Posts Tagged ‘married with children’

Did I Go to Starbucks?

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Of course I went to Starbucks. I went at the first opportunity — which opportunity didn’t present itself until late Saturday afternoon, when I finally got a chance to walk around Sofia in the daylight. Map in hand, I boldly set a course for… well… home. I had my heart set on adding to my collection of Starbucks storefronts in languages other than English. I fondly remembered (well, remembered) this one from Moscow.

And since the Bulgarian language uses the same Cyrillic alphabet, I imagined I would find something similar. So here’s a picture of that.


It seems that since I last traveled to this part of the world, the Starbucks corporate overlords have decided that the countries of the world have gone on long enough using quaint little “languages” of their own, and from now on everything — all signage at least — will be in English. This is how we conquer the world, my American friends: one coffee shop at a time.

Still, it was pleasant to step in out of the cold and into the friendly confines of a place I know so well. Charming barristas, free wifi, comfy seats, strong joe… what more can the idle expatriot ask? This would have been a perfect opportunity to strike up a local conversation and soak up some local culture. Meet some new friends. Take their pictures. Here’s a picture of one of my new friends.


Hey, it’s not that Bulgarians are not friendly (they are; very much so). And it’ s not that they don’t speak English (enough do that you expect it.) And it’s not that I’m particularly anti-social (I like to say sdrawei — hello — as much as the next man.) It’s just that I had my stupid iPhone with me — and did I mention the free wifi? — so instead of being present in my world, I was absent in my device.

That thing is really starting to get on my nerves.

Because it’s so damn entertaining, with it’s web browser and kindle and stupid, pointless, mind-numbing games, and apps, apps, apps, apps, apps. It’s like having your head buried in a good book, except the book is fully multi-media and goes off in a thousand directions at once. At one point I looked up at all the people and thought, they’re just like the images on my iPhone, except in 3-d. I found this strange.

Finally, in self-disgust, I shut off my phone (after checking my email one last time) and headed back out into the cold.

Into the not-too-cold, I’m happy to say. Those of you who followed my Moscow winter adventures will perhaps remember my sliding (as in sliding on a sheet of ice) scale of cold: cold; really cold; stupid cold; ridiculously cold; and “are you freakin’ kidding me?” So far, Sofia has presented only cold and really cold, with just a hint of stupid cold, and for this I am grateful.

I walked in a big, awkward circle through the streets around my hotel, filling in my mental map, acquiring not just the Starbucks, but the local Greek restaurant, one or two casinos where one might play poker (though why that interested me, I cannot imagine) plus various shops and stores, malls, underground passages and random Russian churches. Truth is, I’m less interested in seeing the sights than I am in just filling in that map. I want to feel like I know where things are, so when I walk, it’s a mapping mission. After this afternoon, I think I know my way around.

I am, of course, almost totally wrong. But in a world where Starbucks insists on English-as-the-only-language, I guess one more arrogant American does not rock the balance.

I will say this about Sofia, and from my heart: The city really works for me. After Bucharest, which was a challenge, and Moscow, which made Bucharest look like Moscow, Idaho, it is great to be in a place of civil size. Sofia contains 1.1 million people, I’m told; the country tops out at under 9 million — about the same as Los Angeles County. Downtown is walkable. The streets and roads handle a decent amount of cars. Rush hour — trust me — is nothing. Seriously, Sofia rush hour compares favorably to Moscow (where rush-hour never really ends), Bucharest, even Managua. You can get around. It’s lovely.

Tomorrow is an off-day, then Monday brings me right back to the exciting grind of making television in a place I’ve never made it before. Fact is, I suffer Sunday. It’s nice to have time off (time for more mapquesting) but the truth is I can’t wait for Monday. And who can ask more from a job than that?

The report from the front, then, is that I’m happy in my work, happy with the geography, even happy with the weather (for now, though I know this will change).

So far, Sofia.

More later, -jv

The Jagged Pieces of My Sleep

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Thanks to Dr. Feelnothing, I got my hands on some Ambien for this trip, and so have been taking jet lag by brute force. It’s not a bad way to go — certainly healthier than Scotching myself into a stupor — but it has its disadvantages. For one thing, sleeping pill versus jet lag is a bit of a “clash of the titans” between a stubborn biological clock and the forces of forced unconsciousness, as a result of which, my sleep is a tattered, dream-splattered thing; brief, and not all that restful. Anyway, in the upshot, it’s not quite 6 AM in Sofia, but I’m up and at ’em already. Not complaining! Definitely not complaining. Between yesterday and today I discovered six new challenges of this job (the scope and timetable of it; the present lack of cast for the show; the present lack of set; the fact that I’m expected to teach a five-day, not a two-day, workshop) that excite me no end. Once again I’ve been thrown into the deep end, where the creatures are strange and the water is WARM!

On a note of personal discovery, I just love the found objects of the places I go. The first one presented it to me yesterday morning when I looked out upon daylight from my hotel room window for the first time, and saw this lovely bit:

And you know, it’s not the insects that concern me so much as the etcetera.

I have noted that the difference between myself and normal people is that they take pictures of people and I take pictures of things. What can I say? Things are so amusing!

Anyway, I have no shortage of homework. I have just reviewed the first episode of Married… with Children and noted all the cultural context issues, dated references, and lost-in-translation word plays that make adapting these scripts such a challenge. According to the contemplated production schedule, I only have 119 scripts to go. Fun!

Oh, and not content to do one job when three will do, I’ve just posted a new column on FISH BITES MAN, my soapbox at    You’ll find it at

If you’re liking these blog posts, be sure to tell your friends, foes, co-workers, dogs, members of Congress, whoever. Remember that whatever my text is, my subtext is always the same: Get them hooked on the drug that is John Vorhaus. Also available on facebook and on twitter @TrueFactBarFact.

More later,

– Johnny Jetlag

Ghosts of Sheremetyvo

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

It was a last minute flight change, one that didn’t entirely make sense to me, but instead of flying from LA to Bulgaria via London or Paris, I’ve transited through Moscow. Its lovely Sheremetyvo Airport I know so well from my frequent ins and outs through it over last winter and the winter before. The weather hasn’t changed here. Still crappy. Russian friendliness is unchanged. Still absent. And the smokers…OMG. If you’re reading this in America, I promise you, you haven’t been among smoke like this since your last trip to the 1980s. They have these “smoking areas” about every ten feet. Yes it’s a designated smoking zone, but no one has taught the smoke not to waft.  One must run a certain gauntlet. They should put the smokers behind glass. Where’s a damn smokequarium when you need one?

Anyway,  since I’m in Moscow, I thought I’d post my favorite pink pig picture, from my very first trip here in 2007.

I’m awfully glad to be just passing through this place. I have no real desire to work here again. Apart from its vast and overwhelming Russianness, I just a sucker for the unknown. That’s why I’m so excited to be going to Bulgaria. I mean, the place could suck, but I won’t know until I get there, and until I get there it’s like buried treasure in my mind. I mean, I know NOTHING about the place. There were some wars and crusades and such. The language looks much like Russian. The weather seems to be much like Moscow (oh boy). Apart from that… “I couldn’t find Bulgaria on a map of Bulgaria.” So I’m flying blind, which is just how I like to fly.

Speaking of flying, they seem to be calling my flight (though they’re calling it in Russian, so how do I know for sure?) Time to go run the gauntlet of the smoke.

More later, -jv

See Ya in Sofia

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Hi Campers,

As some of you know, I’ll be decamping this week to Sofia, Bulgaria, where I will be recruiting/training the writing staff of the Bulgarian adaptation of Married… with Children. I undertake this enterprise for Sony, for whom I did similar work in Russia two winters ago. (Why do they always send me places with crappy winter weather? Don’t they have any nice shows in Barbados?) I’m really looking forward to the trip, and looking forward to filling in some blanks in my (and maybe your) understanding of Bulgaria.

Here’s what I know about the country so far.

So… good news… we have nowhere to go but up.

Anyway, right now I have to go pack my mukluks. You can never have too many mukluks in cold climes.

More — well, everything — later, -jv