Happy In Bag

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vincent Was a Hack

Van Gogh is overrated. That's my highly-trained assessment after spending several eye-reddening hours in a few of Europe's finest museums this month. I don't regret visiting the excellent Van Gogh Museum, but it unintentionally makes a case for the artist as a hapless trend-chaser. The works of Vermeer and Rembrandt, however, repeatedly stopped me in my tracks.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Guide Book Says It's a Must See

Taos. Branson. Breckinridge. I've spent miserable days in each of these tourist traps. Although it's hundreds of years older, Bruges is the same type of place. Sure, it's gorgeous, but Bruges is just not my scene. It's not like I didn't try. I boated in the canals, visited the nunnery and laid my hands on the Relic of the Precious Blood. I even climbed all 366 steps of the town's famous belfry. Here's an embarrassing home movie shot shortly before I made the ascent.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The World's Most Expensive Beer

The two previous posts have been filled with effusive praise of France. Not quite everything about my trip was perfect. Here's my most humiliating Parisian experience. I had about thirty minutes of downtime after visiting the grave of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. I reckoned a quick beer was in order. A waiter at a seemingly modest cafe asked me if I wanted a small or large glass. I'd seen people sipping from puny cups, so I requested a large glass, thinking I'd receive a pint. I was distressed when he returned with a liter of Carlsberg. Imagine my chagrin when I saw the check- 22 euros for the beer and 8 euros for my companion's hot chocolate! I considered throttling the waiter or making a dash for it. Instead, I laughed like a madman as I spent the next hour drinking the world's most expensive beer. I am an idiot.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I bought into the lie. French people are rude. They hate Americans. I discovered on my first trip to the country last week that the stereotype simply isn't true. Almost all of my encounters with the friendly, polite and attractive people of France were positive. Sure, it's easy to laugh at their foibles- check out this view of the traffic circle surrounding the Arc de Triomphe- but I'm completely smitten.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Greasy Coat

I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't wear a greasy coat. As if to shame me, the line from the traditional American folk song ran through my head as I traipsed across Europe this month. I sampled Belgian beer in Bruges and Brussels. I sipped French wine in Paris. (So much for my Lenten pledges.) If I had encountered a coffee shop in Amsterdam that wasn't operated and frequented by wretched lotus-eaters, I might have even smoked. As for my coat, I'm afraid it became rather greasy as I crawled under a turnstile in a Paris subway station. Tell your ma. Tell your pa. I'm that boy from Arkansas.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

It's the Real Thing

The imposition of ashes is one of my favorite religious ceremonies. It's the 46 days of abstinence that's far less appealing. Even so, I insist on challenging myself. Once I gave up soda. I'd been ritualistically drinking three cans a day for years. My head stopped hurting after the first week. I don't miss it.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


People mistakenly think I'm joking when I suggest meeting at McDonald's, Arby's or Subway for lunch. I just can't stand the thought of paying ten or more dollars for a midday meal. The belated arrival of Noodles & Company in Kansas City helps solve that problem. A solid lunch costs just a couple dollars more than far less appealing offerings elsewhere.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


I try to keep my head down in public. Once in a while I even succeed in not butting in to other people's business. At gas stations, however, I just can't control myself. Even though my vehicle is covered in rust and duct tape, I always wash my windows. When I see able-bodied passengers sitting in a car as an exhausted driver pumps gas, I'm compelled to call out the sluggards. That rarely goes well.