Archive for March, 2021

Amazing Kids

I have spent the last few years miserable about the world. Despite the lessons we should have learned from history, politicians and governments are spreading their fascistic wings. Some politicians are clearly out for themselves and don’t care one lick about the destruction they leave in their wake. In fact, it seems to be their goal. Millions of people in Asia, Russia, Europe, and the United States are telling their governments what they want from them, but instead of listening to these people and trying to make people’s lives better, politicians and governments press forth with nonsensical and outdated notions.

It’s enormously demoralizing to see the direction which many leaders are actively taking their people and countries. They do so with no bases in fact, but rather use their own peddled conspiracy theories and outright lies to instigate and divide. There seems to be no end to this but adding to their own power. These things have made me very depressed.  

This depression was compounded just a day ago, when the republican-led state of Georgia pressed forth legislation to make voting much harder. American republicans have long understood that the more people who vote, the less they get elected. So, instead of expanding their ideas to welcome others in, they have become proficient in the art of cheating. They suppress votes, gerrymander, and make it incredibly difficult to vote via various methods. And now – when they somehow manage to lose after applying their underhanded tactics – they have simply gone to pointing to the other side and shrieking “you rigged the election!” Imagine the gall!

The Georgia GOP is basing their rationale for their voting restrictions on Donald Trump’s claims that an election he got his ass kicked in was stolen from him. Trump has made these claims about every election he’s lost – an Emmy award and the Iowa caucus – when the thief was Ted Cruz, who was probably more distracted by his JFK-killing father and his evidently unattractive wife to do much about it.

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Not to Curse

Veruca Salt After Daddy Ate all her Halloween Candy

Saturday morning is my one blissful day. It’s the one day I eat what I want and work on what I want and watch what I want. I usually wake up late – about 7 – and wander around in my robe sipping coffee and listening to music or passively watching a string of sitcoms. I sit and stretch out in various lounging poses on all of the soft seats in my house – couch, armchair, cat, and I read. I must resemble ancient Greek art. It’s glorious. It’s the one day a week I am at peace, comforted, and work without a to-do list.

This Saturday, I turned on my computer as I let out a leonine yawn. Something was a little off, and so I pushed some buttons but they didn’t do the thing they usually do. I put down my coffee, my face tightened, my brows furrowed. Most grown human adults who don’t spend their days in an orange jumpsuit would keep calm, breath, come around to the issue, and then fix it without much drama.

Instead of this, I opt for instant fury. As my computer resists my fingers’ charms, I lace together a quilt of profanities that would make a nun convert to satanism.

When I was growing up, my father would occasionally embark upon a home DIY project. This was the 80s, so he’d have to go out and buy a book first. Time Life. DIY at Home. Bob Vila. After the book had been bought, his red toolbox and a radio would appear in the room where the project would take place. To some unrelated visitor this would have seemed an innocuous event. But to the residents of our home, it was a clear territorial warning. Something like a shrunken head on a pike that tells one tribe to stay out of another tribe’s turf. Stay Away. A warning, which, had you ever experienced a DIY project in my house, you did not need. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized how my clever mom was. On DIY days, she brought my sisters and my brother to some mall, movie, or excursion.

Sometime in the afternoon on DIY days, the calm of our home would be shattered by the sounds of verbal and vocal (for some of his utterances lied outside of the boundaries of language) disapproval from my father. I had never heard – nor had anyone – the intricacies and complexities of his vulgarities. It was as though he had attended graduate work on the subject. His curses were multilevel and possessed themes, actors, and plots. As the rants developed, subordinate clauses and ellipses introduced minor characters and subplots. At times, I wanted to know how things went for the people he’d introduced into his vulgar world. To this day, whenever I see a Time Life book, I instinctively wince and wonder whatever happened to those characters I had learned about in hiding. In horror.  

In terms of the gift of vulgarity, I have taken the torch. Like Olympic athletes jogging the final obscene lap to light that torch and kick off some vulgar games. But, the thing is, I really don’t want to anymore.

During the pandemic, I have become a fan of Modern Family. If you have watched the antics of the Dunphy family, you know that Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) curses in a very unusual and very G-rated manner. Whenever he stubs his toe, trips on a step or realizes a gaff, where the rest of us would shout out a curse or an epithet, he shouts out a G-rated pulse.

Son of Jor-El!

Sweet potato fries!

Chicken in a basket!

Son of a Sacagawea!

John Philip Sousa!

There are studies out there that suggest curses are the linguistic dough of the very intelligent. I was happy to hear this, as it makes the smartest person in just about any room I’m in sans Richard Pryor. But I’m not that smart. And if I am smart, in no way does shouting interlaced multi-syllabic plot-themed vulgarities at my computer’s lock screen make me feel or appear smart to anyone within sight or earshot.

That’s it, I thought, I am giving up cursing.

Day 1.

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On March 17, 1766, New York has its first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.

At dawn in New York city on March 17, 1766, a group of Irish soldiers serving in the British Army marched and paraded with fifes and drums. Records suggest they were heading to the Crown and Thistle Inn on Whitehall Street, others that they blew into bagpipes. There are no records about the reaction of the locals to bagpipes at 5 am, but it was no doubt colorful. The revelers breakfasted and then “spent a joyous tho’ orderly evening at the house of Mr. Bardin in this city.” They gave speeches and offered toasts to various entities, including “the glorious memory of King William,” “the memory of the late Duke of Cumberland,” and “the Protestant Interest.” Their last two (19 & 20) toasts were “May the enemies of Ireland never eat the Bread not drink the Whiskey of it, but be tormented with itching without the benefit of scratching” and to “our Noble Selves.”   

This was fitting, as their noble selves had just put on the first Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New York City. It’s also probably the first time an angry New Yorker shouted “stick yon bagpipe up thine ass!” at Saint Patrick’s Day partiers. This celebration is nowhere near the first celebration for Saint Patrick in North America. A Saint Patrick’s Day celebration took place in St. Augustine, Florida in 1601. Probably marking the first time an Irish festival was celebrated while dodging alligators. There were celebrations in Boston in 1737, in New York in 1762, and at Fort William Henry in 1757. In 1778, George Washington, honorary member of the Friendly Sons of Patrick, issued an extra grog on Match 17 for his soldiers. In 1768, African slaves on the island of Montserrat planned an uprising on March 17, because they knew their Irish overseers would be drunk. The Irish got wise to the uprising and squashed it…and then got really drunk. The 1766 New York parade is arguably the beginning of Saint Patrick’s Day as a day of tipsy revelry, which primarily took place in Colonial America.

If you’ve never perused one of the 14,000 articles that come out about him between March 15th and March 17th every year, Saint Patrick is a fifth-century Anglo-Irish saint who is surrounded by myth. He rid Ireland of snakes, a feat made more impressive by the fact that no snakes existed there. I could be heralded for ridding the Czech Republic of tarantulas, but I don’t think I’d get a Saint Day. Saint Patrick is said to have brought Catholicism to Ireland and likened the triumvirate of the Catholic Church to the ubiquitous shamrock. There’s a pretty good chance he did neither, but evidently he had the same PR rep as a lot of Catholic saints. The real Patrick was born in Roman Britain and was kidnapped by Irish pirates. He spent six years as a slave in Ireland, where he spent much of his time looking after animals (not snakes). He eventually escaped back to Britain, but after he became a cleric he headed back to Ireland and became a bishop. By the seventh century he was the Patron Saint of Ireland.

Like many religious festivities that turned into booze fests (hello, Mardi Gras), Saint Patrick’s Day started out as a pious event. Pubs were closed in Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day until the 1970s. In 18th century Canada, the celebrations were temperate, pious, and probably very cold. Even in early America, the celebrations differed greatly between the two religious groups of Irish Americans. The Protestant celebrations were evidently formal, elite, and rife with speeches. In the afternoon, celebrants would go to mass and think about Saint Patrick. And as much fun as it is to think about a saint, America’s Irish Catholics had a different celebration in mind.  

Catholic St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were typically more working class and public, and they involved alcohol, green, and shamrocks. This seems to have carried over from traditions within Ireland that had been celebrated for at least a century. When Englishman Thomas Dineley travelled the island in 1681, he noted the three tenets of a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration were alcohol, wearing a green ribbon, and wearing shamrocks. They “drowned the shamrock” by placing the shamrock worn on their lapel in their beer, whiskey, or punch. St. Patrick’s Day would become a more festive occasion in America when it became considered a “day off” in the middle of Lent. Self-bans on alcohol and meat were encouraged to be lifted and Irish Catholics in America took advantage. This festive St. Patrick’s Day was propelled forward in America by heavy Irish Catholic migration and the rise of Independence movements and Irish patriotism societies. This took a step away from the Protestant celebrations in the mid-1700s and by the 19th century, the Catholic ones had all but taken over. In a word, for probably the first and last time in history, the Catholics were the fun ones.  

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Anosmiac Hipster

Before anosmia as a concept exploded around the world, before anosmia became a word in the average person’s lexicon, before anyone even knew what the hell it was, I was there.

My story, like so many others that should never be told, started in the bathroom. About twelve years ago in my Prague 6 flat, I was doing that thing in the bathroom for which people employ books and phones. I shut away the world for a few minutes and let my body slip into its intestinal yoga. I was relaxed.

Far less relaxed was my flatmate, who was so overwhelmed by my activity’s odiferous results that he broke the code of all past and present humanity by offering commentary through the door. Other than desiring to drive a brick into his brain, I suddenly realized that I could not smell anything. I tried. Nothing. I voiced this to him and he assured me, through teary eyes, that he was not wrong. I went into the kitchen and grabbed a can of coffee grounds. Bringing them to my nose, I inhaled deeply. Nothing. Nil. Not a hint.


My adventure into anosmia had begun. As has yours, maybe.  

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Spring Training with Fans

Yesterday I talked to my dad like every Sunday. He asked me what I was making for dinner, grunted and gave a mostly-polite and fully untrue “sounds good” when I said “salmon.” I ranted about yet another lockdown that the Czech Republic is starting Monday. And he was sympathetic, I think. He also may have been reacting to a particularly touching scene in the Boston Legal episode he had playing in the background.

When I asked him what he was doing on Sunday, he said simply: “I’m watching baseball all day.” I was happy that he did not add “your honor” or “objection.”

I was fully jealous. I went to my laptop and found an article instantly whose headline read: Spring Training with Fans. A quick search produced no fewer than six articles directly and positively mentioning fans. Pirates Spring Training: Normalcy, Fans Return in Opening Win, MLB Takes small Step Towards Normalcy as Fans Return to Spring Training Games, etc. etc. etc.     

Two years ago, words like normalcy, fans, and spring training sold out would have been insane commentary for a headline. If you were transported here from 2017, you’d wonder what the hell was wrong with any writer who did so. However, after a year or so of the corona-world, we all get it.  

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