But there were lots of logical points going against this possibility. For one thing, it was 7:40 a.m. on a drizzly Monday in September. Nobody ever plays a piano on Monday morning. Second, and this is a biggie, I was in Hlavní Nádraží, Prague’s main station. The only things prevalent in Hlavní on Monday morning are miserable commuters and the occasional bum fight.
Moreover, in my late 30s and with hedonistic habits, a stroke wasn’t exactly out of the realm of possibility. And my propensity for daydreaming sometimes creates a worrying blur between reality and Walter Mitty.
But sure enough, as I rounded the corner, there was an old man tapping out one of Chopin’s Nocturnes. His briefcase was leaning against the piano and his bag of shopping was under the bench. He hummed along with the music as he played. I wanted to poke him to see if he was real.
I resisted this urge.
It’s Thursday night, December 5th, and the girls in my late lesson are summarizing St. Mikuláš’ Day, which is tomorrow. So, on the night before, St. Mikuláš walks around and interrogates children as to whether they have been good or bad. If they have been good, then one of Mikuláš’ assistants – an angel – treats them with sweets, nuts, or potatoes.
The bad ones get a scolding and some coal from Mikuláš.
The really bad ones get Čert.
Čert is the Slavic demon who acts as Mikuláš other assistant on his December 5th rounds. If kids are really bad, he kidnaps them and brings them back to his lair in Hell. He carries a whip or a switch and gets fed booze throughout the night. So that makes him more pleasant.
Čert is a big, hairy beast with horns and a disturbingly long tongue; imagine Jean Simmons on steroids and hormone pills. Though he is Slavic, he has a counterpart in many cultures. For example, Krampus joins St. Nicholas on his rounds in cuddly Germany.
It’s December and as kitsch as it sounds, I desire that which is Christmassy. I’m sure you have a favorite Christmas movie or even book. Every year I slap my knees at Clark W. Griswold and chuckle when Ralphie finally gets his Red Ryder BB gun and then almost shoots his eye out. And who doesn’t get a little misty eyed when Clarence gets his wings?
This December, however, my interests seem a little different. Whether it’s the gloomy weather or the fact that I watch zombies eat people every week, I want tales of holiday horror. Here is my list of books and films that add a bit of the macabre to Christmas.
Feel free to add to it.
I was on the tram when I first realized I was having trouble concentrating. It was a linguistics article, and it occurred to me that I was reading one paragraph over and over again. Naturally I blamed the attractiveness of Czech women for my inability to get through the article.
Later, on the couch, I had the same problem with the same article. The only Czech female afoot was the cat, and she was busy licking her butt on my kitchen table. Determined, I set a time limit and read the article. By the time I finished, I was sweating and soon thereafter dozed into a long nap born of weariness.
It’s become clear that my attention span has been waning. This struggle to read a simple article is just the latest symptom of this problem. In hindsight, I should have started to worry when I lost interest in the middle of a chicken recipe.
I could just cut to the chase: You are stuffing your throat with the best food on Earth and I am teaching people the definite article in a chalk-covered sweater vest. But I’d rather draw out my temporary disdain for all of you Thanksgiving revelers in a short blog post.
So enjoy this list. And if you are in the U.S., I hope you choke on it! (…the list, not the food)
I was on the metro, trying to translate an advertisement. The words were in a cartoon bubble coming from the mouth of a small green Martian. He was evidently trying to sell me on the idea of buying a loved one a laptop for Christmas. It was October 20th.
It’s no secret that the Christmas powers that be milk every possible second of retail time. And for this reason malls and shops inch Christmas a little earlier each year. Pretty soon Christmas decorations will be up in June and Santa Claus will be HoHoHoing his chunky ass off in a Batman costume on Halloween.
Now this doesn’t bother me the way it seems to bother some people. I mean, some of you are really really irked by this, and I guess I can understand that. It can be rather unpleasant to feel as though you are being coerced into spending more money under the guise of holiday cheer.
My concern is not the coercion; my concern is the disruption of other Christmas traditions.
When you live in a city for a long time you become used to the sounds of it. These sounds could be unique to the city or an everyday sound that resonates with you for some reason. In Pittsburgh it could be fireworks, as they are set off to celebrate everything: a Pirates’ win, a Tuesday without rain. In Jerusalem it could be the muezzin calling Muslims to prayer. And in Dallas, the people walking around saying, “Holy fuck. I live in Dallas.”
In any case, you’ll probably continue to identify some sounds to your city until you get really old and start pooping on your stove. Then you’ll live in a place where the only sounds are Matlock on the television and your 16:45 dinner bell.
Here are some sounds that make Prague…well, Prague.
I’m feeling particularly scattered today. I am having trouble concentrating on anything for longer than a few moments. I feel like I have ADHD or something and I blame my dwindling attention span on the rising popularity of segmented articles.
Apology and Retraction: The author would like to take this opportunity to state that he has nothing but respect and admiration for segmented articles and meant nothing in his joke about them and their alleged role in the development of ADHD. Moreover, he understands that the issue of ADHD as a result of segmented articles is nothing to joke about and he understands that words hurt. He fully retracts his seemingly harmless joke and asks that all writers and readers of segmented articles make several short prayers for him as he strives for a better understanding of this important issue.
Like most people, I employ a whole set of skills that I was neither born with nor taught at any school. I’ve learned some of these as a teacher, some as a writer, and some as a guy desperately trying to pass myself off as normal. Other skills I developed just by screwing up enough times.
Some of these skills I learned in my time as a bartender.
Bartending is a great job. Anyone who hasn’t done it either envisions Tom Cruise flinging bottles around or some suave guy flirting with women and occasionally pouring a Manhattan.
The reality is that bartending may be a great job, but it’s a hell of a tough one. You have to move fast, think fast, remember a lot of information, and develop a load of other skills in order to cope and not run screaming into the night. Some of these skills stay with you forever. Here are five that help me cope on a daily basis and keep me from running screaming into the day.
This is odd for a couple of reasons. In the first place, morning usually isn’t conducive to exhibiting a range of emotions. Morning is a time reserved for a mixture of depression and confusion that I imagine will only get worse as my age stampedes forward.
My tears are also odd because I’m on Facebook. The emotions I usually exhibit on Facebook are annoyance – people really need to figure out what constitutes a fucking meme, laughter – I don’t care what you say, cats make me laugh, and disgust – great, he’s procreated. Now if he could only differentiate your from you’re.