I suppose the vinovice is partially to blame. Vinovice is grape brandy that knocks your socks off and makes you feel like a two-hundred foot tall dinosaur named Seth. Whenever a new brandy comes into my life – which happens often since the Czechs are proficient in the field of distilling fruits in order to get you hammered – I always find that the night equals interesting language.
Moreover, it’s probably the fact that I am hanging out with five language teachers. Therefore, the discussion keeps popping back to language acquisition. It’s in my head, so my ears are more in tune with the weirdness of language.
Also, the vinovice.
There have been two sentences tonight that I have never heard before. As a language teacher and a George Carlin nut, I have always loved these. They occurred in the same interaction.
“If I see someone vomit I can’t get it out of my head for a month.”
“Yeah, I’m the same way if I see blood come out of a penis.”
Sure enough, when I told him I was a runner, he shook his head and said, “No.”
“You should swim instead. Running is giving you these problems.”
Translation: You are forty and your body hates you.
Despite the fact that I used to look for excuses to get out of physical activity, I was truly bummed. Running was a way to keep active, clear my mind, and keep me from needing a muumuu and a motorized scooter with a Home of the Whopper decal on the side.
I needed to do something physical to counterbalance my predilection for hotdogs, pizza, Irish Whiskey, and couch.
And yet, I knew swimming wasn’t it. Oh, swimming is fun, and you can sometimes trick yourself into feeling like you’re at summer camp. But swimming not only involves being almost naked in public, it involves being almost naked in public while exercising. Plus, there’s my odd back hair patters to consider and the fact that swimming involves urine, only some of which is mine.
When a friend suggested I try something called the 7 Minute Workout, I slightly scoffed. Slightly, because anything involving the word workout can make me its prison bitch, it was the 7 Minute portion that got my scoff. Still, after reading about it and losing a key battle in the war against the belt notches, I decided to give it a go.
After an hour, I realize that I have not yet sat down. I’ve eaten standing at my kitchen counter, read my coursebook walking around the flat.
I can’t shake the Sunday Edge.
I have never liked Sundays. They have always been the day before everything starts: school, work, a new week of anxiety and stress. And so even though it is a day off and a day which in Czech almost literally translates to “don’t do anything” I often find myself edgy and glum.
More than that, Sundays have always seemed a rather lonely day. Even in a house filled with people, Sundays seem to me a day when every person seems unavailable, stuck in their own Sunday world.
So I walk around in circles wondering how to deal with the Sunday Edge. How?
Sometimes we drink.
Sometimes we clean.
Sometimes we walk to the mall and get our phone service changed.
There are two students in my afternoon class. Normally, there are about five, but it’s the first gorgeous week of spring and I suspect that some students are getting lost in the park on the way to school.
My two students are hard-working and pleasant women; they are sitting on either ends of a long set of desks with four chairs in between them.
A spritz of anxiety peppers my neck. They scan their phones as I organize my books.
We begin by checking the homework and I follow up with two discussion questions to transition to the class theme. As there are only two of them, I sit down and suggest we discuss them together.
They shift a little, pointing their knees in the others’ general direction.
They do not say a word.
So…what do you think?” I say to one of them.
After a long, long, long moment of contemplation, she says: “It depends.”
Then comes another period of contemplation that destroys my soul. I look at the other one, who says: “I agree.”
Another spritz of anxiety.
I was in Vyšehrad a few weeks ago, it was the first blue sky of the spring and so a friend and I grabbed a beer, sat on a bench, and chatted. We sat down near a group of young women who were engaged in the act of selfie taking. We spent a little more than an hour there and the girls spent that entire time taking selfies.
There were traditional selfies, group selfies, selfies with the sky, selfies with the ground, selfies with the statues of Přemysl and Libuše.
OK, people, what’s with all the selfies? Are we just that obsessed with our own faces? I have taken perhaps four selfies in my life and each one left me feeling as though I was leaning against a lamp-post hitching up my garter belt. I suppose I just don’t think that people need to see my face that up close, especially since my recent discovery of a gray nose hair.
Perhaps it would be different if I was one of the beautiful people.
Nevertheless, the selfie is enormous. It was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2013. There are now accessories, like a selfie stick and a selfie timer and you can buy them in the selfie shop in the main train station.
Not only are there simple selfies, there are now a variety of selfies. There are belfies (butt selfies – thank you Kim Kardashian), welfies (workout selfies), helfies (hair selfies), and even bookshelfies (I guess a selfie of you in front of your bookshelf thus proving your intelligence). I guess that would mean our Vyšehrad girls were taking skelfies (sky selfies) and grelfies (ground selfies).
The opportunities are limitless.
It’s been a busy week and my desk reflects this. It looks as though a stationary grenade went off. There are papers, paper clips, scissors hiding in a book. There are enough pens and whiteboard markers to color a full-grown adult in a variety of colors. My colleagues are in the same boat. It is late in the semester and we are tired.
The light sounds of someone knocking on the metal door jamb finally pull us from our work.
The student is small, nondescript, the Biblical definition of someone who will eventually inherit the Earth. She is here for me and I wipe apple juice off my fingers and pull up a chair. She comes to my office hours once in a while for help with her writing. She is as nervous as a little bird.
She may be meek and her demeanor apologetic, but she is neither dumb nor complacent. She stands out because she actually takes advice, uses it, improves her work. When she comes in for more help, it’s because she has hit another hurdle, not looking for an easier way to tackle an old problem. In any event, I give her about thirty minutes every couple of weeks and don’t think about her again until she surprises us all with her quiet metal-knocking.
A barber is someone I don’t know very well and into whose hands I put my looks. Moreover, a barber probably gets closer to me than just about any stranger I meet on a normal day. She stands behind me with sharp scissors, pulls a tarp over me, and cuts off a distressing amount of hair. And yet, she somehow makes me relaxed.
I have been going to the same tiny barber shop in a city metro station for ten years. There are probably five barbers who rotate and it doesn’t matter who I get, I love whoever it is.
The barber I have today is beautiful. She was touched by the pretty fairy when she was born and twenty-three (give or take) years later, she can surely stop traffic or get out of a parking ticket. It should be noted that all of the barbers here are women and that probably makes them hairdressers and this place a hairdresser’s, but I just cannot bring myself to say “I went to the hairdresser’s today,” so this is a barber shop and she is a barber.
And she begins cutting.
OK, let’s pause.
If you’re anything like me, then may Dog have mercy on your soul. Also, you probably do a lot of weird things throughout your day. You might sing to an animal, apologize to furniture you just knocked into, or time how long you pee.
Also, if you’re anything like me, then you sometimes pause and say (to a nearby lamppost): “Holy crap, I’m weird. No normal adult does this stuff; what the hell is wrong with me?” And then you envision any number of scenarios in which a counsel of your ex-partners will judge you in every way.
Being weird is your birthright. Being weird is fun and it makes you smile or feel more comfortable somehow. Besides, if you didn’t do something a little weird every day, how would you know what normal was, right? In commiseration with your weirdness, here are a few weird things that many of us weirdos are doing.
Read, relax, and most of all, call a doctor if you pee in less than ten seconds spurts.
I am sitting in my office trying to write, but it’s not coming. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realize I’ve had that whisk head massage thingy on for an hour. I remove it and put on my writing kufi, which is the only thing one should wear when trying to write.
I look up at the wall in front of my desk. A piece of paper hangs there with the words “What if…?” on it. Since my writing kufi isn’t drawing forth the inspiration it usually does, I play the “What if…?” game to get my creative juices flowing.
What if the pimple on my back exploded and began singing Mamie?
What if the Pope wrote a letter to my penis for its 40th birthday?
What if the zombie apocalypse happened and the only people I could communicate with were my Tinder contacts?
It’s very improbable that the Pope is going to write to my genitals and if the pimple on my back sings to me then I’m going to Bohunice (the mental hospital in Prague). But the zombie apocalypse Tinder idea has me intrigued.
It’s Wednesday night, I am lounging on the couch full of bologna and liver dumpling soup – my favorite. Despite that, I am a bit glum, it’s been a long week already and my plan tonight is to lethargize my brain with inane sitcoms. As I queue up one such sitcom, my phone rings. A quick peep tells me that it’s my dad.
But it’s Wednesday.
My dad and I chat twice a week – Thursday and Sunday. We are men of routine and this is one we adhere to with gusto. But like other people of routine, any break from that routine is an instant red light – something’s wrong.