Archive for September, 2012
Meanwhile, twenty-two teenagers awaiting entrance exams are staring at me in terror. Since there is nothing more enjoyable than having some fun with terrified teens, I put on my most stern look of disapproval and glare into the ranks. However, I don’t have the heart to be mean to kids, so I do (simple) math in my head. This produces the Neolithic furrowed brow which marks confusion, anger at confusion and, often, hunger.
I sense that they are approaching the breaking point, so I stop math, drop the caveman act and crack a joke about dogs and CPR. They don’t understand, but I smile so they laugh with giddy relief. This is a universal examination law: A teacher before an exam is the funniest person on Earth. I could describe an autopsy to them in detail, and they will laugh at it.
I hand out the tests. They begin. I am no longer funny.
We are eating at a meat restaurant in Český Krumlov, the historic town where a year ago my brother and I convinced vampires to get into a picture with us sans pantaloons (see: Pantless in Krulmov, Aug 25, 2011). This time, I am here with my sister and my friend S. A current ban on spirits in the Czech Republic pretty much guarantees remaining in pants, as does the fact that I’m with my sister and not my brother.
My sister has an interest in languages; she speaks French, some Italian and got one of the highest scores on the city Latin test when she was in high school. So she’s observant and questioning about pronunciation, grammar and vocab. S has just moved here to teach ESL so he is fully interested in this linguistic discussion. Trying out a question for the waiter, my sister announces to the table: Dobrý den, mám máslo = Good day, I have butter.
There were five of us in the pub last Friday on Jindřišská Street. It was a classic Czech pub, meaning sheets of smoke in the air, grumpy waitresses and food that reenacts the gunfight at the OK Corral within your colon.
One of us was celebrating a birthday; whose birthday was not really material, as we had planned to damage ourselves that evening in celebration of another number being added to the backside of a 4. This plan involved an evening of Gambrinus and Becherovka to cheer another year without major health problems, while tempting the fates.
We ordered five shots of Becherovka and the waiter shook his head. Assuming they were out of Becherovka, we ordered Slivovice. He shook his head again. Panic ran through the once riled ranks of our group.
I could almost hear every member’s balloon knot tightening up with the waiter’s gesture.
I am sitting at my desk, eating a hotdog. There is a Snickers bar waiting for dessert. Normally, a hotdog with Snickers chaser elicits a joy that is not often seen in a post thirty-year-old man without a wad of ones in his hand and women wrestling in pudding nearby. But not today. Today, I have been thinking about Chicago, the place where I enjoyed, for one brief moment, the life of the 1%.
For no particular reason, I throw the remainder of my hotdog in the trashcan.
Three weeks ago I was in Chicago and, though it was fantastic, it has ruined my life. We stayed with Collin’s friends Amy and Dan, who both work at upscale restaurants in downtown Chicago.
Having stayed at campsites and motels for much of the previous two weeks, we were stunned by their beautiful downtown apartment. Welcomed with bourbon Old Fashioneds and snacks, our awe was progressed by breakfast of bagels, coffee and donuts. In the afternoon we feasted on gourmet hotdogs. I had a rattlesnake dog and Collin had an alligator dog, and fries dipped in duck fat lard.
I smile as my face explodes into various shades of red. My hopes for a discreet entrance have been dashed. Everyone looks at me. Someone points, but there’s a chance that occurs in my head. The teacher comes in; she is fit, tight, toned, muscular, beautiful, cheery, and excited. “Let’s get started!” she shouts.
Just then, Colombian hip hop music begins rattling the walls and everyone in the room begins following the lead of the instructor. I have no choice but to attempt to move my arms and legs in a fashion last attempted during an LSD-fueled Haka.
I believe it was somewhere in Colorado when Collin and I became aware that our road trip had become focused on food. We didn’t do many tours in Wisconsin, just visited restaurants. The world-famous sights of South Dakota became interludes between places to eat steak and creamy desserts. And Kansas City was on the itinerary for one reason.
Fast forward and I am sitting at this desk sweating under the strain of my oppressive belt and stubborn pant-waist. I run twelve miles a week, I snack on fruit and eat salads and I walk probably about fifteen miles a week. So why are my pants tight? As it can’t possibly be my fault, below are the five reasons directly related to my summer trip.
Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I am standing in front of twenty potential students who are taking entrance exams today. The dean of the school and one of the heads of department are standing next to me. Two administrators enter the room and go out of their way to stand directly on my right. I take a miniscule step backwards, away from everyone and mumble, “Oh for the love of…” letting it peter out. The walls closing in on me and I am almost certain that the students will start leaping onto my back.
For anyone who reads this blog or has ever met me, it should come as no surprise that I am one of the anxious people. We are quick to discomfort and find stress in basic situations, and once that uncomfortable situation begins, it becomes eternal and moist.
This is one of those times.
“Wow,” I say.
Considered alone, a man shaking a papaya is not thrilling visual data. The papaya doesn’t bear a likeness of St. George and he is not shaking the papaya with a third arm emerging from his chest. The fact that we are looking at a man on a small street in Palermo, Sicily, on Google street view is something that mystifies us both. We are Luddites who enjoy the superficial aspects that computers offer: internet, email, Wikideaths and attractive people sleeping with other attractive people. So Google street view showing a picture of a specific street address is something we can barely fathom.