We gather ourselves after yet another security check going into Terminal 3 Heathrow.
Perhaps it’s the quality of in-flight entertainment, maybe just the degenerative loss of any nerve endings in our kneecaps, but these trans Atlantic flights don’t even faze us any longer.
We arrive resigned, stumble through yet another TSA checkpoint shoeless, holding trousers up with one hand: Our humiliation complete.
Like cattle herded into the final chute of the slaughterhouse, our only avenue of protest is to shit: we hit the United Lounge and take a crap.
Helsinki dawns bright and warm, 25C air temperature mocking the NorthFace jackets and Polar thermals in our carry on luggage.
We wander supermarkets and Town Square, take a ferry out to the stony Fortress guarding the harbor.
There, we run our hands along the rough-hewn walls, wondering at the gallons of steaming blood spilled here in the name of Sovereignty.
Would we have the courage to stand among the ice and rock, grip a scabbard slick with viscera, to defend our land against the invading horde?
We take another photo and post it to Instagram instead.
We are not men.
Robbie Fields has made adjustments to his never-ending World Tour and appears, incredibly, in the check-in que of the Presidentti.
We chat easily there in the Lobby, interrupted only by the waitress bringing a tray of overpriced drinks and the shy tourists looking for Anthony Bourdain’s autograph.
We begin with the small talk of the weary old men we have become, but are soon transported back to the garage in Cerritos, youth and excitement barely contained before Mom comes in and tells us to shut off the amps and come eat some dinner.
Berlin lies waiting, less a mother with open arms than a patient spider in the dark corner of her web.
Everyone passes through this city.
Some stay, recognizing the limitless possibilities of this place: Old and New, East and West.
Some stay because they never close the goddamn bars in Kreuzberg and they miss the tour bus.
Doomed to a future of wee bottles of Jagermeister and a daily diet of Donner Kebap, it is a fine purgatory indeed.
We pay our respects at the Ramones Museum and then eat currywurst in the shadows of Brandenburg Gate.
Then it’s on to Dresden to witness the legacy of horror there.
There, we gaze upon the cathedrals blackened by fire bombs.
A sudden revulsion now, and we are forced to pay up the 30€ to use the WC at a Starbucks.
We blame our knotted intestines to curry powder and room temperature Mayo, though we know our nausea bubbles up from a deeper source.
I am unable to find the ß upon my keyboard when referencing Roßwein.
A minor inconvenience, surely cured by some cryptic combination of ALT/CTRL/F6 etc.
But I like that I cannot spell this character, its stubborn refusal to bend to the Anglo invaders.
Everyone here, everyone everywhere speaks English.
They do so with charming accents, and without fail apologize for their tentative grasp on the language.
We are shamed: forcing our utilitarian phonetics upon these graceful generations.
In the name of goodwill, Anthony learns curse words and vulgar phrases at every stop.
He is able to ask someone to please go fuck themselves behind the knee in a fine Bavarian accent, for example.
A sincere if humble consolation to our hosts.
We visit with Jay in Hannover, our ex-patriot brother sensibly accustomed to the Euro lifestyle.
It occurs to me that Jay has always been a European at heart, his timing and gait far more in tune with the civility of this continent.
To bicycle to the market, to eat fine cured meats upon grainy breads.
Restaurant meals are eaten and then, amazingly, digested at the same table:
A third Kaffe ordered before a thought to request the tab.
He has found what was perhaps missing in Arcadia.
We sit impotently on the runway 40 minutes after landing, the GE turbines idly spinning in anticipation of an open gate.
We gaze out oval windows at the purple sunset over Los Angeles, the palm trees wilting in the shimmering haze of burnt jet fuel.
Home again after just a long weekend gone, really.
But the distance traveled and hours gone have little to do with the journey.
Though we have been awake for 23 hours we will wake up tomorrow on Greenwich Mean Time still.
We’ll stumble down to the curb in gray dawn light and search the horizon for a spire blackened yet defiant, survived against the will of the West.