Saturday, February 23, 2008

amsterdam > copenhagen

By Pauly

Couldn't sleep. Wasted ninety minutes trying to fall asleep on my last night in Amsterdam. Frustration set in. I got up and wrote for two hours instead of tossing and turning. I finally slept for about two hours before I woke up two minutes before my alarm went off. That's always weird when that happens. I rarely set alarms. I usually don't have to because I never sleep for more than a couple of hours straight. But when I used to set an alarm to get up for work everyday, I used to wake up minutes before the alarm and stare at it as it went off.

Friday was check out day.

I always look under the bed on check out day. I often find things that are not mine. That tells me that you have a lazy maid. Lazy maids never check under the bed. Sometimes I find something left behind by a previous guest. Most of the time it's a used condom wrapper.

I always check under the bed to see if something of mine rolled under there during my stay. Then I go through a quick checklist. Passport. Cash. Wallet.

That's all I really need. Then it's onto the other important things. Itinerary. Laptop. Cell/Mobile. Headphones. Pharmies. And clothes is the last on my list.

In the last three weeks, heck, the last three years, I found myself running through that check list a lot. And there I was, dead tired and shuffling down to the front desk to check out of another hotel and praying that I'd fins some good airport karma.

The airport check in line was a nightmare. I stood in one line for a self-check-in kiosk. There was a problem with my ticket and I had to stand in another line. That took longer than expected. I got my ticket and stood in a massive security line. Since I was flying within Europe, I did not have to go through any passport control, and I managed to get through with about thirty minutes before my flight.

Some fat dude was in my aisle seat. He played the "Me don't speak good English" bit. Basically he didn't want to be squished in the middle. Well, that's why I didn't. And that's why I get to the airport early enough to sweet talk the check-in counter chicks into making sure I have an aisle seat.

It was only an hour from Amsterdam to Copenhagen. I was holding up the plane from boarding.

"I'll do it for twenty bucks," I said.

"Ehhh?" he moaned.

"I'll do it for 20 Euros."

"I will not pay money."

"Then you have to get up."

He stood up and pulled out a 5 Euro bill. I snatched it out of his fat fingers and sat in the middle seat.

* * * * *

My flight was fifteen minutes early. I got an extra 900 seconds of bleakness. Copenhagen looked grey and dour for February. I quickly realized why so many Scandis were good poker players... because there was nothing to do during the long winter months except play online poker.

There was a screen at the baggage claim that said my luggage from KLM #23 would arrive in 13 minutes. I headed to the exchange booth. The rate was a little under 5 Kronors for 1 US. I got several 500 Kronor bills and a couple of coins. One of them had a hole in it. I'm always fond of countries with holes in their currency. I had not visited one in a while.

I took the train to the city, which took less than fifteen minutes. I got lost exiting the station. I ended up at the wrong exit on some remote street and had to walk around the huge complex, which included Tivoli. That added several minutes to my walk to Nicky's hotel.

I called her and she had to come find me because I was lost. I drew a make-shift map (copied from Google Maps) on my itinerary. I usually have a great sense of direction, but I couldn't find the address to the hotel. The numbers ended along with the street which abruptly ended in a square. I stood in front of the two most recognizable landmarks... a 7-11 and Burger King. I told Nicky I'd wait for her there. She went to a 7-11 on the opposite side of the square. Who knew that they had two 7-11s?

The room in our hotel was very European, which is a fancy word for overpriced and small. The bed was ridiculouly small and built for hobbits. It was two single beds smushed together. But the matress was comfy. The bathroom was recently remodeled. If you left the door open, you could see the TV from the shitter! That made my trip. I've been in hotels all over the world, and our hotel in Copenhagen was the first one in a long time that gave you the option to shit and watch TV. Or for you females out there... a chance to piss or shit and watch TV.

Of course, there was something wrong with the room. There always is. You just hope it's not big enough of an issue where you can ignore it. This one we couldn't ignore. The window wouldn't close. Since Nicky was running late to work, she said that she'd deal with it later.

We grabbed Burger King because that was one of the few things Nicky felt safe eating. She's not a fast food person, aside from Subway. It surprised me when she said she went to BK a couple of times over the last week. Her Irish co-worker, Mike Lacey, got sick twice from sampling some of the local food stuffs.

Even my British friends could not hide their disdain for the local delicacies. You know the food really sucks when Brits are bitchin' about it.

It was about a windy fifteen minute walk to the Copenhagen Casino. That's where Nicky worked her assignment covering the PokerStars EPT Scandinavian Open for the past week. I picked up my press credentials, even though I really wasted going to be doing much stuff on site in the media room. The press badge was more of a formality and a good gesture from my friends at Poker Stars and the European Poker Tour.

But in the back of my mind, I hoped to dig up some material at the Scandinavian Open for my On the Road column in Bluff Magazine. What I didn't realize was that I was stepping into a religious hot zone. The writer in me was curious with the latest drama.

Political cartoons. Assassination plots. Riots. Religious fanaticism. Freedom of speech.

I picked a perfect time to go on vacation in Copenhagen.

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