Archive for October, 2015
The first glitch in our plan becomes evident when we walk out of the train station: we don’t know where to go. There are no signs, but now I don’t know what I was really expecting. Did I expect a sign with vampires on it and an arrow?
We walk a bit aimlessly through the quaint city center. There’s a park, a fountain, a statue of soldiers, and a lot of old official buildings. No vampires. The city center quickly becomes a residential back road. We are soon scanning the buildings around us, realizing that we have no map. Six minutes after stepping off of the train in a tiny town, we are lost.
We blame Gerald.
“Hi,” I say. I want to apologize for being in my underwear; I never know how to greet strangers while I’m in underwear. Today it’s a polka-dotted boxer affair which I am only now rethinking on the mat in this Thai massage house. Before I can move my lips again, the woman barks a quiet order at me:
I do. Slowly. I grunt involuntarily, but it has the dual purpose of letting her know how badly my back hurts and conveying the idea that, boy oh boy, she’d better give me a damned good massage. Because I need it. She fixes the sheet, orders me back on the mat, and washes my feet. And with that, at minute 2, ends the calm and soothing portion of the 60-minute massage.
For the last two days my neck and back have been in severe pain. The origin of this pain is surely a night of swimming three days ago. Evidently, during the drunken karate kid flailing that I call ‘the breaststroke’ I created a knot in my upper back so large that it could be used to cross the River Kwai.
The pain is impressive. The kind of impressive when you begin to realize how much you’ve been taking things for granted, like walking, sitting, and the ability to turn your head. I never appreciate parts of my body more than when they are under attack by spasm, ulcer, or rupture. When I have a mouth ulcer, I can’t imagine life without it. A bad headache sends me into nostalgic reminiscence for a time when brain trolls weren’t poking the backs of my eyes with hot pokers.
It’s been a day and a half of muscle relaxers and ibuprofen. It’s been Youtubing Yoga poses for the upper back in a desperate attempt to return to a realm of life without excruciating pain. Turning my entire upper body to look both ways for traffic, I resemble that too-built no-necked linebacker from every high school. (All that’s missing is the muscles!)
It’s lunchtime on Thursday. The place is abuzz. Students milling about, others on the way to class. Faculty walking to classes or offices. Administration rushing around in an attempt to keep the whole operation from crashing. I weave through them with determination. I have a meeting with a vending machine.
When I arrive, the machine is unoccupied. Despite the activity buzzing around it, nobody is peering through the window at the sandwiches in their cubbies.
I take out my 50 Koruna and approach.
The last two days I have put 50 Koruna into this machine and selected a ham and Dijon sandwich (code 52, 47 Kc). And both days I have received both my ham and Dijon sandwich and all of my money back. Day one I figured it was a fluke, but when it happened again yesterday, I realized that the Vending Machine God was showing his face. Today is day three.
If the Vending Machine God (Herman) pulls the same trick, I think it’s safe to say that he is showing me favor.
Like you, I used to have a boring life. A three-mile jog was just thirty minutes and eight seconds of exercise. A date was simply getting to know someone for two hours in a pub. A lesson was a ninety minute snoozefest, marked only by occasional attained language.
But that all changed after coming back from Ethiopia with a persistent stomach bug. Selassie’s Revenge is like other popular intestinal-based Revenges, such as Montezuma’s and Pharoah’s, and encompasses all the fun of shitting out your soul while praying to a God you no longer believe in to mercifully take your life. Now my days are dotted with occasional bouts of excitement and horror.
Childhood leaves marks on us. Whether it’s the positive Pavlovian response to Friday afternoon at 3 o’clock, or the negative reaction to getting called into your boss’s office. There are certain things which trigger certain responses.
Yesterday, I shamelessly needed my mommy. I stumbled through my day with a chest cold, wheezing in such a painful manner that Darth Vader would have winced and sent me home early from the Death Star.
After a brief discussion with my boss – who is far lovelier than Mr. Vader – she told me to take the next day off.
I literally gasped. Not because I was about to hack up a portion of my spleen, though, in fact, I did just that. Rather, I was sort of torn. See, I have long been programmed to see sick days as a fun-filled day of Ferris Bueller antics. But my adult self knew things to be quite different.
Basically, I knew what was immediately ahead. The two sick days I have taken in the last five years (and every adult sick day) have been the same roller coaster of emotions and issues. So as I pack my bag and leave with the knowledge that I am staying in bed the following morning, I foresee myself wearing pajamas, eating carbs, drinking hot beverages, and watching bad daytime television.
When I leave the office, I cry a little.
That evening at the market it is clear to any perceptive human that I plan on spending the following day in a matching sweatsuit on my couch. I buy four kinds of broth-based soups, two boxes of crackers, a bag of oranges, oatmeal, a bottle of ginger ale, two Snickers bars, hot dogs and baked beans.
The walk home is long and cold and my chest hurts. I am in the throes of a self pity churro by the time I sneak in my door. I strip off everything and slip into the armor of the forlorn, then I plant my ass on the couch and sip hot toddies in front of sitcoms.
This is it. This is as good as having a sick day gets. There’s the day off tomorrow, the fully acceptable woe is me period tonight, and the encouraged donning of grungy attire and comfort eating. I enjoy it as much as I can, for tomorrow is a fast decline into reality.
If I were locked away in solitary confinement, with no connection to the outside world, I would always know when it was my birthday. It would be the one time a year I either became terribly ill or my body fell apart in a disconcerting manner.
Every year, just before my birthday, my body stages a minor revolt in the form of some physical issue or illness. There have been pulled backs, flus, chicken pox, ear infections, and any number of colds and stomach bugs. It’s like a yearly biblical plague.
This year it’s a cold, and it’s going to be a bad one. I feel it begin manifesting itself on Friday, two days before my birthday. It’s gearing up as I head out to the airport to pick up a visiting friend. A pain is rising up my neck like a snake. This is accompanied by a tickle in the back of my throat that I can’t seem to placate. No good. The clincher comes when I cough up a small woodland animal after leaving the pub that evening. Nothing green coming out of the back of your throat can be good.
And, as we head up the hill to my flat, I let out a big woe is me.
It’s no secret that other things change in the fall. Moods. Outlooks. I always feel more nostalgic and reminiscent. I crave different foods. Stews. Soups. Bread. Roasts. I want different comforts than I did in the summer. Sweaters. Movie marathons. Rainy days reading in bed.
Everyone who goes through the autumnal season change can commiserate with the switches that happen within them during September and October.
And while a trillion words have been written waxing nostalgic and poetic about autumn, nobody ever seems to pinpoint why we feel different in this time of year. Perhaps it’s a job for science.
After four cups of coffee and a morning of internet research, here are some weird things that happen to you during autumn.
Today, I am walking through Podskalska in Prague’s New Town. New Town is wonderful; it is often overlooked by tourists and yet it’s lined with charming buildings which mark Prague’s varied architectural history.
Moreover, the back streets are often home to hidden gems. I’ve stumbled upon a bust of Winston Churchill, a pub with an archery range in it, and a church with a severed arm behind the altar. There’s always something weird just waiting to be discovered in those cobbled streets.
And better yet, there’s always a good pub near that something weird.
Today’s surprise turns out to be a museum of toilets and kid’s potties. The sign was in linoleum – what else – and the large front window is stuffed with the historical representation of The John. We take a picture of it and then swiftly move to the pub across the street. But I am already obsessed with this idea of the toilet museum.
The toilet museum exists. Someone thought that a museum to toilets should exist and they built it here in Prague 4 and then filled it with appropriate objects. Once I start thinking about it, the idea doesn’t seem all that crazy.
Surely, there are other weird museums out there and then I start remembering others I’ve been to – the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, the Sex Museum in Amsterdam, the Museum of Medieval Torture Devices in Prague.
What else is out there? I sip my beer in content, because my internet surfing time for later is set with purpose. Here are five other weird museums that actually exist in the world.
As I was getting on the tram I found myself in a common situation. A woman with a stroller (pram) was looking for help getting it off the tram. Man or woman, if you live ever take public transport in Prague, hoisting prams is an occasional surprise workout. I gladly offered my help, helped, and then got on.
A few minutes later I realized that I had used the informal form of the verb instead of the formal form. In Czech, formality is built right into the verb conjugation. It is considered very rude to use the informal form with a stranger.
While most Czechs take foreigner’s Czech with a grain of good-natured salt, and the woman herself didn’t seem bent out of shape about it, I worried. And then my worry began to worry me. Why did I care so much? This demanded some serious attention and consideration.
So I retired to a pub.
Four beers, a shot, and lots of jotted evidence later, it was clear that I have been assuming some Czech habits over the years in various areas.
Then I made a list. It’s below.