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Cat Man

Cat Man in Box

Pet owners who go on holiday always pay a collateral price for their trip. A friend of mine has to put all of her shoes in cabinets or her German Shepherd will destroy them for being left alone. Another will come across little secret stockpiles of cat poop in shoes, closets, Tupperware in retribution for his little jaunt. A lot of animals don’t like to be left home alone, and they show it in different ways.

My cat has a pattern when it comes to doling out neglect-inspired revenge. When I return from holiday she meows me into the flat with the gusto and volume of a failed expeditionary general. She then pulls little passive aggressive moves like tripping me up and shouting at me about it, Whoa, dude, watch where you’re going! But when I turn on the bathroom tap for her and rub her head as she drinks, the meows slowly dissipate. She is back in her comfort zone, relief and gratitude take over the anger. While she drinks I pour a packet of top shelf kitty grub in her bowl and lure her to dinner. By the time she eats, her purrs could motor a boat across the English Channel.

It’s the period after this that worries me. See, she seems lovably grateful and happy that Dad has returned, but she will always get me once. With one bite, that is. My cat has the revenge memory, the plotting abilities, and the hand accessories of Freddy Krueger. She lays in wait, bides her time, and then she gets me with one good bite. When this will come, I genuinely don’t know. It could be in a day or a month or as I leave for Christmas holiday. I just have to be on my toes.

Making matters more difficult is the fact that she spends roughly eight hours a day sitting on me. My cat expresses neediness by sitting on me: my neck, my back, my stomach between me and my book, my hip, and by sitting on my feet when I am making coffee. This might be seen as charming by an ignorant observer. After all, she’s fluffy and sleepy-eyed, relaxed and reclined. But I know that at the drop of a hat this sleepy-eyed furball can turn into a lawnmower. And one that’s pissed off to boot. Sometimes there’s a warning, a growl, a mohawked ridge of fur, splayed claws. Sometimes there’s not.

Today there’s not. The cat moseys to the back of the couch on which I am lying and reading a book. My phone buzzes and like a good little mindless follower, I reach out for it. And that’s when it happens. The cat goes from 0 to 100 in a split second, literally pouncing on my arm. She grips my arm and plunges those vampire fangs deep into my wrist. I yelp in the manner of a truly surprised person (like a small child) and wrest the cat off by her scruff.

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Continued Watching for Dr. Doolittle

There’s no doubt that I am a Netflix cliché in that with the thousands (OK, I’m in the Czech Republic) the hundreds of options I’m given, I choose to watch things I’ve seen two hundred times. These appear in my Watch it Again section. Jaws. Lord of the Rings. Ghostbusters. Every Indiana Jones installment. Friends (I know, shut up). Brooklyn 99. Buster Scruggs. The War.

Tonight we go for a light-hearted comedy mystery, one of my favorite genres, and we watch Murder Mystery. This is the one starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston as a married couple on a European tour who end up in the middle of a real life murder mystery. Since his big hit films in the 90s, Sandler has been hit or miss. Aniston is usually just fecken funny and she’s usually in fecken funny flicks. The movie totals in at 1:39 minutes. We’ll give it a chance.  

We last 31 minutes.

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Local Run Spot

My local park. Life could be worse

Despite the fact that my recent move to a flat place with convenient shops and metro stop has led to a bit of sedentary laziness, I am spoiled as regards good local parks. This isn’t uncommon in Prague, as this city was ranked last year as the world’s greenest city. Much of my area is covered in trees and parks, so finding a place to jog isn’t hard. Where I choose to do my red-faced huffing and puffing is a few minutes’ walk away at a wonderful park called Hvězda (star).

Like most other things in Prague, it’s got a history. In the late 900s (i.e. Bob Hope’s 5th birthday), the forest was donated to the Břevnov Monastery’s grounds. About 500 years later it became a walled in game reserve for Ferdinand II. And part of the grounds were involved in the historic Battle of White Mountain in 1620. Now it’s a park noted for its birds and other animals. Visitors can enjoy sightings of the Middle spotted woodpecker, the narrow-mouthed whorl snail, and, today, the short-legged North American red-faced cry-jogger.     

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The Peculiar Personalities of Trams

It’s one of those spring days which are warm or cold depending upon whether or not you’re standing in the sunlight or the shadows. I have somehow managed to secure both, with my head in the bright sun and my butt cooling in the shade. My soon-to-be fellow passengers are mature, with the average age, including me, some teenagers, and a woman with a gaggle of children, resting somewhere in the high 230s.

As the 1 tram approaches the mature passengers halt any conversations and edge towards what they know to be the spots where the doors will open. The tram gets closer and the tension is palpable. Who will get the Class A seats by the door, the ones in the shade? Wrinkly elbows begin to wield and I let them go. Last week I was clipped by a suspiciously well-placed walker to the shin. In any event, I’m still getting used to the personality of the trams out here. And I don’t want to overstep my bounds.

If you spend time riding around on Prague’s transportation system, you learn quickly enough that each tram has something of a personality. More than the metros and far more than the buses (the recognized bores of the transport world), trams have a feel, a personality, and these are fostered by their routes.  

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The Move


Last time, coming or going

It’s Friday, about 2 pm. I am on my way home on a tram filled with young teens and kids, who, while in various stages of personal and physical development, share in common a momentary ecstasy that is born of the beginning of the weekend. I am immensely jealous.

Since I was a kid, there has never been anything quite as euphoric as a Friday afternoon. I have always loved the “look ahead” stage. More a fan of Christmas Eve than Christmas, a fan of the last weeks of school rather than the beginning of the summer holiday. It’s when I have everything ahead of me that I am happiest. And Friday is just that – everything is ahead of me and the possibilities are endless. Pizza and a movie, a nice walk on Saturday, a nice walk on Saturday that ends conveniently at a pub. So on any other Friday I would be sitting on this tram, outwardly a middle-aged dude listening to podcasts, inwardly a twelve year old with a peach-fuzz mustache throwing the devil’s ears at passing motorists.

But this weekend is the weekend in which I will move. After two weeks’ prep, planning, organizing, boxing, bagging, and throwing away huge portions of the collected booty of thirteen years, it will happen. Without touching the obvious horrors of tragedy or medical crises, there is nothing worse to look forward to on a weekend.

Friday night is spent standing in various rooms in my house having meltdown moments. “Has someone fed these things after midnight!?” I scream to the ceiling, wondering how our bags and boxes are multiplying. “What is this? I don’t own a toaster! Where has this thing been, just waiting for me to move it!?” I occasionally center myself (read: avoid prison) by sitting on my soon-to-be-disassembled bouch (bed + couch, you get it) and eat some form of carbohydrate while watching a sitcom and purposefully not looking at the room beyond my laptop.  

The misery that comes with moving isn’t the carrying and lifting, but the fact that every single thing has to be reckoned with. Whether that means it gets thrown away, put in a bag and brought to the new house, or set on fire and thrown out the window. Everything from the deep, darkest caverns of the last thirteen years must be dealt with. Every single item. Everything.

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On the Move

Phone Museum in my Closet

As a card-carrying resident of my own personal comfort zone, I’ve found that there’s an awful lot that can rattle me. The upstairs neighbors renovating their flat for five months. A wonky lock on the front door. Friends or relatives staying at the flat.

But there’s not much worse for this Comfort Zone Guy than moving flats. If you’re an adherent to a comfort zone, then you understand.  

Moving is terrible. No matter who you are or what your philosophy is towards being settled, you probably have a bad memory of being surrounded by hundreds of boxes, bags, crates, and furniture that you had to bring somewhere else. Moving means you have to move everything in your house. Everything. Soap. Each shoe. Every notebook, pen, and bottle of hot sauce. And so, everything is disrupted.

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On Paperfeet the Cat and Hoarding Books

Paperfeet the Cat Stands Proudly Among his Depleted Shelves

After twelve years in one flat, I am preparing to move in two weeks. Everyone knows that moving sucks. Though I am not an extravagant person, It’s the only time in my life that I wish I was loaded. I’d hand a few guys a wad of cash, give them instructions and two addresses, go on holiday, and just come back to a new flat all ready for me to live in.

Moving makes you realize just how much shit you have accumulated in your little hovel. This, of course, is because you are now forced to look through the backs of those cabinets, closets, mudrooms that you have gleefully avoided for so long. And so you dig out books, DVDs, mugs, clothes, old calendars, and cat figurines that you got from someone else who was moving and didn’t want to deal with it, and so now I’m standing in a room holding the cat and making a dubious look, all purse-lipped and furrow-browed, like the bad guy who realizes he’s been duped at the end of a movie in which he thought he had won. But you can’t get rid of him now; you’ve named him Paperfeet.

And if you are in your late twenties and lived on your own more than once, then you totally know what I’m saying.

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The Life and Times of Fausto Carro

Ah, Fausto Carro

Last week, after doing some work for an online magazine, I was asked to send along the details of my online payment account. I won’t say the name of that payment company, but Scooby Doo would probably call it RayRal.

I didn’t have an account there, so I began to set one up. And that of course is when I found out I had an account there.

Memberships to websites, online magazines, and services are as forgettable to me now as the magazine subscriptions I signed up for in college in our quad. I’d use a false name – Larry D’Urberville – with my sights set on a free T shirt. Free T shirts were gold when the alternative was washing your other 75 T shirts. Ah, the carefree and extremely dirty days of yore.

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Keep Calm and Stay Home

So you’re in your 40s? 28 Things I Learned in my 40s. Why I became So Much Happier in my 30s. If My 40 Year Old Self Could Tell My 20 Year Old Self a Few Things at a Bar, the first would be to stop drinking. 

We’ve all seen the advice, the philosophical, logical and sensible points that people in the 40s have pocketfuls of. Close your eyes (uh, but not if you’re driving) and just call to mind some of the uber-enlightened, sagacious advice and commentary. Own your flaws, they make you who you are. Laugh lines are worth the laughs. So laugh! In your 40s you have let go of the toxic people and you much happier.

OK, are there some truth nuggets in there? Absolutely. But it still comes off as theoretical and frou-frou. I feel as though I am listening to the wispy mantra of a holy guy in a Nepalese cave.

There are so many benefits and occasional downsides to being in your 40s that you just can’t list them all. Mostly this is because you have forgotten them moments after you are gifted the epiphany of them. Irony.

But let’s get real. If you’re in your 40s you know that there are more concrete ways of defining that age decade than the little insights and theoretical developments. There are real, day to day applications that you notice. Here are a few everyday realities about life in my 40s.

I plan hangovers, not nights out. A friend who is a great pool player once told me. “If you want to be a good pool player, don’t think about the shot you’re making, think about the one after that.” And man does that make sense in the world of being 40. I can still bring down a number of drinks with little problem. But it’s the reality of the next day that rules whether or not I will go out.

I weigh the headache, the arsenal of medicine that my body will require to simply go through the motions without ending up in a hospital, and the lack of productivity up against what I need to do that next day and the evening as well. Depending on the findings of those measurements, that’s how I decide to go out. Can I be a mess tomorrow morning? Do I want to be? This is why younger people think we fortysomethings are boring. We can still drink. But we don’t know if you are worth the payoff. Also we don’t mind what you think. PS: It should be mentioned that I still suck at pool. Bigtime.

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Random Creepy Things

Creepy

The building where I teach is a monument to communist era architecture. It’s tall, blocky, gray, concrete, mundane, and removes the will to live from whomever casts their eyes upon it. It fits right in with a lot of the other monstrosities that popped up in the Czech Republic in the second half of the twentieth century. The buildings that ain’t ending up on a postcard anytime soon.

But mostly I have found it to be a reasonably innocuous building. It’s got good Wi-Fi, the static electricity is pretty low, and you’ve got a killer view of the car dealership across the street. I mean, the toilet lights are set to shut off every nine seconds, so you end up looking as though you’re in a one-person synchronized pooping competition. But overall, what else could you ask for?

Well the building does take on a more sinister feel after dark as I have done for five years each Tuesday after my evening class in the winter. When I leave the building at 7:15 pm in spring the sun is still out and, depending on how my class went, my mood is not at its most morose. In the winter, though, it’s been pitch black since 4:30 and by 7:15 there’s not a soul in the building. The students want to get home, so they run out of the place like it’s on fire. By the time I drop my books in my office and head down the stairs, the only people in the building are me and the night guard who works reception.

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