Archive for August, 2011
She’s in. Again.
I was having an Alyssa Milano dream and it’s not what you think. Whenever this gorgeous woman appears in my dreams we engage in activities that would bore Al Gore. We have painted my bedroom and eaten ham sandwiches by the Vltava. In this dream, she has rented Rise of the Planet of the Apes and we drink prune juice. I am, apparently, a geriatric dreamer.
I peer over my covers and see the tip of her gray-striped tail and hear the light clicking of her nails on the floor. I remain frozen like a boat wreck survivor watching a shark fin slip about and feeling it nudge against the rubber of my floating device.
She leaps onto one of my bureaus and drops something that lands with a clunk and then she’s gone.
At least it’s a drop off and not a pick up, I think, and then I go back to Alyssa and our movie.
The waitress asks again, “Bez co?” Without what?
I repeat, “Bez kohouty.” Without pants.
“Um, OK,” she takes the camera and my brother and I start up the spiral staircase that lead to the second floor of The Horror Bar. We reach the mid-point, push the noose out of the way and make sure that the skeleton hanging from the ceiling isn’t blocking our faces. The waitress readies the camera and Chris gives her rudimentary instruction in the international language of mime.
Then we drop our pants.
She laughs at us, gives us a ‘your mother must be so proud’ look and snaps a shot. From the corner, a man chirps away in a language that we easily ignore.
She hands Chris the camera and says, “You said bez kohouty.”
I reply, “Ano?”
She says, “Kohouty means roosters, kalhoty means pants.” She walks away and picks up her beer.
“Ah,” I say to Chris, “I told her we wanted a picture without roosters.”
“That’s probably why she had no problem with it.”
And so begins the Pantless Tour of Český Krumlov.
The train has the consistency of a Malaysian sweat shop as it chugs through the Czech countryside. Sweat is dripping off of our foreheads and chins. My brother is praying to the gods of train disasters to create a collision in the hopes of causing a breeze. He nods, telling me that he now understands why we all erupted into laughter when he asked if the windows would be open on the train.
Nobody else on the train seems in the slightest bit uncomfortable. We four Americans feel hot and stuffy, the Czechs feel comfortable. In the U.S. we are obsessed with our cool air, whether it’s coming from a window or a glorious box that fills the room with freezing arctic love.
The discomfort level multiplies when an old Czech man picks up his guitar and plays for the train. Again, we Americans are the only people stressed by this, me more than anyone. I hate public guitar people, no matter what their country of origin. This combined with the stuffy air helps the U.S. to a quick lead.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” the pilot says.
This is bad for two reasons. In the first place, we are being addressed by the pilot in the departure lounge before boarding the plane. Pilots don’t just drop out to chit chat with the masses before a flight.
This means trouble.
As we walk into my uncle’s house, we are greeted with instructions according to appetite. “Ham and roast beef in that corner, potato salad, stuffed peppers and dips on that table over there.” My aunt works like a traffic cop, sending people to the delicacy of their fancy. “Beer and wine are in the fridge and there is more in a cooler in the garage.”
I say a quick prayer for my rising LDL cholesterol and load up a plate. I am not the only one who sheds a tear of joy.
“I’ve got a funny story,” my mom says. It’s my brother’s birthday and we are celebrating with carrot cake. It’s my two sisters, my brother and Mom and Dad. With my mom’s promise of a humorous anecdote, we cast glances around the table at one another.
There is cake in front of my dad, so he is essentially furniture. My brother decides to do it.
He lays down his fork. “OK, Mom, go ahead.” My sisters and I brace ourselves.
This time she tells a tale about some kids who got killed and dismembered in front of their parents on Christmas Eve. I think the murderer was Santa Claus. Not a mall Santa, but the actual Santa Claus.
“Hey, you, what you writing?” The man is Wall-eyed, so though he is facing me it appears that he is staring at my right ear and the bartender.
“Just some notes,” I say. I have found that by sitting at the bar at The Horne and writing in a notebook, I become irresistible to the other patrons. They must talk to me.
“Yeah.” When he drinks at his drink – a double Canadian Club whiskey and Coke – I notice that the ring finger on his left hand is missing from the second knuckle. “You write books or something?”
“Yeah, I got one coming out next week.” I drop this in with casual coolness. I have been test driving statements such as these recently, just to see how they feel.
“It any good?” Obviously I have failed to impress Leonard, my new comrade. He’s wearing a T-shirt that reads Piggly Wiggly Giggly and features an ecstatic cartoon pig doing a jitterbug.
“I hope so.”
“What’s it called?”
“What’s it about?”
“A guy loses all his senses.”
“Pbbbt,” he flaps his lips. “What do I get if I buy it?”
This question throws me off a bit. “Um, a book about a guy who loses all his senses.”
We’re quiet for a while and Leonard buys me a shot, a gesture I am unable to interpret. I open my Moleskine and go back to jotting notes. Leonard gets on his phone and has a colorful conversation with a gentleman named Fuck-for-Brains.
When the first hard copy of my novel arrives in the mail, my feelings are somewhere between proud and terrified. A proof copy is the first hard copy of a novel and it is the last chance for a writer to check for mistakes or catch any problems before the book is available for sale.
I take out a pencil and sit on the couch. I am wearing no pants.
The prank call seemed like such a good idea at the time.
But then, so does almost anything when you’re sixteen years old and being mischievous. I was playing the part of Ron Rivera, mild-mannered Toyota salesman. Mr. Schorpp, a neighbor who was having a problem with his newly bought Toyota, was on the other line eating up my apologies and phony offers of compensation. I offered full remuneration and cocktails and dinner with us and “the wives.” In hindsight, Mr. Schorpp must have thought it odd when Ron Rivera offered a night out at the movies. But I was sixteen, and that seemed like a perfect way to make up for a faulty gas gauge.
Making the situation more illicit was the fact that I was standing in the Schorpp’s kitchen and Mrs. Schorrp was chuckling away in the corner. She had been the instigator of the joke, though Mr. Schorpp would never believe this line of defence.
As my lark continued, something began to dawn on me with growing horror – Oh my God, it’s working. Read the rest of this entry »