Friday, March 26, 2010

If I were a candy...

Jason: You're like a Peanut M&M. You've got a hard shell but you're sweet on the inside. And you're a little nuts.

Me: That's so blogable.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Could it be? Has my Kwak Pack grown by one?

I think I might finally be sober enough to blog about this by now. As you already know, Suze blew into town last weekend for one last Brussels blast.

She arrived laden with gifts because we somehow got into a hostess gift war and Jason and I recently one-upped their previous gift of a twinset of Veuve with a twinset of Pommery plus a half kilo of Belgian chocolates. So Suze rocks up and shoves a duty free bag at me containing another twinset of Veuve, some Fortnum & Mason chocolate biscuits, Vogue and Hello magazines, and a beyond-adorable set of coasters printed with the London tube map.

It almost made me feel bad about what I did to her room. (I knew all those Happy Meal toys would come in handy someday!)

First order of business was dinner. We had booked a table at one of our favorite places here, Kokob. It's an Ethiopian restaurant and best I can tell, that generally means no utensils. That's right. Douse your hands in Purell and dig right into the trough. (Well, they do give you this thin bread-ish type stuff to pick things up with but, just the same, it's an all hands on deck type of situation.)

We might have over-indulged ever so slightly. (And if you've never in your life felt like a true jackass, try leaving piles of uneaten food on your table at an Ethiopian restaurant. That'll pretty much push your level of jackassness right through the roof.)

Now that dinner was out of the way, it was time to get the real party started. And where better to do that than at a former brothel? We're not 100% sure that Goupil le Fol is, in fact, "former". It's pretty freaking dark in there. Who knows what could be going on? I could barely see across the table. Jason could have been enjoying the paid company of a lady friend for all I know.

The decor at this place is pretty amazing. My favorite part is the old Wurlitzer jukebox. Sure, it plays cds now, but's awesome ten ways to Sunday. I wonder sometimes where all the records that used be in it went...

Right. On the ceiling! Man I love this place!

They even have books screwed onto the walls. Suze and I attempted to soak up some culture before soaking up some alcohol but there's only so much you can read when the book has a screw running through the middle of it.

So we gave up and focused on what we do best. Drinking and being pretty.

After a few framboise cocktails, Suze finally had to excuse herself for a trip to the loo. (You know what they say about framboise don't buy only rent them.) Unfortunately for her, she forgot the cardinal rule of hitting the bars: NEVER LET YOUR CAMERA OUT OF YOUR SIGHT. When she came back, Jason and I were giggling like kids sitting in the back of the bus. She immediately knew something was up.

Imagine her distress when she switched on her camera and saw this:

It's Jason's ARM! HAHAHAHAHAHA! It's funny because it looks like a BUTT!!!!! GEDDIT????

Poor Suze. Jason and I handled the aftermath of our little prank differently.

Jason haz a shame.

I haz a funnee.

And Suze decides to make Jason pay for our crime by posing for a photo of her choice.

We figured there was no way Goupil le Fol was going to get any better than a butt picture prank so we hightailed it across the Grand Place for a change of scenery. And somewhere along the way, we became these people. The people every local wants to punch in the throat.

Have you ever tried to navigate wet cobblestones in four-inch heels? I don't recommend it.

After a few near misses on the Cobblestones of Slippery Death, we made it into Toone. Kwaks all around! It's no Giant Kwak, but it's Kwak Kwak Kwak all the same.

Birth of the Kwakaroo!

Duel of the Kwakicorns!

Here's where things get a little hazy. If I recall, after Toone, we very responsibly decided to head back to our flat. We got into our cosies and there were Grey Goose tonics and tunes on the iPod and a Single Ladies dance off and lots of laughs. And before we knew it, it got to be about 3:00 am. And then...

Then someone (SUZE) (yes, I will call a bitch out) decided karaoke was a great idea. So Jason the Google Master whips out the laptop and discovers that there's karaoke at the Irish pub just down the street. So someone (SUZE) says "Yes! We're there! Out of the cosies, people! Clothes back on!" And because Suze sometimes scares me, I complied.

We made a stop at an ATM along the way and ended up in line behind a group of three guys who were taking their sweet time. I'm not sure if they were just oblivious or were genuinely having issues with the machine. Eventually Suze and I started singing "If you like it then you shoulda put your PIN in it...If you like it then you shoulda put your PIN in it...woah oh oh, oh oh oh, oh oh oh, woah oh oh..." I'm still not sure if the look one of them gave us meant "Ah, charming and funny English speaking ladies, aren't you a treat at 3:00 am!" or "You'd better be glad it's not socially acceptable to hit girls."

Anyway, after what felt like hours at the ATM, we made into O'Reilly's and wouldn't you know it - there's no karaoke! Just a few sad-looking people dancing. We hightail it out of there and Jason hails us a cab and asks him if he knows where we can get our karaoke on. We end up in Sablon and wouldn't you know it - the karaoke bar was closed! (That didn't stop Jason and Suze from pounding on the door until someone came and confirmed that yes, the fact that the lights were off and the place was empty and the door was locked did indeed mean they were closed.)

So we tried the place next door. We walked in and walked right back out. It reeked of L'eau de Douchebag.

So we gave up. Let's get a taxi and head back home.

Well, that was the plan anyway. Until...someone (SUZE) said "Hey! Wonder if the Rock Bar across the street from yours is open?" And it was.

Somewhere along the way (I think it was at about 3:45 am when Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana came on at the Rock Bar and we air guitared the shit out of it) I got a second wind. So when we all got back home, Suze and I started another dance party. Jason, unfortunately, passed out. You know what they say. Never be the first to fall asleep at a slumber party. You never know what might happen.

Here's what happened. The dance party turned into a totally passed out Jason unknowingly getting the unsexiest lapdance of all time.

Seriously. OF ALL TIME.

Oh yeah. And then someone (SUZE) decided it would be a great idea to try the whole "stick someone's hand in lukewarm water to see if they'll wet their pants" trick. I was just drunk enough to do it. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) Jason did not pee his pants. Suze wisely noted the next day: "What were we thinking? What the hell would we have done if he'd actually peed himself??"

I have no idea what finally took hold of us and convinced us to go to bed at 5:06 am. I know it was 5:06 am because I drunk Facebooked from bed on my iPhone. And damn if there's not a 5:06 am timestamp on my comment.

We all rolled out of bed on Saturday at the crack of noon. A little worse for the wear. A LOT worse for the wear. Jason said he stumbled into the living room half expecting to see a tiger, a la The Hangover. Suze originally woke up at 9:00, sat on the couch for a minute, ate a leftover chocolate from the box we'd left sitting out the night before, realized she was still drunk and went back to bed. I woke up and realized I'd attempted to clean up the night before. All the glasses (and ice cream bowls) had been rinsed and set in the sink. WTF?? This is awesome. I've always wanted to be a productive drunk! Now if I can just figure out how to get myself to do our taxes or something really useful while under the influence...

We finally rallied and drug ourselves out for a Thai lunch. Suze and her new friend prayed for forgiveness.

We spent a pretty leisurely day antiquing and cafeing in Sablon and eventually felt human enough to go check out Victor Horta's house and some other Art Nouveau architecture in the area. (I'll leave those photos for another time. This is not the sort of post I want to bog down with cultural shit. I'm saving my Victor Horta lesson for later when I shall inundate you with pictures from my Art Nouveau tour of Brussels.)

The important take away from this portion of the weekend is that I'm a jerk. When I saw all the people queuing down the sidewalk in front of Horta's house, I was all "No way. That's not all people waiting to get in. It must be a group waiting for their timed entry or something. I'm going in to ask. Be right back." I walk in and immediately get whisked into the coat check area. So I assume that my guess was correct and that the line outside was not the queue to get in and go over to the door and wave Suze in with me. I have no idea how this whole thing happened but Suze tells me that I did indeed unknowingly jump the entire queue, leaving her outside to explain to people that "I'm sorry. My friend is special needs. She's lost." Um, oops?

After Art Nouveauing ourselves silly, we took the scenic route back to the flat. Though I felt fine by this stage, I still have total hangover face.

We stopped in the Grand Place to get some photos at dusk. Gorgeous...

I don't think this requires a caption. Pictures of people pretending to get their hands bitten by animal statues pretty much speak for themselves.

Saturday night was infinitely more tame. Jason made us a delicious short rib ragu pasta and we stayed in and watched The Hangover and an episode of Three Sheets. You know what they say. When you're too hungover to drink, just watch movies and shows where other people drink. Because drunk people are funny. We stayed up till about 1:00 am reciting quotes from The Hangover and that was about as crazy as things got.

Sunday, we had more Art Nouveau plans. First on the agenda was the Museum of Musical Instruments because if there's one thing Suze loves more than Art Nouveau, it's instruments. And the MIM is both! You'll get to see the Art Nouveau bit in a later post. For now, here's Suze playing the crap out of a 17th century piano. We spent most of our time there trying to get the museum's headphones to work and running away from a guy who hadn't showered since the Clinton administration. (It wasn't hard. We could smell him coming two floors away.)

Then I had grand plans to take my Art Nouveau-loving visitor to an area of Brussels that is known for lots of fine examples of the stuff. Specifically, this house here. Isn't it glorious?!? It's Art Nouveau at its most resplendent! It's breathtaking! Awe-inspiring! Except when we got there, we couldn't find it. I was all "Okay. This is ridiculous. This isn't exactly the kind of place you miss. How am I not seeing it??" Then Suze laughs and says, "It's probably behind all that scaffolding!" Hahahaha! Ha. Ha. Ha....

Ha... Fuck.

We decide it's best to shop and eat our troubles away. So we head back to Sablon and shop...for chocolates. The chocolate shops are at their absolute finest in the lead up to Easter. The window displays are gorgeous.

Do you think if I plant a French macaroon in my yard, it will sprout into a macaroon tree like this?

See what I mean about the window displays? Gorgeous!

Or not...

Final item on the agenda was afternoon tea at the Amigo, one of Brussels' nicer hotels.

Suze regaled me with stories of her formative years growing up in the Australian outback with no air con and managed to put not just me to sleep, but also the guy on the next couch over.

We had no idea what to do with the little chocolate, rice krispie covered lollypops that came on our tea stand. There just didn't seem to be a graceful way to eat them. So I did this instead. Oh, the irony.

In honor of our weekend, I'd like to make a speech...

You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one woman wolf pack. But when I met Jason I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack, it grew by one. So there was two of us... in the wolf pack. I was alone first in the pack and then Jason joined later. And five years ago when Monique introduced me to Suze, I thought 'Wait a second; could it be?' and now I know for sure. I just added another person to my wolf pack. Three of us wolves running around the city together in Brussels, looking for Kwak and karaoke.

Monday, March 22, 2010

From the desk of Jaser (like laser)

Well well well. Suze has come and gone and Brussels shall never be the same for it.

But what I presumed to be a purely social visit was apparently a sting operation. I found this letter under the guest bed:
Dear Friend of Jaser (like laser),

We are writing to you in the hope that you can help persuade Mr and Mrs Sanger to leave the country. You see, we've begun to run low on supplies of beer - the poor monks simply cannot keep up. One of them even took the The Lord's name in vain when he found them breaking into yet another trappist brewery. We believe they may be organising a beer-jihad of some sort and have regularly been meeting with internationals in and around the country. They were last spotted in Gent with an associate where large quantities of Kwak became collateral damage. Please help. The situation is getting desperate.

Yours faithfully,
Friter McMouleson
Ministry of Beer

Too bad, Monsieur McMouleson! Mission: FAILED. You shouldn't have chosen a secret agent with such a fervent taste for vodka tonics and Framboise. She was easily thwarted at the sound of ice cubes clinking into a glass.

In fact, we have some rather incriminating photos of your associate that shall soon be posted for public ridicule. I imagine you'll want to get her redundancy notice started asap.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kwak Attack

Last weekend a coworker of Jason's/friend of ours was in town. Of course, we had to show him the very best Belgium has to offer. And that, of course, is the Giant Kwak. Well, not just the Giant Kwak. We did actually show him a bit of the home of the Giant Kwak, known to other people (people nowhere near as fun as us) as Gent.

(If I don't get out of Europe pretty soon, I'm going to have to rename this blog Kwak in a Kwakshell)

(Subtitle: KwakKwakKwak.)

We trained to Gent and I had actually forgotten that they have a pretty amazing train station. In fact, I think it was under construction last time we trained there back in 2008. So we finally got to see it in all its glory. This picture doesn't quite do it justice but just imagine this times a hundred.

For a minute, I thought we'd gotten off at the wrong stop and had ended up in Netherlands. You know those people love a bike.

At lunch we figured we'd better practice for the Giant Kwak that was to come. And as we were in Gent, it had to be a Gentse Tripel.

Before we get down to the real business at hand, let's take a look at Kwak's history on this blog...

First there was KwakKwak in Sweden.

Which birthed the mythical beast, Kwakicorn.

Then our friend Phil took on the Giant Kwak in Gent.

And now, finally, I bring you the moment you have all been longing for.... The Giant KwakKwakKwak. Jason and I were on our third trip to Gent and had yet to go for Kwak gold. The first time, we discovered the pub at the end of a long day of sampling Gent's best adult treats and neither of us were up for a giant beer at that point. Last time, Jason was driving so we thought it best not to chug-a-lug before driving our friends back to Brussels since one thing they mentioned they were not so keen on doing during the trip was to die in a fiery car crash on a foreign motorway.

But this time, we were ready. We took the train. We partook with restraint earlier in the day. We even wore our very best socks. Because, you know...they take your shoe before they give you the Giant Kwak apparatus so you don't run off with it. Chris very helpfully directs your attention to the shoe basket pulleyed up to the ceiling.

Ready, set, Kwak!

Make that ready, set, KwakKwakKwak!

Jason carefully practices the twist technique that Phil perfected. You see, because it gets very narrow in the middle, if you just turn that bad boy up and start going at it, you will with 100% certainty experience the Kwak Backlash, whereupon the beer escapes the narrow bit in the middle and comes rushing at your face (and shirtfront) with such great force that it cannot be stopped. You know, physics or some shit like that... We've watched it happen to someone every single time we've been here.

Just because the boys finished slightly before me, they decided it would great fun to tease me about it. "You drink like a girl!" So I decided to start drinking with my pinkie out to really give them something to talk about.

The ultimate Kwakicorn! (Warning: The ultimate Kwakicorn will kick the asses of both regular Kwakicorn and Champagneicorn.)

KwakKwakKwak go byebyebye...

We figured there was no way Gent was going to get any better than this and made our way back to the train station poste haste. We trained to Leuven to catch a Chiefs hockey game. I tell you this only because we had the nuttiest cab driver of all time taking us to the rink. (Well, other than the one we had in Charleston, SC many many years ago who wasn't wearing any pants but that's a whole other story for another time.)

We got in the car and of course conversation quickly turned to the Chiefs. The driver said something about them being very good and Jason says, "Yeah, they're in the playoffs." The driver goes "You are players?!?! Oh, I go quickly!" Ahh, no. PlayOFFS. Not playERS. Easy there Speed Racer.

During the ten minute ride we learned that he lived with a Romanian woman for eighteen years, that he speaks six languages (one of which is of course Romanian, wink wink), he told us some story about "soldiers of love" which none of us could actually figure out and tried to tell us more than once that he'd drive us all the way back to Brussels after the game for a good deal. The good deal being something like 55 euros. Perhaps thats a good deal if you haven't already paid 5 euros for a train ticket and you've never heard of trains and you think that a taxi is the only way to get from Leuven to Brussels.

So to sum up: Giant Kwak, a wacky cab driver and an overtime win for the Chiefs. What more can a girl ask for? You'll see...