Fun Beer Hall History

The Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, Munich’s famous “hofbrauhaus”, was founded in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V. It is one of Munich’s oldest beer halls. It was originally founded as the brewery to the old Royal Residence, which at that time was situated just around the corner from where the beer hall stands today. The beer quickly became quite popular thanks to the first brewer, Heimeran Pongratz, and the famous “Bavarian Beer Purity Law” of 1516 that stated that only natural ingredients could be used in the brewing process.

Maximilian I, Wilhelm’s son and heir, did not care much for the popular Braunbier, which was the dark and heavy brown beer. So, in the beginning of the 17th century Maximilian I turned the brewery’s focus onto wheat beers and forbade all other private breweries to brew wheat beer thus creating a monopoly. In 1612, Heimeran Pongraz’ successor, Elias Pichler was under pressure to brew a stronger beer hence the Maibock.[1] In fact, the Maibock beer became so famous that it once saved the city from annihilation. When King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden invaded Bavaria during the Thirty Years’ War in 1632, he threatened to sack and burn the entire city of Munich. He agreed to leave the city in peace if the citizens surrendered some hostages, and 600,000 barrels[citation needed] of Hofbräuhaus beer.

George Orwell on the Sagrada Familia

For the first time since I had been in Barcelona I went to have a look at the cathedral–a modern cathedral, and one of the most hideous buildings in the world. It has four crenellated spires exactly the shape of hock bottles. Unlike most of the churches in Barcelona it was not damaged during the revolution–it was spared because of its ‘artistic value’, people said. I think the Anarchists showed bad taste in not blowing it up when they had the chance, though they did hang a red and black banner between its spires.

  • George Orwell on the Sagrada Familia, Homage to Catalonia, 1938


I’ve put together a photo album of some of the better shots I’ve taken over the last few weeks. I’m going to continuously update at it as I go so be sure to check back if you’re curious.

I apologize for using Google Plus instead of Facebook or Dropbox or some other less irritating sharing service. I’m using a Chromebook, which seems to be absolutely hellbent on preventing me from using any non-Google related software.

Seville — Postmodern Amoeba Behemoth, Urban Renewer — Andalusian Vistas — Over the Sierras — Fortress of the Apes

May 4, 2015, 10:00 pm

Málaga, Spain

Ten days. I have not updated this in ten days. A despicable creature I am.


The ride from Ayamonte–the Spanish town across the river Guadiana, which marks the border between Portugal and Spain–to Seville was flat and generally pretty unremarkable. I had at the wind at my back and I followed a service road that passed through endless large farms and paralleled the highway.

Seville, however, was a different matter. A beautiful city. I stayed two nights there in a hostel close to the center. A labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets that spill suddenly into large squares flanking some grand building, a cathedral or a theater or a…well, whatever this is:


The Parasol Metropol

It is the Parasol Metropol, a gargantuan wooden…building? Canopy? “Big Dumb Object”? Whatever it is, it dominates one of Seville’s central squares and was constructed, apparently, to revitalize the once shabby downtown area with its sheer weirdness: A strange, irresistibly modern bloom to attract all the fancy-pants bougie bees. And given the number of new restaurants and shops in the square, with only the faintest traces of a few remaining rundown tenements, it appears to have worked.

Cynicism aside, I actually like it a lot. It’s deeply strange, for sure, and quite jarring at first sight, but after a few beers, cast in the glow of the sunset, there’s something peaceful and comforting about it and its gentle, organic curves, like sitting beneath the branches of great wizened oak tree.

Later that day I met a young German man and his two Austrian compatriots. They told me that they were going to Ayamonte–where I had just been the day before–to attend a week long “psy-trance” festival. I couldn’t decide if the phrase “psy-trance” was more amusing spoken in the girls’ dainty Austrian accent or in their friend’s thick German accent. They urged me to turn around and accompany them. I said no, I was going the other way, towards Granada.

“Ah! The Alhambra!” one of the Austrians exclaimed. “You must smoke some hash before you visit it.”

I promised them I would.

I got a late start leaving Seville. Like before, the road started off flat and boring, passing for many miles through the ragged edge that separates the suburban sprawl from the true farmland. Gradually, though, it turned beautiful: Rolling (it’s always rolling) hills of wheat, small towns off the road clustered around the ruins of old castles and towers, the peaks of the Sierra Grazalema growing larger on the southern horizon.


I rode until dusk, which at this time of year, this far west in the timezone, is just before 10:00 pm. I camped in some kind of deserted picnic area nestled between two farms.


The Road to Gibraltar 

I woke early the next morning to the dreadful cacophony of what seemed could only be a competition among a dozen roosters to see who could be the noisiest asshole.

I packed my gear and rode into the mountains.

The first half of the day was all uphill. But it was gorgeous, and I don’t mind suffering so much as long as I am suffering in a beautiful place.


The town of Ubrique, nestled along the cliffs.


The view from the top looking west back towards Seville.

From the top of the range, for almost forty miles the road gently switch-backed south to the sea. I had it virtually to myself, aside from the odd cow or two. The road was narrow and in places the outer lane had collapsed–in a flood or in a rock slide, I suppose–into the valley below. They were certainly the most beautiful miles of the trip and perhaps among the most beautiful I have ever ridden.

Screenshot 2015-05-03 at 11.26.47 PM

But all beautiful roads end, and as I approached the coast traffic gradually increased and before long I was shunted onto a highway. Not too much later the fabled Rock of Gibraltar loomed into view.


I checked into a hotel in La Linea, the Spanish town right on the border.


I took the day to explore Gibraltar and it turned out to be one of the more remarkable places I have ever been. The oddness starts immediately. You walk up to the border control station and there standing in front of you are two British customs agent, stiff upper lip and checkered hats and all. They glance at your passport and wave you through and walk out the door into the United Kingdom.

Or, more precisely, you walk out onto a gigantic runway in the United Kingdom. Winston Churchill Avenue, the only road across the isthmus into Gibraltar, bisects Gibraltar’s airport (also a RAF base). When a plane is due to land or take off, they close a gate very similar to what happens at a railroad crossing.

The town itself in Gibraltar is pretty dreadful. Gibraltar is a duty-free tax zone and so the main street is crammed with luxury shops selling watches, perfumes, liquor, and cigarettes. Everywhere there are pubs advertising their fish and chips and full English breakfasts. After exchanging some euros into pounds and buying some postcards and English stamps, I retreated up the hill to the tram that travels to the top of the rock.

My reaction upon reaching the top went something like this:

“Holy shit! That’s Africa! Just right there across the straight! They weren’t fucking kidding!”


Soon followed by:



Yes, they weren’t kidding about the monkeys either. Rock Apes, Barbary Apes, Macaques–whatever you call them, they’re no fucking joke. It is their rock and you are there at their pleasure. They pick their own assholes and then they pick each other’s assholes, they fondle themselves and then they fondle each other–and then the leap on your head and stick their fingers in your hair. They try to snatch your camera. When you try to pass one that’s sprawled across the path, he stares at you with a dull gaze and then returns to whatever disgusting picking, flicking, fingering, or fondling he was engaged in before you interrupted him.

Leaving the monkey-infested visitor’s center at the top of the tram, I walked south along the top of the rock. Everywhere there were the ruins of centuries of fortifications–Moorish, Spanish, English–seemingly all jumbled together, remnants of the many empires that have fought over this strategic location in countless wars. There’s a Moorish fortress at the base of the rock. There are the remnants of bastions built by the Spanish. And, most prominently, there are crumbling bunkers and pillboxes and tunnels and ramparts constructed by the British over the course of the three centuries they have controlled the rock. While most of the fortifications have been left to fall into ruin, there is still a British military presence on the rock. Several areas are off limits and at the highest point there is a cluster of radio dishes and antennas, no doubt employed in some form of shady post-9/11 espionage.


A large WWII-era cannon facing across the straight. According to a plaque nearby, it had the range to fire clear across into Morocco.


Another view of the cannon. It now serves as convenient perch for the seagulls to shit off of.


A formidable redoubt.


And many of the fortifications point north, defending against the Franco-Spanish hordes.

Tunnels everywhere. The rules seems to be

Tunnels everywhere. The rules seems to be “feel free to explore but please for the love of God don’t hurt yourself”.

The entrance to the sinister-sounding

The entrance to the sinister-sounding “Spy Glass” facility.


“To the ancient world Gibraltar was known as mons calpe. One of the legendary pillars created by Hercules, as a religious shrine and as an entrance to Hades. To many it signified the non plus ultra, the end of the then known world”

Also, on the farthest corner of the rock, there is, oddly enough, an old Jewish cemetery. After the English seized Gibraltar from the Spanish in 1704 during the War of Succession, Gibraltar become a refuge for many of Spain’s persecuted minorities and especially its Jews, all of whom had suffered under the Inquisition. Gibraltar is still home to a small Jewish population descended from these refugees.

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I am going to end this here because I have little to report from the days since leaving Gibraltar. From Gibraltar, I continued along “La Costa Del Sol” to Málaga, where I am now. The coast is blighted with tacky resorts, many left derelict in the wake of real estate bubble. There is no continues local road along the shore, so I had to ride most of the way on the highway, which was horrible. Tomorrow I turn back inland and ride to Granada and I am looking forward to that.

Day 9 (Albufiera, PT): The Terrible Power of Seemingly Insignifcant Elements Within Complex Systems — Ruins! — One Very Very Long Day — Immune System Woes — Among the Sullen Old Brits on Holiday

I came down with a  cold so I’ve been shacked up in a cheesy resort in a town called Albufiera on the south Portuguese coast for last couple days while I recover. It’s nothing too bad but still bad enough to make the thought of riding unappealing. Good news is that I feel better today. Better news is that I’m hoping I feel well enough tomorrow to ride the ninety miles to the Spanish border and the city right beyond it, Huelva.

And the best news of all? I now have some time to catch up on the blog. I will proceed chronologically, starting with my first day on the road, April 20th.

April 20th, Day 5 on The Continent, Day 1 of The Ride

My first day began late, as is often the case with first days of bike tours. You always discover that something is fucked up: a broken spoke; an essential tool that’s gone missing; your head, because you stayed up too late the night before drinking. Chalk it up to Murphy’s Law. (Or, if we’re going to honest here: “Son, you don’t have bad luck. The reason bad things happen to you is that you’re a dumbass.”)

In this case, like a dumbass, I snapped the head off a crucial bolt that holds one of my racks to my bike because it wasn’t threaded straight into the braze-on and tried to force it (you know, exactly like a dumbass would) rather than remove it and start over correctly. It’s a lesson that the universe has tried to teach me repeatedly and which apparently I have failed to absorb: If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Start over. Returning to square one is preferable to having to go on Amazon and order a whole new game of LIFE because you got frustrated that your friends were all retiring to Millionaire Acres with the five plastic peg children or whatever and your empty minivan is heading straight for the nursing home and so you spun the spinner too hard and it exploded. (A dubious metaphor. LIFE is the worst board game ever and obviously tool of the capitalist class to inculcate in children the lie that is the materialist conception of the American Dream.)


Just because a part is small and cheap and easily overlooked (in fact, it is the very likelihood that it will be overlooked that makes it pernicious) does not mean that it does not have the terrible power to totally fuck your shit up if it fails. One corroded o-ring caused the Challenger to explode–and at least as tragically, one tiny snapped bolt threatened to ruin my vacation.

But it all turned out fine thanks to the heroic efforts of a mechanic at one of Lisbon’s few bike shops, bikeiberia (Go rent a bike from them if you’re in Lisbon! They’re awesome!) who was able to drill the bolt out (breaking three drill bits in the process). Then the shop offered to use their retail discount to ship my two enormous cases to Barcelona. Then they asked me for thirty euros. I wanted to give them sixty but they wouldn’t take it. In even the darkest, dustiest, and dingiest bike shops of the world, heroes lurk.


A match on the Hindenburg, the o-ring on the Challenger, the spinner in LIFE

With my mechanical issue resolved and my bags shipped, I was ready to go.

So I hit the water. The only way to cross the river with a bike is to take the ferry. Then I rode about twelve miles through a run-down industrial suburb of Lisbon to…another ferry. This one took me from Setúbal, a sort of satellite city of Lisbon, to Tróia, a sandy peninsula and popular beach-y weekend destination (sort of similar to North Carolina’s Outer Banks). With the sun setting, I decided it was time to camp for the night, despite the measly twenty miles I’d covered.

And I’m glad I did, because I found what turned out to be a truly singular campsite. Just a few hundred feet from the ferry terminal, there was a gated dirt road leading off the (deserted) main road, with a sign “Ruínas Românticos”. With no one in sight and the guard booth vacant, I decided to investigate.

After following the dirt road for a mile or so, I came to a beach with the ruins of a villa on it. Next to the villa were more ruins–the promised ruínas românticos: the stone foundations of what had once been a Roman village. And then, for good measure, there were yet more ruins on the site: the remains of what a plaque explained was a seventh century Christian church.

And no one in sight. All I could hear was the distant bleat of the ferry’s horn and the cries of the terns swarming in and out of the shattered roof of the villa.


The villa and my trusty steed. (And experimenting with HDR)


The view over the ruins and the river to Setúbal.

The ruined villa's forbidding facade

The ruined villa’s forbidding facade

I climbed the fence and set to exploring. I was stunned that I had such an eerie and beautiful place to myself. That may partly be due to the fact that it is still the low season for tourism here. Or it may be that Europeans are simply more blasé when it comes really old stuff, given that they are surrounded by it.

With a clear starry ski and a steady breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay, I didn’t bother with my tent. I laid out my sleeping pad and sleeping bag…and then couldn’t sleep because I was still jet-lagged and it generally takes me many nights to adjust to sleeping on the ground. So, surrounded by ancient ruins, the stars glimmering above and a crescent moon hanging from the sky, I lay awake curled up on the beach…reading my Kindle and sporadically checking my iPhone to see if anyone had liked my recent social media posts. [*Cue lugubrious philosopher voice*] I suppose such are the ironies of our modern existence, yes?

April 21, Day 6 on The Continent, Day 2 of The Ride

I did not really sleep that night. At some point in the night grew aware that my sleeping bag was growing damp from the mist coming off the sea. Soon enough there was no denying that I was, in fact, getting quite soggy. But in my stupor I did nothing and when my alarm went off at 7:00 I peeled myself out of my sleeping bag, packed up, threw my bike, my gear, and finally myself over the fence, and rode off.

I rode all day and then a significant portion of the night, too. The first hundred miles was perhaps the easiest century I’ve ever ridden. I had the wind at my back, it was relatively flat, it was warm and sunny, and I was riding along the ocean. Later in the afternoon, I cut inland into the countryside. It was beautiful. Everywhere there were citrus groves of gnarled orange and lemon trees, shaggy eucalyptus forests, and ruined stone farmhouses. It not only all looked beautiful, it smelled amazing: A medley of orange blossoms and eucalyptus, faintly cut with the earthy smell of manure.


The Portuguese countryside. The roads were virtually empty.

Then, around the 110 mile mark, it was no longer possible to deny that the twisty, windy section of the road I was following on my map indeed indicated a monstrous switch-backing climb…over a genuine mountain range, the the Serra de Monchique. Desperate to sleep indoors after such a long day and so little rest the night before (not to mention my dread of my damp sleeping bag), I kept climbing. And climbing. And then it was dark and it started to rain. Bicycle narcosis started to set in. The cleat on my shoe came loose–a very minor and easily fixed mechanical issue, one that would normally not give me pause–but I found myself screaming at my wrench for its impudence when it slipped from my hand. Then I ran out of cookies and so I started screaming at the empty wrapper for daring to contain so few cookies.

After a series of infuriating false summits (I screamed at every one of them for their falseness), I finally felt myself beginning to roll down hill. Several miles later, bedraggled and utterly exhausted, I arrived at my hotel in the town of Monchique. I took one of the best showers of my life, ate an entire pack of sliced ham and an entire pack of cheese (out of bread), talked to Lilian for a bit, and then passed out and enjoyed the first truly sound nights of the trip.

Total mileage: 140.


Supposedly what I would have seen from the top of the Monchique Mountains if it hadn’t been dark

April 22, Day 7 on The Continent, Day 3 of The Ride

I permitted myself to sleep in after the grueling ride the day before. When I eventually got on my bike, I was greeted with a gradual ten mile descent to the city of Portimão, on Portugal’s southern coast. I spent most of the afternoon fucking around there: I lingered over three or four or another number of espressos, I wandered around a huge supermarket, I found some gas for my cooking stove, I ate a pretty good sandwich and washed it down with a couple beers.

The Holy Trinity: Espresso; Sumol, a kind of semi-sweet orange soda similar to Orangina; and tarta, a tasty custard pastry that is available in even the lowliest gas station.

The Holy Trinity: Espresso; Sumol, a kind of semi-sweet orange soda similar to Orangina; and tarta, a tasty custard pastry that is available in even the lowliest gas station.

The view from the cockpit, sunset at my back. Sure to become a very familiar sight.

The view from the cockpit, sunset at my back. Sure to become a very familiar sight.

I concluded my day in the town of Albufiera, where I checked into a cheesy (but very cheap! 20 euros for a comfortable room with a kitchenette!) resort that clearly caters to the hordes of English tourists that descend on the Mediterranean coast during summer months. Then I went to bed feeling like I had some kind of allergy.

April 23, Day 8 on The Continent, Day 4 of The Ride

…and then I woke up undeniably sick with a cold. I booked the room for another night and spent most of the day sitting around sniffling and feeling too sick to ride but not quite miserable enough to take any satisfaction in feeling sorry for myself. Poor me.

April 24, Day 9 on The Continent, Day 5 of The Ride

And this brings me to today. Again, I woke up feeling sick enough that I didn’t want to ride and risk setting my recovery back so I booked one more room at the resort. I’ve been camped out at the bar, from where I’ve been observing the desultory old English couples taking advantage of the off season discounts. It’s less than riveting work and I don’t suppose that anyone even really has to do it.

But I feel well enough that I expect that tomorrow I will by on my way. The Spanish border is less than 100 flat miles away and I am excited to dust off my Spanish.

Day 7 (40 miles; Monchique, PT -> Albufeira, PT): The Long Catch Up — The Journey Begins — Ruins! — One Very Long Day — One Very Short Day — Rethinking the Route

*Note: I intended to write one long summary of the last four days. Instead I wrote a medium-length summary just of my last days in Lisbon. It’s 3AM here and I worry that I may have a bit of a cold and I want to ride the eighty or so miles to Spain tomorrow–so I’m saying goodnight for now. Let the title of this post serve as a teaser. I promise to get fully caught up next time.

The thing about not sitting around Lisbon with itchy feet and too many words and too few adventures is that now that I’m on the road I won’t be updating this as much. If you look to the right of your screen, you will see Instagram and Twitter “widgets”. I will post to at least one of these, at least once, at least every day. Twitter if I’m feeling tell-y, Instagram if I’m feeling show-y.

First, some highlights of my last two days in Lisbon:

I visited the Museum of Ancient Art. It seems unfair to compare it to the Prado in Madrid, but I can’t help it. Compared to the Prado, even the Louvre was disappointing (even if it was truly overwhelming, not necessarily in a good way). So the Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon is just OK. I amused myself by taking pictures of paintings and then adding captions and making immature modifications to them on my phone:

IMG_3033  IMG_3038

One artist in their collection, however, defies even my powers to mock and cheapen all that anyone would place on a pedestal before me–and that’s Hieronymus Bosch. They have only one of his triptychs, The Temptation of St. Anthony, in their collection but it may be the most famous after The Garden of Earthly Delights (In the Prado, of course). Here it is:

Jeroen_Bosch_(ca._1450-1516)_-_De_verzoeking_van_de_heilige_Antonius_(ca.1500)_-_Lissabon_Museu_Nacional_de_Arte_Antiga_19-10-2010_16-21-31 (1)

Go ahead. Zoom in. Take a look around. I fucking dare you.

Some of my favorite details:


There are a few artists–Cormac McCarthy in literature, Tom Waits in music–who I can’t help suspecting fell from outer space. They’re too weird and seemingly with too few precedents to justify their lunatic originality. This was painted in 1501. Nothing looks like it for four-hundred years.

The next day I rode my bike out along the river to two of Lisbon’s iconic monuments, Belém Tower and the Monument to the Discoveries. I can’t decide if I think the Monument to the Discoveries is ugly. I think it kind of might be. Doesn’t help that the huge crucifix-covered monolith whiffs slightly of Franco-style Fascism: It was built to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator by the right-wing nationalistic regime that preceded today’s republican government.

On the other hand, the Tower of Belém is gorgeous, and has a fascinating history. As is tradition on trans-continental journeys, I anointed my wheel in the waters of the Mediterranean. With some luck I’ll do the same in the Bosporus.


A nice lady took a picture of me hamming it up:




Day 3: It lives! – Exploring by bike – Itchy feet

Today I reassembled my bike. Everything appears to be in good working order, to my relief — nary a busted spoke!

The bike, in pieces, stuffed in my bag.

The bike, in pieces, stuffed in my bag.

The magic wrench that transforms two useless halves of a bicycle into one functional whole bicycle

The magic wrench that transforms two useless halves of a bicycle into one functional whole bicycle.

It lives!

It lives!

And then I took it for a test ride in Alto Bario, an old neighborhood of tangled narrow streets (some of which are so steep that they’re equipped with trams).

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Getting the first tingles of itchy feet. It will be good to finally get on the road Sunday.

Day 2: Wanderings — Pictures — Finding a chain tool –The route materializes!

Airbnb host extraordinaire, Jan, in his shop.

Airbnb host extraordinaire, Jan, in his shop.


A view of the river Tagus from São Jorge Castle.


And perhaps most importantly, I found a chain tool.

And perhaps most importantly, I found a chain tool.

…and the guy in the bike shop was super helpful and explained the best way to escape the city is to take a ferry across the river to Almada (no bikes on the bridges) and then to head south down the coast. Also, apparently this is a pretty popular ride–he said that every Christmas there’s an organized ride from Lisbon down to Lagos, on the southwestern tip of Portugal. Lots of good camping, too.

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Seems I have a route for Sunday, my first day on the road!

Tectonic Wrath

A rad postcard depicting the seriously un-rad 1755 earthquake that destroyed Lisbon, marked the birth of seismology, and prompted Enlightened Europe to wonder if maybe natural disasters were caused by natural phenomenon rather than the wrath of God. #1755neverforget #godisdead

Day 1: Lisbon!

One red eye flight later (with a bonus layover in the Azores!) and I have arrived in Lisbon!

I met my host and Dutch ex-pat, Jan, at the men’s clothing boutique that he owns not far from the center of the city. His apartment is only a few blocks from the store. The room I am renting from him is very comfortable. On the table he had left a bottle of wine and a glass and a corkscrew, all carefully arranged. Above the table there’s a large window that opens onto the street below, and if I crane my neck to the right I can see the Tagus River, which bounds the southern edge of the city and which flows west into the Atlantic Ocean just a few miles beyond.

After passing out for a few hours, I went out to explore and find something to eat. I walked down to the water and the sun was setting over the river in such a way that even people who I heard speaking Portuguese were pulling out their phones to take pictures.


Walking east, I came to the city’s main plaza, the Praça do Comércio, which is dominated by a giant statue of Joseph I of Portugal (reading Wikipedia articles! learning facts about history!), who was king of Portugal during a massive earthquake and tsunami, in 1755, which completely leveled the city and killed more than 100,000 in one of the worst natural disasters in history to that point. Afterwards, the king had his planners rebuild the majority of the city center according to “the enlightened model” (like Peter the Great’s St. Petersburg and, later, Napoleon III’s Paris), with large open squares and straight boulevards and streets. The king is also credited with developing the earliest earthquake-resistant buildings, asking his engineers to build scale models of all the new structures so that they could be run through earthquake simulations, by having his troops march in circles  around them.


It is peculiar then that on the monument Joseph I there’s a lot of trampling going on: Joseph I trampling snakes, a horse trampling a man, and then for good measure, an elephant trampling what looks to be the same unlucky man. Not sure what that’s all about.

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Finally, after wandering around for a couple more hours, I retired to a cafe for a late dinner and to write the first barrage of postcards. Almost too picturesque: the walls of a cathedral, tufts of grass sprouting between the masonry, looming across the street; a line of orange trees, their scent mingling in the evening air with the plumes of tobacco smoke emanating from the other tables. (If you will…)


It is morning of day 2 now. Stay tuned!