A Day Going Here and There

I love the trams. The metro is all right, it’s efficient and everything, but I love the trams. The network is complicated; even the natives don’t know where all the trams go, but they go everywhere. For less than it would cost you to drive you can get where you want to go, and there’s no worry about parking when you get there. As you trundle along you see the city.

Just like any city, Prague has its good parts and its bad parts. Graffiti is everywhere. There’s a section on the route of tram 26 where it passes through a grim concrete junction and there the art spraypainted on the concrete is welcome. Other places it is simple defacement.

Riding home from my czech lesson today (we introduced numbers and plurals in the nominative and accusative forms for inanimate masculine, feminine, and neutral nouns with hard, soft and other ending consonants, and the corresponding changes to possessive pronouns and adjectives. Plurals for masculine animate nouns will have to wait.), the pilot of tram seven could ring his bell like he was playing guitar. The bell is a distinctive sound and the Czechs are wise to leave it be as they upgrade the trams.

You get a feel for your driver – some of them are patient, others put the hammer down and woe to anyone who gets in their way. I love standing at the back, watching out the window as the city falls behind, carefree, knowing where I’m heading but letting someone else do the work.

I went to a wine tasting tonight; Tram 26 got me there with no problems, and when the dude poured me the first of thirteen glasses I said to my self, “I’m glad I’m taking the tram home.” I was doubly glad when after the thirteen rounds were over that Petr, my new best friend, ‘captured’ a few more bottles of wine for us to drink. Some of the wine was pretty good, others, well, not so much.

I was there with Andrea. She got pretty toasted. Not sloppy drunk, not even ‘I love you guys’ drunk, but she’d had enough. She rode on 26 part of the way home with me, and I’m reasonably confident she knew how to connect with other stuff to get home. I offered to accompany her the rest of the way, but honestly I didn’t have much to contribute.

Some time after that, I offered up a prayer to any deity that might be listening. I promised everything I have for any sort of bump or lurch of the tram that would fling the girl hanging casually to the pole in front of me into my lap. I’ve been on many a tram filled with pretty women, and I am not ordinarily a praying man, but tonight she forced me to make an exception. No deities responded, the tram carried on as the trams always do, and no one fell in my lap. Some might take that as a sign that there are no deities, but I think it is more just proof any and all gods out there are not interested in anything I have.

There is a politeness on the trams – seats are limited but the punker-anarchist will give up his seat to an elderly person. I expect it’s one of those moments you never forget, the first time someone offers you their seat on the tram. I don’t have any facts or anything like that to back this up, but I expect among a certain age group that has to be a topic of conversation.

Now I am home, safe and sound, the amount I paid less than what I paid to insure my car for a day in California, let alone gas it up. I saw people, I saw the city, I did some in-head writing. This, friends, is how it’s supposed to work.

Easter

Around the Anděl Metro station is a shopping Mecca to rival any. The square there is always filled with people, but last week it was nuts. There was a long row of little portable shops doing a rousing business selling Easter crap. Prominent among the crap shops were people selling switches woven from tree branches and decorated with ribbons. The tradition, it seems, is that on the Monday holiday overtime the boys are supposed to whack the girls with sticks, and in return the girls give the boys eggs.

Yes, it strikes me as a little one-sided as well. Iveta explained that if the boys didn’t whack the girls, the girls would get “bugs”, which I translate as cooties.

The following day, today, girls are able to get revenge by dousing the boys with water.

Apparently in the not-too-far-distant past, there was a greater deterrent to the whacking of a girl with a stick. Back in the day, a stick whack would be followed by having dinner with the girl’s parents. Do not strike whimsically, for you will have a father asking you your intentions. Now there’s something to stay your hand.

Hell-Cricket

I have a piece over at Piker Press this week. I was looking for something different in tone and I got it, by jing. I intentionally didn’t over-edit the piece, so it’s a little rough, but it works OK.

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Google me this, Google me that

Happy Easter! It’s a day for not working, which means it’s a Google Day! (Actually, these are quite a bit of work now, which makes it all the more mysterious why I do them.) This episode is dedicated to the sisters.

Note that with this episode I have returned to my obfuscational ways, inserting spaces were I don’t want to distract the search engines from the original.

  • squirrel master half baked picture – linked to the explanation page
  • drink your beer song – could have linked to any number of places, but Google chose this deceptively titled one about the Anti-Jerry
  • guest poems linked to the guest poems, of course
  • x-ray gogs explained – in a great recursive cause and effect ring, searchers no longer go to the page I first mentioned x-ray gogs while describing Rose, but to Google episodes like this one.
  • getting a life – who would have thought I’d have an episode named that? I mean sure, I know eggs, but life?
  • The Secrets of the Last Eunuch – if my blog didn’t already have a name, this would be it. Linked to a sappy Amy episode.
  • things to do while you wait for toast to pop up – I don’t know why, but I like the way this seeker thinks.
  • “poodle” birthday girl message party ideas – I just cut and paste, kids.
  • cover friggin sestry – attracted to punk rock with accordion and uppity frou-frou canines
  • crap filled crepes – I don’t know what they were looking for, but I like the way they think.
  • half of page blank in comcast start page – maybe they should ask comcast about that rather than google.
  • ivanka praha hair – it funny how many hair searches I get.
  • fire eel with a twitch – sometimes therapy helps
  • mopar tits – linked to a google episode like this one, but that search linked to this juicy episode
  • crazy countertop height bar stools – it was the word “crazy” that put the Bars Tour category page at the top of the search results
  • Motorcycle Partys Show those puppies
  • star named beauty – you know, I don’t know crap about anything like that, but it sure is nice to know someone is searching for it. And in the end, they could have done worse than end up here.
  • pardubice photos hejduk – an up-to-date hockey fan is sadly disappointed.
  • elk poop description picture – hit on two other episodes like this one, but the picture (for what it’s worth) is here. You know what’s crazy? These guys really want to see pictures of elk poop.
  • talent show ideas – at this moment, I’m number four at Yahoo for that search. And now that I think about it, I do have a few ideas that would be memorable…
  • anti-squirrels – I had thought we mentioned them only in the comments, but no, they made it to the top level in an episode like this one from long ago.
  • definition fern bar – I’ve been in a few, but I never defined one. I’m thinking, though, that the guy who searches the Web for the definition probably belongs in one.
  • arabic legend stories of Cassiopeia – this site scored high strictly on the weight of the word story. But heck, I really want to know…
  • Pictures of Dead Bison in Yellowstone – obviously a pent-up need as this episode came up on the 6th page of results.
  • “sunday bloody sunday” explanation – linked to a morning after episode that includes the B i l l y I d o l Incident.
  • “i was trapped” naked “my clothes” “my shoes” – linked to the Stories category page
  • aftermath nicole – I guess I’m not the only one who’s met her.
  • squirrel safety path – this was a Japanese search, so I can’t help but suspect the path was to protect the squirrels rather than protect us from the squirrels, but let’s face it, if the squirrels are in the cult, they’re not looking for safety
  • squirrel pants
  • “explosive welding” – scored pretty high. I guess not that many people talk about this very fun way to join two materials. Linked to an episode about trumpet bells.
  • m o o n l i g h t s o n a t a steam – not sure what steam has to do with it, but it put me right at the top. A more mature version of the story is in the Piker Press Archives

It’s the Easter season, so there’s been a surge in H u n k y J e s u s and Indulgence searches. P o s i t i v e D r i n k i n g is big these days, and it leads to an episode that starts slow but really gets rolling. Fryers are back with a vengeance, accounting for about 50% of visitors on the weekends. One episode like this one, called V e n i, V i d i, G o o g l i gets a lot of hits from Italians.

Episode 13: The Cat’s Claws – Conclusion

Note: To read the entire story from the beginning click here.

I had barely seen the motion on the far side of the warehouse when the .45 detonated with a roar right next to me. I turned in time to see a man flopping over backwards, arms flailing, his hat doing cart-wheels through the air. It was hard to tell in the low light, but it looked like part of his face was missing.

Lola Fanutti held the smoking pistol with confidence as she scanned the shadows for more of them.

“I hope that wasn’t a friend,” I said.

“If he knew me, he would have known to say something before stepping out like that.” She touched the chest of her dead friend, over his heart, next to his empty holster. She stood. “We need to get out of here.”

“I know a place we can go,” I said.

I reached the side door as she said, “Not the back room at Jake’s. Nothing personal, Mr. Lowell, but it is very easy to find you.”

I started trying to think of another place. “Up to now I’ve wanted to be found.” I flexed my aching legs and tried the door. It wasn’t locked. “Wait here,” I said, and stepped out into the alley. Over my head the sky was getting lighter. In the distance there was a siren; I couldn’t tell if it was heading this way or not. I stuck my head back in and was looking into the unblinking eye of a gun. I’m glad she hesitated a little longer this time before firing. “Let’s go,” I said.

We walked a few blocks and caught a cab, changed cabs, got out and walked a few more blocks to one of the little dive motels on the East Side. On the way over Lola handed me a respectable wad of cash.

The guy at the front desk didn’t bat an eye when we checked in. I signed the register with someone else’s name and we headed up the stairs. The room was small; the twin beds and the tiny writing desk took up almost all the floor space, making us walk sideways over the tattered rug. It was the kind of room used by unsavory people to do unsavory things. Hookers, junkies, and fugutives. Lola crinkled her nose at the musty smell that told stories of sex, blood, and vomit. It was already uncomfortably warm in there, residual heat left over from the previous day. If today was as hot as yesterday had been, it was going to be unbearable in that room. I tried the window but it was jammed or nailed shut. The bathroom was like the rest of the place but worse in every way.

Lola took the only chair in the room and sat heavily. I sat on the edge of one bed. Looking at the chair I wouldn’t have trusted it with my bulk anyway. She laid her bag on the desk with a heavy thud. That was a big chunk of iron she was handling so casually. As she allowed herself to relax fatigue overtook her and she sagged visibly. She rubbed her eyes and seemed to shed Lola Fanutti like a skin, somehow becoming smaller. She was Meredith from Kentucky once more. This dame changed personalities the way I change shirts. “Now what?” she asked.

“We’ll be safe here for a little while,” I said. “It’ll take them time to check all the hotels. By then we need to change the way you look. Different clothes, different hair. Alice can help.”

“What if they follow her? Can you trust her?”

I didn’t bother with the second question. “This won’t be the first time she’s done field work for me. There’s a phone on the corner. I’ll knock one-two-three, one-two when I get back. Any other knock, start shooting.” I didn’t think I needed to tell her that part.

I slid a dime into the phone and dialed the office. Alice picked up on the first ring. “Charles Lowell, Detective,” she said professionally.

“It’s me. Listen, doll, I don’t have much time—”

“Boss!”

“Right. Listen—”

“I was worried last night. And then I heard about some shootings—”

She’d missed her calling, that was for sure. She scooped all the papers on a daily basis. “I’m fine. Meredith and I have to lay low for a while—”

“Who’s Meredith?”

“Mrs. Fanutti. Our new employer. I need you to get some things—”

“You call her Meredith?”

“You’ll meet her soon enough. We need a new dress for her, something that won’t stand out too much.”

“What size?”

“I don’t know. About the same as you, I guess. Maybe a little more…” I stopped myself.

Alice’s tone got a little icier. “More what?”

“Taller. We need some hair coloring, too. We need to turn a brunette into a blonde.”

“It’ll look fake.”

“As long as it looks different I’ll take it. I’m just hoping she can pass the first-glance test. If anyone really looks they’ll recognize her anyway.”

“Why is that?”

“Never mind. You know our emergency meeting place?”

“Sure.”

“Go in the front, out the back and meet me where I knocked that guy’s tooth out.”

“How am I supposed to buy this stuff with no money?”

“Can you borrow any? I have cash now.”

“I’ll try. I’ll bring one of my dresses. They don’t stand out too much, apparently.”

“That’s a good girl. I’ll meet you in two hours.”

I hung up and looked around. The street was quiet; what traffic there was not acting suspiciously.

* * *

The guy at the desk snorted and shook his head when we came in. Alice glared at him. I had my hands full with the bags she had brought, but I managed to haul her up the stairs.

I knocked three and two and after a few moments the door unlatched and opened a crack. When she saw who it was she opened it further and we squeezed into the room. She set the gun back down on the table and turned to face us. The two women sized each other up. Meredith had been sleeping, it looked like. Her hair was wild and a few strands clung to her moist face and neck. Her dress was partly unbuttoned; she was holding it together with slender fingers. Her eyes still carried the dark circles of exhaustion. Meredith’s perfume was mingling with the other smells now, a strange combination of life and decay.

“You must be Alice,” she said and extended the hand that had held her dress closed. I studiously looked anywhere but there, but I was aware of pale skin and black lace. “Charles speaks highly of you.”

“Thank you. I’ve been with Mr. Lowell for a long time.” Alice was looking daggers at me. “He told me you needed clothes.”

“Yes, I need something plainer. Charles told me you were loaning me one of your dresses. I can’t thank you enough. I’ll reimburse you, of course.”

Dames. I moved to keep things businesslike before the claws came out. I opened up one of the bags and pulled out a navy blue number. “we don’t have all day,” I said.

“Let’s start with the hair,” Alice said. Meredith nodded and began to unbutton her dress further. While Alice tried to turn her toward the bathroom door I suddenly realized it was almost noon and I hadn’t had a drink yet. Now seemed like a good time for one.

“Where are you going?” Meredith asked. I had to climb over the bed to avoid squeezing past the two women.

“I’ve got some other business to take care of.”

“What if they come here while you’re gone?” She asked in a tiny voice. “I’m frightened.” She had more to worry about from Alice at that moment than all the crooks in the city. My secretary forcefully turned her and marched her into the bathroom. “Mr. Lowell will make sure you’re safe,” she said as the bathroom door slammed shut. It would be close quarters in there; I only hoped two people came back out.

Meredith’s fancy dress lay on the floor where it had slid off her shoulders and down over her round hips. The image of stockings over long legs as she disappeared into the bathroom was seared into my retinas. I really needed that drink.

Tune in next time for: Year of the Rat!

Should be good for a giggle if you know czech, because I sure don’t.

Ryba

Sedím v stůl pro dva. Dva sklenicy potí se na jejich ubrouseky, sklenicy maji rozdíln?½ ½ tvar. Jeden, to sklenice s rt??~?
?nku na obruba, odpo?~D?~Mivuje <elegantly> naho?~E?~D?e dluh?~C½, p?~E¯vabn?~C½ stonek. Alcoholov?~C¡ kv?~D?~@?tina s ?~E¡t?~C­hlou zelenou sl?~C¡mu pro <pistil>. Je mazan?
~C½ v?~D?~@?c, <conjugate skr?~C½t se> tv?~C©ho tmav?~C©ho ?~Cº?~D?~Mele vzadu sladký<-ness>, v?~E¯n?~D?~@?, a barva.

What the above is supposed to say:

I am sitting at a table for two. Two glasses are sweating onto their napkins, glasses of different shape. One, the one with lipstick on its rim, sits elegantly at the top of a long, graceful stem, an alcoholic flower with a slender green straw for a pistil. It is a cunning thing, hiding its dark purpose behind sweetness, perfume, and color.

Note: in moving from one database to another, the character encodings in this little episode did not fare so well. It’s just not worth fixing, I’m afraid.

Learning Czech

So I have very pleasant czech friend who is giving me lessons. Much of what we discuss is based on a textbook, but she’s now bringing in extra exercises to force me to speak in complete sentences. I’m getting better, if I have a long time to compose my sentences.

As an exercise for myself I started translating the first part of The Fish, which I’ll share as a blog entry when I get a few more sentences done. I think that story will translate well into czech, if the book by Ivan Klima is any indication. Quiet, introverted, and not terribly optimistic.

One thing I noticed yesterday is that even after several lessons I still don’t know how to say “I am going to the store.” I can say Kde je obchod? (“Where is the store?”) and I can say Jdu na procházku (“I am going for a walk.”). But I haven’t learned “to” yet. Why not? How can this important little pice of language be pushed back so far?

The answer lies in the nouns. Whereas learning czech on the street is about getting enough words that you can string together and be understood, the textbook has to defer “I am going to…” until you can say it correctly. That means using the genitive form of the noun, and I haven’t got there yet.

The translation of The Fish should be hilarious to czech speakers, if they can make sense of it at all. My little dictionary tends to the formal and sometimes even obsolete side of things, so it should have an old-fashioned feel to it. I’m sure some of the expressions will not translate either. In the end it will probably be more like Mock Czech than an actual language. It’s a damn slow process, since the rather floral language in the story is not well-reflected in my lessons. I have to look up each work, then look the translation in czech to make sure it translates back with something resembling the same meaning. I love it when the Czech word given as a translation doesn’t even appear in the other half of the dictionary. Finally I take a shot at conjugation and pluralization, take a whack at the preposition, and move on.

My plan is to keep on it though, and get feedback from my teacher. We’ll see what happens, anyway. I’ll post the first few sentences later today.

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