PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Featured: Top of Home Page

The 'Ol Crotchety One Kicks It Transatlantic Style

PopMatters sends its weekly culture columnist abroad.

One of the many benefits offered professional journalists is the opportunity to travel. Yes, for only the cost of a degree from a very selective university and an apprenticeship spent covering the minutiae of the Sycamore County Board, professional journalists enjoy a run of press junkets. Major media companies put them up at Ritzs in Venice or London. While Owen Wilson picks at his bandages, the professional journalist can ask soul-baring questions like, “When will you be working with Jackie Chan again?”

Life is much less rosy for the Internet journalist [or ‘blaaaager’ (said as ugly as possible) to our dwindling professional peers]. We live out of our own meager pockets, ecstatic for the free product swag sent to us for review. I don’t know if you can say we’re jealous. Many of my Internet peers already provide much better cultural criticism than those of paid correspondents. No, I feel like the guy who saw the door of an exclusive club shut in his face because of the members’ own rambunctious fecklessness.

Knowing this, can you imagine the surprise on my face when my editors here at PopMatters agreed to send me to Europe to file two columns?

Of course, with the limited PopMatters budget, I would not find myself at any Ritz.

I left O’Hare on the first of this month, packed into an aerated steamer trunk. Cramped for someone who stands 6’7”? Sure. But no more cramped than the steerage of coach.

There were pluses. Nobody in my row needed to pull out their chiffrobe from above my head, and the cargo hold was fairly quiet.

Quiet, not silent.

Next to me was the last remnants of Phil Collins’ kit from the last Genesis tour. When that kit heard that I was a journalist, it listed every grievance it ever held against Peter Gabriel. The album So? Completely stolen from Phil’s third bass pedal.

Across from me were two dachshunds on their way to honeymoon in Turkey. They kept themselves amused with a Mad Lib and their own gas.

Oh, they couldn’t stand Peter Gabriel, either.

Bob, a friendly porter from Everton, released me from my transatlantic confinement after he saw the trunk shake suspiciously. A few well-placed "Alex Ferguson’s a twit"s later and I was on my way toward the new Globe Theater, near which I would stay with an old friend.

I met the Rockista there. The Rockista doesn’t fly steamer trunk. She’s much more valuable freight.

The first day in London, our fair Chicago lost out on its attempt to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Not only did we lose, but we were the first city eliminated. Now, I never much cared whether we got the Games or not. The last thing we needed was an IOC pot o’ gold landing on our doorstep -- not with our corruption. But I didn’t want to be last loser, either.

I always equate the IOC with out-of-touch European bureaucrats. How dare they not give every Chicagoan what our psyche begs for: the chance to be the first loser. We’re not called the Second City for nothing.

Instead, they hand it to Buenos Aires, a modern exemplum of good governance and efficiency.

Over the next few days, I saw why we didn’t get the Olympics. London will host the Olympics in 2012. London can handle it. The London public transportation system leaves all other cities in the dust.

In contrast, our Chicago Transit Authority has such a hard time maintaining funding it threatens at least three service-cutting zero hours a year. London could never allow that to happen. The population density demands an efficient, punctual transportation system.

We Chicagoans simply refuse to pay for a modern transportation system. Chalk it up to America’s aversion to taxation. We not only don’t want to pay our taxes, we heartily fight any taxation against the wealthy, too. A government can only borrow so much. The IOC always chooses the site that will publicly guarantee the most money. We never had a real chance.

The Rockista wanted to attend a show at the West End. After much negotiation (she always wants to violate my restraining order against Andrew Lloyd Weber), we chose The Lion King. It was a matinee on Sunday, flooded with children. The play jams Shakespeare allusions into the plot. It also increases the role of Nala and changes Rafiki into a woman to balance the genders a bit.

Good? Sure. Great? The costumes for sure, and I can never deny Elton John and Tim Rice, so… yeah, I’ll go with great. What can I say, I’ve always been a sucker for tragic parents’ deaths in Disney.

I know I told you Readistas I would follow up on my earlier football column. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the time. I still have it on my list, though, and 20 years from now if / when a publication sends me back I will file an update.

After five days in London, we left for Amsterdam. Ahh, Amsterdam. A lovely city once known for its canals, now for its cannabis. We arrived at the Hotel Abba humming ‘Dancing Queen’ and utterly confused about what it had to do with the Dutch. We never found out, although the hotel did have framed ABBA album covers behind the reception desk. Obviously, everyone on Amsterdam is on drugs.

I dragged our luggage up a stairwell better suited for Spider-Man. It overlooked a courtyard of uncovered windows. Not wanting to waste our voyeurism time outside the Red Light District, we headed out.

The streets of Amsterdam are filled with bicyclists. These people don’t just commute. Heavens no, they compete. They turn corners like the whole city is one gigantic velodrome. The first night, a much M*A*S*H besodden me almost found himself split in half by the peloton. Always look both ways in Amsterdam, on the sidewalks and on the streets. And always wear white at night.

We explored the Franks’ WWII hiding place. A space like that would cost almost $2,000 a month in Chicago, and nobody would go shopping for you either. But as much as the yuppies and hipsters bother me, they’re not Nazis. I have a much better deal in Evanston.

In the spirit of "When in Rome, grab Nero’s fiddle", we headed next to an Amsterdam café right by the Dam, the Kadinksy. The Kadinsy has a bar and café across the street from each other. At the bar we enjoyed many Heinekins the way God intended. I don’t know why they taste so skunky in the States, bu through its native lines, Heinekin is to die for. I highly recommend the frozen Heineken, which comes out of the taps so cold the tap itself freezes over. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

The bartender at the Kadinsky looked just like a young Robbie Robertson. The only white artist I heard during our evening was Eric Clapton. Outside of that, it was pure black music-jazz, soul, funk, or hip-hop -- a very good selection.

The Dutchmen at the bar think very highly of their country and its open-minded personality. It’s very easy to be open-minded when you’re stoned all the time. They also couldn’t stop blaming religion for all of the world’s problems. If you ask me, their version of fanatic atheism is just as divisive.

After a couple of pints, it was time to check out a popular sitcom set during the Korean War at the café. I chose a basic Henry Blake episode, and also bought a few episodes to go. Thanks to the EU, I could enjoy Jamie Farr for the rest of my stay on the continent. God bless you, EU!

Next week: Bruxxelles and Paris!

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.


Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.