Archive for May, 2016

A.M. Enemies

sleepy catIf there’s one lesson I learned as a teenager, it’s that, well, girls don’t like sweat. But a close second is that everyone wants you to be awake.


My mom and dad were the first two people in that line, my exasperated teachers behind them. A slew of coaches, siblings, bosses, and others who needed me awake so that I could perform some promised duty, give someone a ride somewhere, work part of a job in return for a wage set on an hourly basis, or play baseball.

Or, really, just become part of human daytime society.

But I liked being awake at nighttime, so mornings for me were nothing short of sunny torture. While I’d eventually crawl out of bed and walk amongst the Day People, for an hour or so my brain cursed everyone and was daydreaming about night dreaming. And probably in there somewhere I was thinking about sex.

Some things haven’t changed.

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The Most Annoyingly Hipstery Things That Have Come out of My Mouth This Month

hipsterI am a normal schmuck. I do normal schmuck things like drink too much on a Tuesday, binge watch TV shows, and tell ten to twelve lies a day. Moreover, I surround myself with normal schmucks, they do normal schmuck things too. Sometimes we do them together.

Though some out there might disagree with “normal,” one thing’s for sure: I am not a hipster. I couldn’t be one. I can’t wear skinny jeans without getting a stomachache and everyone has heard of my favorite bands.

That said, I have no problems with hipsters. There are lots of them in Prague and despite all the anger and hype against them, in general I have found them to be a friendly, good-humored crowd of people. Besides, I have always had a soft spot for dorky glasses.

But “hipstery” is different. When something is hipstery – an article of clothing, a flavor of water, a band – we are placing it on a list of things that make us roll our eyes and yet whose irritative agent is not fully explicable. It’s one of those “I know it when I see it” sort of things.

When it comes to things people say, “hipstery” is an enormously applicable term. Sometimes a person comes out with a statement, complaint, or question so inherently “hipstery” that it elicits an eye roll and a spark of inexplicable irritation. And yet if we were asked to write a paragraph on why, we probably wouldn’t be able to clearly pinpoint the reason for our irritation.

For example, read these three sentences pulled right off of the website Stuff Hipsters Say:

My music doesn’t really have a genre, but if you had to define it, I guess you’d call it “organic garage.”

When I die I’m leaving my body to art

Lana Del Rey is one of the best musical exponents of her generation.  

Now, tell me you didn’t roll your eyes once and I’ll come to your house and sing you a Lana Del Rey song in the organic garage genre.

Now, seeing as I am a normal schmuck who gets annoyed by hipstery quotes, it surprised me a month or so ago when I realized I had said something that clearly fell under the category of “hipstery.” I jotted it down in my moleskine (totally hipstery), and decided to keep notes. At the end of the month I was annoyed with myself. I was also depressed and, to be honest, even thought I should go get some skinny jeans.

Here is a list of the most hipstery things that have come out of my mouth in the last month.

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Forever Awkward

So Young. So Awkward

So Young. So Awkward

We are sitting in the Sokol on a Tuesday night. Beer. Becherovka. It’s a way to celebrate a good day or forget a bad day while handicapping the next day. Somehow we get onto the subject of our awkward teen years. The things we did.

My friend confides that were I to visit his neighborhood a few decades before, I might see him wandering around, running errands, doing garden work, and even working his part-time job at a video store in a full gi (aka: karate uniform).

Not to be outdone in the awkward area, a space in which I can confidently and comfortably assert myself, I tell him that from the age of ten(ish) to fourteen(ish) I desperately wanted to be in the army. I dressed in fatigues, boots, marched everywhere in close order drill, and nicknamed my bedroom The Swamp, after the surgeon’s tent from M*A*S*H.

We laugh hard. But the speed with which we order another round of shots is no coincidence.

Oh there’s more, too. So much more.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Candy from Strangers

Mystery Toblerone

Mystery Toblerone

The Toblerone is on the keyboard on my desk. It sits perfectly in line with the keys, suggesting that it’s been placed there and not, for example, dropped accidentally out of someone’s pocket.

This is a surprise. It’s also the moment my day starts to look up. Til now it’s been a bitch. There have been articles to write, tests to make, workouts to suffer through, and courses to plan.

I’m downright pissy.

The only thing that can quell my rising pissiness is bourbon or chocolate. And since I have just walked into work, chocolate will have to suffice.

I immediately break it open and shamelessly begin chomping on one end of it. I don’t care who’s watching. This is a Vishnu-send.

It occurs to me a short while later that if I were in a British detective series, I’d be dead. Or rather I’d die later in front of a class while extolling the virtues of the Oxford comma. The second thing that becomes clear is that I don’t care. Well, I sort of don’t. Well, I tell myself I don’t. I do things which tell myself and everyone around me I don’t care. I post a joke on Facebook about the ease with which an enemy could assassinate me with cyanide.

Shortly after making that joke on facebook – and to anyone within a thirty foot radius of me – its truth begins to fester like my brain after a batch of hemlock-laced chocolate chip cookies.

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The Sea Bass Instinct

Pictured: timing serendipity and me

Pictured: timing serendipity and me

I’ve just missed a tram, turning a corner in time to see its tail-lights blacken as the driver released the breaks and took off into the night. I let out a groan.

I stand at the empty tram stop and try to hold on until the next one comes. I’m unbalanced and my right eye has heroically taken it upon itself to see double of everything, a visual overachievement resulting from too many Becherovkas at a party.

More than anything I’ve ever wanted, I want to be home.


I wait about thirty-seven years, or in non-drunk time about five more minutes. But then unpleasant clues begin to take shape. In the first place, there is nobody at the stop with me. Only a few people waiting for the tram going in the opposite direction. Not good. And then I notice the yellow sign. An unsettling prescience creeps over me. When there’s a yellow sign hung up at a tram stop, it means there is some detour in the route or a change in service due to work on the lines. And when you see one of these devil signs, you can only hope that the timing of that change isn’t going to completely screw you.

But to be honest, I don’t even hope anymore.

I walk (stumble) (in)to the sign. Close my right eye again.

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dtfI’m about to walk into my Tuesday evening class when I get a buzz in my pocket. I check it.

New Tinder Match!

Oh that’s nice. I take a quick look at the match. It’s a pretty-ish woman in her early 30s. A nurse. Traveler. Before I can put my phone back into my pocket, she sends me a message. It reads:


I groan. An acronym. Oh goodie.

I guess I will be communicating with this person in letters and signs. I am 41, not young enough to be fluent in textspeak, netspeak, Tindercode or whatever the hell is going on here. Can’t she just write me in a language I understand, like English, Czech, or sarcasm? And what the hell does dtf mean?

Before I can put any thought into deciphering it, class begins.

It’s mid May, so my head is elsewhere. It’s everywhere. Or anywhere. It’s sort of like the Matrix if the Matrix was tired and desperately holding onto its sanity until summer holiday. This is not uncommon at this time of the summer semester. I am tired. They are tired. Everyone is tired.

While the students are on a task in the middle of class, I take the opportunity to look up one or two collocations on my tablet. I note them down and it comes to mind again. dtf? I look it up.

Down to Fuck?


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American Express

The American Sector

The American Sector

Maria and I saunter up to the bar and take a seat. I don’t normally sit at the bar in pubs or restaurants anymore, as it’s very much against Czech custom. So this is a bit of a novelty; but it’s a novelty befitting the pub itself.

We are in a hamburger joint in Vinohrady, so in effect we’re in an American place in little America. Burger joints are a major American influence on Czech gastronomy and Vinohrady is a section of Prague jokingly referred to as the “American Sector” since it’s home to so many American expats.

The staff all speak fluent English and the menu features not only burgers, but a variety of cocktails not normally encountered in Czech pubs.

We might as well have stumbled into a burger place in Maple Point, New Jersey.

The American accent is ubiquitous here, flying around the room like flak. Maria gives me a flat look and instantly “does her American.”

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Stop and Look at the Roses

If Ringo could do it, so can you

If Ringo could do it, so can you

I am sitting in front of two students and I am holding a pen above a class register and I am not moving. I am squinting into the recesses of my brain, past what I want for lunch, beyond the reason I was irritated with my boss this morning, through the frustrations of finding a plot hole in a book I’ve been writing for two years.

And then I find it: the date. “Oh yeah,” I say to the students. And then I write down May 4 on the sheet.

And then I say: “Oh my God! It’s May. How in the world did that happen?”

I have taken up lots of hobbies as I spiral into happy old age. One of those things is searching my brain for why I walked into a room or what I was about to say. I have now attached sounds and groans to simple acts like standing up and sitting down. Moreover, I can easily while away an afternoon talking about how much time flies.

Cause it does.

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Get the Hell out of My Toilet!

pooperI step into the bathroom at my local pub. I take my phone out. There’s a man at the urinal next to me and it takes me a second to realize he’s obviously snapping pictures of his pecker.

Obviously because he has no shame. In no way does he subterfuge his activity. His right hand holds the phone above his willy, which is pictured grandly (or as grandly as nature allows) in his viewfinder. The phone loudly clicks the shutter sound effects of a camera.

I peer over. There is nothing in his left hand worth taking a picture of, let alone sending to another person. It occurs to me that he might be sending it to his urologist.

He doesn’t react in any way to my crashing his photo shoot. He’s a normal enough looking guy who is sitting with a woman at a table nearby ours.

Boy, there is a bunch of talk these days about who should be using what bathroom. And it all fits perfectly in the good old American tradition of worrying a whole lot about other people’s genitals. Moreover, I really don’t know who’s going to police bathroom use. Sir, may I see your penis please? Who knows?

As long as you don’t talk politics to me while I’m holding my penis I could care less which bathroom you use.

But let’s talk about the real bathroom threat: idiots with phones.

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