Cheat Day and Jogging Pants

Chugger: jogging pants

In June I was forced to once again don pants. This was both a personal choice and one thrust upon me by the sneer of judgment. Lee met me for a beer one day in late June and said, “dude, are you still in pjs? Corona’s over.” As it turns out he was both right and wrong.

In the beginning of the Corona we were all in it together and nobody judged anybody. Our weekly trips to the store found neighbors in robes, muumuus, and hazmat suits and nobody blinked (the only part we could see). I went everywhere in what we will liberally describe as “jogging pants” and slip-on shoes. Nobody judged. Recently, however, I tired of being looked at on the metro like a guy wearing a thong to a museum of art.

At first, I looked right back at them thinking Who are you to judge, what with your fanny packs and socks under sandals? Still, I finally decided to come back to the world of the be-pantalooned.

I imagined that re-panting might bring about a transformation. Like suddenly I might feel more clearheaded and ready to take on the world with vigor, ready to be a productive member of society again. I imagined myself in a perpetual state of just showered state, wherein my hair and skin was clear and warm and soft but not pruned.

This – and I can’t stress this enough – did not happen.  

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What’s up, Doc?

Before going to my doctor, I reminisce fondly about the time before. I went to him about 16 months ago for a lump on my back that was bugging me out. Of course I don’t reminisce about the examination, I reminisce about the good news, the clean bill of health, the note to watch my salt intake in an offhand casual way that translated as “I had to find something to say. You’re fine!”

To paraphrase Bart Simpson’s views on church, leaving a reasonably successful doctor’s appointment is the best feeling in the world, because it’s the longest period of time before more doctor’s office.  

Preach, Bart.

I casually mentioned my success at the doctor’s for a while. I’ve just been to the doctor and he says I’m fit as a fiddle. As with many time-sensitive references, I am eventually betrayed by grammar. If I’m being honest, I’ve just been … becomes I was just at my doctor’s and eventually falls into I was just there a couple of months ago… and then, for grammatical accuracy, the just has to be removed. I was at my doctor’s a few months and he said….

What will happen is that my memory of his words become slightly distorted. “Your bloodwork is all good” becomes “Your bloodwork is perfect” and then “Your blood could be used to fuel an F-16 Falcon and lubricate Walk Disney back from the dead.”

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Walk in the Woods to a Brewery

It’s mid-summer and we have grown weary of many things. The COVID news is perpetually bad. The numbers in Prague and the Czech Republic are growing daily. And somehow, as if we live in one of Stephen King’s dystopian novels, not only are we forced to hear Donald Trump’s voice every day, what he says has bearing on the world’s events. What hell is this?

Anyway, we decide to escape it for the day by walking through nature. I love nature. I mean, sure, I don’t really like wasps or hills or the sun or cows who have a bit too much attitude for future steak or rocks or not being able to have pizza at a moment’s notice, but nature’s great. What makes it better is that we are enjoying nature in the Czech Republic, which means that all along the places where people enjoy nature there are pubs filled with pickled cheese and tank beer. And best of all, we’re not only hiking through nature, we’re hiking through nature to a brewery.

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Overhearing the Neighbors

Jethroe – aka: Satan

My corona-routine has been a bright spot in an otherwise stressful and depressing situation. I spend the morning writing and reading, making notes and plans, setting goals and then wondering how I can obfuscate them while still feeling like I accomplished something. I work in the living room which faces another building and a courtyard of sorts. It faces directly away from the sun and the street, so it’s cool and quiet. When I’ve organized, I put on my writing kufi, now needed to keep my long corona-locks out of my eyes, and start actively procrastinating.  

It has, however, allowed me to unwittingly listen in on the lives of my neighbors. At 6 am there is only a little life rousing back there. People converse with the dogs they’re walking in the yard.  Converse, not give orders. When I hear the whispers of conversation I peep out to see who it is and what their dog looks like. There’s an older woman who has a full conversation with her Corgi about the day ahead, or, a hopeful longshot depending on my understanding of her Czech phraseology, in which she outlines her plans to kill and eat her downstairs neighbor. A child in the building has a habit of whooping like a fire engine for very long periods of time. I’m guessing his parents drink. There’s a baby-toddler in one of the flats who throws a tantrum each morning of proportions that can only be described as epic, hellish, and otherworldly. I haven’t seen the parents in person yet (I look for eyes of extreme exhaustion above a mask), but when I do I will hug them and whisper words of comfort. And then send them alcohol.

I often wonder what the neighbors think of us here. We are mostly quiet and stick to ourselves. We watch TV late sometimes and argue sometimes, but overall they probably think of us as those weird people who talk to their cat and watch carpool karaoke sometimes late at night. Not too bad, I figure. I smile at people outside, say hello, hold the door for neighbors, am always polite at the shop. They should mostly get the idea that I am a reasonable adult human male.        

After my morning work, I go for a 4 or 5 mile walk or I work out. On walk days I go to my local park and listen to a podcast and/or just walk and make notes about the story I’m currently working on. I pack a messenger bag with a bottle of water, a book, earphones, and a notebook. As a long dedicated notebooker, this last one is a no-brainer. I walk through the park and occasionally stop in the woods or on the path and jot some notes. It’s a fine system.

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Unmitigated Optimism

Pictured: Johnny 5 is REALLY alive!

I saw Short Circuit in the movie theater when I was 12. For a week afterwards my sister and I screaming “number 5 is alive!” and embroiled ourselves in an excitement that culminated in the “construction” of a robot by painting a face on an easy bake oven and placing it on top of the washing machine. Of all the people unimpressed by our technological creation, my mother tops the list as she wasn’t able to get to a load of whites.

Two years later Short Circuit 2 came out and our enthusiasm was not what it once had been. Perhaps the sea of troubles that presented itself in the 8th grade and 6th grade respectively had led us to seek solace in Faith no More lyrics and M*A*S*H reruns. Nevertheless, it was this movie that Burke chose to follow up Three Men and a Baby in our Saturday night double feature.

Mine has been a decidedly 80s household in the last three weeks. We have been watching 80s movies and TV shows. Murder She Wrote and Magnum PI (and their gloriously enjoyable crossover episodes). We don’t really breach the 90s; we sort of stand on the edge and look warily across the way like Moonlight Graham on a magic field in Iowa. We have decided that 80s shows that “look like the 90s” are not as fun to watch. And Saturday we have a double feature of happy 80s movies.

There are bad guys in these movies, to be sure. Who could forget the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern drug dealers in Three Men and a Baby? Or the wannabe bank robbers in Short Circuit 2? Sure, they’re bad guys, but they’re not terrible guys. The drug dealers are taken down by Steve Guttenberg’s video recorder and Ted Danson in drag playing with elevator switches. The bank robbers are jostled around by Home Alone-like booby traps but set by a robot who likes to read. The big bad guy is captured and dropped into the East River. Everything is redeemable.

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Jessica Fletcher on the Case

Photograph: CBS Photograph Archive via Getty Images

“So who was the killer?”

It’s the first question I get when I arrive at the beer garden on late Sunday afternoon. Burke left before the denouement. She wants to know how it went down.

“The brother-in-law.”

“The little guy with the nice smile?”

“No, the big one with the flannel shirt.”

“Oh. How?”

“Poisoned the guy’s bourbon.”

“Why?”

“Said he was screwing up the family business with his drug problem.”

“How did Jessica figure it out?”

“The drinking glass. It wasn’t a rocks glass, just a water glass. He put some drugs in the clam chowder so they would all be drugged, not just him.”

“Ah clever.”

“Clever enough to throw Jess off the scent for a bit, but she got him in the end.”

“Obvs.”

Murder She Wrote has become one of two constants in my household and Jessica Fletcher a third member of our household. She is endearing, maintains perfect social etiquette, balancing a brilliant forthrightness with tact. How she always ends up being around when there’s a murder is another story. We decide that Cabot Cove, Maine is a dangerous place. As are, evidently, London, Woolford Vermont, Portland, Oregon, the archaeological dig in New Mexico, the rodeo in Saskatchewan, the convent.

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X Marks the Spot

There are not too many people in the park today. A few runners, a distressing number of pregnant people (counting back, November was a hell of a month for some of you). And of course that guy sunbathing on the grass in the starfish position and a wanna-see-my-circumcision-scar swimsuit.  

It’s perfect.

After three months of not moving at all, I am finding that a simple walk can elicit a variety of utter and ecstatic joys. First and foremost, there’s the joy of moving my legs and propelling myself forward on a path and not towards my couch. This joy is in a tight race with not being near people. Then there’s a bunch of other crap about fresh air and exercise.

The away time and casual exercise is incredibly fortifying. By “away” I mean that I am not tempted to check my email or answer the phone if it rings. Sometimes I leave the phone at home and just walk in absolutely glorious quiet (unless I’m verbalizing an argument). If I do this, I can feel a sense of disassociation with assholes, who are, by the way, in abundance in the places I tend to visit online and usually wear red hats.

If I do have my phone I listen to a podcast. My perennial favorites remain Lore, Ologies, and Marc Maron, but The Darkest Timeline, The Sporkful, and The Allusionist have made their way into the rotation.

Perhaps the best part about a walk is that there’s no goal. I don’t have to get to a metro or a class. I am not meeting anyone. At the most, I can stop at the pub directly across the street from the park’s gate. But even that is up to me. I can walk for 90 minutes or 3 hours. Goal-based thinking makes up such a large part of my day. I have a daily word count with writing (1500 words), a daily page count for editing/proofreading (5), minimum number of pages read per day (20), and a minimum number of workouts per week (4). So for this sort of an obsessive nit, a walk with no goal is bliss.

Yesterday I was on my way through the woods when I came across something I had seen twice before, but failed to really pay attention to – an X. On the ground was a man-sculpted stone and on that stone was a noticeable yet not large X. Hm, I thought, and as I meandered through the woods I made several jokes to myself. None of them are funny enough to put here. But I won’t lie – the X was in my head.

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The Return to Clothes

So, I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention but there’s been a global deadly pandemic and it seems to have ushered in utter social chaos. In the first place, this is exactly what millions of people had in mind the moment they learned that Donald Trump had become president. So we haven’t been disappointed. Secondly, it has proven to us that, without a fraction of a doubt, we are surrounded by major cunts who can’t be bothered to wear masks. And most of those cunts worship an incompetent fuckwit who can’t drink water correctly.

In the good ole Czech Republic, we were told in mid-March that we had to wear masks anytime we stepped outside. We did that. I learned to flirt with the checkout person just using a series of blinks and eyebrow formations. I stopped after she asked me if I needed her to call 112 (911). Now, after three months, we are basically back to normal(ish).

There was a period of social readjustment wherein people had to relearn to speak to people they don’t live with. Waiters had to relearn the arts of passive aggressive customer service. We had to learn how to discern normal people from ninjas. Now, most people have mostly stopped staring at others in confusion. Men prance around in socks and sandals, women sit nearby wondering how they ended up with men who prance around in socks under sandals. All is well. For the most part.

However, there is a downside. Yesterday, I went to a beer garden in the center to meet a friend. As I was about to walk out the door, I realized that for essentially the first time in three months I had to put on actual pants and shoes. As we’re most certainly the only group of humans to ever gain weight during an apocalypse, this is a multilayered issue.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Had I to choose between a civilization-changing, globally-disruptive pandemic and not having one, I’d definitely go for not having one. Obvs. But, I won’t lie that it’s had some benefits for my extreme distaste for wardrobe entities that I don’t like wearing: belted pants, socks, and shoes.

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Viewer Beware

Santa Stand & Museum of obsolete technology

Sunday. A day for domestic chores. It’s rainy outside, so there’s little temptation to go out. I begin the laundry and Burke decides to venture into and organizing the No Man’s Land underneath the bed.

She has a worse job. Laundry is relatively simple. The most aggravating part of laundry is finding errant socks on the floor or trying to understand how women’s clothing works (Seriously. No idea). But ‘under’ things doesn’t get cleaned for the same reason ‘behind’ things or ‘closets’ don’t. Out of sight, out of mind.

These places are used as storage when we’re cleaning up the visible areas of the flat or house. And it works, too. As long as our living room is clear, our dishes are done, the bed is made and clothing is in its preordained drawers, I am usually content. I don’t sit around thinking – man, it’s dirty under this bed. What’s more, when was the last time you visited a friend’s house and said, “So, your bedroom is nice and tidy, but what’s it look like under the bed?” I hope not recently, or ever; in fact, if you have ever said that and you’re not a marine drill sergeant, you are a monster.  

A domestic duty day is always good for a number of reasons. First, things get done. Second, it means a free viewing day.

The daily question: “What are we watching tonight?”

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Dumped by Travel

It’s Friday and I am willing myself a day off. We’ve had about two weeks of rain and thunderstorms. We’re sometimes offered a half an hour of blue and it’s then that we run outside to walk around the park or to bask in the sun.

But today it’s just blue. A few fluffy clouds, warm in the sun, cool in the shade. I close my laptop, a thing which draws gasps from those in my flat, and we venture out.

I prepare. Daypack. Hand sanitizer. Tissues. Hat. Mask. Sunglasses. Sweater and windbreaker. I clip my nails and adjust my sandals. I do some stretches at the door. I tell the cat not to wait up.

While I seem to exist in my normal life as a kind of human turtle who enjoys beer, the summer usually means travel. We’ll venture to another country, spend out days walking around a city or towns, learning about a culture and comparing them to the Czechs. Sometimes it’ll be a little more adventurous: Asia, Africa, a few thrilling encounters which – if I stretch them and add some quasi-fictitious details – almost become a brush with death. It’s enough to sustain me until the next summer and I typically get back in my shell and sip a pilsner.

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