Friday, March 30, 2012


I just arrived in Budapest, and am killing time before my old friend Victor Wang arrives. Both are relatively new. Never been to Budapest, and haven’t hung out with King Victorious in over ten years. Then, he was a lab tech and I was a PhD student. Now, he’s an MD/PhD starting a neurology residency, and I am a senior postdoc. At least until tomorrow. Ah, change.

Can anyone suggest a new title for me? I am, technically, soon to become a Visiting Scientist at UCSD. It is a fine title. But a more accurate one would be freelance consultant, or writer. The problem is that both of these are well-known euphemisms for “unemployed and bullshitting about it”, and if I really am a writer, I should be able to think of something better. “Neuronaut” requires explanation. So does “mad scientist”, and it also scares the humorless. And they don’t laugh when I say I was kidding. Cause they’re humorless.

Since I have no new pictures for this blog post, I’ll explain some ones from my last Barcelona trip. Believe it or not, I didn’t go there planning to photograph protestors wearing California shirts. My plans included some lounging in the hotel and using various spa facilities. Sadly, the hotel had British tourists there, further reaffirming why so many Europeans hate them. All day, they were drunk, loud, and thoroughly unconcerned with anyone else. Most of the day, ten of them sat in a Jacuzzi, which should be a health violation or at least the start of a joke. (What do you call ten limeys in a jacuzzi? Heisse Zitrone! Well, Germanspeaking readers think it’s funny. Or would, were they not humorless by definition.)

Or how ‘bout this one? How many British people does it take to fill a jacuzzi? Ten!

(Pause for laughter.)

But the main goal was not anything specific to Barcelona, a magnificent city I’d already seen aplenty, but to hang out with Sam, an even older friend than Vic. It was an epic trip, including the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten, at Gorria, a restaurant whose wine menu covers are made of cork. Too cool.

We got in to the VIP party for the World Congress at the Museum of Rock. There, I saw the next evolution of karaoke, called jameoke. This differs in that the band is live. No other difference. Still, people from the audience come up to sing. Still, they’re usually drunk and amusing. Another difference became apparent when a drunk audience member asked to grab the bass guitar. They let him. So audience members have the freedom to not just sing badly, but also play instruments badly. With not one but two bad performers, the jameoke session was on the verge of collapse. The drummer and guitarist, both obviously professional, tried to keep up. Egad. Then someone from the crowd emerged and took the guitar. I saw audience members wince, as I would have had I not known that Sam was a master guitarist. It was fun watching the audience figure this out, slowly, drunkenly, joyfully. I managed to contribute by grabbing the mike just after the lyrical part of “Hotel California” ended, which is the perfect time for me to sing.

We also had a fitting amount of Guell tourism, as Americans must.

My last day in BCN, I walked along the beach pretty much all day. Odd to get sentimental over missing a city I never saw until 2009, but then, I saw it quite a lot since then. Surfers tried comically to surf tiny waves, and I hung out with some Mexicans on the beach. That's about it. Some things never change. Not so different from SoCal in many ways, except for the waves.

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