If you’ve read the Author’s Note from one of my recent Saint Michael Thriller Series releases, you already know these stories are based in part on my travel experiences to Rome, Vienna, and Paris. Soon enough, London will be featured as Father Michael’s newest backdrop. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy reading about some of my travel experiences that won’t ever make it into one of my books. For my mother’s benefit, please picture me sharing these anecdotes with shame and remorse. Mrs. Reese already knows I’m a lost cause.
My friends and I have never been real trouble. At worst, we were the cheeky kind of trouble that makes for great stories and moderate shenanigans. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve always thought I’m funnier than I really am. Sometimes, it’s a problem. Other times, it actually embarrasses Mrs. Reese. I digress.
My group consisted of six dudes on this trip. We were ride-or-die tight in 2001, and I’m sure 3 of them would still show up to help me, no questions asked, as long as their wives allowed it and Mrs. Reese said it was okay for them to come over. So, we were at the end of our trip and spent the last few days in Rome. In honor of Saint Patrick and our collective Irish-ish-ness, we found a Guinness pub, drank our fill of ale and whiskey, and strolled back to our hostel like gentlemen. Along the way, two amazingly beautiful women turned a corner and walked toward us. The blonde wore a pin-striped suit (think Shania Twain), matching top hat over her pinned-up hair, and strutted with a Mister Moneybags-Monopoly cane.
The oldest and wisest in our group got down on one knee, reached out for her hand, and proposed. She held his hand, bowed, and removed the top hat, which cascaded a Rapunzel-esque volume of hair over The Wise One. Wiser herself, she declined his courtship and we all parted ways. As they strutted away from us, we took the only reasonable action possible. We turned back toward the hostel and belted out You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling at the top of our lungs. You know the part in the movies and plays where old men go out on their balconies in their underwear and shout at the main characters to shut the fuck up? Yeah, it was just like that.
I don’t want to give you the wrong impression, but, it’s also a relevant fact that my travel group tried to drink Vienna dry. Can’t be done, I assure you. Late one night after the bars closed, we strolled back to our youth hostel in fine, deliberate, and upright fashion (stumbled…I’m sure we stumbled). Unlike major American cities, the biergartens are open for dinner and not much longer, a few bars/pubs abound, but much of the late-night booze consumption takes place in discotheques. This might have been the same night we got turned away from one because our buddy didn’t have a collared shirt.
Anyway, our group strolled down a wide, beautiful boulevard, and a bright red neon BAR sign appeared across all six lanes, U-line tracks, and wide grass median from us. It sang the most intoxicating siren song I’ve ever heard, and we gravitated toward it absent any intent or will power to do otherwise. I think we all shouted “BAR!” and uttered several forms of joyful noise, and I’m just as certain none of us looked before crossing the lanes or tracks. All six eligible bachelors popped through the windowless doorway together, and what before our wandering eyes should appear–
(This is also a good time to point out, at that moment, 5/6 of our group believed in some form of higher authority and power over mankind.)
There’s only three people inside the bar, and one of them is working behind it. We strolled over, ordered 6-oz beers that cost more than $10US, and a dozen scantily-clad women sauntered up among us. Even through the ethanol, we quickly figured out what BAR means when it appears in red neon in Vienna. I quickly finished the overpriced beer, and we left all together faster than we arrived. 5/6 of us knew that was the better decision.
Funny thing about international travel: the nuances of unexpected cultural differences are usually where the funny starts.
*To Be Continued*