Czech is down-right aggressive. Compared to any Romance language, Dutch isn’t pretty, and Czech is the lonely post-op gal with the gruff voice and 5 o’clock shadow. Slings and arrows aside, the mouths from which the verbal onslaught came were all generally smiling. It’s nice to know that they’re at least happy about abusing my ears.

If you’re the one reading this and wanting to get to Prague while avoiding the lovely airport people, take airport bus 119 from to the Dejvická metro station on the A line. Or, you could follow the good-looking gay German couple who looked like they had their plans in order. Your choice. Body odor and dirt belied a good, fast, and clean subway system. Good job Prague! However, the escalators were absurdly fast. Like health hazard fast. After two years of living in DC, I pass all kinds of judgments at those not walking up escalators. Not this time. I’m that pussy not daring to walk up this Turbo-Lift precursor.

Walking to the hostel, Liz said she expected it to be more “third worldy.” Good old Liz looking on the bright side of things she knows little to nothing about. Moments earlier, I thought how “communisty” it felt. The patina of grime on the windows was cheered up slightly by the ever-present and colorful babushkas. And again with the language, even the signs looked angry. Good old Marc, holding to unfair characterizations he knows to be untrue, like an asshole.

That'll do, Ivan, that'll do.

We arrived at the hostel and passed through a den of iniquity, with the dense fog of smoke and oppressive heat making the Bard and Clown smell of mulch. It made good sense that the guy at reception was greasy looking. I’d been here for 15 seconds and I was full-on Tom Selleck sweaty. The sweating got worse. We were on the top floor, and with every flight of stairs the temperature rose a few degrees. By the time we got past flight 8, we’d arrived in a large sauna, but without all that pesky dryness. I can’t wait to showerwhyistherenoindividualshower!? Like an idiot, I forgot this was a hostel and the “large dorm” we booked was, well, a large dorm. Twenty or so beds lined the top floor of the hostel and a friggin’ group shower was the crown jewel.

Guess I’ll make the bed. Nope. Guess I’ll make the plush carpet draped on wooden slats. Yep. I suppose the sheets were fitted because technically a sock is fitted, and the bottom sheet was basically a mattress sock. If that sounds weird, trust me, it is. The mattress literally slid into a sleeping bag made for a mattress. Now, why is there a big cotton ball on my bed? Oh, that’s the pillow, fantastic. Let me just mash that thing into the bed-bug ridden pillow case. Success. Holy shit its hot. I’m hungry.

Our nightcap was a fizzy citrus drink and a salami sandwich from a gas station. No way that dinner could go horribly wrong in a dirty, Africa-hot hostel in Prague. Let’s just hope everyone is quite when they come to bed, which is sure to be the case because grimy hostel goers are always on the up and up. Oh, yeah, and group showers. That’ll be a fun little anxiety attack tomorrow.

Ons Huisdier, Part 1

What? Where are we going?

The days of living in a swanky hotel had finally come to an end. Not by choice, but because Liz’s company would no longer foot our bills. I wasn’t unhappy about leaving the diorama of what a €250 per night hotel room was supposed to look like. I was a little unhappy that the apartment we found (check back soon for that thrilling adventure) wouldn’t let us move in until early September. I was very unhappy that I had no plans for where to live in the interim. Good job, Marc.

Surely there are some nice, affordable hotels. Dreamer.

Hmm, maybe there are some less nice, cheap hotels. Dummy.

Okay, well a quality hostel will be a fun budget alternative. Idiot.

Fine, as long as “no bed bugs” is the only demand, no problem. Stupid idiot.

My naiveté apparently knew no bounds. No hotels or hostels in the greater Amsterdam metropolitan area were remotely affordable. Well, Amsterdam was fun while it lasted. Guess it’s time to move back to the US. I honestly thought I’d last a little longer than this, but here we are. Every possible option exhausted. The entire world conspiring against me. Fine, I didn’t like you stupid tall people anyways.

“Are you crying, Marc?”

“What? No. Stop staring at me. I was just thinking about a time I got something in both eyes.”

“Are you looking at flights back to the US?”

“What? No. I was just planning for Christmas.”

“Why do the dates say this week?”

“Oh, like you have another solution?”

Turns out she did. And, it turns out she’s a mentally healthy person who doesn’t construct fatalistic scenarios in her head and then extrapolate to the nth degree. Braggart. Her “brilliant” idea was to go to Prague and stay at a hostel rather than pay through the nose in Amsterdam, thereby saving a few euro, traveling to a new place, and allowing us to move in to our apartment when we get back. Well, well, well, isn’t that convenient? All the pieces falling into place, wrapped up in a neat little package. At this point I’m not even sure where the sarcasm is coming from. It was a good idea. Not quite as good as wholesale abandonment of the move to Amsterdam, but she’s got promise.

Alternatives abound!

Aha! I found a hole in her perfectly laid plans. What about Julia? We can’t take that pain in the ass with us to Prague. Unfortunately, the temporary glee of pointing out problems in your girlfriend’s plans is quickly squashed by the reality of having to fix them. So began the mental calisthenics of what to do with ons huisdier Julia, our pet. Three minutes later, exhausted and lost, I turn to the warm and comforting embrace of the internet. Google gave me 576,000 results for “cat sitting amsterdam.” It gave me 4,640,000 for “humane cat killing.” Just saying Julia, you’re lucky I love you, because options clearly exist.

We narrowed it down slightly. The choice was between two cat-sitters peddling their services on the internet and a “cat hotel” a few minutes north of Amsterdam. Our logic: The “cat hotel” will have other cats. Julia hates other cats. We’ll have to rent a car to get there. We don’t want to drive. How can we take anything called a “cat hotel” seriously? It costs €10 per night. The cat sitters cost less. Cat sitter it is. I bet McCain has nightmares about that level of candidate vetting.

Inhumanely unfunny.

Should we really be leaving Julia with a lady advertising on the internet to take care of cats? After emailing her, we learned that she didn’t even own cats. But, she is fond of them. And she’s cheap. And she’s conveniently located. And, would the internet lie? Nothing has ever been misrepresented on the internet, ever. So, Silvia simply HAS to be a straight shooter. No flaws in our logic.

I’m not one to give much credit to animals being overly perceptive, but Julia did seem more pissed-off than normal on the morning she was to be shipped off to a stranger’s apartment. Placing her in the cat carrier was truly a joy. Luckily, I’d clipped her claws a few days earlier. That’s right. On a good day, I can definitely outsmart a cat. I’m very cunning.

Cat food? Check. Cat litter? Check. Cat toys? Check. Towel Liz and I slept with to comfort Julia with our stink? Check, we’re not monsters after all. Responsibly-researched cat-sitter with references and background check? Close enough.

After meeting ]Silvia, I felt a little better about the situation. Julia took to her pretty well and the apartment seemed pretty cat-proof. Silvia had a balcony that led into a garden, which was a problem because cats are insufferably curious. She assured us it would stay closed. Done and done.

We were off to Prague and Julia was with a new friend. What could possibly go wrong?

An Update for the Unconcerned

Hey, efficiency, go screw yourself!

Surely, not a single one of you is asking yourself “Why has Marc not assaulted us with any more unimportant but ever so delightful updates about Amsterdam?”

If you could have seen me type that question from my hostel in Prague, you would have a better idea. I spent the last two minutes cycling through the keyboard SHIFT options, which here is an arrow pointing up, for the question mark. And, if you notice, no contractions to be found here. That is because there is no apostrophe to be found on the keyboard. The Czech find apostrophes to be a sign of weakness.

Someone at the hostel called this an English keyboard, which I am willing to believe to a certain extent. Actually, I am only willing to believe it because he had a sweet cockney accent and I have yet to go to England, much less type there. Regardless, this quick post has taken way too much time and effort already. I submit to the communist keyboard overlord.

Rest assured that I will continue to make Liz post Facebook updates to annoy anyone who even remotely cares. I will also be spamming lots of daily posts once we get back to Amsterdam. That sure will not be annoying.

Damn I miss apostrophes.