Lighthouse

Friday Started Out At This Lovely Lighthouse On The North Sea Coast

 

NorthSea

The Air Off Of The North Sea Is Intoxicatingly Fresh

Perhaps I was too optimistic a couple of postings ago when I said no matter what I would be OK. The flip side of the coin of the Seat Of The Pants Travel Adventure recently reared up and bit me in the ass.

L’s need to suddenly return to Copenhagen early really caught me with my proverbial pants down because I hadn’t yet contacted my other great friend in Aarhus (S) about when I could stay with her on my way back south. The fact that I was only able to get internet at L’s museum further complicated things.

Since S and I were in sporadic contact, L offered to give me a ride to Copenhagen, where I could find a hostel or hotel to stay in and then either make my way over to Aarhus to stay with S or head south for Berlin or Prague depending on what was up (the problem with having creative nomadic friends is that they aren’t always at home and/or able to receive visitors).

I decided to take L up on her offer, and Friday morning and afternoon we closed up Country Town, the Museum, and then the summer home- and left for Copenhagen with the trailer in tow. The ride to Copenhagen was spectacular. I thought maybe I was overly impressed with Denmark because I hadn’t been out in the country in so long, but the place is just amazingly and relentlessly beautiful.

Once we arrived in Copenhagen things went completely sideways. It was now almost 10PM on a Friday night and the hostel I was hoping to stay at was booked up. L couldn’t be driving around with the trailer in downtown Copenhagen, so she let me off on hotel/hostel row, where I thought there must be something available.

But as I wheeled my big suitcase and bags around the jam-packed city center (big weekend beginning), it quickly became apparent that there was no room in the inn(s). So I grabbed a sandwich and drink at a convenience store and sat down on a bench to replenish myself and ponder my options.

My on again/off again phone wasn’t behaving so I wasn’t able to contact L, and her place was too small and she didn’t even have floor space for me to crash on anyway. That part of Copenhagen is a bit sketchy and unfriendly, defiinitely not the place you would want to rely on the kindness of strangers or even fall asleep in public, and I could feel myself drawing the attention of predatory looking people (at least they seemed that way to me- my street radar is set for Chicago). I decided to head to the train station and see if I could grab a train ticket to Prague, which would give me a place to sleep and end me up somewhere with cheap hotels and hostels, where I could lay over until I could contact my friend C, who lives outside of Prague and I had been talking to about visiting later that week.

I walked around the station looking for an open ticket booth where I could consult on travel options, but they were all closed and there were nothing but automated ticket machines available that only seemed to be for local trains. This was getting really messed up and all the magic seemed to have been sucked out of the air since I hit Copenhagen.

I sat on a bench in the station and wondered what the hell I was going to do, trying to stave off a total panic moment. I looked up and noticed a sign pointing to a platform downstairs that indicated a train for Aarhus was leaving in 15 minutes.

That seemed to be the straw I needed to grab at. I would take this late train to Aarhus that would either take the rest of the night to get there, and then I could get ahold of S (or maybe E & P) the next morning, or I could grab a room somewhere there if the train was quicker. I scrambled to find the right machine to get me a ticket for that train, purchased it (way pricey but I felt I had little choice at that time), and managed to get on the train with seconds to spare.

Turns out it was a relatively fast train that put me in downtown Aarhus at about 1:45 AM. The place was an absolute zoo; partly because it was bar time (ish) on a Friday night but mainly because (unbeknownst to me until arrival) it was the start of the huge Aarhus Fest, which drew revelers from all over Denmark & vicinity to attend the slew of awesome musical entertainment to be had at multiple venues for the next week.

I pushed my cargo ensemble through the throngs and didn’t even try to find a room, I knew I’d be wasting my time. I rolled on down to E & P’s building, hoping against hope to see a light on at that extremely late hour. No such luck. Feeling much too embarrassesd to wake everybody up past 2AM and not knowing what else to do, I headed over to a secluded bench in the park across the street from them, set my things around me and decided to tough it out until morning.

Aarhus was a much safer place to do this than Copenhagen, but I still was keeping both ears open as I nodded off and dozed fitfully for an hour or two. Lots of drunken rowdy folks were streaming down the street nearby but nobody took notice of me (or at least decided to mess with me). I almost hoped the cops would bust me so at least I’d have a place to stay, but they were apparently too busy keeping tabs on the throngs and busting drunk drivers to mess with a dumbass sitting in a park (cops keep a pretty low profile here anyway). I tried to keep my Zen going and laughed at my misfortune instead of freaking, and was doing pretty well for a while.

After a couple hours the wind changed and it got really really cold, to the point where I moved camp over to a bus shelter that was in the lee of the breeze, but it was right on the street that was still seeing a steady throng of rowdy drunks stumbling by (man, do people party here!).

Feeling too exposed and still cold as hell, I began to just roll the cargo around the neighborhood, which was still seeing many parties in full swing. Eventually, I found a relatively remote bus shelter and dozed and shivered for another period of time until the sun came up. Then finally the buses started running, and I took one out to the quiet outskirts and got a nice nap 40 minute nap in as I waited for one heading back into town.

I waited in another little mini-park for the grocery store to open, and when it did I got some fruit, cheese, and bread and headed back to the park by E & Ps to have some breakfast and await a sign that folks there might be awake, just to get warm and use their internet to contact S. It got to the point where I knew that everyone would be up and I went to ring what I thought was their bell (turned out it wasn’t) but got no response.

LovelySky2

As Bad As I Felt At Sunrise, I Still Had To Take These Pics Of The Clouds In The Morning Sky

 

LovelyClouds3

Lovely Clouds

Lovely Sky over ArtM

Flummoxed by this, I decided to head just across the narrow street and see if I could at least snag their wifi signal (my computer was attuned to their signal and I thought I might as well give it a try). I was actually able to and I sent an email to E (she’d recently gotten off that certain social media site) that explained my predicament and location- and got on that certain social media site to see if I could IM S to see if she was able to put me up that night.

As luck would have it, S responded, and as luck wouldn’t have it, was out of town. She tried to contact some friends of hers who might help but couldn’t get ahold of them, then gave me the address of a hostel that she thought might have a room even though the city was filled with folks.

All this time I was standing on a sidewalk with my bags all around me pecking away at an open laptop perched on top of a wall and looking like the King Of The Sketchy Unsavory Dudes. My first thought if I saw myself would have been that I was a homeless guy stealing someone’s wifi, which in a way I was, and I was getting all kinds of extremely quizzical looks from folks passing by and half expected some sort of internet police to ride up and begin questioning me.

As S was giving me the address and we were furiously IMing back and forth, suddenly P walks up to me with a huge grin on his face. I greeted him and told him of my plight and he asked if I wanted to come inside and have some coffee. An offer that almost made me weep with relief, as my Zen had totally disappeared about 3 hours before and I was in awful shape.

We went upstairs and P made me coffee and I explained my stupid predicament to everyone. They were full up with folks as well, so my staying there would be a huge inconvenience, since the only space for me to crash would be in P’s work space and he was painting like a demon these days and couldn’t afford the distraction of a person in his “office.”

I couldn’t get in touch with the Hostel in question, so I spent a couple hours searching Air B&B to no avail (put in one request on the one available place in my price range but never heard back). Finally I just went down to the hostel. They had no room that night but they did have one for the next night only, so I booked it and went back to E & P’s to see if I could impose on them for one night. They accepted only because they didn’t want me to have to sleep rough again, but I felt like a total a-hole for even having to ask such a huge favor (especially after all the hospitality they had previously shown me).

But nonetheless, I was able to sleep indoors that night. I even managed to walk around earlier and take in some of the Fest (it was amazing stuff) but the previous night of little sleep, constant cold, and a taste of what it’s like to be homeless (absolutely horrifying and soul-destroying) had really put me off my feed.

The next day I wasn’t able to check into the Hostel until 4PM, but at least they were able to let me put my huge rolling bag in their luggage room the day before. I went to check my other large-ish bag and my smaller computer bag in there as well early in the afternoon, but the reception desk was closed from 11AM until the 4PM check in time.

Since I couldn’t lug that heavy bag around anymore (it had extra stuff in it because I had taken some things I needed from the rolling bag the day before when I stored it) it was another session of lurking around a park with luggage. Even though I had gotten some good sleep in at E & P’s, I was still way out of sorts; and another few hours of getting the fish eye from wealthy Danish people (it’s a really gentrified area) was not what I needed emotionally. I felt like everyone in downtown Aarhus now thought I was “that weird homelss guy.” Then I started to ruminate on the fine line between open ended traveling like I was doing and just being homeless and felt like maybe I was on my way there and that worst-case scenario was right around the corner. By the time the Hostel opened up I was about as low as I could get.

The expensive hostel rate on top of the expensive train ticket further heightened my panic, and when I reached my room I was an emotional wreck. I sat and for a bit and tried to get my equilibrium back, to no avail. I thought perhaps checking out some fest would improve my mood, but it was Sunday night and there wasn’t as much stuff going on. It was time to call it a night and go back to the hostel and lick my wounds.

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I ended up being able to stay one more night at The Hostel and now I am at S’s place getting my equilibrium back and preparing to leave for Prague on Thursday. S’s wonderfully warm and friendly ways and delicious homemade Cuban food are doing wonders for my disposition and outlook. And writing about it all has also helped me quell the panic/depression and get some perspective.

As unpleasant as it was, my little traumatic weekend was a picnic compared to the experiences of those who are actually homeless; and I can’t stop thinking about what it must be like to be someone from Syria or North Africa who is trying to make their way through Europe without a place to stay or any resources. My white skin and American Accent affords me many privileges that aren’t available to them, and a little bit of attitude and fish-eye is the least of the problems of those real refugees.

I think of all the people I tutored at the Albany Park Community Center (and who I’ve met over the years) who have spent time in refugee camps, and the over 50 million people worldwide who currently are refugees and/or displaced, and my mind boggles. What I went through was like stubbing a toe compared those millions of peoples’ metaphorical broken or amputated legs. So please forgive me for whining about my petty traumas.

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My plans have changed because of the experiences of the weekend and the fact that my meager finances took a huge hit from the unexpected expenses. My original thought was to visit a few more friends in Northern Europe over the next month then as a final stop visit someone who I met during my childhood and who lives in Spain.

They are quite famous and important and can most help me figure out just what it is I am supposed to do with myself to be of the most use to the world at this point in my life. I thought my meanderings would provide me some sort of idea of what that might be and I could consult him about those ideas, but I now realize it’s time to see the Oracle immediately after I visit my friends C & H in Prague.

Finally: I understand that I have brought this on myself and that this was a strange and irresponsible endeavor from the beginning (I was well aware of that fact all along, but had to follow this compulsion), but if anyone has some funds they can spare and wishes to help me continue this quest they can please go to this web page and click on the “Tip Jar” icon to drop some philanthropy into my PayPal account.

I’m not trying to live a life of luxury here, just trying to find my path. If you enjoy reading about my wanderings and want to help continue this quest- any little bit would help.