Archive for May, 2015

New Dating Rules

Dick Pic

Dick Pic

I am chatting with my friend when she tells me a Tinder story. We share Tinder stories. Some of them are funny, some of them are frustrating, and some of them have us praying to deities we don’t believe in to save the human race.

It seems that she’d been chatting to a young man a few months ago and he went MIA. This is nothing new, people disappear all the time in the online dating game, sometimes they have met someone in person, sometimes they get cold feet when they have to actually meet another human face to face.

So today, after three months, the guy writes a random text message just to say hi. My friend responds with a hello, and then he sends her a picture of his penis.

OK. I am not judging. I mean I don’t understand how “hi” naturally leads to “here are pictures (4 in total) of my genitalia,” but still, not judging.

Also, I am no prude. And I have done my fair share of naughty textual interactions. But those interactions involved people I was intimately involved with and, moreover, there was a clear understanding on the part of all parties involved exactly what was happening.

My friend’s experience is far from isolated. According to many female friends who have been on Tinder or OK Cupid or any other number of dating sites, getting a picture of a penis is not an unusual occurrence. Often these penises are attached to men they have never met or seen before in any way. Women can apparently expect to be greeted with several anonymous members whenever they log into the site in question.

I am just wondering if I have missed a memo or something. Have the rules of the dating world completely changed? This would not be the first time I was late to the dating party and I have learned many dating lessons five months too late. So the idea that I am out of touch on this one is not out of the realm of possibility.

But if this is the new norm, where does it fall in the line of dating steps? Is it now: first date, kiss on cheek, second date, kiss on lips, between second and third date, send picture of junk, third date, depends on how picture was received, pack a lunch for your interrogation.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not preaching and I refuse to color this post with anything close to a “In my day!” or “We used to have values…” theme. It doesn’t matter when you lived, live, or will be living, people have always been and will always be horny and stupid. And the laws of physics state that the hornier you are, the stupider you get. Is it just that now we have technology to help us share our stupidity in photographic naughty form?

If this is the new way of the dating world, what’s next?

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Old(ish) and in the Way

CurmudgeonA few weeks ago Europe celebrated the anniversary of VE Day, or Victory in Europe. There were little celebrations around the city, there was a tank in Dejvice Square.

On this day, which marks the partial end to the largest conflict in the history of mankind, I found myself wandering around the Million Marijuana March. This was a music festival held on Štvanice Island advocating the legalization of marijuana. While I have always felt that marijuana should be legal, I am not exactly an advocate, but rather I went to the festival to see friends who were there.

I have not been reminded of late spring college days more than when I wandered through this festival. There were hundreds upon hundreds of people, mostly young, drinking beer, playing games or lying about on the grass in little circles of their friends, listening to the great bands that played throughout the day. There was, as you’d imagine, a mushroom cloud above the park grounds, about 5,000 smiles, and 10,000 bloodshot eyes.

And me.

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The Yellow Passport Club

20150521_083852“So, which vaccinations do you need?”

“Um.” I unfold the paper and hand it to him.

“Ah.” He winces. I take this as a relatively bad sign. “Where are you going?”


One of the realities of travelling to Africa is the preventive medicine involved. There are a slew of over the counter medicines to combat diarrhea, headaches, diarrhea, stomach issues, and diarrhea.

There are anti-malaria pills and I feel like Father Merrin about to confront Pazuzu in The Exorcist. We first met 20 years ago in India. If you have taken anti-malaria pills then you know that these pills give you the strangest, most vivid dreams imaginable, like Tim Burton taking LSD with Salvatore Dali in your subconscious. In India, we’d awake every morning and glare around the room, sweating, panting, and wonder how one brain could create the roller coaster we’d been on all night.

And just like anytime I am waiting to get on a roller coaster, I am not looking forward to it, but I am.

Primarily, though, there are vaccinations to get sorted out and there are a lot of them to consider. This is reflected in my list, which is comprehensive. Distressingly, I have noticed that the list of illnesses you can potentially come down with in Ethiopia is about 20 times longer than the illnesses you are required to vaccinate against before going there.

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On Drinking in Old Places

brevnovIt’s Saturday night and I’m walking into a monastery. No, I didn’t give up, it’s a birthday bash. Yes, in a monastery.

The Břevnov Monastery is a Benedictine archabbey in Břevnov, which is on the very beautiful outskirts of Prague. It was founded in 993 AD by Saint Adalbert, survived the Hussite Wars (barely), Wehrmacht occupation, and Bjork (so far).

It has been used by the StB (aka: the secret police. aka: the bad guys), visited by the Pope, and it celebrated its 1000th birthday in 1993.

Oh yeah, and they make beer here. Břevnovský Benedict beer, to be exact.

One of the fringe benefits of living in Prague is the number of opportunities one has to get highly intoxicated in very old places. Since my stocky rear end has arrived in Prague, I’ve gotten tipsy in castles, prisons, medieval meat houses, catacombs, and hundreds of pubs that either looked 600 years old or smelled 600 years old.

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Check Adventure Light

giza camel“Oohhuuuuuuhhhmmmmmmmmeeerrrrrrrrrr…”

My dad is groaning. And I am sitting on the other side of the phone, timing it.

I have long been timing my dad’s groans in response to my year’s holiday destination. His groan has become the barometer by which I measure the adventure quotient of my trips.

No groan means that the place does not worry him. Italy and France are no groan destinations. A two-second groan usually means the place was the scene of urban unrest when he was young. Budapest might be a two-groaner, as might Northern Ireland.

A three-second groan means the place has been in the news in the last two years. This might include Turkey, Puerto Rico, or Thailand. Anything above a five second groan suggests that it’s a place with a completely different alphabet, and not in Europe or North American and that he doesn’t know much about it. Israel was a nine second groan.

Ethiopia proves to be an eight second groan. So not as bad as the Middle East, but it is accompanied by two I don’t know, Dames and a few muttered Are you sure about this? for good measure.

It’s worth the cost of the flight itself.

I live my life as a normal enough person, I work too much, go out with friends, gripe about social affairs, cook and read and watch sitcoms on weekday nights, drink too much occasionally. But every year around the end of February, towards the end of the long and bleak winter, a little light goes on inside. It’s the kind of light that goes on when your car starts making sounds like an emphysema patient playing soccer.

A warning.

My Check Adventure light.

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Mama Fu

mom with usWhen it comes to my mom, there are things I still can’t believe. She had four teenagers at one point. Four. If I have to interact with four teenagers in one week I need to see a doctor. She once battled a spider who fell in her hair and she didn’t explode into flames. Insanity.

She chauffeured kids everywhere, ran the house, balanced budgets, ran a delicatessen, withheld our infractions from Dad, coped with blood, squabbles, temper tantrums, and yet she did not strangle one of us.

Adding to this are the countless sacrifices to body and mind, wallet, and personal comfort that still boggle my mind. Like many kids, I didn’t appreciate this when I was younger. She was just “mom,” this woman who ran around putting out fires (almost, well, literally), and fixing problems.

In those devastating moments as a kid, when I honestly believed nothing would ever be right again. It was over. At the ripe age of twelve, Cindy Balowonski had checked the “no” box on my discreetly passed date questionnaire, and my life was over. At these dark times when nothing could be made right, Mom made things right. She knew how to fix problems and repair bad moods. She knew the things to say, the snack to make, the movie to put on, the inkling of perspective to give.

It was and is a sixth sense.

This sixth sense is part of a greater art which became known in our house as Mama Fu.

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The Late Semester Student

whyIt’s late in the semester, which means that I busy with paperwork, presentations, and prepping finals. When I am not doing those things, I can be seen at my desk caressing the July 1 box on the desk calendar and silently weeping at the thought of an extended holiday.

When I am not doing that, I am looking up symptoms and treatments for teacher burn out.

I love my students and teaching, but there are times when it becomes clear that some students have an, oh, interesting idea about how the world around them works. And that time is almost always late in the semester, when these students start popping out of the sky like biblical plagues.

Here are some habits of the late semester student.

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Hockey Land

20150501_191509There’s nothing more pleasant than train travel. And travelling through the eastern Czech countryside only adds to that pleasure.

There are the fields of bright yellow rapeseed that looks as though it’s straight out of a Van Gogh. The forests are green and inviting, bushels of mistletoe perch in distant trees, already mocking me.

The charm is compounded by the occasional tiny village, the cottages that dot the landscape and make you desire country life.

But then the Moravian countryside is abruptly replaced by gray boxed factories, sections of mill, and discarded tin equipment alongside the tracks. The conductor calls “Ostrava” and my Moravian dream is over.

Ostrava is a city in the east of the Czech Republic. It is a sprawling island of industry, gray, metal, and factories. It is as homely as Prague is beautiful.

Ostrava’s greatest claim to fame is probably Stodolní Street, a collection of streets jam-packed with pubs. These pubs are useful for the crowds of people trying to drink away the knowledge that they are in Ostrava.

Why Ostrava? The hockey world cup is being played in the Czech Republic and PJ has an extra ticket. And since I lack the ability to think things through before agreeing to them, just as I lack the ability to wait before biting into scalding hot pizza, here I am.

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