Ladies and gents, as I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in soggy Monza, Italy, coasting on about 2 hours of sleep in the last 30 hours. Yeah, I’m lucid as hell right about now, believe that. (Don’t believe that. My primary goal is to walk without swaying and to avoid having a narcoleptic episode on my way down to dinner.) This is my very first trip to Europe, and I gotta say, it’s been interesting. As I spend time over here, I’m going to document my observations.

Observation #1: It’s a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG plane ride to Europe.
Seems obvious, right? If you’re traveling roughly 5000 miles, be prepared for a sore ass. But knowing it’s far is nothing like experiencing that distance firsthand. Especially when there’s a baby on board whose clandestine mission is to utterly destroy any hopes of sleeping by screaming like an enraged banshee whose cable just went out during “The L Word”. Sleeping was vital – I left Dallas at 3:30pm, and landed in London at 6am, only a 9 hour flight, but it spanned a day, and my body was utterly conflicted by two facts: (1) I had been awake for about 19 hours; and (2) the sun’s coming up. The sun won out – no sleep for Damian. Ironic twist: when we deplaned, that Special Ops baby was sleeping. I overheard 2 or 3 people contemplating “accidently” spilling Evian on the infant’s head as they passed her.

Observation #2: British People (Britons) look British.
I don’t know what it is. I’m serious, though – there’s a certain quality among Britons that make them physically look like they’re from the UK. Now, I understand that that’s like saying people from Cleveland look Clevelandic, but I swear it’s true. And it’s not like I’ve never seen a person from England before – because I have – but I certainly haven’t seen a whole herd of ’em strolling around before. They all looked like extras from “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels”.

Observation #3: Pulling out your camera to take pictures is pretty pointless.
An odd quirk about my traveling was that I had to land at Gatwick airport from Dallas, but to depart to Milan (Monza is a suburb of Milan), I had to get to Heathrow, the sexier London airport. I was kinda perturbed about actually changing airports, with the hassle of getting my luggage and arranging transportation, but I was also kinda excited – this was my first trip to London, and I was going to get to see some of the city! It’s truly amazing how wrong you can be at times. All I saw on my 40 minute ride from Gatwick (which I think is Welsh for “It’s raining here”) and Heathrow (which I’m fairly certain means “No shit, Sherlock”) was trees, highways, and funny-looking cars driving on the incorrect side of the road. Oh well – so much for seeing Big Ben.

Observation #4: This ain’t America.
When I got to Heathrow, I learned an important lesson about culture, specifically American culture. You know how, in America, whenever two black guys pass each other on the street, they acknowledge each other with a universal “head up” maneuver? You’ve all seen it (except maybe for Genevieve, who probably has never seen a live black person, living in Iowa and all). Two guys, walking toward each other, will look first to see if they know each other, and if not, they’ll still greet the person in some fashion – usually the aforementioned “head up”. That shit’s instinctual. You learn it young, and it stays with you. Imagine my surprise when I realized that it’s purely an American phenomenon. I saw several black people in Heathrow, and I felt immediately at ease (even though friends like to tell me I’m the whitest black man they know). Black people love seeing other black people in a predominately non-black environment. It makes us feel more comfy. As I approached a black man wearing Western clothing, I gave him the universal head-up move, which I immediately discovered is NOT universal at all. He gave me a look like I had just attempted a reach-around, and kept on truckin’. Lesson learned.

Observation #5: C means hot and F means cold.
On the faucets. As in “caliente” and “frio”. Lesson learned. Lots of lessons learned today.

Observation #6: I fear change.
There’s a bidet in my bathroom. It sits there, squat and menacing, like a porcelain toad. It wants me to place my precious ass there for cleaning, but we just don’t know each other well enough yet.

I’ll keep you updated as the week progresses. I’m sure I’ll have more adventures to report. That bidet better buy me dinner.