Happy Birthday

The reason I was in a tiny village far in the southeastern corner of the Czech Republic was to celebrate the 60th birthday of MaK’s mother. On the big day I sat down to lunch with the family, and after a brief altercation over who would have to drink the warm beer (I almost, but happily didn’t, ask, “whiy don’t you share the cold one and give the other one more time to cool down?”), we were all shoveling down the Special Birthday Soup. These people have a soup for everything. I was debating whether to do a courtesy choke-down on the mushrooms when I heard tinny music filtering in through the double-glazing.

“This is brilliant!” Jirka exclaimed. “When they have an announcement, they play some music, then they make the announcements, then they play some more music. It’s from the communist days. It’s brilliant.”

Jirka spent much of the Czech communist era in North America. He is very critical of all things communist, with odd exceptions. He is himself an operator, a wheeler-dealer, his currency is nods and winks. He is the fire chief (in a village of 300 people), and apparently that means he supplies the ‘club’, the place where the fire department can hang out getting drunk. He figures on being Mayor as well. Communism is not dead in places like this, and his motto is (something like) “work with them, but don’t ever let then forget how badly they messed things up.” I expect when a communist is in a position to help Jirka, exchanging favors and generally doing what it takes to succeed in politics (and everything is politics), history is not an issue.

“Listen,” Jirka says, bounding up from the table as the music ends. He opened a window to the oppressive heat outside and stood, gesturing in excitement with each distorted sentence. MaK and Jessica rolled their eyes.

Of course I didn’t catch it, but even before the end of the “bzhrpt bzfg brchtlejk…” segment of the show the phone rang. It was a call from a fellow villager congratulating her on lasting sixty years. Yes, Jirka had arranged to have the occasion broadcast to the entire village. I suspect most of those who cared already knew, but it was a good way to pick up any stragglers.

Jirka left the window open while the post-announcements patriotic music played.

So, I don’t feel bad about broadcasting Jessica’s age on the Internet. Jirka has already commandeered the most effective vehicle for getting the word out to the people who matter.

2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday

  1. Friday, the Chama radio station announced Archie the Mayor’s birthday, again and again and again. Yes, they announced his age too — he’s not quite as old as Jessica, but close. Such is life in a small place.

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