Volcanic Ash


Garbageville and waffles in Brussels , 2010


In March of 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted in Iceland leaving millions of travelers stranded across the world. I happened to be in a fairytale land known as Luxembourg at the time with a friend visiting from the United States. The next snipet is how I found myself in the squalor that is Brussels, Belgium…

 An usual Icelandic volcano eruption compounded by a usual train strike in France made the Luxembourg train station was in utter chaos. One frustrated traveler was arguing with a ticket attendant, periodically switching between in French, Italian, and German. The stress was contagious and we began to feel that our immediate departure was more necessary by the minute. We decided to depart on the next train out, either to Brussels or Paris- whichever was first.  After about an hour, we hopped on the train to Brussels, ecstatic to have escaped the madhouse in such a short time. 

Once the train station was no longer in sight we began to take notice that, although there was a shortage in available transportation, the train was scarcely populated . The woman behind me reeked of stale cigarettes and her mutt continuously emitted a stench of rotten eggs. Every person in the car had a cellphone that rang on maximum volume. The ring, however, was not a standard ringtone but one that was a medley of the most irritating technical sounds obtainable. I began to be convinced that all the other passengers were in a conspiracy to see who could make me jump from the yellow tented windows onto the track. 

Immediately once we crossed the border into Belgium, it became gray and cloudy. The landscape was gritty, the grass in the passing fields was dead. As we began to approach Brussels, vile graffiti became more prevalent. Homeless (or otherwise bored vagrants) drank cans of Belgian beer outside Gare du Midi amongst construction, throwing their empty cans into the dust – adding to the piles of filth.  The Fine Art Museum was across the street. The color of its columns matched the grey of the street and the sky.

Meandering the streets, a storyline began to take over my mind: I’m in a post-apocalyptic world where a virus inducing dementia has taken over. The virus causes paleness and cravings for waffles from contaminated street vending carts. Instead of the Bourbon Street Lucky Dog carts, these carts were selling waffles instead of three-year-old minced meat conglomeration. I deduced this was the source of the virus. 

The whole city is an anarchic toilet bowl. Instead of avoiding the litter on the streets, couples strolling hand-in-hand purposefully kick garbage while smiling at each other. A downtown art installation consisted of a giant orange construction cone.  The city produces wafts of waffles, simulating being in a port-o-john while eating a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. If I had an appetite before arriving, it has now been bludgeoned into nothingness. I deduce that I will not be joining Erica for dinner, but drinking myself into an intended oblivion. 

Irony mocked us continuously. Ironically, these were the people known for producing comics. The fact that these dirty, barking homeless beings’ one call-to-fame was laughter and delectable sweets was impossible to imagine. The sole Tabac nearby carried a sparse selection of intoxicants: merlot or peach schnapps. 

A peeing cupid statue dons the mantle over the front door to our hostel, the statue a welcoming to all the tired, poor guests to the Sleep Well Hostel.  Needless to say, I was drinking straight from my bottle of merlot by 20:00 in the lobby. Walking up to the front desk (bottle in hand) I asked the receptionist, a Hunchback Dilbert, where to find the book exchange. The only geek to ever state, “I’d rather watch the movie then read the book” leads me to a dungeon where the ‘book exchange’ was located. It only consists of Lord of the Rings knock-offs. I tried to imagine Hunchback Dilbert joking with friends over waffles in a diner. The scene quickly ends in bloodshed after pancakes are brought.

Around 2:00AM a homeless man acquired a jackhammer and began to test it outside the hostel. Although we were on the 3rd floor, it sounded as though the Jackhammer Villain was beside my bunkbed.  I awoke from my booze-induced coma delirious but ready to escape. Once we arrive at the train station, we drop 100 Euros, no longer pennywise, and step into our escape car as the whistle blows.