Thursday, June 30, 2011


272. Coffee room, the most crowded I have ever seen. Everyone in the department, it seems, has turned up to say goodbye to G., a last-year graduate who is now leaving for the "dark side", as he calls it. "I don't really know him," I have weakly protested when told to come to the coffee room, have a piece of cake and say goodbye, partly because it is true -- I don't really know him, apart from the fact that he is one of the friendlier faces around, with whom I talk for a few minutes every third week or so, partly because it's awkward, this whole goodbye thingy. "Come on!" Zoe has replied, "you were personally invited yesterday," a slight exaggeration (among others, the going-away boy was having a piece of Anna's carrot cake the day before, I have asked him whether his cakes, for today, too would be home-baked, and he has said no, but that we should all come for it all the same) but an effective guilt trip. 

Now, having come to the coffee room and had a piece of cake, I am saying goodbye, "Good luck... I'll see you around?" knowing that in all likelihood, I probably will not. In a few months's time, he'll be yet another used-to-be familiar face; and, in a few years's time, if I ever reread this, I probably will ask myself what G.'s full name is. ("Hello future me! The next letter is a.") C'est la vie. Note to self: Do not have a departmental goodbye when I leave.

273. Delta metro station. On the phone. 
Me: Can you please look up the directions to Kokob for me?
Anna: Didn't you do this last year?

274. Near Grand Place. On a random walk to Kokob, the Ethiopian restaurant that I have visited more than a handful of times and managed to get lost every time.
"Well, my PhD supervisor-," I started to tell him a trivia. Upon realizing that he knew the actual name, I added, "J.", then silently cursed myself for expecting him to remember. "Anyway, my PhD supervisor, he married an Ethiopian, that's how I came to know the cuisine." "He met her at a library in Ethiopia?"
"No, not Ethiopia. America, actually," I replied, then the implication of the question sank in. "How do you know...? Did I tell you...?" Both questions were rhetorical, because not only I remembered telling the story -- once -- I also remembered the context of the storytelling.

"So J. was on the emotional side, then..." he has concluded, after learning about the love story of my PhD supervisor. One afternoon in a library, J. has seen a girl across the reading room. Just like in a romantic Hollywood movie, J. immediately said to his friend, "I am going to marry that girl," and just like in a romantic Hollywood movie, they got married shortly after and have remained so ever since, despite significant cultural clashes and different upbringings. "Every relationship is either emotional or practical," J. often says in our surprisingly numerous discussions about love. To this day, I am still unsure whether the statement is meant to emphasize the strongly emotional part of his marriage or the near lack of practicality.

If only I can train myself to remember more important things, like directions to a semi-favourite restaurant where I am about to have dinner, instead of random conversations that have long lost its importance and relevance, not that they were necessarily either important or relevant to begin with.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


269. Kitchen. One hand holding a glass of Apero and the other arm around Claire's shoulder, Anna, the tenant, tells me, "Look at the two of us, in the apartment that we are sharing!" Claire, the landlord, mutters, "Sharing is a strong word..."

270. Even as (by a lot of luck) I am employed until the end of 2014, many people have told me that I do not have a job, but a position. However my employment should be called, I did not have to go through any crazy question to get it. Reading a CBS MoneyWatch's twenty craziest job interview questions, a list of apparently real questions from an impressive list of companies well-known for their creative and talented employees, I wonder if I would ever make it past round one of interviews in the so-called real world. Unlike me, at least one guy decided that he had what it took, and answered all twenty crazy questions:

Procter & Gamble: Sell me an invisible pen.

Imagine that pen you loved. Remember? It was a great pen. Then that jerk in the office asked “Can I borrow that for a second?” and it was gone, never to be returned. You still see that jerk every day, but have you seen your pen? That need never happen again with the invisible pen. It’s a pen only you can use, because you’re the only one who knows it’s there. 

Google: You are climbing a staircase. Each time you can either take one step or two. The staircase has n steps. In how many distinct ways can you climb the staircase?

There’s a typo in your question, there, dude. You said “n,” but I think you were supposed to put a number.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


265. Skype, lunch and honesty. 
Princess Peach: Hi guys, how about lunch today? 
Bowser: I am in at any hour.
Princess Peach: I'd like to go early. Maybe 12:15 pm?
Daisy: ok
Bowser: ok
Princess Peach: :)
Mario: ok 
Cassandra: I can't join you for lunch today :( 
Princess Peach: :( 
Bowser :( 
Cassandra: :D
Mario: *cries* 
Cassandra: Please don't be so emphatic :D 
Me: I'm guessing I can't join you guys either...
Mario: *party*
Princess Peach: empathy has gone out the window it seems...

266. End of the working day. Standing in front of my office, the research visitor and I are drinking coffee, discussing some anomalies in the sketches for a proof. In the perpetually excited voice, he is explaining to me why he has -- for the umpteenth time in less than two working days -- changed his mind on whether a function possesses a property. Trying to concentrate on his reasoning, I almost miss the split-second image of someone walking towards me, nose scrunched up, hands waving ridiculously on either side of the head. Interrupted by my sudden laughing, the research visitor very much wants to know what was so funny about his scientific arguments. Shuffling feet in embarrassment, I ignore his question, "So, you were saying, the Laplace transform of…"
267. Going through the storm with a virtually stranger, because of his insistence on walking me home, supposedly as part of being a gentleman. As I am blindly stumbling forward, continually wiping the rain off my face, the gentleman yells out periodically from behind, "Can't we go to a bar nearby? Are you sure there isn't one?"

Monday, June 27, 2011


262. Coffee room. "Congratulations!" I tell her, after Geluck offered his own compliments. Still emotionally overwhelmed by the positive outcome of her PhD grant application, my former office-mate tries to discreetly wipe a tear. That gesture suddenly reminds me of an afternoon when I tried, and failed spectacularly, not to cry in front of her, and the many, many months that followed during which we wordlessly walked pass each other along the narrow corridor. Smiling, I feel happy for her achievement, and for the fact that I feel sincerely happy for her achievement.

263. Rino Son Resto. The waiters have just brought us the menus. Girl #1 makes some witty remark, Girl #2 laughs, I offer a tight-lipped smile. "You are cheerful today," Girl #1 remarks drily. "I am smiling!" I protest, knowing full well that I am using the verb liberally. It has been a long day.

In front of Capoue. Drinking a milkshake, Girl #2 complains, "This is not like in Rome." "Nothing is like in Rome," Girl #1 replies. While they discuss their mutual love, my mind temporarily drifts to this mysterious place that I have never been. When I am back to the present, Girl #2 is debating whether she would choose Paris or Rome as the city to live. "If I am the other person..." she is saying. "What do you mean you are the other person?" Girl #1 interrupts. "How can you be the other person? What other person?" At the thoroughly confused look on Girl #1's face, I try hard not to laugh, in case Girl #2 thinks it is because of her English expression. The determination to resist laughing coupled with the strong desire to laugh results in me laughing and spitting ice-cream everywhere.

Pasta, pizza, ice-cream and friends. A combination that works every time. 

264. (Biking) the long way home, just because at the end of such a hot and long day, it is nice to feel the cool evening wind, and to suddenly have both the energy to do something (probably thanks to all the pasta, pizza, and ice-cream...) and the desire to do something...

Sunday, June 26, 2011


259. Parc du Cinquantenaire. One lap -- that is how long it takes me for to cave in to the decidedly un-Belgian heat, and classily roll up my ankle-length running pants almost halfway through the upper thighs. Puffing around the park crowded with people enjoying a hot summer day, half of the pants already sort of falling down, the other half still holding up, I try not to wonder what people might think of my outfit, chanting in my head, "I will never see these people again, I will never see these people again..."

What are the odds, that the very day I compose this mantra is the first day I ever run into someone I know, at the park?

260. Having just completed our individual runs, we are comparing notes. "Oh, I did a 7 km in under half an hour..." he says. Sheepish, I tell him about my run, which was a little shorter but took me much longer. "It's still good! Really, that's not bad at all," ever the politician, he tries to compliment me. "Actually, it's terrible," I state the obvious, but still feel thankful that he does not laugh at my efforts. 

Half an hour later, a particularly strong wind comes through the window, carrying with it the unpleasant heat. "God, it's hot, isn't it?" he shakes head. "Yes! At the park, I was melting..." Almost unnoticeably, he utters under his breath, "Especially at that speed..."

261. Seeing Gaston sitting lady-like, legs crossed, in my long black skirt. Considering his suddenly feminist appearance the evening, it was not surprising, in retrospect, that Gaston had been the first person to remark that it's about six months since our wonderful pre-Christmas party on December 11, one of the first "Tuesday" dinners, and that tonight would be the last.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


256. Screening flatmates. Act 3. 
12:30ish pm. Flatmate #1 looks at the time, turns off the alarm clock for the fourth time, and tries to get out of bed; Flatmate #2 quickly gets into his morning shower, although technically it can no longer called a morning shower if the morning has already gone; and, unbeknown to both of them, Flatmate #3 discreetly says goodbye to an overnight guest who leaves the flat unnoticed, then starts madly scrubbing the kitchen stoves.

1 pm. Living room. The half-eaten banana, Tintin's unfinished breakfast, is covered inside the banana peel, hidden behind the pink Brita. A pretty, 25 year-old primary school teacher is sitting demurely on the couch. Screening flatmates is a two-way street: as we try to figure out whether she might be a good fit, the girl probably has her own checklist to determine whether we might be total nutcases. Standing near the dining table, I am leisurely sipping coffee from my George Clooney mug, an attempt to appear awake; not in his usual weekend morning attire (some matching PJ invariably with cartoon characters on both the top and the bottom parts), Gaston is properly dressed, sitting on the ubiquitous IKEA Kinsta relax chair, every now and then secretly eyeing his half-eaten banana; Tintin is casually leaning against the radiator, calm, a personification of Zen.

The current score for Flatmates at Rue So-et-So: 10/10.

"...So this is Gaston, he works at the social department of...," Tintin starts the obligatory introduction. "You do?" I ask Gaston, feigning surprise, an in-joke between us along the line that I never know what it is he does, professionally or socially, but because of the collective Saturday morning afternoon grogginess and of the very nature of an in-joke, I come across as actually not knowing what my flatmate does for a living. 

Flatmates at Rue So-et-So: 9/10.

"...and Gazpacho, she works at...," it is my turn to be introduced. "What do you do there?" the primary school teacher asks me. "I'm a researcher," I reply, assuming an air of vagueness that is a practiced habit from encounters at parties and social gatherings. The primary school teacher does not press on, but she does not have to. "In mathematics," Tintin adds helpfully. "I usually avoid the elaboration..." I mumble, and even as the primary school teacher laughs, I can see our total score goes down further. 

Flatmates at Rue So-et-So: 8/10. 

" you have three months off!" Still in the role of a semi-enthusiastic MC, Tintin tries to initiate a normal conversation. "Yes, but I still have to work. This past week, I was at school everyday, finishing my reports. There were not many students in my class, but I helped other teachers with their reports too..." "That's nice of you," Tintin says, while Gaston and I nod approvingly, and the primary school teacher smiles. Then, a period of silence. Gaston studies the air, I look at the sky and Tintin examines his feet, thinking about the next sentence. He probably should have put more efforts into it, because what comes next is, "Sorry, we are a bit quiet... late night..." At Tintin's understatement of the week (two thirds of the flat were not home by 2:30 am), we all burst out laughing. Well, all but the primary school teacher. 

Flatmates at Rue So-et-So: 3/10.

I hope she is still moving in next weekend.

257. When not busy writing books, my nephew draws. Below is the pencil sketch of his perpetually incomplete family, based on a photograph taken last July.

258. Le Cap. "How is your date?" reads the text message. Okay so far, I suppose, apart from his being married with kid, and that when we first met again at the hotel lobby, I had no idea whether to go for a cheek kiss or to shake hands, and after standing around for a few seconds, I almost leaned over at the same time he extended his hand, prompting me to cover up the embarrassment by asking, "So what do people do in Poland...," an awkward question made even more awkward by the fact that I spent two weeks seeing him almost every day earlier this year. 

Fifteen minutes into the dinner and I am already breaking my first rule of the evening: no alcohol. The plan has been to order flat water, what with the self-imposed soft drink strike and there is only so much alcohol one should consume per fortnight. Nevertheless, the walk from St. Catherine to Grand Place seemed particularly long, and the first conversation in this candle-lit, semi-romantic restaurant was about numerical integration, so when the waiter came, I asked for a glass of white wine. Putting the phone back to my bag, two things occur to me: I am not looking forward to a particular July date, and whatever I do this evening or in July, I will not break the second rule: mentioning the past. Certain pasts make even worse a conversational topic than numerical integration. Right on cue, I am asked how my boyfriend and I are going. The dinner companion and I got to know each other through a chain of academic connections; not wanting to spread stories in a small world, I have not discussed personal changes back in January. But, today is no longer January, so I give him an update, and ask the waiter for a second glass.

Delirium. "...see, I have interesting stories too!" he smiles, finishing his second glass of beer. The plan was for me to just show my "date" Jeanneke Pis, a small statue of a girl elegantly peeing in public, but, as demonstrated again and again, things do not go accordingly to plan tonight, Delirium was just nearby, and sure, why not one beer in the pub with more than two thousand types of brews. I smile back, and, on a whim, decide to tell P. about One day, the book that I have been reading. Discussing books, for me, is as tricky as discussing religion to a stranger or telling someone about your children: it's personal and I can get very passionate about it. Nevertheless, there is something in the coconut beer that I have been drinking, and I already know that we both enjoyed immensely the book Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates, so as Led Zeppelin blasts in the background, I describe the structure of and my thoughts on One day. As soon as I finish, "Give me this book!" P. exclaims. "It's exactly what I am saying... It's like weight gaining. You gain one kg each year, and then fifteen years later, you look at yourself in the mirror, and you think, ****, how did this happen?" The analogy, while not particularly literary or romantic, is actually quite accurate for the premise of the book. 

Next thing we know, it's almost midnight. "Another beer or another bar?" I am asked. "Actually, I should go home..." P. wants to know how I am going to get home. "There is a Polish rule, that you have to accompany the girl back to her home before you can go to your home..." I assure P. that these sorts of rules are more like guidelines, and that I am perfectly capable of getting the metro home by myself, after walking him back to the hotel. As we leave, AC/DC's High way to hell comes on the speakers, and I congratulate P. for having guessed correctly the band for a previous song. Strangely, the walk from Grand Place back to St. Catherine does not seem as long as its reverse.

Friday, June 24, 2011


253. A few seconds after entering the restroom at work, I hear the door opening and then Anna's giggles. From the other side of the cubicle comes her disembodied voice, "Gazpacho-y, Luke needs your password..." 

It is not everyday that I have the department's IT guy leaning against the wall, looking at the female toilet's door and waiting for me to come out.

254. Screening flatmates. Act 2.
6ish pm. I have left work early, specifically to meet a potential flatmate. "A Spanish guy" is all I know. It is not that Gaston and I have a strict screening process to choose the person to share our living room, see our underwear displayed prominently in the hallway, and continue the Tuesday dinner tradition ("someone nice?" was all we could come up with as a selection criteria, added later by, "someone young, but not *too* young?") Nevertheless, to act the part of a responsible flatmate, I have agreed to be home when this Spanish guy comes. "Maybe he is cute," I told Gaston; "I am not going to live with a couple," he pointed out.

Someone buzzed the door. A few minutes later, Something-Spanish and I are shaking hands as Tintin introduces us. I missed the name, because I am distracted by his smooth black hair collected into a chignon, and the assorted wristbands. "Nice to meet you," I tell Something-Spanish, thinking that Gaston has nothing to worry about, upon the instant realization that while some girls have the rule of not dating a guy without hair, it seems that I have the rule of not dating a guy with hair longer than mine, a rule that is apparently not shared by Tintin. As soon as Something-Spanish leaves, Tintin turns around, "My god, isn't he cuuuute?"

255. At Michael Collins. After nachos and spicy chicken wings.
Girl #1: So, next year, we all go to Brazil for the wedding! There will be no second wedding in Brussels, so you have to conquer your fear of flight and come with us. 
Girl #2, still not feeling emboldened after single-handedly finishing a litre of cider: But it's twelve hours flying...
Girl #1: No, it's ten hours.
Girl #2: No, it's twelve. We've looked it up...
Girl #1, demonstrating her incredible mathematical ability: Well, a twelve-hour flight is the same as a ten-hour flight. And, Gazpacho, even if you will be in Australia at the time, you should think about going to Brazil too.
Me: But, I am going...
Girl #1: You are? Good! See, Gazpacho is coming to the wedding too.
Girl #2: Which wedding?
Girl #1: No more cider for you...

Thursday, June 23, 2011


250. 5:30ish pm. The research meeting, which has been going since 10 am with a two-hour lunch break, is winding down. Glancing at the corner of the Mac, I notice that the farewell drinks for Luigi have already started, and wonder whether to join them, late as I am. The note that I found on my desk answers the question: 
   Zoe :)"

251. 11ish pm. Walking along Boulevard Général Jacques with Luigi, Mario and Bowser, possibly the last time in the foreseeable future that I am with the entire male cast of the Super Marios.

Earlier this evening, at Chào Restaurant. Apparently, for the first time Bowser has an anecdote that Princess Peach has not heard before, something to do with someone's hair (or lack of), and, uncharacteristically, he does not want to share the details. "Nnnno!" Bowser tells Princess Peach, by way of responding to her request to hear the story.  After trying, and failing, to mimic Luigi's categorical refusal "NO!" that has ended a lot of silly conversations, Bowser turns to Luigi and strikes a deal, "I'll do the look, and you can make the sound?" Luigi does not agree, which means we have one fewer opportunity of seeing his signature act. In fact, for the rest of the dinner, I do not recall Luigi doing it at all, but no doubt each of us, at one point or another, will try to imitate the Luigi's no again and again, long after he leaves us this weekend.

252. Screening flatmates. Act 1.
Gaston: We might have a new girl moving in with us. She came to see the room today.
Me: Who is she?
G: Belgian, used to live on the third floor two years ago, but moved out to live with her boyfriend. Now that they broke up, she wants to come back.

M: What does she do?
G: I don't know.
M: How old is she?

G: I don't know.
M: Okidoky...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


247. Reunion #1. "Let's kiss!" I say, smiling broadly at the sight of her, realizing too late what exactly I just said, possibly one of the lamest sentences I have ever uttered.

It's funny how the brain works. On the way to work, I was slightly dreading being around people, because it means having to be friendly and conversational, neither of which is particularly natural for me when I am jet-lagged and tired. Nevertheless, as soon as I see her, it seems perfectly natural to smile, and my thought process goes, Zoe!! It's good to see her again! We've always wanted to practice the habit of kissing every time we see each other! So, "Let's kiss!" 

248. Reunion #2. "Oh, Gazpacho-y!" "Oh, Anna!" In front of everyone else, we lean over and hug, slightly longer than necessarily, as if we had not just spent ten days almost 24/7 around each other. And, just in case we forget what it was like, we spend yet another evening together, drinking Italian cocktails and reminiscing about Will Smith.

249. Reunion #3. Les Foudres. As Claire talks, Snow White, Black Queen and I are not really listening, but instead looking closely at her hands. Sure enough, Claire starts gesturing to illustrate something, then remembering our watching, she mockingly puts her hands behind her back. It is an old, endearing habit of Claire, to describe almost everything she says with hand movements in case people do not understand her English, which is actually a lot more fluent than she cares to admit. I started teasing her about this from the beginning of lunch, and now Snow White and Black Queen also joined in. We will miss these gestures when Claire once again leaves us.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


244. On a Jet Airways flight. As we descend, the inflight entertainment system broadcasts a video about Brussels, showing spectacularly picturesque images of parks, of the Royal Palace, of the European Parliament building the glass windows of which sparkle under the bright sun. Watching the montage, I am amused at the art of advertisement, smiling. Anna, on the other hand, expresses her reaction more directly, "What the **** is this?"

245. Traveler, by Adam Zagajewski.

A certain traveler, who believed in nothing,
found himself one summer in a foreign city.
Lindens were blossoming, and foreignness bloomed devoutly.

An unknown crowd walked down the fragrant boulevard,
slowly, full of fear, perhaps because
the setting sun weighed more than the horizon.

and the asphalt's scarlet might not
just be shadows and the guillotine
might not grace museums alone.

and church bells chiming in chorus
might mean more than they usually mean.
Perhaps that's why the traveler kept

putting his hand to his chest, checking warily
to make sure he still had his return ticket
to the ordinary places where we live.

246. Gaston: So did you walk around in New York? 
Me: Well, pretty much everywhere, along Broadway, Times Square, SoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Russia...
G: Did you go to Little Belgium?
M: No...
G: It's a really well-known place!
M: Really?
G: No.
Grinning, Gaston asks if I would like another piece of his home-baked zucchini and cheese quiche. It feels nice to be home again.

Monday, June 20, 2011

New York, New York IX.

241. Almost noon. All luggage is packed, the Hard Rock's café paper bag lying near the doorway, left behind as it now serves as a garbage bag, containing brochures and free daily-printed guidebooks accumulated over the week. Facing each other, we are sitting on the edges of our own double beds, legs swinging, grinning like two little kids who have just spent hours in a candy store. 
"Who is younger, me or you? You, so you stand up first," Anna tells me. 
"Because it's a tradition." 
"Is it an Anna's tradition or a Russian one?" 
"Russian," Anna says, half-convincingly. 
I am skeptical, because as rich as the Russian culture is, surely they do not actually have a tradition that says, the youngest has to the first person to stand up from a hotel bed on the last day of a trip. Nevertheless, I do what I am told, as this has worked out well for me throughout the visit, standing around taking in the view while others hunched over paper maps, scrutinizing subway lines and trying to figure out the next destination. As we leave the hotel room, we whisper, almost idiotically, "Goodbye," to our temporary home in the city that never sleeps.

242. JFK Airport. Being politely pointed out that, perhaps, we are not meant to be in the First Class queue to go through security checking. "How did they know?" I ask Anna, while trying not to vomit from motion sickness after the car ride, as we, in our baggy clothes, leave the line of suits and crisp pants.  

243. Broadway. We have just finished our last bagel and cream cheese breakfast, and are now standing in front of a rusty, dark blue US Postal Service box. The illegible white graffiti scribbled all over the box makes me question its authenticity, but the concept of someone placing a fake postal box on the street (even if it is America) seems unlikely. Apparently, Anna has the same thought process, but in reverse, because as soon as she puts her postcards in, Anna asks if I am sure it is a real postal box. "No," I reply, "it's actually a fancy rubbish bin. Christian might have to come all the way here to read what you wrote." Smiling, I pull down the metal handle to deposit my postcards, one by one, while counting theatrically, "One, two..." The performance quickly gets old, so I put in the remainder in one go.

As we walk off, I feel pleasantly proud of myself for having sent the postcards without a hitch this time. On the postcard to Gaston and Tintin, I have anticipatively written, "PS. Did not miss the flight because of this postcard," as a self-mocking reference to the missed London train and as yet another proof that (most) painful mistakes seem funny after a sufficient amount of time.

Fast forward about eight hours. We are on the plane, heading back to reality. I am reading One Day, by David Nicholls, a story about a boy and a girl, starting out on a St. Swithin's Day, July 15, 1988, when they first spent a night together with different perspectives (one night stand for him and the result of a four-year secret crush for her), and then their friendship developed, in a platonic manner, over the next twenty years or so, but we only get its snapshots on St. Swithin's Day each year. In the beginning, still in their mid-twenties and full of ideologies, hopes and dreams, Emma writes long letters to Dexter about her theatre plays that fail to educate teenagers from rough neighborhoods, and Dexter sends her heartfelt postcards ("VENICE COMPLETELY FLOODED!!!!") from cities around the world as he travels to "broaden the mind." Emma does not like the fact that Dexter replies to her several pages of stories and jokes with three-word sentences, but treasures the postcards all the same. Postcards are tangible proofs that people think of you when they are away, I think to myself, and, briefly distracted from the book, I mentally go over my Postcard List. 

There are two types of lists: the ones that accumulate (The Presidents-of-United-States-of-America List, The Countries-that-You-Have-Visited List, The Stupid-Things-that-You-Have-Done List, etc) and the ones that keep changing (The TIME's-Annual-100-Influential-People List, The New-Year's-Resolutions List, The I-am-Never-Going-To-Drink-This-Again List, etc). Formed almost fifteen years ago, my Postcard List belongs to the latter, partly because people wander in and out of my life, partly because I am terrible at both remembering addresses and keeping them easily accessible while away. One entry, however, has remained constant ever since the debut of the Postcard List: my parents, despite their moving houses almost as frequently as I travel. Parents. Houses. A realization dawns on me. Wincing at this thought, I turn to Anna, "Remember how I showed you one postcard because your name was mentioned, and you couldn't read it because I wrote in Vietnamese? And, after trying to decipher the handwriting covering completely the back of the card, you asked me why I did not leave any space for address? And, I assured you that I would put the card in an envelope because my parents started to prefer it that way?" Anna, too, winces as she realizes where this conversation is heading. I suppose my parents might need to travel to that postal box on Broadway to read about my NY stories and about how sitting at the lunch area on Liberty Island reminded me of our family holiday trips...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

New York, New York VIII.

238. Liberty Island. With a green foam Liberty crown around her head, Anna begins her lunch, declaring, "this is the first time I ever eat fish and chips," as she bites into a piece of fried chicken. 

239. Anna trying to crash a black and white gown party through a back door of The Plaza while wearing a pair of casual sports shoes, with me as a sidekick in my jeans and carrying a baseball bat in my shoulder bag.

240. At the cashier of M&M's World, Times Square, where we have been for the last five consecutive nights. Singing along with Anna, as Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind blasts through the speakers on all three floors. In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New York, New York VII.

235. Afternoon. On the subway from Brighton Beach to Staten Island Pier. After swimming (Anna) and reading (me, the New Yorker) at Coney Island beach. After sharing pelmeni and stuffed cabbage at Cafe Glechik, drinking kvas and listening to familial stories of Ukrainian summers in a distant past. Can't stop laughing with Anna because of a lady sitting Basic Instinct style.

236. In front of Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Anna and I as extras on the movie set of Man In Black 3, with scenes starring Will Smith, Josh Brolin and Jemaine Clement. Being given a service dog, named Nobi, to walk back and forth in the background. Anna being asked, "Why are you wearing blue? You can't walk the dog if you wear blue..." Waving at Will Smith when he is literally one meter away.

237. Past midnight. Walking the fourty-odd blocks along Broadway, from Times Square back to the hotel. Anna singing, "My feet are burning...," a residual effect from the Guano Apes concert.

Friday, June 17, 2011

New York, New York VI.

232. The Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA). A place of...

Fantasy. I and the Village, by Marc Chagall. Overheard: a father, asking his two young daughters, "Do you think you would like to live in this village?"  

Reality. The disturbing images of homeless people in post-Soviet Kharkov, as part of the Case History series, by the Ukrainian-born photographer Boris Mikhailov. 

Nostalgia. The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dalí.

Imagination. Broadway Boogie-Woogie, by Piet Mondrian. Overheard: a female guide, talking to a group of 7-8 year old kids, who are sitting on the floor, in front of the painting, "...the painter fell in love with New York city, so much that he made this painting. Do you think it looks like New York?" The answers were unanimous: "Nooooo..." One girl elaborates, "It does not look like New York at all, but it reminds me of the rhymes of jazz..."

233. Wall Street under a light shower. Wearing a light brown suit and a tie, an African-American, sixy-something man is standing in the middle of the street, delivering an agitated soliloquy punctuated by his own claps. Anna turns around to me, "this guy is having a bad day..."

Fifth Avenue under a heavy shower. Wearing a light grey suit and a tie, a dark-hair, fourty-something man is waiting at the traffic lights, tapping one foot to his iPod music. Briefly, he stops tapping to greet a nearby military man, "Sir, thank you for doing your job..." Anna turns around to me, "this guy is having a good day..." 

Abercrombie & Fitch on Fifth Avenue. At the entrance of this three-storied, low-light, loud-music shop, a half-naked African-American male model stands idly to greet customers, who are encouraged to pose, individually, next to him. Then, as some teenage girl wets her pants, a female employee takes a Polaroid picture of the artificial couple, and gives it free of charge to the girl, so that she can drool over it for the next few weeks.

Times Square. In front of the stairs near the TKTS Broadway-discount booth, a girl is playing guitar, wearing a jeans mini skirt, a pair of white boots, a cowboy hat, and nothing else. "Tips," it is written on her left leg, with an arrow pointing down toward the boot. Gathering around her, men are taking photographs. They probably appreciate her music.

234. Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New York, New York V.

229. Signing a birthday card for the 75-year-old founder of my research area, also known as the only person I have ever met at a conference who wears suspenders. His birthday this year, someone says, was months ago, but given the significance of his age, there are still a card and a cake to celebrate the milestone. 

At the end of the septuagenarian's plenary talk, his postdoc student of over thirty years ago informs him of the birthday surprise. "...Everyone has signed the card, and there is a cake waiting for you outside. Happy 75!" Still standing at the podium, the birthday man looks surprised, then turns sideways to say something to the former postdoc, in a low voice. Silent for a few seconds, then, the former postdoc relays this information to the audience, who are waiting eagerly for the verbal reaction of their carefully planned surprise. "He says he is 76..."

230. Feeling breathless, as I sit two rows away from the Broadway Ambassador Theater stage, realizing my 8-year-long dream of seeing Chicago the musical, with my Belgium's research group.

231. Midnight. With Anna, being the last customers at (aged.), sharing a burger and a mixed berry mojito, talking about love.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New York, New York IV.

226. Conference room. "Oh Gazpacho-y, I need to hold your hand," she says. "Which one, left or right?" I want to know. "It does not matter," she assures me. As soon as we sit down and hold hands, my next year's boss walks past our seats. He looks at the joining hands, pretends not to see anything, continues towards his seat, then turns around to approach us. With a very, very low voice, he tells me, "I can't say it loudly in public... but this gives me a whole new perspective about Geluck's harem..."

227. Central Park. Towards the end of the two and a half hour guided tour, the conference's social event, we are walking past a Wafels and Dinges truck. "Good things Belgian," I read out the slogan to my fellow Bruxellois. The vendor, noticing the attention from our group, asks if we are Belgian. Without thinking, I immediately say yes, surprising the Belgian group, my Australian soon-to-be boss, and even myself...
228. Times Square. Hard Rock's Café. Being called a garbage gut, after I have tasted five out of six meals on the table (skipping one person's dinner because it was a salad), then a woman after my own heart, when I take Claire's plate to finish off her burger and fries. Picking up his knife and fork, the compliment giver then joins me in the quest of cleaning up the table's leftovers. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

New York, New York II.

Writing at literally midnight in the city that never sleeps.

220. Having a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. 

Geluck is, understandably, still unhappy with the whole hotel situation. It is not the matter of how many times the same credit card is charged for one hotel room; it is a matter of the manner the hotel is treating its customers. On top of other things, he is asking for a room change. The details for this request are lost on me, but Anna and I are waiting at the lobby for him to move out of his current hotel room all the same. The clock is ticking, and we are getting late for the conference's continental breakfast. The green neon light across the road flashes enticingly. "Breakfast," it says. I suggest to Anna that we might as well wait for Geluck there. She agrees, and now we are standing in front of a row of bagels of different types, looking equally American and equally delicious. Perpendicular to this glass wall display is a row of oversize muffins, looking also equally American and equally delicious. At the sight of these, it all comes back to me. The three months of having, almost daily, an orange and poppy seed muffin and a double-espresso mixed with honey; then, two days every week, running late for class, I would leave half of the muffin on the table, whining, "I can't finish this!" and instructing CS to eat the remainder for me. The bike rides to House of Bagels on University Avenue, Palo Alto, where I would get a bagel with spicy tuna and a Diet Snapple, and CS would ask for a bagel with something boring like turkey and a bottle of water. I mention the orange and poppy seed muffin to Anna, leaving out the bike rides and the House of Bagels reference, because it probably would not make much sense to her. How do you explain to someone, the concept that you associate being in a country with a specific person?

221.  Conference Session #2. I am on my way to the podium. The chairman, also my boss as of next year, is unprecedentedly giving everyone my entire academic history, "...Université So-et-So -- that probably didn't sound much like French... Gazpacho did her PhD at University X., and very soon she will be at University Y." This introduction is less because it is worthwhile to detail my career trajectory, but more because in this area-specific conference I am a new face, unlike Geluck, who is akin to the second or third god of the area. Before beginning my talk, I glance at him, currently sitting next to B., a female Italian researcher who has been in the game for a little over a decade. It has to be said. "...This is my joint work with Geluck, who is in the audience. In case you don't know him, he is the one who always manages to sit next to a pretty girl..." The conference participants, all of whom know who Geluck is, turn heads to see where he is sitting. To quote the chairman, "I knew he wasn't sitting with the Belgian female group, so I had to check where he was. Next to B., of course..."

Conference Session #3. Vacating her seat, B. is standing in front of the auditorium, about to start chairing this session. Geluck is approaching my row of seats. "Anna, can I sit next to you?"

222. "We've settled on Carmine's. Three doors after 91th street crossing on the left sidewalk," comes an SMS from Geluck, my current boss. Earlier this evening, my next year's boss has asked me, "Are we going to...," then gestured the glass-emptying motion with his hand. At the time, it made me briefly wonder why, out of all the people standing around, he addressed the question to me, but I said yes all the same. Now, as I am left behind at the hotel to go through Claire's tomorrow's talk with her, Geluck is giving me directions to find where my bosses are. 

Carmine's. Drinking beer and having spicy scarpariello wings with my current boss (Brussels), my future boss (Adelaide), and my hopefully-soon-to-be-colleague (Melbourne). The conversations are not what I was expecting. On where we were, or what we were doing, when September 11 happened. On why would you (meaning Hugh Grant, the idiot) cheat, if you were going out with Liz Hurley, but then Shane Warne did the same thing. On whom would you choose, Liz Hurley or Angelina Jolie. One chooses Liz Hurley, on the account that Angelina Jolie seems scary; another does not even know who Angelina Jolie was; and the third chooses Jennifer Saunders. Who is she, I want to know, if she beats both Hurley and Jolie. She is funny, but she is in no competition with these ladies, at least not gravitationally speaking, if you get my drift, I am told. I do, I tell them, and then continue drinking my beer. There is (also) a lot to be said about being in a men-only company.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

New York, New York I.

217. Feeling incredibly excited, as reality has finally sunk in. I am back to one of my favourite cities. Nevertheless, jet lag soon catches up, and instead of writing eloquently about how incredibly excited I am about being in New York, New York, I sent her a one-word email, "Zoeeeee!" 

Some ten minutes later, Zoe wrote back, with an important message. "Gazpaaaacho-y... Catherine wants a light-sabre from Times Square... she lost the second one in her first divorce :D"

218. "Can I borrow your converter?" she asks. Having brought with me a (borrowed) European-North American converter, I am for once actually more organized than Anna. "Sure, why not?" I tossed it over. As she caught the converter, something came to her mind. "Do you remember that getting converters was the first thing we did together?" "Uhm, what?" Jet lag is getting to her too, I think to myself. "In Belgium, I meant." 

October 2009. My international converter broke down on my first night in Brussels. A few days later, after patiently explaining to me where the cemetery, the GB and consequently the electronic store were and worrying that I would still get lost, Anna took me there. Since that day, the converter has remained in my office; Anna and I have become good friends, and are now beginning our sixth trip outside of Belgium together.

219. 8ish pm. Returning from 5 Napkin Burger and eager to sleep, only to find out that our swipe cards can no longer open the hotel room. 

Five minutes later. A phone call from the reception. "Geluck? It's me, Gazpacho. We are locked out of our hotel room, because apparently it has not been paid. Could you please come down and help us?"

8.30ish pm. Still at the reception. "At 3 pm," Geluck begins the story once again, after having been interrupted several times due to various phone calls to the reception, "I paid for one night for my room, and one night for their room. At 5:30 pm, we were informed that our rooms have been paid for, for the whole trip, an-" 
"Sir, you are yelling, and I don't appreciate that." 
"I am not yelling." Geluck says because, well, he is not yelling. 
"The room is not paid for," the African-American receptionist responded icily. 
"I signed two pieces of paper." Geluck can count. 
"I can't find the second one."
"So if you haven't found my piece of paper, I would be locked out of the room and out on the street too?" 
"You are not locked out of the room. Your room is paid for."

8.45ish pm. They have seemingly reached a compromise. 
"Can you please write down what you are telling me? Then I will pay for their room." 
"OK, sir, what do you want me to write?"
"Just what you have been saying."
With a slight shrug, the receptionist grabbed a nearby pen, started scribbling down on a small piece of paper. A few seconds later, a small poem was born.
    Room 508
    is not paid
    for I need a
Her poetic talent, like Geluck's apparent yelling, is not appreciated either. 
"This is not good enough." 
"What do you want me to write?" 
"What you hav-" 
"Here, why don't you write it, and I'll sign?" 
On an A4 sheet, Geluck tells his story once more time. 
"Please sign this. I need your name, your signature, and your ID."
"What am I signing?"
She glances at Geluck's essay for two seconds. 
"I'm not signing this." 

We are back to square one.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


205. When you are surprised by the person you were trying to surprise.  
The left is mine.
(Picture taken by the owner of the right)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


202. Where the breath is, by Adam Zagajewski.

She stands alone onstage
and has no instrument.

She lays her palms upon her breasts,
where the breath is born
and where it dies. 

The palms do not sing, 
nor does the breast.

What sings is what stays silent.

Monday, June 6, 2011


199. Returning from a hiking trip, Hugo has gained a scruffy beard and a new obsession.
Hugo: She didn't look fat a week ago, but now I ain't kn-
The rest of us: No.
Hugo: This December? Well, around that time I ain't h-
The rest of us: Nooo.
Hugo: So, tomorrow, they ain't going t-
The rest of us: Nooooo!!!

200. Actually looking forward to biking home. It is rather addictive, the sensation of being on a bicycle rolling down the two-lane Avenue d'Auderghem, feeling the cool wind against my face and pretending that I were performing a great balancing act. 

Never underestimate the effectiveness of brainwashing. Almost two years ago, I left Adelaide as a Windows-loving Ford driver. Today, I am on a rental bike, with my beloved Macbook Pro in the front basket. Give it a few months and I will be freestyle rapping with my homies, busking near Grand Place. Can't wait.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


196. Sunday morning. Kitchen. As I am making coffee, Tintin comes in. The last time I saw him was most likely Thursday evening. 
Me: Hey, haven't see you for a while. 
Tintin: Yes. How was Friday night? 
M: Uhm... good? 
thinking to myself, why does he ask that?
T: Do you remember seeing me that night? 
M: Did I? At what time? 
T: Around 2 something? 
M: Oh god, did I also go into your room?
T: You don't remember? 
M: No! Oh no. Did I really? 
T: No *composes himself after bursting out laughing* but I heard from Gaston about your little traveling...

197. Near the playground adjacent to Place Jourdan. Walking on an uphill part of Chaussée de Wavre, the young couple suddenly stop. In a summery skirt, the girl walks around to stand behind the boy, and puts her arms around his shoulders. He in turn hugs her backwards, then slightly lowers his back. With one swift movement, the girl hops on. Straightening up, the boy starts moving forward slowly, now carrying both his girlfriend and her shoulder bag. With each step, the girl's body slides down imperceptibly. Less than fifteen seconds later, the girl gives up and gets off the back of her boyfriend. Such a short period of time, so many brownie points earned.

198. It is easy to tell, in a dark cinema, where the group of mathematicians, computer scientists and an economist sit. They are the only ones who laugh when the chief of a research center explains to the protagonist of the movie Source Code what exactly the source code is: "It's uh.. quantum mechanics, parabolic calculus."

Saturday, June 4, 2011


193. Saturday morning. Waking up. You slowly gain awareness of the world around you and of you yourself. The good thing is that you recognize the room you are in -- always a good start. The bad thing is that your head feels a little heavy, and you are hungry. These two feelings are not meant for each other, because then you want to sleep in a little more, and, at the same time, to get up to eat. Finally, food wins. Food invariably does. Carefully, you step out of bed, and, for once, you immediately get changed into something half-decent. A black pair of (short) shorts and a red top. The sort of clothes in which you could even leave the house. And, for once, you immediately comb your hair (still long at this stage). Looking at the mirror, you congratulate yourself for successfully hiding your hangover. Your flatmates will not know.

After all of that, at the sight of you casually walking into the living room, your flatmate -- himself lying on the couch watching cartoon on TV like a six-year-old boy -- starts laughing, without even so much as a "hello" or "good morning", even if he hasn't seen you at all since the day before yesterday. Or... has he?

194. Olivier Dachkin. On a comfy barber chair and in a ridiculously oversize barber coat. Waiting for the coiffeuse to start chopping off your long hair, you are flipping through a copy of Paris MATCH, a French weekly magazine. This issue's front cover features the most famous married couple of the year sitting in the royal carriage and waving hands in tandem, so, obviously, there are numerous pages devoted to the minutest details of the wedding. Pipa vole la vedette! La robe! Les baisers! Just as you are trying to figure out what is written about the bouquet (something something appelés "Sweet William"), your coiffeuse tells you, "Debout!" You are confused, because you think you know what debout means, and you think you hear correctly what she says, but putting the two together does not make sense. Seeing your hesitance, the coiffeuse motions you to stand up, and so you do, after reluctantly putting the Paris MATCH down.

She just wants to readjust your barber coat, you think to yourself. So you stand where you are. But, seemingly not interested in your barber coat in the slightest, she says something and -- seeing that you are completely lost -- impatiently taps on your shoulder, signaling you to move. As soon as you do, she pushes the chair forward and then directs you to where the chair was. As you switch places with the chair and now stand next to your coiffeuse, two realizations come to your mind: the first, slightly pleasant, is that you finally find someone in Brussels who is shorter than you, the second, slightly unpleasant, is that your coiffeuse now begins to work her scissors through your hair. Confused, your post-tequila brain halfheartedly attempts to formulate a French sentence, something along the line of, Why on earth do I have to stand, but you cannot work out how to say "Why on earth", and "Why" just does not seem sufficient, so you give up, and let she do what she wants. 

As your mind wanders in La La Land, suddenly, her thumb pokes your chin. "Pardon!" she hastily apologizes, then, remembering your complete lack of French, she tries, "Sorry!" "It's okay," you tell her. "No speak French?" "No, sorry." This news seems to disturb her, because the very next second she cuts herself. "Merde!" Without offering the English translation, she examines the bleeding finger, in a surprisingly calm and rather curious manner, as if she was wondering whether she could simply ignore the cut and get on with it. Watching her, you frantically try to say, in French, that you are very sorry for her bleeding finger but could she please not touch your hair with it, before she has the chance to actually do it. Unfortunately, if pre-tequila your French speaking is already at the speed of a snail, post-tequila it is at the speed of a snail who takes a nap after every second step. By the time you say, "Je suis d-", she is already walking off, leaving you alone, still in the ridiculously oversize barber coat, standing behind the barber chair, mouth open in mid-sentence and generally looking rather stupid. 

Another coiffeuse comes along. You ask if you could sit down, and, as if the whole standing episode never happened, she says yes, why could you not. Once you sit down, the new coiffeuse continues cutting off the other half of your hair. You wonder whether you should ask this girl why on earth you had to stand, but you still do not know the French translation of "Why on earth", so you pick up the magazine and go back to reading about the bouquet instead. You want to know what they wrote about "Sweet William."

195. "I like them blooooob," Catherine says, hands stretching imaginary bread dough to make a baguette, in a completely non-food-related conversation. Laughing at Catherine's description, Zoe comments, "Living with her is like a week's worth of blog posts." As I try to figure out in my head what I prefer, baguettes or bagels, I realize that I have never really thought about the question before. This is only one of tonight's numerous entertaining topics, most of which I rarely encounter at home, as both of my flatmates are boys. There is a lot to be said about being in a girls-only company. Some of the pluses, apart from stumbling upon the soul-searching question baguettes-or-bagels, include being fed yummy pasta alla carbonara and, some four hours later, being walked to the bike station under the "It does not smell like it is going to rain" rain. A minus, however, is that the name Luigi no longer simply refers to either a Super Mario character or our slender Danish colleague.

Friday, June 3, 2011


190. Zoe showing us a secret message to her father, a sentiment shared by all children who have computer-challenged parents. 

191. Night time. In a back garden, lit up by little orange light balls stringed from one tree to another. "You should have more tequila," Luigi tries to further corrupt Princess Peach, who, unexpectedly, was the initial force behind the tequila movement. "Why should I?" Princess Peach replies, a valid question considering she has fulfilled the requirement of three shots for Luigi to become the sixth victim who will go to see a crappy movie this weekend. "For the company?" Luigi offers. "I have the company anyway." Correct as she is, Princess Peach later does take another shot, and, if my memory does not fail me, the fourth one is also her last. 

My recollections of the remainder of the night are a little hazy. Guitar duets. Melancholic saxophone notes. Wall of beautiful, deep red roses. Cozy table overfilled with plates of delicious Italian food and mismatched glasses. Mario's polite description, to me, of the home-baked bread being served "It's like your bread, but... different." The offhanded declaration "I am an ass-man." Stolen kisses between the hostess and her boyfriend -- visual reminders of love and friendship tonight, here in this small garden. The good thing about having company is that they can remind you of whatever else you forget about the night, as Luigi and Princess Peach have kindly agreed to do. One of them has been slightly concerned about whether the writing might be a little mean. Maybe, maybe not. But, regardless of what they write, I know they themselves cannot be mean if they are the same people who persuaded me to come to the evening, who asked me to text to let them know I arrived home safe and sound even if I got off the taxi only a few minutes later, who exclaimed "You made it!" when I got online afterwards and then proceeded to continue the conversation about boobs and asses.

So, without further ado...

192. The night according to Luigi.

A Trieste-Dinner.

For some time the Super Mario group had talked about having a dinner. Daisy promised several specialties from her hometown, causing ridiculously high expectations. Finally the big day arrived! C. and I arrived early after an efficient trip to Ikea (stupid bed frame). After enjoying a couple of our brought along Belgian beers, the usual suspects began to arrive. We had some olives, white wine and delicious onion bread. The main course consisted of a potato/onion/bacon dish, tomatoes stuffed with breadcrumbs and garlic, fried zucchinis with garlic, eggplant Milanese and bread encrusted ham with sweet mustard. It was superb! If you ever open a restaurant I will definitely become a regular! Dessert was gnocchi, a fruit omelet pie (?) and chocolate mousse with in sweet dough. All very good, although gnocchi was a bit heavy at this point!

At some point here, we brought out the Tequila. A bold and dangerous move, which is the main reason why I tonight will go to the cinema (it is definitely not because ‘Source code’ sounds like the best movie ever). We had a couple of shots with salt and lemon and a ‘Tequila Boom Boom’. At some point in all of this I mentioned that the true way of drinking tequila is as a body tequila. Little did I know this would spark the big conversation of the evening. How, exactly we got from body tequila, to the following is a bit blurry to me, I blame overeating! 

The big question is, are you an ass-(wo)man or a boob-(wo)man? 

I announced myself in the former group. However, getting a straight answer out of most of the others was very hard. Mario gave in and chooses the other group, however I suspect he just wanted out of the discussion. In the end all, but one gave me an answer. You still owe me! Apparently, I will have my answer tonight. Surely we have discussed other stuff as well this wonderful evening in the small garden, but the details are lost to me. Well, except one thing. Toadette texting like crazy and, on the way home in the cab, demanding that we want out for more alcohol! The day after it seemed very wise that the reply was ‘NO!'

The night according to Princess Peach. 

Following Daisy's call to the Super Marios for an original Trieste dinner Princess Peach and Toadette take the ever so handy city bikes and start their journey to this evening's venue. Problems on the way:
- Toadette's apparent problem of staying at the right hand side of their lane which leads to Princess Peach worrying about her getting hit by a car for most of the route.
- Princess Peach's habit of not complying to standard traffic rules leading to Toadette almost getting hit by a car (again!).
- Toadette stopping to pedal at the sight of a small boy and then falling on top of him.
- Toadette screaming on Chaussée de Waterloo as a van tries to pull out of his parking spot just as she passes by.

Finally arrived, Toadette starts drinking wine to ease the tension of the stressful journey. Princess Peach is worrying about the abandoned tennis match (one of the greatest clay court matches played by Roger Federer ever, against Novak Djokovic who has not been beaten in this season upto now), receiving minutely text message updates and shares these with the slightly less interested crowd.

Starting the meal with deliciously freshly baked bread, followed by a variety of vegetables: Zucchine, egg plants, stuffed tomatoes. After the starters, Daisy brings out a grilled ham which was a generous gift of her grandma who must have been worried at the sight of Daisy's happiness when receiving it so she gave her a second one just to be sure that Daisy wouldn't miss her home too much.

Two hours later all wine bottles have been emptied, all food has been eaten, all Super Marios are feeling sufficiently stuffed. This is usually the moment of the night which decides if it will be a nice dinner after which everybody goes home or if it will be a great night in which people stay and talk until three in the morning. This question is settled quickly by Luigi reminding Princess Peach of her agreement to finally drink some alcohol with the group and the bottle of Tequila waiting in the fridge.

Bringing out the liqueur, salt and lemon, Mario, Luigi, Toadette and Princess Peach start the second part of the evening which subsequently leads to
- Toadette starting physically hitting Mario with her tiny fists.
- Mario teaching the others the Italian gesture of somebody behaving in a stupid way ("your brain is moving in a funny way")... often used during the remainder of the night when looking at Toadette.
- Luigi starting the discussion of whether people chose a girl because of her ass or her boobs.
- Princess Peach still thinking of taking the bike home... impolitely adding that she would not take Toadette along given her ability to bike in combination with the alcohol shared so far.

Having finished the Tequila, the only remaining drink is beer which Toadette is refusing to drink ("I cannot go down in percentage of alcohol... I CANNOT"). Her ranting is abruptly ended by Mario handing her his full glass and telling her to drink half of it. This ritual is repeated several times after each turn Toadette seems to be more willing to provoke the remaining Super Marios with random comments. Only ending in the cab with her screaming at them, "You are lame and boring if you do not come to party with me." In this moment Mario leans over to Princess Peach and tells her, "next time, we should stop giving her alcohol earlier..." "Much earlier," she thinks.