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A Visit from Paddy O’Kegger

We all love our folk heroes. Paul Bunyan, Santa Claus, Robert Mueller. So there’s something special about greeting another folk hero. And especially one so close to our hearts and livers. In this case I am talking about Paddy O’Kegger.

Paddy O’Kegger is the folk hero that we all need from time to time, the hero of libations, hero of the party, the hero of the pub. He arrives much like Santa, uh, sort of, with a sled equipped with kegs and mixology equipment, and pulled by wolfhounds seemingly named by Hunter S. Thompson (Jitters is by far my fave).

Just as Santa brings gifts and Christmas cheer, Paddy brings happiness, mirth, and much-needed social lubricants to a party that might be in danger of slipping into the scary realm of suppressed yawns, half-finished pints, and lame excuses made on the way out the door.

Much like ole St. Nick’s famous Twas the Night Before Christmas arrival poem, Paddy’s arrival is told in rhyme and takes place in one night. He woos a pub full of revelers in a tale that is rather witty, surprising, and definitely makes you run to the fridge for another glass of loudmouth chowder. The whole effect is that the picture book A Visit from Paddy O’Kegger is rather charming. It’s a quick read, so it’s the perfect bathroom book (or can be read with one eye closed, if need be).

Along with the witty language the artwork is a huge asset in terms of charming the reader and conveying the story’s details, both overt and subtle. It is digitally illustrated in warm tones that is curiously detailed and very pleasing to the eye. The story’s setting seems to be a northern locale, but oddly under water (or beer). The details are sneakily witty and could consume you for hours, whether studying the wolfhounds’ personalities or placing backstories to the background characters. (This might be especially true if you personally know one of the authors…Ahem…My twenty year old self makes a cameo. Ahem.).  

A Visit of Paddy O’Kegger is a charming read and equally as charming visually. It’s very much worth having on your coffee table for a laugh, a quick dive into the artwork, or to put together a drinking game out of the details. Almost a prerequisite. But it’s mostly pleasant just to open the book to enter a mysterious northern landscape where the pubs are inviting, the people ready for a pint, and Paddy O’Kegger is brought home by his trusty wolfhounds who know the way and can easily pass a breathalyzer.

Follow this link to buy in either paperback or e-book, have a merry Christmas, and to all, a good nightcap!

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The First Third of the Christmas Movie

Sadness

This weekend was a working one. I taught on Saturday and have numerous proofreads to do on top of a series of edits that need to be done for an article I have written which came back from my editor essentially dipped in virtual red ink. So instead of relaxing with Doctor Netflix and stew over a snowy and (oddly) rainy weekend, I was teaching, proofreading, and hunched over a computer looking for synonyms for “vengeance.”  

I know, I know. Woe is me, right? We all get under pressure and get stressed, especially when it comes to work related joys. And other than my obviously better looks and culinary prowess, I am no different from you.

What is bothering me currently is that it’s Christmas time.I am a sucker for the Christmas season. The lights, the music, even the hustle and bustle bring me some comfort at a time of year when the daylight is literally cut in half and my workload is literally doubled. And Prague puts up charming markets and the pubs are full of the revelers of employee Christmas party season.

But, whether due to stress or worry, I am just not noticing it all. I walk with my head down, get to my flat, work hard. I’ve consoled myself with the knowledge that there’ll be time for reveling when I get on a British Airways airplane on December 22nd and order whatever alcohol they can get me fastest. But for the moment, I am missing the season and I don’t like this.  

I fully buy into the belief that Christmas (like its predecessors)were bright spots in a dark, otherwise scary and dismal time of year. The cheery atmosphere and the yuletide mirth are meant to hold back the anxiety of pressure and darkness. And if you go beyond the ring of lights cast by your house or your neighborhood, it’s mostly dark and cold and scary out there.

A whole lot of Christmas movies play with this idea, don’t they? There’s often a character who’s stressed beyond words, under an immense pressure, or in trouble. George Bailey’s worries were existential, Ralphie’s were social and materialistic. But choose even the lowliest Christmas movie that Hallmark has to offer and you’ll see that everyone is struggling with something(as are most characters). Whether it’s loneliness, overwork, misplaced attention, or the need to find Bigfoot (truth), the main character of a Christmas movie usually spends the first third or so of the movie quite miserable.Sometimes they don’t even know why.

What we do know is that they won’t end the movie miserable. By the end they will have found the true meaning of Christmas, found the love they didn’t know they were looking for, resettled into the cozy little town that is more home than the big city where they are an ad exec. Something will change and their cold hearts will be penetrated by the Christmas Spirit and suddenly they will notice the lights, the mirth, the warmth, and the comfort. We, as viewers and no matter how corny we find it, know that this will happen. But they don’t.

The thing is, I currently feel as though I am in the first third of that movie. I am stressed, neglecting the lights and the fun. I haven’t hung one decoration, visited one market, or watched a Christmas movie. I’m also tightly-wound and irritable. I lectures the cat for ten minutes yesterday about turning off the faucet after drinking from it. When Burke accidentally broke a mug in the kitchen I was so angry my vision went blurry. When asked if I would attend the employee Christmas party this week I said “are you kidding? I have too much to do.” And I meant it!

I have become that Christmas character who is in need of aB-2 shot of Christmas Spirit. Now, in the movie, we’d know I was going to seethe light(s), appreciate the larger picture, and then come out of my funk for some big Christmas revelation. And while I hope that’s true, I feel as though I am allowing superficial stresses ruin one of my favorite times of year. Perhaps it’ll all have to wait until I work a butt groove into my seat on that airplane.Maybe I should watch only Christmas movies on the flight so my parents don’t pickup Ebenezer Scrooge on Saturday afternoon. Or maybe I’ll just blow off work in lieu of a Christmas market and hot wine. 

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Full House

The plan was to completely relax. After a semester of university, students, bosses, responsibilities, and the grind of day to day life, the beacon was the Christmas holiday: ten days in the loving, carefree bosom of my parents’ house in Langhorne. But, as we all know, these plans are never clear cut.

Several things are thwarting those plans. First, there was the travel, always tiring, and combined with jetlag, which is like getting your hands on slightly-tainted hallucinogenic drugs. Then there was the last minute rush of Christmas shopping, which is all part of the enjoyment of Christmas time, but also develops a worrying tendency in which I imagine other shoppers being eaten by dogs and ravens.

Additionally, I have a large, intense family who I love more than anything on this planet (sorry Bela). However, as you know, family time can get overwhelming and exhausting until you just want to hide in a bathtub with a bottle of Irish whiskey.

But today, a few days after the big man slid his pre-diabetic rump down our chimney, my plan is to put on my pajamas and stay in them. The plan is to read and relax and maybe partake in an afternoon drink or two. My plan is to forget everything, my plan is to simply lounge around my parents’ house in a way reminiscent of Christmas break in my college days, or last August.

Unfortunately, my morning duties include the DMV and an annoying and exasperating bureaucratic experience at the hands of a useless airline, whose name I can’t disclose (thank you, SleazyJet).

When these duties are over and I have slid down the meter from apocalyptic to moderately irked, I put on my pajamas and make coffee. I pick up my book and head to the couch.

I have created a quiet life for myself. I am a happily unmarried, ecstatically childless man. I live in a flat with a cat who sleeps a lot and in a building whose residents mostly keep Czech, which means quiet and to themselves. Most of the human interaction or excitement in my life outside of school is under my control. I alone choose to go out for drinks or dinner with friends or politely refuse invitations; I invite guests over when I want and yet spend much of my free time alone writing or reading. I take care of my cat, stay out when I want and come home to a flat that looks the same as when I left it. This is beautiful for a man for whom the Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel is a power ballad.

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Welcome Home

1472466073892577207969I arrive in Prague at 11 a.m on Saturday, having left Philadelphia at 5:45 the evening before. I can’t sleep on flights, so by  the time I arrive home an hour later, after about 18 hours in transit, I am shaky as a character in a Burroughs story. I think there’s a dragon following me too.
Even if I were one to sleep on flights, the circumstances were against me. I couldn’t get comfortable temperature or position-wise. There were three – count ’em, three – babies in my section, and they offered constant, shrill, vocal reminders of their unhappiness. In counterpoint, and in different tones. Nobody in my section didn’t despise babies for at least 12 hours after landing.
Normally I would retreat to the solace of light comedies, but the audio wasn’t working. I was lucky in that the seat next to me was free, so I timed my chosen program on each computer and synced the soundtrack. By the time we were over the Atlantic, my proficiency was such that I could get a new job. But there’s nothing that fully keeps out baby.
Add to all of this the beginning symptoms of a head and chest cold, and you’ve got yourself one uncomfortable and exhausted hombre.
Nevertheless, I am home.

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The Week of the Biblical Plague

EngorgedThe Beginning of Curses

I wonder if anyone really notices a plague on its first day. I am guessing that people might just say things like: “Gosh, I can’t remember the last time I saw a locust,” or “Jiminy, there sure is a lot of pestilence afoot today.”

On the first day of our biblical Plagues here in Prague, I say, “Geez, it’s been raining like crazy.” Still, I don’t think about the Bible or plagues. I think that I live in central Europe, which means bad restaurant service, legal prostitution, and rainy springs. And then I go back to my television show, which is about an apocalypse. I should see the premonition.

Rain and Hail

On the third day of almost literally unrelenting rain and a constant veil of darkness, I feel as though Prague is the setting for a horror or thriller movie of some sort. The dark skies are a perfect backdrop to a Hitchcock flick, and the continual rain is straight out of Se7en.

Still, in the back of my mind some little guy is standing on a hill asking the skies, “And what exactly is a cubit?”

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