Archive for June, 2014
I am reading a western by Larry McMurtry and have found what I always find – westerns make me itchy. Oh, not itchy in the venereal disease kind of way, but itchy to take an adventure.
In this book, The Wandering Hill, a random group of trappers and explorers travel in the American West in the 1830s. The story is lousy with adventure. There are battles with lances, bows, and hatchets. There are people getting eaten by bears, bitten by snakes, and kicked by horses. There are lots of merciless clashes between tribes of Native Americans.
And as I enjoy this book from the safety of my couch, house, and routine, it awakens the dormant adventurer in me. That part that just wants to put on a backpack and walk to India or hike to Iceland. I look out my window at the trees and the river and imagine a far more interesting life for myself.
For me, it’s always been television detectives. There is nothing quite as fun as watching a TV sleuth figure out a murder or catch a bad guy.
I think the whole thing started with Magnum P.I. Thursday nights between 8-9 were spent watching Thomas Magnum run around Honolulu chasing down thugs and ticking off Higgins. In college, Magnum was replaced by Columbo and Rockford, who I found in the wonderful land known as Rerunia. They were two totally different detectives: one was sly, clever, and purposefully disarming, the other rough, tough and gritty.
A thousand years later, aka 2010, Sherlock Holmes joined the ranks of my favorite TV detectives. I’d read all the stories, I found that a bowl of popcorn and the tiniest prospect of actually being able to deduce what was going on added to my enjoyment. While I have always loved Sherlock Holmes stories, they aren’t really detective stories since the reader has no way of figuring out the plot until Holmes reveals it all to the exasperated Watson on the last page.
Elementary, Watson, as long as you knew that in Urdu the man’s cousin’s dog’s name backwards reads bacon. Adding to that, of course, that bacon was the favorite breakfast meat of this man’s butler’s sister’s husband Smedrick, who resides in a place called Florida. Then it’s all clear…
But I digress. Back to detectives.
In Czech, in order to convey that something is all Greek to you, you say that it’s a Spanish Village (to je Španělská vesnice). You warn friends not to live in the past by telling them that you can’t step into the same river twice (Dvakrát nevstoupíš do stejné řeky). And you show your preferences for girls with booty by saying that a girl without an ass is like a week without a Sunday (holka bez prdela je jako týden bez neděle).
So today, as I root through an old bookshelf and come across an American – Czech Vulgarism Dictionary I leap for joy. It was a gift some years ago from some students and it goes straight into my most sacred reading room (aka: bathroom).
Moments later, as I sit on the throne for my inaugural perusal, I find that I have never heard half of these idioms. I need to use them and force them into my lexical toolbox. I spend the day teaching high schoolers about American history and English, and the whole time these idioms are pestering me in the back of my head.
By the time Collin calls and asks if I want a beer, I am tired and grumpy. I haven’t slept well in a deuce of nods on a backseat, but I go anyway. I haven’t seen Collin in a deuce of haircuts and since today is the day that the eagle shits I have some disposable cash.
I meet him at a beer garden in Žižkov.
People of Earth, I declare that I am a reasonably easygoing and friendly dude. But holy mother, you guys are good at pushing those limits of reason with your irritating habits and actions. And every once in a while a man has just got to get it off his chest how annoying you can all be. So, if your actions or habits resemble anything on this list, please consider changing your behavior.
Every day I go shopping. And every day this happens. A man brings up 12 items, puts them down on the counter, and the cashier rings them through. The man watches. When the total comes, the man looks surprised, and then he begins looking for money. Once he has searched for coins and my psychopathic rage is hovering up there with the Hubble, that’s when he asks for a bag and starts bagging his groceries.
I know. It’s astounding. But, my dear Czech friend, you have to come to terms with the fact that every time – yes, every time – you purchase things at a shop, the cashier will ask you for money. It’s remarkable, I know. How dare they! But the fact of the matter is, when you look stupefied by this action, I want to shove a bowling ball up your asshole and go for a 7-10 split.
So, like the Boy Scouts of America, be prepared!
It’s late on a Sunday when I walk down the hill to meet a friend for an evening beer. I am humming some tune in a mindless way, which nevertheless keeps a spring in my step. I get to the pub and see my friend walking in the door.
“Why are you humming the National Anthem?” he asks.
And this is just the tip of the patriotic iceberg.
As part of a recruitment program the university does for high school students, the teachers are asked to do a series of themed lessons. A couple of weeks ago, I did a lecture on academic and creative writing and this week I have to do two lectures on America. I have chosen to do Ellis Island and the Founding Fathers. Um…not in the same lecture.
I am on one of those trams whose windows open at a 20 degree slant, thus allowing almost no air in on a hellacious day. I am standing in the back, my body declining from human shape to natural vacation destination. I have become a series of jungles, swamps, waterfalls, and pools.
Most people getting on the tram are subject to my silent damnation. What you smiling for? This guy looks clean as a sheet. Nice hair. Prick. It’s the ones who don’t appear miserable that I loathe the most. The ones who like this weather. If a fellow sweatball climbs the tram steps in misery, I search his face and rate his misery against mine.
Mine is the barometer by which misery is measured. I am at a 7.5/10. There is room for more. Most people are around 6/10. One guy gets a 9/10. His physique makes me look like a trapeze artist. Also, he’s crying.
Just as my thoughts become a little too homicidal, my stop comes. I leave the tram, saunter to the metro station and cool slightly since I am out of the heat conducting metal stick. I get into the station, past the bums, the junkies, and the cops.
And then, as I walk down the steps to the platform, a wind smacks me in my sweaty teeth. I raise my arms like a TV martyr. And there is one minute of happiness.
Sunday, 9:30 a.m. I am running. The sun is baking down already, so I am in the 6th circle of hell, the circle of hell reserved for those who loathe the heat, love the Bee Gees, and Richard Nixon. Additionally, there is a lot of activity along the river this morning, so I cannot utilize my patented style of sweating and blaspheming (aka: sweatpheming).
I pull sweat out of my eyes as I avoid children, cyclists, children cyclists, and a few drinkers.
The activity grows as I get to the train bridge and I see that there is a gathering of some sort along the bank up ahead. On my way back down the river, I see that it’s a huge festival, with games, concessions, bands, and loads of people. What’s more, these people are having fun.
But it’s summer.
It’s 2:35 a.m. on a Wednesday and I am standing at a tram stop near the center. It’s middle of the night busy, meaning the normal people are home in bed and the streets are littered with extras from Requiem for a Dream.
Though I do not have a terribly early morning, I crave nothing more than a ham sandwich and my bed. I look down the road and nothing is coming. I never believe it’s going to happen until it does. And then it does.
From around the corner, at 2:37 a.m. – just like the schedule reads – comes the night tram. I could shed a tear of joy, but it’s more because I know a ham sandwich is in my near future.
One of the best things about Prague is that at any time of day or night some form of public transportation will get you home. It’s everywhere too. You can be in the middle of a remote outskirt of Prague 25 and there’s a ghost bus stop or a tram stop.
As I step on the night tram at 2:37:03, I am overwhelmed with happiness. And then I look around and remember the payoff.
It’s the night tram people.
Let’s face it, there are some movies that were created with Sunday afternoons in mind. And, though it’s hard to completely describe what that means, you probably understand. In order for a movie to fit the term “Sunday afternoon movie” it has to fit a lot of parameters.
A Sunday afternoon movie shouldn’t be a thinker, so you should avoid movies that make you crinkle your brow. This includes Pi, Requiem for a Dream or anything that involves reading subtitles in French. They also can’t be too serious. So, no Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, or anything where a non-animated animal dies.
Just keep it in mind that roughly ten hours after you watch this movie on a Sunday afternoon, it will be Monday. You can start thinking again on Monday. But for now, you want to relax and laugh and vegetate a bit before the onslaught of Monday depression.
Here are some ideas.