Or, "How James Cameron saved my sanity."
I don't intend for this to sound like a "poor me" episode, though I realize it probably will. I don't want you to think I'm complaining about not working and gallivanting around the globe. But, I figure if you're reading this, you're at least somewhat interested in the mental part of the journey as well.
On that note, I've learned that if you're not careful, eight months of solid traveling can begin to get to you. You start getting tired. Little things start to build up. Piling up on your mind.
I could feel things getting that way once I got to Poland. The whole Russian visa - Stockholm/Copenhagen embassy thing was taxing - it deflated me a bit more than I thought. It was stressful - and I was tired when I hit mainland Europe again. And in a stroke of genius planning on my part, I spent five days in a relatively gloomy, still-communisty Warsaw.
I won't go into details, but about the time I made it to Krakow, my dad was going through some fairly major surgery back home. It wasn't unexpected - something we had known about for a few weeks, but it was serious enough for me to think about coming home. When I mentioned over the phone I'd done some looking for a flight home, he adamantly objected to it; which, deep down, I knew he would. As a good friend of mine said later, "That's what dads do." Fortunately, everything went as well as it could, and he's doing great. But when something like that is going on, it's tough to be on the other side of the world.
In another uplifting move, a few days later I made a visit to Auschwitz. If you haven't been there, let me attest - its not something that will turn a frown upside down.
To top it off, for the most part the weather in Krakow was crap - rain, rain and more rain. And, in an effort to make use of my time, I started looking at the next leg of the trip. It turns out Vietnam, India and even Australia required visas or the like to be arranged ahead of time. After the damned Russian adventure, filling out forms and waiting in lines at embassies sounded akin to having my toenails pulled out.
Again, I realize this is sounding like a pity party - sorry about that. It does have a happy ending though - just read a little further.
The day after the Auschwitz visit, I found myself plodding around Krakow. I didn't really have a plan - I was just wandering and thinking. With the idea of treating myself to a theatrical escape for a couple hours (my best self-remedy for any ailment), I ended up in a nice shopping mall near the train station. I swung into a store called "Saturn" (think Best Buy), where I inevitably strolled over to the movie section. I found a rack of titles for just 9.99 zloty. Three dollars for a movie is a pretty good deal in any country.
I rifled through the racks until I found something that stopped me in my tracks. Terminator 2! For three dollars? That's a deal people. I was so excited I nearly forgot to check the back to make sure it had an English track on it. Indeed it did, and I was in business.
I realize it may sound a little sad for one to be excited about something like a Polish copy of an old Schwarzenegger movie. For whatever reason though, I was pretty happy.
Nerd Note* some of you geeks out there (like me) might be wondering about Regional encoding issues - I learned earlier in this trip that my computer can play DVDs from any region. Perhaps this is true for all PCs, but it was a mild and pleasant surprise to me. I won't be able to play them when I get back to the US, but hell, that's a long way off.
So, I spent one glorious rainy afternoon in my hostel dorm room watching the Governator shoot holes in Robert Patrick. Remember when Eddie Furlong was an up-and comer? Remember when Linda Hamilton was ripped and relatively hot? Remember the awesome special effects of the liquid metal? I'm not sure if it's a good thing or not, but just watching the movie immediately put me in a better mood.
When I got to Prague a few days later, I again found myself wandering through an electronics store. There, on the sale rack was another movie which stopped me in my tracks. The Czech title was "Vetrelci," which meant absolutely nothing to me, but the image of a drooling H.R Giger - inspired Alien was familiar enough. Aliens, for only six bucks. I hit the jackpot.
Sigourney Weaver kicking ass. Paul Reiser playing an a-hole and getting eaten. Bill Paxton before he became a star. Big explosions, cool vehicles, pulse rifles and acid blood. What more could you ask for?
The movie-geeks in the audience have by now put things together. For those of you with an actual social life, both films were directed by a guy named James Cameron. His first "real" movie was the original Terminator. He also did "The Abyss" and "True Lies". His last one was Titanic, which earned him a load of Oscars. Right now, he's working on a new sci-fi piece called "Avatar", which sounds cool.
Anyway, he's long been one of my favorite directors. I like his in-your face style and storytelling. He was synonymous with action before Michael Bay took up the reigns.
I don't know how many times I've seen both Terminator 2 and Aliens, but safe to say it's an embarrassing number. However, in this situation - in the middle of Eastern Europe, in the midst of a year-long trip, and lack of adequate access to a movie theater, seeing two of my favorites was a big lift.
Yes, I'm a geek. But, at least I'm a geek who feels better.