Before you grab that Twinkie.

November 10, 2010 · Posted in Policy · Comments Off on Before you grab that Twinkie. 

Ah El Rushbo.  Once again over-simplifying and missing the point.  Many of you may have seen this story on CNN that describes how a professor lost 27 pounds eating basically Twinkies.  Rush enjoys this, and in the meantime manages to make attacks on Michelle Obama’s wardrobe, fruits and vegetables, and gives horrible advice to anyone listening.  Some selected excerpts are below, but for the full transcript go here.

What have I told you about diet and exercise?  Exercise is irrelevant.

“Before his Twinkie diet, he tried to eat a healthy diet that included whole grains, dietary fiber, berries and bananas, vegetables –” basically he ate cardboard

It is what you eat.  It’s the content.  It’s not all the health food garbage. It’s calories in versus calories out, pure and simple.  It’s not health foods; it’s not exercise, pure and simple.

One of the reasons I know what I know is that I know liberals, and I know liberals lie, and if Michelle Obama’s gonna be out there ripping into “food desserts” and saying, “This is why people are fat,” I know it’s not true.  “Rush, do you really believe that? It’s that simple to you, liberals lie?”  Yes, it is, folks.  Once you learn that, once you come to grips with that, once you accept that, the rest is easy.  Very, very simple.  Now, my doctor has never told me to restrict any intake of salt, but if he did, I wouldn’t.  I’d just spend more time in the steam or the sauna sweating it out.

Rush’s political rantings aside, this is dangerous dangerous stuff to be mindlessly repeating.  About the only salient thing Rush says is that it’s calories in versus calories out for weight loss.  That much is true.  But let’s dig deeper into the story before we rest our case. A few facts.

1 – This story details weight loss over a two month period, full stop.  It does not measure long-term health, wellness, or any other of a number of measures that would indicate whether this “diet” was in fact a good idea.  As we will see in an upcoming post, food additives are incredibly harmful to our bodies and our environment.  Eating whole foods, fruits, veggies, grains etc that are minimally processed is the only way to ensure what is going into your body is actually food, and meant to be consumed by humans.

2 – Outside of weight, yes his cholesterol and body fat percentages went down.  We’ll obliterate this further in a minute, but first note that Dawn Blatner, a dietician, is quoted in the article saying being overweight can cause increases in cholesterol and obviously body fat.  So of course as this man loses weight those two measures will drop.

Here’s where it gets really stupid.

3 – A “normal” man Professor Haub’s size eats 2600 calories a day, the article claims.  I checked this math, calculated his BMR and all that – on this point the article is mostly right.  HOWEVER he would eat 2,600 calories per day if he were MAINTAINING his weight.  Since we can assume he has gained weight, perhaps slowly, over time, this number is actually probably low.  So he’s eating slightly more than 2,600 calories per day.  I also included a low amount of exercise since most people overestimate how many calories they burn during workouts.  If he’s working out “moderately” as he says he is, his caloric intake to maintain his weight actually increases.  This 2,600 number is most likely low for a man who was in Prof Haub’s position before this study started.

4 – He eats only 1,800 calories per day.  1,800.  He effectively cut more than 30% of the calories he eats in one day completely out.  That is by any standard a drastic measure.  If you eat three balanced meals a day, that’s essentially cutting out lunch or dinner.  I can’t imagine a scenario where your “average” person would be functioning after cutting out 30% of their caloric intake.  And would stick to it for TWO SOLID MONTHS.  No, instead we’ll have a public running around eating Twinkies, deciding they’re hungry later on, and pounding down some fast food because they want something salty to go with their sweet.  (Another of El Rushbo’s awesome suggestions – caramel popcorn at the movies to lose weight!)

5 – It’s calories IN versus calories OUT right?  So where’s the discussion of the OUT part?  Right.  Nowhere.  It’s irrelevant.  And yet….and yet…  There’s this funny feeling I have that if we exercised and burned some calories, that would count as calories OUT, would it not?  Should we even get into resting metabolic rate?  Or the fact that consistent exercise makes your metabolism more effective all the time?  Or that something like eating a proper breakfast will help you burn more calories throughout the day?  Nope.  Let’s sit on our couch eating 1,800 calories worth of Twinkies every day.

This “professor” shouldn’t be allowed around young people, and shouldn’t be spreading this kind of nonsense.  CNN, really?  We have an obesity epidemic costing our country over $100 billion annually and you publish a story that glorifies eating Twinkies?  Really?

Until we as a country stop looking for an excuse to eat garbage, we will have an obesity problem.  There just is no easy answer, no matter how hard we look.

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Quotes From Last Night

April 9, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comments Off on Quotes From Last Night 

Here’s a selection of context-free quotes from some crazy nights in Milan.  Most involve Marco in some form or fashion…

“He was looking for the bathroom.  I’m not sure how he ended up in the hotel lobby in his boxers.”

“You don’t eat flan out of a box.”

M: “Lean over and say (screaming) I WANT SOME OF YOUR <BLEEPING> PIZZA RIGHT NOW!”
Girl: Do you want some of our pizza?
Me: Um….yes please?

It was a mountain lion.  A mountain lion on skis.

K: “Did you tell him the story?”
M: “Yeah, I did, why?”
K: “Well did you tell him about the cops?”
M: “No….no I forgot that part”

Is that a giant purple snail?

Ma Cecil…..che bello!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I mean (spreads hands apart)….che bello!!!!!!

The Germans….we love the idea of a European Union.  I mean, we tried to do it twice ourselves.

“Prof.a, my name is Joe….like Joseph….like Giuseppe in Italian.” “Okay John…”

K: “I can’t believe you’re staying in a hostel in Bratislava by yourself!”
T: “Why, is it not safe?”
J: “It’s fine.”
K: “No, it’s not fine…they’re gonna rape you.”

J: “So I’m sleeping on a bench in Stockholm’s main station tonight.”
J: “Um, why are you doing that?”
J: “It’s a long, long, crazy story.  Let’s just say all of this can be blamed on a Portuguese millionaire….”

J: Last night was probably the worst night of sleep I’ve ever had.
A: Why, what happened?
J: So I’ve never done acid….

K: Did you see the big letters in Amsterdam?
M: No
K: Did you see the Van Gogh museum?
M: No
K: Are you sure you were in Amsterdam?
J: I think this is like the time he was in Venice but really was in Verona…

K: I like good looking people.  And orgies.

K: Are you sure this is a good idea?
J: Yeah, you’re totally fine, you can do this.
(five minutes later)
K: No this was a bad idea.

“Ho fame, ho freddo, sono stanco…ma sto schiando….tutto bene!”

(I’m hungry, I’m cold, and I’m tired…but I’m skiing…it’s all good!)

“Juan…the problem is…your face.”

“Juan….do you have our passports?”
“Um…..no?”

(something gets said in Spanish)
J: You know I don’t speak Spanish and can’t understand you!
K: (throws hands up in exhaustion) You’re not making any effort!

K: I’m so drunk – I can’t ski like this.  (five minutes later)  Should we get some grappa?

“Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-ltitude.”

J: “I think that in the battle of Europe vs. The Americans, Europe is winning.  Apparently it’s hard to be everywhere and do everything without wearing down.”

“Fat kids don’t get kidnapped.”

J: “The end of the night is kind of fuzzy…”
M: “We didn’t lose anything, and no one got kicked out.  So, overall, a good night.”
J: “That’s how far we’ve fallen now huh?”

K: “No, in Venezuela we don’t have earthquakes.  We have Chavez.”

M: “Why are you laughing at me?  If I were serious right now, I’d be really offended!”

M: “If you fly, you look like a pussy.  If you run really fast, that’s different.”

A: “Why haven’t we taken over Canada yet?  I know, right, I mean, they have….stuff?”

M: “I didn’t like Hangover b/c it was in English.”
U: “They didn’t translate it into Spanish down in Mexico?”
J: “No, he didn’t like it b/c there weren’t any donkeys in it.”
M: “Yeah – that’s why I like Shrek so much.”

J: That’s totally skiable.
D: There’s a 100 foot rock face in the middle of that slope.
J: Okay that part’s not skiable….

K: She’s a 4!
(girl takes coat off)
K: Okay she’s a 0!

M: Non Brasiliano….TUTTO!!!

J: We invented the term “cougar”.
J: Who’s “we”?
J: My friends and I did.  We invented it.

M: OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH!  That guy almost got hit by a car!
K: “That guy” is our friend!

Shut up, stupid pigeon.

J: “I was gonna buy everyone breakfast, but then I couldn’t find my pants.”

J: “You!  Put some pants on!  You! Take these pills!  Trust me!”

J: “This is an ang blu.  Tell them I invented it.  Tell them the Puerto Rican invented it.”

J: “If they’re in high school, they’re your target.  If they have kids in high school, they’re my target.”

M: There are 3 things I don’t do by myself:  1) have sex  2) going to the theater 3) eating in a restaurant

“Hey…Yoe!”

“Ma che cazzo”

Don’t be a…..

“DON’T BE A POOSSY!”

And finally…if you went to ANY class at all, you heard this more than once from a professor:

“Did anyone read the case?  Anyone at all?  Does anyone know what case we’re studying?  Does anyone know what class this is?  I give up…”


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Misadventures in the Alps

March 23, 2010 · Posted in Travel · 2 Comments 

Besides looking for a rigorous academic experience, one of my motivations for studying abroad was going somewhere I could ski basically at will.  Growing up in Chicago there isn’t exactly a surplus of great ski-able terrain anywhere close by.  Milan, however, is different.  It is extremely close to a small mountain range called the Alps, which, turns out, happens to be pure evil.  That’s right.  The mountains are evil.  Or at least out to get me.

My first, short trip was to Champoluc, a decent sized resort about two hours north of Milan.  It was a bunch of full-time students at Bocconi and me…not really knowing any of them.  We got off to a late start and hit the mountain late.  In true Italian fashion, before the first lift was done, they were already talking about where and when to have lunch!  No…I was there to ski.  Eat later.  Thankfully there were a few guys who shared my philosophy, so we broke out on our own.  The rest of the day was pretty uneventful until I had to take the buses home.  No direct bus exists (this happens more than once – it’s horrible) and at the station where we switch, not three minutes has gone by since the first bus left that I realize my brand new camera is on it.  Begging the assistance of a fellow traveler, I call (or rather she calls) the bus company.  I arrange for my friends back at Champoluc to meet the bus and talk to the driver…see if they can find my camera.  All of the calling back and forth took well over an hour and a half…most of it was trying to explain to the bus company what we were actually asking of them.

Now, for those of you paying attention, you’ll realize I’m still in Italy.  I am not getting this camera back.  It’s going to disappear like charges against Berlusconi…

Yet somehow…somehow…it turns up.  My friends pick it up, and I get it back. This served as a warning shot from Fate.  I should have listened.

But I very rarely listen.  So I sign up for the school ski trip to La Thuile.  Three days of boarding, drinking, eating, and very little sleeping.  To tempt fate even further I sign up to go heli-skiing on Sunday.

We arrive Friday, January 29th and ski for the afternoon.  As the day ends a terrible storm rolls in and some of the worst white out conditions I’ve ever skied in move in around us.  I was losing people less than 30 feet away from me.  My group ended up trapped at a closed ski lift with no way out – they had to reopen the lift for us so we could ride it up and ski down properly.  At the top, a kindly ski patrolman met us to make sure we didn’t get lost again…

Dinner Friday night began like this:

And ended like this:

After cursing every decision we made Friday night, we struggled to get up a bit Saturday.  You may recall the storm from the preceding paragraph – which is obviously going to make for some great powder the day after.  Cloud cover was extremely low Saturday morning, covering the base.  No one wanted to go up but Agnese and I…and about halfway up the mountain the cloud breaks and we’re in brilliant sunshine.  Do we call anyone?  HELL NO.  This is our powder.  We suffered to get it, it’s ours.

And for about 8 glorious runs, it was.  Powder up to your knees, unbroken, light and fluffy.  At times the spray was so tall it was cascading over my head.  There is almost nothing like that in the world.  Just you, alone with the mountain, breaking fresh tracks.

After soundly thrashing the mountain for a few hours we stopped into a little hut to have vin brule…hot spiced wine…which is something the US ski resorts need to start importing immediately.  It’s about 50x better than hot chocolate on a cold day on the slopes.

After lunch some fellow boarders (including an Army Ranger) wanted to go off-piste…said they had some good powder that no one had touched for at least weeks.  We jumped in under the gondola and promptly sank up to our waists in fresh snow.  They were right – no one had touched this stuff.  Here’s a shot of Carlos stopped partway down:

Everything is all fine and dandy until the line starts to squeeze in on us.  There’s really only one way left to go.  We’re about ten minutes from the bottom of the slope and literally 30 feet away from an open meadow.  We head through some trees until we reach the final squeeze…a tight cut between two trees.  I’m third to go, catch an exposed root slightly, and land not especially hard or anything.  Something twinges.  When I come up, I hold up my left hand, ski over to Adam and announce “I think my finger’s broken, I have to go now.”  Very matter of fact.  Time to go.  Carlos boards with me to the emergency station, where we confirm it is not broken but merely dislocated.

Pretty sure your finger doesn’t do that normally or naturally.  So without pain killers the nurse yanks my finger back into place, at which point my body does something bizarre.  From both elbows to the tips of my fingers, my arms go numb, and my hands twist and contort into a weird position.  I can’t move either of my hands for at least 15-20 minutes.  When I can finally get them back to normal they put this contraption on it that makes it look like a much more serious injury than I think it is at the time.  ( I say that because about six weeks later it’s still swollen and I don’t have full range of motion back in it yet…)


Clearly I am thrilled at this point.  Does this injury keep me from staying out until 4:00 a.m., dancing on tables and banging on the ceiling with the rest of the Bocconi students?  Sure it does.  Sure.

We will never be invited back to that resort.

Sunday of course was absolutely perfect weather, and so I wasn’t going to stay inside.  Instead of boarding, I decided to help some newbies learn to snowboard – they only grabbed my right hand a few times during the day.

At this point I’m 0 – 2 on the slopes, Alps are winning.  Juan, Kathy, Marco and I decide to head for a quick ski weekend nearby a little town called Bergamo.  There’s a direct bus from Milano to Castione del Presolano, so this is going to be easy, no problem.

At 6:30 in the morning we struggle to get to the bus station only to find out….there’s no bus.  This direct bus turned into a train to Bergamo, tram to Albino, bus to Clusone, a bus that went partway to Bratto then back to Clusone, another bus finally into Bratto.  At this point I was convinced we were going to have to ride a donkey into town eventually…  It was pouring rain and we were all thoroughly soaked upon arriving at our hotel.  All’s well that ends well though, because we found a very nice relaxing spa to spend Friday night at.

Saturday was pretty awful to start.  I’m riding the lift up with Marco who has never skied before.  It’s white-out conditions, so bad we are losing the chair in front of us.  Marco starts to get very nervous, and on the outside I’m trying to calm him down.  Telling him this is normal, no big deal, tutto bene.  On the inside, I’m convinced we’re all dead.  No one is making it down from this little adventure.  After about two hours we finally make it halfway down the mountain, to the restaurant where Marco more or less decides that’s it for the day.  Can’t say I blame him.  The sun eventually does come out and we get some nice views of the surrounding areas.

Sunday was much better, having gotten a light dusting of snow the night before.  Crystal clear skies greeted us, and the surrounding landscape looked even more amazing than the day before.

All is going well and good at this point.  The day’s fantastic, weather is nice, skiing was good.  AND lo and behold – a direct bus home does exist!  No more ridiculous antics just to get somewhere!  We can all sleep the two hours it will take to get back to Milano.

About halfway home, I wake up with a start, like you’d see in a movie, obviously realizing something important.  I smack Juan and ask:

“Juan, Juan, do you have our passports?  Did you take them from the hotel?”

“Um…..no.”

Our passports were still at the hotel, now an hour away in Bratto.

You know what that means – unintentional ski day in Italy!

That Tuesday we packed up, me, Juan, and Kathy (Marco was still curled in the fetal position from the weekend) and drove back to Bratto.  Once again we encountered white-out conditions in the morning, with most of it clearing up by the end of day.  So…when you can’t see anything…and are not worried about losing your dear friend Marco while skiing…the bottles of red wine look ever more appealing at the restaurant on the mountain.

After a verrrrrrrrry long lunch, the skies cleared a bit and we were greeted with this:

Now all the wine and beer at lunch was speaking to us this afternoon, and what is said was “Stop for grappa.  That will be fun.”  Thankfully it had snowed Monday so there was lots of powder to cushion any afternoon spills.  And, being ridiculous Americans (ok Juan is Puerto Rican) we decided that our last run down was going to be shirtless.  Just gloves and pants.  Sometimes, when grappa speaks, it’s best to listen.

For my last and final appearance in the Alps, I was going to do it right.  My dad was coming in, and for a long weekend we were going to ski the real deal.  The broad consensus amongst my fellow students was: Zermatt, in Switzerland.  So on Thursday, March 4th, we boarded our train.  At our connection in Visp, the change in atmosphere was notable.  The train from Visp to Zermatt was two cars, packed with skiers.  Everyone had ski gear, people were drinking “Austrian herbal things” out of little shot bottles, and it was in general a boisterous affair.  Dad promptly fell asleep.  Something about how he hadn’t slept on the flight over, I don’t really know.  No cars are allowed in Zermatt so our little electric taxi picked us up and took us to the Hotel Firefly where they greeted us with a welcome drink.  I think everywhere you go should include a welcome drink but that’s just me.

Friday we walked out of our hotel to head to the resort and were promptly jumped by a bunch of Swiss guys who stole our wallets and taunted us in German.  Well I suppose technically I just made that part up.  It’s just the most expensive place I think I’ve ever been.  It’s almost $20 for bread at dinner.  Ridiculous.

Besides from the fact that the mountain hadn’t seen snow since December 1st, it was an amazing trip.  It’s hard for it not to be when you’re skiing under the Matterhorn.  For the most part I’ll let the pictures do the talking here –

A little serving of medicine

Chez Vrony

One shot of the spa at Hotel Firefly

Overall the trip was absolutely amazing.  However, this being the Alps, and the Alps hating me, something had to go wrong.  Let’s review shall we?

1 – Lost camera

2 – Dislocated finger

3 – Left-behind passport

4 – Massive case of food poisoning on Saturday night.  Just massive. Ruined the next two days.  Fantastic.

I can’t wait to go back to the Rockies…

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$138.00 for a beer in Istanbul?!?!?!

January 12, 2010 · Posted in Travel · 5 Comments 

We’ll get to that little traveler’s mishap in a moment, but before I do let’s talk Turk for a few minutes.  After being stared at wherever I went for two and a half weeks straight, it was somewhat refreshing to be mistaken for one of the locals again.  From the flight into Istanbul people approached me in Turkish more than in English, only to be somewhat shocked I didn’t speak Turkish and wasn’t from there.  Not a bad start.  Got into my hotel around 2:30 in the morning and passed out – I had 48 hours in Istanbul and wanted to make the most of it. Next morning, up at 8:00 and greeted by – downpour.  Sheets of rain.  After a rather long sigh, I got dressed and went to the 7th floor where my hotel served a delicious breakfast buffet.  Now, I’m a huge fan of pho, and enjoyed the soups in Hong Kong for breakfast, but sometimes you just want coffee and a pastry.  Or in my case, coffee and about 25 pastries, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, yogurt, honey, and feta cheese sprinkled with paprika and chili pepper.  So I enjoyed the cold breakfast and gazed out at the city and the sea as the rain gradually lifted.  It was still overcast but at least I could walk around and do the touristy thing. Quick endorsement here:  I usually abhor looking like a tourist and when in Italy refuse to carry a guidebook or large map.  I’d rather wander around than admit I’m not supposed to be there.  However with such a short time frame and so much to see in Istanbul, I picked up Rick Steeve’s guide and was blown away.  It’s got much more on art and history and less on where to sleep and eat.  The mosques and museums were what I expected, but his tour of the Grand Bazaar was amazing – and so as much as it kills me I’d have to recommend his book if you’d like a more in-depth tour of whatever city you’re visiting. Now that a part of me has died, let’s continue.  First stop : The Blue Mosque.  Never been in a mosque before so that was interesting.  I have been in a large number of religious houses of worship and as ridiculous as this sounds, it takes a lot now for me to be really impressed.  Did get a decent shot of the outside, despite the rain, from a back street –

Afterward I wandered around some more on my way to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.  Saw a few smaller mosques, including one that claimed to have a piece of the tablet upon which Abraham had written down instructions from God.  Three pieces, actually.  Played with some features on the Canon S90, which I can’t say enough good things about.  Here are a few random street shots for you visual people out there –

Next up was the art museum, which had lots of pieces from the Ottoman Empire, Islamic history, and Turkish history.  Full of furniture for some reason.  One of my favorites was this piece:

The inscription reads: “You are only at the beginning of your journey.”  So…I got that going for me.

Lunch was a quick kabob of a mix of lamb and beef accompanied by some lentil “meat”balls.  My food pics from Istanbul are lackluster – my apologies.  And by lackluster I mostly mean just lacking.

On to Hagia Sophia.  Revisiting my previous statement about churches, my jaw literally dropped when I stepped inside.  I didn’t take any pictures because you should go see it for yourself.  It’s pretty amazing.

Perhaps my favorite part is the mosaic of Empress Zoe and two other guys.  One of the other guys is Jesus, so that’s pretty standard.  The other is her husband.  However if you look closer, you see the inscriptions above the head of her husband looks like it’s been erased.  Story goes she had one husband, couldn’t produce a male heir, he “dies”, she marries again, guy croaks again, she marries yet a third time.  So instead of changing this massive mosaic she just erases dude’s name and keeps re-doing it!  You may not agree with it, but you gotta respect it.  Keep it real Empress Zoe.  Keep it real.

Now it was time to relax and do a bit of shopping.  I knew that heading to Milan was going to be disastrous for my bank account.  A funny thing was happening as I traveled around the world.  In Vietnam it was 18,000 VND to the dollar.  Then in Hong Kong it was $7HK to $1USD.  Now in Istanbul it was about $1.50 TL to the dollar.  Upon arriving in Milan it would be about 0.69 Euro per $USD.  I was getting poorer as I traveled around the globe.  So I had to take advantage of some purchasing power, right?  And it turns out my favorite jeans company is a Turkish company.  Jeans that sell for $100 in the US were selling for $50 in Turkey.  And they have a huge flagship store on Istiklal street.  Istiklal street is the main street in the New District, where people are just milling about, shopping, eating, and drinking.  And that is how I ended up in an Irish pub in Istanbul speaking Italian.

I’m halfway through the 5th season of Lost, the greatest and most confusing show ever written in the history of TV.  In this season they are presented with an opportunity to go back in time and kill the bad guy in the show, thereby erasing most of what has caused them misery over the previous four seasons.  However, as far as I am in the season now – they cannot.  They have to save his life.  They are unable to remove the demons that put them where they are now.  As I sat in the Irish bar in Istanbul listening to people speak Italian (not only am I worldly, I am alliterative as well) I couldn’t help but think of the parallels.  When certain things happen and you can’t see the good at the time, you never know where you’ll end up six months, a year later.  I sat there with a huge dumb grin on my face.  Life will do its worst and somehow manage to bring out the best.  As I left the bar it was pouring rain, just pouring.  Everyone was running home.  I walked, the two miles to my hotel.  Over the Galata Bridge, where only fishermen were out, hoping to secure the last little bit of food before they went in for the night.  So I stayed and watched them do their thing for a bit – knowing I was the only tourist dumb enough to stand in the rain and watch fisherman reel in empty rods.  I laughed again, thinking about the possibility of going back in time and removing some of the negatives I’ve encountered, and how doing that would not put me here, now in this incredible circumstance.  Everything bad that had happened was a lesson or an opportunity.

Unfortunately it was a lesson I apparently had to learn again, the following night.

After touring Topkapi Palace and the infamous Harem, and the Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Market, I needed a quick nap.  I was so tired from two straight weeks of travel that I almost fell down in the Spice Market.  After my nap I decided I was going to grab a quick dinner and then call it a very early night.  On my way out of the hotel I almost bumped into two Turkish guys who, once again, assumed I was Turkish too.  After discovering I wasn’t, one suggested we go for a beer.  I said, what the hell, I’m traveling, may not be here again, let’s do this.  One beer, under the bridge where about 20 or so seafood restaurants are.  After this one beer I informed them I needed food cause I was getting very hungry.  The ringleader of this two-man clan suggests we go to Taksim square where we can get street food, which I what I wanted.  At this point something started going off in my mind, but I decided I was just being overly cautious and somewhat prejudiced, so I pushed it away and tried to convince myself it was fine.  But they were slightly too friendly too quickly.

After a less-than-satisfying kabob sandwich we start looking for this bar that plays Turkish music for “one beer, then we go.”  Yeah, right.  They say it’s right around the square, but then all of a sudden they announce we need to take a cab.  Warning sign number 3, if you include the fact that they tried to pay for my food.  Beer is one thing. But food is just weird.

I get in this cab, and the cab ride turns into something way too long to have walked, or to be considered “close” to the square at all.  Warning sign number 4.  But convincing myself I was being stupid, and it was fine, I go in this busted-looking place called “Bar Club.”  Um….yeah.  I know, I know.  At this point this looks like my fault.

When we walk downstairs yet another warning sign hits – the bar is empty save for what can only be walruses that escaped from the local zoo dancing onstage.  Upon closer inspection they were actually females so it was both reassuring and frightening at the same time.  I lost whatever remaining sense of humor I had right then and there.  Not only was I all hooker’ed-out by this point, but you don’t say “hey let’s go listen to music” and by “music” you really mean “to a brothel.”  Not cool guys, not cool.  I can’t say enough negative things about the bar itself or the inhabitants of said bar.  It looked like it was straight out of a 70’s adult flick and smelled like it hadn’t been cleaned since it was opened.

Sure enough, after we order a beer, two girls come over.  There are three of us, so I sort of wonder why only two come over.  Then I realize.  Couches have a weight limit.  Three wouldn’t have fit.  The girl who sits between me and one of the other guys introduces herself and asks if she can have a drink.  I point to the other guy and say “He’s buying, ask him.”  She tries to chit-chat and I am about as rude as can be.  The Candy Bar in Cambodia wasn’t exactly my thing, but even Brandy can attest to this – the girls there were at least funny.  Also cute, but cute or not I’m not really into professionals.  And the girls in Istanbul could have eaten the girls in Cambodia for appetizers and still been hungry.  Anyway I digress.  She she asks me where I am from, I say the US (mistake on my part – we’re all rich, right?) and she tells me where she’s from.  I can’t make this up.

Khazakstan.

I almost spit my beer out.  She asks “You know this place?  Not many people do?”  I said “anyone who’s seen Borat knows this place!  Let me guess, you are sixth best prostitute in Khazakstan?”  She didn’t get it.  So, despite what happens next, I met a real-life prostitute from Khazakstan.

Halfway through my beer I turn to idiot #1 and say I’m out after this beer.  They can stay but I’m getting my coat and going.  They’re chain smoking cigarettes like they think global warming is a good thing and I’m just super annoyed at this point.  Then the bill comes.

He turns to me and says, we can split this, yes?  I’m thinking 40, 50 bucks?  3 beers and 4 glasses of wine.  My beers twice that size the night before were about $3 a pop.

No.

670 YTL and at about a 1.4 exchange rate that’s $479.00.  For 3 beers and 4 glasses of wine.

I almost completely lost my mind.  I start yelling at the two guys and that’s when things got ugly.  Immediately five gigantic Turkish guys in black suits, black shirts, and black ties come over.  One puts his hand on my shoulder and asks what the problem is.

“What’s the problem?  These guys are a*holes, that’s what the problem is.  I had one beer and you want me to pay almost $200?”

“Well it needs to be paid.”

“I’m a STUDENT, do you know what that means???  It means I don’t have this kind of money, I don’t care what you think about Americans!”

The two guys talk amongst themselves in Turkish (never a good sign) and one turns to me.  “I pay 470 and you pay 200?”

“200?  I had ONE BEER!”

“Yes but your girl…”

“MY GIRL?  SHE WAS NOT MY GIRL!!!!”

At this point the “bouncers” make it clear that I’m upsetting them and that I need to calm down.

Deciding that tonight is not, in fact, a good night to die, I acquiesce and hand him my credit card.  “We don’t accept cards.”  Of course not you back-water degenerate meathead.  Why would you?  (that was purely an internal monologue).

One of the bouncers escorts me to the nearest ATM, I take out 200 YTL and slap it down when I get back inside.  They count it, I said “we’re good?” and the head meathead says “We’re good.”  I run upstairs faster than I ever ran in high school and bolted for a cab.  The two guys I came with are running after me, trying to get me to stop.  Knowing full well I will attack them if I slow down, I keep going toward my cab.  As I get in, I do turn around and yell out a string of profanity that would make Clark Griswald mighty proud, then immediately tell the cab to get the heck out of there.

I checked my bank account later, and it amounted to $138.00.  $138.00 in extortion, to get away with my life.  Those two guys were obviously connected to the bar, and knew as soon as I said I was American that they were gonna take me to this brothel type place.  Tell you what guys, you wanna make some real money, get some real girls!  I wouldn’t have paid but other suckers will.

So incredibly mad at the time, looking back it is a pretty good story.  I was genuinely scared when those bouncers/mob guys whatever they were came over and put their hand on my shoulder.  That crossed some comfort lines.  I can say with absolutely certainty I have never paid more for one beer.

At the end of it all, it’s just one more successful interaction between Muslims and Christians, I guess…

Now, please excuse me, as I’m safely in Milan and there is much vino to be had, pastas to be sampled, and pizzas to savor.

A domani…

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