I have returned. I spent the last twelve days in Europe. My work sent me there. And at the end of the day it was work that dominated my time. Despite the best of intentions I did not spend a great deal of time sightseeing or experiencing the culture. True, I got a few opportunities. Nevertheless, the most of my time was spent inside various office buildings, hotel rooms and airplane cabins working on stubborn problems and curiously tenacious projects.

You ain’t got no problem, Jules. I’m on the motherfucker. Wait for the Wolf– who should be coming directly.
You sendin’ the Wolf?
Oh, you feel better, motherfucker?

Before departing I considered that work was sending me in to solve a litany of problems: similar to the way Marsellus Wallace sent in the Wolf to deal with Vincent’s and Jules’ tricky set of self-induced problems in Pulp Fiction. I fashioned myself a professional troubleshooter: the Wolf. This trip would be my way to redeem myself. It would be my way to rise to a challenge and succeed: alone, in foreign lands, and against unforeseen adversity.

And now I am back.

I will discover Monday how successful I was in completing my set of tasks. They were many and varied—and without going into recriminating detail—allow me to say that the promises of unforeseen adversity were more than well-fulfilled. Despite my planning and preparation, I had my share of surprises. “ No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” My experience was no different in this regard. I either overcame these surprises or found a way to work around them. I am proud of my accomplishments.

For those of you faithful readers who may not know the details, my itinerary consisted of three stops in Europe to our three locations there: London, England; Newcastle upon Tyne; and München, Germany. As I mentioned above, the overwhelming majority of my time was spent working. My humorous anecdotes and observations are mostly limited to the margins of my stay. I have a few pictures of England—unfortunately I have none of Germany.

In no particular order and in no way complete, some of my thoughts:

The taxi drive into London—by one of the most circuitous routes I have ever been on, Chicago has me spoiled—reminded me of how crazy European streets can be. The roadways twist and turn all over the place, like they had been laid out by drunken hooligans chasing a cow.

An English pub is a charming place to go and watch a football match. It has the twofold benefit of introducing you to the beauty and taste that are “real ales” as well as challenging you to explain baseball to an audience of delightfully besotted Englishmen—a state arrived at by the intake of said real ales; both on my part and theirs. For the morbidly curious, I ended up in a pub called “The Duke” and spent the evening watching Manchester United lose to Lille Metropole in the off-season European tournament before embarking upon the Sisyphean task of explaining America’s Pastime.

Breakfast. A typical German breakfast is not anything like an American breakfast. A German breakfast mostly consists of breads, meats and cheeses served cold. Coffee. Juice. With a more contemporary emphasis upon fitness you will often find pieces of fruit and sometimes yogurts. Things like cereal, eggs, omelets, waffles, pancakes: those you will not typically find. My hotel—being in the travel industry—did make a concerted effort to make more typical American or worldly breakfast foods available, but then they charged you extra to eat them.

Those who say that flying from London to Newcastle or back is the best way to travel are either insane, misinformed or both. Take the train. Quicker, easier, less hassle and less crowded. Plus it takes you downtown to downtown rather than “out in the boonies” to “out in the boonies.” I dislike airports, can you tell? Be they American, British or German, they are inconsiderate places where hapless souls go to wallow in a vaguely Limboesque environment before shipping off for Heaven or Hell.

Despite my best attempts, I was unable to locate Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station. In retrospect I suspect this is a blessing as it aided me in avoiding any further injuries this year: hear brought on through the unreflected act of crashing into a wall through which Muggles are not permitted.

On the London Eye—that gigantic Ferris Wheel on the River Thames. I did not ride it. I do not think it was operational while I was in town. I never saw it move. It just glowed there like some baleful omen: Sauron is watching.

People are generally kind. Be you lost, confused, misunderstanding or simply lonely, others will take you in and surprise you with their consideration. In Germany this manifests as a kneipe with gemütlichkeit. In England, greeting you with ‘Sir’ and engaging you in animated conversations ranging from sport to politics to women.

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