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How to Party like a President

Abe, just before the Gettysburg F****ng Address

At around 6 p.m. on November 7th, we in Prague, along with the entire world, were informed that Joe Biden had beaten Donald Trump for the presidency. The world reacted with an ecstatic joy that probably matched that of VE Day. Church bells were rung in Paris, global leaders were quick to offer endorphin-packed congrats to Biden and Harris, and people danced and celebrated in the streets of cities all over the world. Now, I’ve been very clear about my dislike of Donald Trump, who I have seen since 2015 as a hypocrite, a coward, and a bully, but 95% of the civilized world celebrating your termination cannot feel good.

Trump’s response to the loss is both true to form and seemingly an agonizing farewell, meant to give about 76 million of We the People one last acrid taste of the awful daily circus that he has subjected us to for the last four years. I am no political pundit, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for analysis on what Trump’s goal is. Though it seems pretty clear to anyone with a working machine between their ears that since he’s been moaning about a rigged election with no evidence since polls suggested he might lose, maybe the pettiest and most psychologically disturbed president in the history of North America is just trying to soothe his own bruised ego.

Who knows?

What I do know is that America needs a drink. And, like, now. And if you’re going to have a drink, you might as well have one that gives a nod to history in some way. So, the question is, what to drink to celebrate Trump’s loss and to steel us against the coming weeks of what is sure to be the political equivalent of breaking up with a coked up honey badger with a leg caught in a trap? Let’s see.

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My Vote is with Mr. Rogers

MR. ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD, (AKA MISTEROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD), FRED ROGERS, (CA. 1970S), 1968-2001

Imagine you are in a Starbucks or wherever your brain brings you when you imagine picking up a coffee and a cake. Now imagine two men (or women, up to you) are in line in front of you. Guy the First speaks politely to the barista. He orders his coffee, waits, and gets his coffee. When it’s clear the barista has forgotten to include a lid, he asks her for one, dismisses her apology with a light-hearted joke about his own forgetfulness, thanks the barista, and goes on his way. Guy the Second is the opposite. He snaps his order to the barista, orders her around as if is something less demanding of human decency, and calls her a fucking moron for not including a lid. Instead of thanking her, he harshly berates her for ruining the rest of his day because of her gaff. And then he goes his way with a whistle.

I don’t think I have to go into the question of which of those two men you’d feel more comfortable or happy with and which you’d feel aggressively unpleasant towards and maybe be kind of embarrassed for. If you were the person standing behind these two men, you probably wouldn’t concern yourself with the first person at all. Your life would go on and so would his. The second guy would be different. You might think for a while – what the hell is wrong with that guy?

Last week Donald Trump took two stabs at Joe Biden. The first was that Biden would make the apparently embarrassing mistake of believing scientists. A good deal of American voters couldn’t quite figure out what the jab was and we looked around at each other with narrowed, confused eyes saying “I don’t get it. What was the jab?” Trump might as well have said “I’ve heard that Biden is just unbelievably good in bed” or “This Biden character pays all his bills on time and works out five times a week.”

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The Second War of the Flies

In the morning I go to the kitchen and I smile. I’m at the age that a clean kitchen in the morning makes me happy. Since I spend my early mornings there working, it makes me extra happy. N between these times, I often wonder what disappointment my twenty-year-old self would regard me with.

The table is clean. The counter is clean. I rub my finger along the stainless-steel stovetop and find embarrassing happiness at the cleanly squeak it makes. I click the coffee maker. It’s when I turn on the tap that something disconcerting happens.

Something takes off. From the sink. Correction: somethings.

Fruit flies.

I’ve dealt with these guys before.

It was 2016 when I first dealt with fruit flies. Not really, but 2016 was the first time I cared that I had fruit flies. In the two decades before that, I acknowledged fruit flies as annoying little roommates that moved in during the summer and died in the fall. They didn’t pay rent and they only ate stuff off the counter, but I didn’t like them. They were flying around like shrapnel. Also they were judgmental. The way they flew around and made jokes about my cleaning ability in the voice of the third-grade nun.

In 2016 I waged a war of cleaning products and internet hacks.

I begin a similar campaign in 2020.

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The Corona Hours

Here in the Czech Republic, we’ve been under self-isolation rules for about 20 days. For some that’s not a big deal, for some it’s a nightmare. For me, well, I spend a pretty good amount of time trying to figure out how I feel and washing my hands.

I try to structure my days more or less in line with my normal life. I get up early, make coffee, and fend off the advances of my cat who has spent the night locked out of the bedroom and is thus recovering from the trauma of not being able to get her rectum as close to my face as possible. Pretty normal.

Things can be normal still when I sit at Mission Control (my desk), check my MITs list (most important tasks), and get started with my morning of work. When I am working on coursebook materials, an article, or fiction, I can mostly escape into those places and leave the stresses of the world behind, whether it’s a Corona World or not. I also find that when I am in the kitchen cooking and watching a show or listening to a podcast then I am also able to block out current stresses.

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Report on the Obnoxious Persistence of Czech Culture in Prague

The aim of this report is to outline and call attention to the troubling occurrences of the unfortunate eruption of Czech culture in the capital city of the Czech Republic, Prague.

Shops and Establishments

This one is relatively amazing. Over the past twelve years, there has been an extremely aggressive campaign to completely squash Czech culture by saturating the city center with shops and restaurants that are either of completely differing culture or are completely void of flavor or culture. Waffle houses, rib, wings or burger joints, furniture shops for rich people, Moleskine shops, fried fish houses. And yet, despite this, there are still some Czech establishments poking through. Contributors to our research counted as many of four (4) Czech restaurants in the city center and were horrified to find that three of those didn’t even have a burger on the menu.

Our recommended action here is scorched earth. Find these places and bring them down.

The Gentrification Campaign of the Pub

Our campaign to remove every pub with even a drop of character that might not appeal to upper-class white people from New York has been enormously successful. In their wake, we have left a hundred pubs with brass and dark wood interiors, tables, and chairs; patrons enjoy sleek menus (a burger features on each one), Wi-Fi, and absolutely no discerning characteristics from one another.

Research shows that people could not tell one center pub from another in a blindfold test (blindfolds were removed when they were brought out of the toilets). Feedback shows that patrons like this sort of bland anonymity. The only problem in this area is the occasional classic Czech pub, but these exist mostly on the periphery of the city.

Recommendation: keep pounding away and do not relent.

Ježíšek

Attempts to bludgeon the Czech people to death with Santa Claus have been absolute. He is in Coca Cola ads on the square, he is winking at people with Rudolph-the-bloody-rednosed-bloody-rein-bloody-deer in Old Town, and he is in the chocolate ads in every British, German, and Dutch shop in the city. But still the Czechs maintain an annoying dedication to their Christmas spirit, Ježíšek (baby Jesus).

This is more remarkable when considering the fact that Jesus in baby form has little to no marketability power in the modern world. He can’t bring presents into a house, he isn’t comforting (no baby is), and his ability to grant wishes (Christmas or otherwise) seems mostly based on the proxy power of his father. More confusingly distressing is that, unlike Santa and Rudolph, Ježíšek has no real physical representation. So Czech people are forced to use their “imagination” to conjure the image of a small baby whose father grants them wishes and who can’t carry a gift without the help of an adult, but who somehow comes to their living rooms when kids ring a little bell. Insanity.

We may make some headway in a few years if we keep up deployment of Christmas movies to Netflix and to international theaters. If the occurrences of Santa can be raised (an estimated) 19%, then we may see a slow decline in Ježíšek’s popularity. Might consider cameoing both in the next Die Hard film.

Nota Bene: pass this by Bruce. Would he feel comfortable shooting a “baby Jesus” with a Glock 20?

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Mother Goose Says Goodbye

On Monday afternoon, I got a Facebook call from my sister at 1 pm. A call from the U.S. on a non-preassigned call day (Sun and Thurs) instantly sends red flags flying through my mind. It was 7 am in Philadelphia. It was a Facebook call. It was someone who usually doesn’t call me. Something was wrong. I didn’t want to pick it up. But I did.

I was right. And a minute later I was hearing that my grandmom had died. The news wasn’t a complete shock. In our weekly conversations my dad had been laying down small comments, she’s getting pretty frail, she’s not doing too great, she was a bit out of it, I think it’s getting close. She wasn’t bedridden, but getting around the house, to the bathroom, to the kitchen, was a two person affair. Travel anywhere was hinged majorly on factors that most of us take for granted. Every day was an operation involving oxygen, medicine, taking vitals, shots. My aunt is a registered nurse and provided care 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, without which she may quite well have gone a number of years ago.

So when my sister said the words, it wasn’t a massive shock, but it was a punch to the gut anyway. There’s a difference between a theoretical bad condition and the very real fact that you’re never going to see someone again. I got on the tram, sat down, opened my Murakami book and propped it on my lap. It and I sat just like that for the 43 minutes to my stop. I was dazed and unable to speak.

I decided to deal with this like a man’s man, a hard man, and so I popped into the grocery store and bought 450 Koruna (20ish bucks) worth of candy, junk food, and carbohydrates, and I made a B line for my pajamas.

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Report: Thirteen Minutes Offline

cats: owners of the internet

Introduction

This report outlines the events of September 20, 2019, in which the internet went down and the manners by which the residents [two adult(ish) humans, one cat] of [redacted address] were forced to find entertainment. The report suggests possible measures to be taken in future, both preemptive and during said situation.  

Overview

Male adult A [codename Count Wolfenstein] was relaxing on his couch watching Netflix and scrolling through Reddit when the internet went down. The remote control seemed as well to be on the fritz, so the subject was forced to find entertainment in the things he could find around the couch.

Chubby-Cubby-Master ™

The chubby-cubby-master is a side-riding cloth and Velcro cubby that attached to the side of the couch (and is evidently unremovable). Within, Count Wolfenstein found a very thin and tall book with various colored and glossy pictures throughout. This was verified to be a “magazine” and while various articles were inside the Count was troubled by their length, their lack of listing sections, and the complete void of Wikipedia links. Ultimately the “magazine” was put back into the chubby cubby for reserve use.

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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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