Archive for March, 2013
I was staring at my feet. Beyond them, two men were giggling at me and beyond them, the white ceiling marked its territory. I became aware of things. For example, all of the blood in my body had settled in my frontal lobe and my ears. The men were taking pictures of me. My head was wedged in the corner where the wall and floor met and the bed that had been standing on four legs when I went to sleep was now on two legs. I was at the bottom end of a seesaw.
It wasn’t clear if the bed had been G’s doing or if I had simply eaten too much linguine the night before. Removing two legs of a bed under a sleeping person in the middle of the night would be the sort of joke he’d not only love, but facilitate.
“Say Sssssspritzer!” G said.
J and I screamed, “Sssspritzer!” for probably the 400th time in the previous twenty-four hours.
Everything else on the plate is of obvious origin: Eggs, bread, tomatoes. But the meat is like none we have seen before; it’s flat and holds the feel and consistency of a protractor. We are in Israel, thus eliminating the possibility of porcine origin.
It’s 7 a.m. and the café we’re sitting in rests in between Jerusalem’s Muslim and Jewish Quarters. We are enjoying the early morning hour, which is the clichéd calm before the clichéd storm. It’s still cool; the July heat will attack the city in a short while, covering the palms and the Arab rugs, the gunky awnings and thousands of people with an afghan of unbearable heat. We’ll escape the heat in the afternoon by burrowing into the covered markets in the Muslim Quarter and dealing with the stench and dankness in order to not melt. So now we sit in the relative cool and the last quiet moments the day will enjoy until evening.
And we decipher our meat.
We were in the front room of a shop whose walls were full of four-armed Vishnus and Shivas. Hundreds of Ganeshas stared at us with their elephant heads. They were in all sizes, huge ones standing on the cement floor and smaller ones perched on shelves along the clay walls. They were made of many different materials; there were cloth gods, sandalwood gods, cement gods, and marble gods. The overwhelming scent of sandalwood pervaded the room.
“You are friends of Sanjay?”
“Then I will give you a very good deal.”
I moved to a tall wooden Ganesha and pressed my hand against the wall behind his many arms. Whether from the 120 degree Udaipur heat, the sandalwood, or hearing the same sentence 12,032 times in twenty days, I was getting light-headed.
“Once in a lifetime deal,” he sang.
I sat down on the floor. “Oh Ganesha, pull me through.”
“Ganesha is the remover of obstacles,” he said. “He can help you.”
I have eaten the kebab so fast that the man who has gone into the bathroom when I had a plate full of food does a double take when he comes out to see an empty plate and a fat man lounging in a satisfied loaf. It has been an act worthy of a gastronomical ninja. Fries, kebab and cherry Coke have disappeared into my throat at a speed most often seen seconds before someone gives a Heimlich maneuver and then states a time of death.
I open my notebook and run a finger down the list. I take out a pencil.
✔ Kebab (beef)
✔ Sugar-packed drink
And then we walk out the door with a small nearby pub in our sights, for it is Pizza Day.
This is something I am apt to say nanoseconds before realizing three things.
First, I don’t have the slightest bit of interest in giving up bread. Second, I don’t have the slightest ability to give up bread, and third, I should not give up bread, but I should give up speaking after four beers.
But, what the hell, right? There’s something about being in your late thirties and still writing verbal checks that my Gluteus maximus has no interest in honoring that makes a guy want to walk head first into a shark tank covered in chum. Other highlights in this area include: “Sure, I’ll go skydiving with you,” or “Sure, I’d love a cat,” and “Of course I’ll go out with your sister, I love mustaches, I have one myself.”
Nobody will look at me, but I am used to it. I’m in a shop in the Czech Republic, after all. After a few minutes of making my ‘genial man in need’ face – raised eyebrows, soft eye contact, slight backwards nod, smile so as to appear harmless – a man finally notices me. This works out well for him since it must be far more rewarding to notice me, ignore me and then walk away.
I wait for a few more minutes, make the face, but draw no attention. Everyone seems to have gone on break at the same moment. I step out of the shop and back into the mall with its global demographic of teens, old people, screeching children, goths and that guy carrying a radio and wearing suspenders. Judge them though I may, once entering a mall you become part of that demographic. It’s like the Borg; I have been assimilated.
I am at the mall because today I have a task. I have to exchange a sweater.
Every winter I am allowed to plunge into the depths of the fat ass lazy bastard. I drink too much beer, eat frozen pizzas, stow peanut butter sandwiches in my desk. I am allowed, nay encouraged, to lay on the couch eating potato chips dipped in cream cheese and watch reruns of shows that haven’t been on real television since my weight started with a one. I can eat chocolate ice cream sprinkled with crushed Oreo cookies, and fry eggs and bacon in last night’s grease.
I scoff at the suggestion of fruit, walk as little as possible and actually say, “cholesterol, shmolesterol!”
The payoff is that for the rest of the year, I have to act like a responsible adult and be healthy. So when that sun comes out of its hiding spot and spring springs, I have to change my tune. I have to jog, walk, eat carrots and elect chicken over, say, cheese filled sausages wrapped in bacon. I have to say no to the cheeseburger, eat gravel/muesli for breakfast and walk a mile every morning.
So when a neighbor renovates or reconstructs, I take it as a personal attack on my quietude, sort of like when General Zod and his creepy pale companions apprehended Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.
Unfortunately, living in a flat in the Czech Republic means that the infiltrating sounds of flat reconstruction are a fact of life. For some reason, Czech people need to redo something in their flats every year and it always means extensive drilling, hammering, men in overalls and a tango on the borderline between sanity and insanity.
Or maybe it’s just me.