Archive for April 2010

“Abroadicitis”

Abroadicitis. Not really a word…just a serious condition I’ve discovered and am consequently naming.

This plague is spreading throughout Europe faster than volcanic ash from Iceland, and it’s targeting many current American abroad students. Abroadicitis’s primary symptoms include an unjustifiable superiority complex when comparing the social scene of one’s abroad home to others, and hypersensitivity to any person or thing that dares to threaten the predominance of an individual’s respective host city nightlife.

My first encounter with a Abroadicitis victim took place one night on my February trip to Rome. After unexpectedly bumping into an old friend (who’s spending his semester in Prague), I asked him about how his trip was going. His response puzzled me.

“Prague # 1, Barcelona #2.”

While displaying my most inquisitive facial expression, I asked him what he meant.

“Dude, Prague’s # 1. Barcelona’s #2.”

Having not yet personally visited either of these cities, I wondered what lead my friend to provide such a strange, spirited, and assertive response. Apparently a “things are great, how’s Florence?” didn’t suffice for him, and I needed to know why.

My slightly-inebriated comrade followed up with a brief rant about partying ’til dawn with “beer being cheaper than water” in the Czech Republic’s five-story nightclubs, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Two Long Islanders were reuniting in one of history’s most  beautiful and influential cities (after a month of traveling Europe), and world-class partying was the first thing that my friend wanted to report to me. While I’m no stranger to having a good time, bottles are “popped” daily all around the world. You’d think that interesting culture, locals, and sights are all worth mentioning too.

There’s some serious Euro-ego when it comes to abroad raging. For some foolish reason, many associate partying later with partying more or harder. Did you folks ever think that maybe you stay out longer because you simply start drinking later? Table reservations and relationships with suave, surname-lacking promoters are sadly highlights of many of my peers’ current semester. To me, however, these are more characteristic of New York City’s “Thanksgiving Eve” than a true, once-in-a-lifetime trip of self discovery and personal growth.

I came abroad to Florence to soak in unfamiliarity. Through seeing the world, meeting new people, and sharing my experiences with others, I believe I’m doing just that. Partying is simply the bonus, and a friendly reminder that I’m still a college student, after all.

Living in “the food capital of the world,” I feel bad for those suffering from Abroadicitis in “#1,” “#2,” or anywhere else where the adventure’s metaphorical “dessert” is confused with its main course.

One and a Half Men?

If the rumors are true, Charlie Sheen has finished taping his final episode of Two and a Half Men. While many suspect contractual issues are driving Carlos Irwin Estevez (Sheen’s birth name) away from the hit CBS sitcom, it’s likely that the star’s recent legal, marital, and substance abuse troubles are major factors in his shocking departure.

Despite not being a regular viewer of “Men,” I do believe it’s the best traditional comedy on television. The show thrives because of its slight variation from a simple and effective TV formula (it’s basically The Odd Couple + a fat kid) and because of the believability of Sheen’s role.  The former Platoon and Wall Street icon essentially plays his irresponsible, binge-drinking, womanizing self on the program, making his character (who just so happens to also be named Charlie) and the show more genuine than most other modern sitcoms.

America adores Two and a Half Men primarily because Americans love Charlie Sheen (sorry, Angus…you’re not a cute little boy anymore). But what is it that makes this royal fuck-up so damn popular? After reflecting on Sheen’s body of work, the answer became clearer to me. Whether portraying a detained druggie in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a “Wild Thing” in Major League, or corrupt market player Bud Fox in Oliver Stone’s finest work, Sheen is inherently likeable.

Sex, Drugs, & Sheen.

We all know Charlie Sheen is flawed. Hell, he  has a “sober coach,” accidentally shot actress Kelly Preston, reportedly threatened his current spouse with a knife, and recently woke up to a phone call from OnStar reporting that his car was found in flames at the bottom of a California cliff.

Sheen is so fascinating because all of his memorable characters embody many of his own flaws. Sheen must have taken Gordon Gekko’s legendary “Greed is Good” speech to heart, as he has always lived a life of excess (drugs, women, etc.) that would be considered tragic for most stars. For Sheen, however, this ride has been viewed as normal and strangely acceptable.

We love Charlie Sheen like a crazy cousin, or that fraternity brother who never seems to grow any closer to graduating. He reminds us that the problems in our lives are petty in comparison to the issues this train wreck endures, and somehow always overcomes (with a smile on).

Can Two and a Half Men survive without America’s favorite derelict? Unlikely. Sheen is one-of-a-kind. Not even the introduction of an Uncle Emilio character (Estevez is Sheen’s brother) or Jon Creyer acting twice as flamboyant could help replace this show’s most essential ingredient.

If Sheen decides to walk away, America will miss television’s top leading man. I guess all I can say is “sorry, Charlie.”

Vagabonding

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything substantial. Traveling has exhausted my body and mind, and I’ve been struggling to shake a nasty case of blogger’s jet lag.

Despite feeling a little physically and mentally taxed, the past four weeks have been the most exciting times of my life. Trips to Sicily, Paris, and an epic Euro spring break spanning from Barcelona-Dublin-London have further demonstrated the once-in-a-lifetime nature of my study abroad experience.

Everywhere I’ve been has been memorable, and I can tangibly feel my cultural understanding and maturity increasing.

I’ll remember Sicily for it’s natural beauty, delicious seafood, and for unknowingly entering a Palermo gay bar with my friends (we must’ve missed the neon sign reading “Club SEXO” on the way in. After a few drinks “on the house,” we put it all together).

Mediterranean Man

Mediterranean Man

The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, and Disneyland Paris were incredible, and I enjoyed the challenges of  adapting to the language barrier in France (my first destination where I couldn’t always get by with English, Spanish, or broken Italian). While a few locals made me feel unwelcome at times, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that France’s rumored anti-American sentiment is exaggerated by most.

Bromantic

Bromantic

Barcelona truly is the party capital of the world. Three nights of Charlie-Sheen like raging were awesome, but my time in this enormous (and virtually sleepless) city made me appreciate the comforts of my more walkable, and laid back home city of Florence.

Currently, Dublin is my favorite place I’ve visited on this European adventure. I’ve never met people with as much pride in their culture (and their livers) as the Irish. Great live music and the world’s best Guinness made the Temple Bar nightlife unbelievable. I only wish I had more time to venture out of the city and through Ireland’s countryside. I’d love to return in the future and truly “dig” the whole country in a Kerouac-like way (reading On the Road while “on the road” has me constantly reflecting on my travels).

A "Belgium Dip" at the top of Dublin's Guinness Storehouse

A "Belgian Dip" at the top of Dublin's Guinness Storehouse

It felt like I spent most of my time in the UK “minding gaps” in London’s Underground. I mastered the rails while visiting historic wonders like “Big Ben,” Tower Bridge, Royal Albert Hall (where I caught an awesome Arctic Monkeys’ concert), and my favorite spot-Abbey Road. As a Beatlemaniac, it was surreal to walk across this iconic street. For laughs and respect to my rock hero Paul McCartney, I crossed barefoot and with a cigarette in hand. Let’s just say it may be a while before I change my Facebook photo.

Here Comes the Fun in London

Here Comes the Fun in London

With just over a month left on my abroad experience, I can say say my travels have, and will continue to change my life. I’m more aware, independent, and full of life than ever before, and I will strive to carry this overseas when I return to the States. Once I recover from my jet lag, that is.