Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eurovision: Spain, Latvia, and Bosnia

Unannounced to most Americans, every year Europeans get together for what is called the Eurovision Song Contest. This contest has been around for over 50 years and has sparked such famous bands as ABBA and, well, the only one I know of is ABBA. The contest is really clever and I'm not sure why the US hasn't ripped it off with "Statevision" yet, but the way it works is every country submits a song, performs it live with lots of dancing, and then the people have 15 minutes to call in and vote for their favorite song. You can't vote for your own country so it's funny to see how everyone votes for their "friend" countries eg: Sweden votes for Norway, Portugal votes for Spain, and no one votes for France .

Last night, after a long day at an amusement park which didn't measure up to US standards but had a good kiddie ride called Mrs. Hippo's Fungle Safari, I attended my first Eurovision Party. We watched as all the countries gave their best effort which too often resembled a Celine Dion ballad, or in the case of Finland, a heavy metal song, and three countries stood out to me.

Bill Trandon's top 3 Eurovision 2008 Songs!

#3 - Bosnia Herzegovina
I have absolutely no idea what this song is about, but I like to promote this type of behavior whenever I see it.

#2 - Latvia
I think if they submitted this a year earlier to ride the popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean they would have won. And in Latvia's defense, I think that those movies are just making it over there.

#1 - Spain
Hands down, Espana had the best song of the night. It made me want to dance "el roboco."

Russia was the actual winner with a boy band reject singing a power ballad as some Russian Michael Flatley of the ice skated circles around him. But I'm off to Spain, quite literally. Next week I'll walk across the entire top of Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Hopefully I'll meet some nice Spaniards and we can talk about Chiki Chiki and how they were robbed in Eurovision. Or the crusades. Both things that Spanish people like talking about.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The London Pub Crawl or Why I Hate Sarah Jessica Parker

Last Monday (not today but one week ago) my friend Simon took me on a pub crawl of London. Until now, every pub I've been in in London has been about the same. Dark Brown wood, luke-warm cask ale, an overuse of the words dog, duck, bull, lion, and the always funny cock in the title. But Simon used to be a manager of a pub in London and by doing so he became somewhat of an expert in every pub in the central downtown area. Here is how our evening went.

Stop 1: Waxy O'Connor's
The humble doorway of Waxy's didn't look like much, a cast iron arch lost on the foothills of Chinatown. But I'm surprised that the doorway wasn't a circle. Stepping into Waxy O'Connor's is like being invited into Bilbo Baggins's hobbit hole. The pub is three different floors, most of which are underground and appear to have been dug out with a garden trowel. The top floor is near enough to the ceiling that I had to duck to feel comfortable, but it did allow me to admire Bilbo's exquisite hand carved relief on the wooden ceiling while looking down onto the two floors below. The entire pub was situated around the smooth skeleton of an elaborate tree that reached through the different coves of the pub. It was a beautiful day outside so I drank a Kopperberg Pear Cider as I pondered how they got the tree through the doorway.

Stop 2: O'Neils on Warder Street
Out the back door of Waxy's is O'Neils. O'Neils is an chain Irish Pub ergo this was your average O'Neils. It's bonus feature, however, is that it's open till 3:00am (a rarity in downtown London I assure you) and the top floor has live music. Still on the edge of Chinatown, Simon and I sat by the second floor window drinking a Mexican Corona and Itialian Birra Moretti respectively, trying to guess what country all the school groups were from. Lesson learned, Austrians look like Germans, the Spanish look like Italians, and the French are French. Also, avoid the Tuborg, it tastes like plastic pipe.

Stop 3: De Hems Netherlands Cafe
I was quick to embrace this little Dutch pub in the middle of China town, perhaps too quick. I would have thought this was an English pub had I not noticed the overabundance of obnoxious orange decorating the abudwa. Orange flags, Holland soccer jerseys, and orange lights all reminded me I was not in England, but the Netherlands. Overcome by the ambiance I ordered an Ornjebloom, to later realize that this pub has the absolute best selection of Belgian trappist ales outside of Belgium. Live and learn.

Stop 4: The Walkabout (formerly the Limelight)
"Europes two great narcotics, religion and alocohol. I know which on I prefer" ~Mike Skinner, The Streets.
On the corner of Charing Cross and Shaftsbury, near Tottenham Court Road, lies a Chruch where people don't go to pray anymore, at least not in the traditional way. This old Church now houses The Walkabout pub. The sunlight pouring through stained glass, and covered by a huge domed ceiling made me want to genuflect to the overly friendly Aussie bartenders as they offered me Toohey's Australian beer for only £1.50, a steal for London town. I would not actually genuflect because the I'd be afraid my knee would get stuck to the floor much like the menu (which offers kangaroo burgers) was stuck to the table and stuck to it's self.

Stop 5: The Porcupine
Former home of David Hasslehoff Comedy Night, the Porcupine was the only traditional English pub on my tour. I was proud to demonstrate my Texas learned knowledge of Mexican beers as I sprayed a Carona all over myself trying to make the lemon drop to the bottom of the bottle. After leaving this traditional pub, it's worth noting that down the street was another pub, The Salsbury, right next to the Avenue Q entrance, that had the most ornate carved glass and mirrors that I've ever seen. But we couldn't stop there so onto . . .

Stop 6: O'Neils #2
Simon used to work at an O'Niels so they have a special place in his heart. This one is a half block from Covet Gardens and past some fancy restaurant called J. Shicks where a bloke stands outside in a top-hat and you have to book months in advance. Nothing notable at O'Niels, but my free copy of the free Metro newspaper told me that that the Sex and the City movie premier was tonight in London. I didn't think that London was "The City" that the show referred to, but what do I know. I hate that show. And I spent the next 30 minutes explaining to Simon's three female friends and a random stranger that I met at the bar why I hate that show.

Stop 7: The Porterhouse
I was surprised to find that I had already been to the Porterhouse once before. One night when I was looking for live music I stumbled across this gem. Actually just ok, it'd be better if it wasn't so popular. They have over hundreds of different types of bottled beer, and since Simon's Australian friend was coming we got Coopers Pale Ale, apparently popular in Austrailia. The excitement at this bar came when the Aussie arrived because Simon knowingly invited two friends of his that were former roommates but no longer speak to each other. Awkward turtle.

Stop 8: B@1
After the ice cycle filled greetings of the two former roommates, we stumbled to a cocktail bar called B@1's for the end of happy hour. This bar had a two for one special for an hour and apparently that meant we should all get two mango martinis. I started feeling bad about my rant against Sex and the City so I bought a round of Cosmopolitans as a peace offering. It was pointed out to me that three of the people I was drinking with had their pictures on the wall of this bar, and I began to wonder if I was outclassed. I decided all insecurities are null after a few white Russians and then the tour continued.

Stop 9: Belushi's
I know this pub had a stoplight inside it, but it wasn't a TGIFridays. Simon claims there were kebabs involved here. I beg to differ.

Stop 10: Harass the Sex and the City Premier
I know, I know, technically not a pub. Simon decided to take his beer on the road and use it as a microphone to interview the people coming out of the Sex and the City Premier. For some strange reason people seemed to like the movie, but they didn't look like the type of people I would like, and they were unable to iterate why. Maybe it was because Si was interviewing them with a half finished pint, or maybe because anyone who like that show lacks the ability to iterate anything. I don't know. But the police who took Simon's "microphone" away was pretty clear that we should go.

Stop 11: Back to O'Neils #1
Why? I don't know.

Stop 12: Rehab
So after this little excursion out in London I've decided it's best to go into personal rehab for a week. Try to make me go to rehab and I say, "Sure why not."