Friday, August 31, 2007

Live from Prague : Rick Steves' Prague 2007 Book Review

My husband Tom and I have toted our Rick Steves all around Europe. We love him. His pages are dog-eared and scribbled on and reread.

One time, in a moment teetering on tragic, we nearly left Rick on a German bus. Luckily Tom accelerates under pressure and although the incident left us pale and shaken, we were reunited with our trusty friend. I can’t say enough about German/Austrian Rick, London Rick, Paris Rick, or Italy Rick.

But in Prague, we got a little hitch in our giddyup. I find it hard to say out loud, but we had a squabble, Rick, Tom and I.

First he left us hanging on his orientation tour on the tram. We didn’t realize the route wasn’t circular and we ended up in the suburbs. It’s ok, we travel low to the ground, we figured out that the trams don’t pick up where they let out and managed to get back into town. It’s just that Rick is usually so thoughtful and careful with his directions. Unfortunately, not so much in the Czech Republic.

There are only shadows of his signature walking tours in Prague, only a few of his snappy one-liners that make you snicker inappropriately in national monuments and his historical write-ups are uninspired, virtually odorless.

Cataclysmically, in a decision about as user-friendly as a wet cat, Rick chose to feature the English place names on his maps and write-ups; yet all signage and other city maps (even the “English” ones) show Czech place names. I think we earned a degree in cross-referencing.

All I can say is that I hope Rick rewrites Prague 2007 so the rest of you can manage to hurl his 2008 book over the very high bar that he has set for himself.

(Let it be noted for the record that as Rick-devotees, we did not purchase any other guides for Prague. Possibly Rick’s is a shining gem amongst the muzzy rest of them.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Live from Prague : What is the Fat Content of a Wanger?

Aha! I'm seeing the reason for the evident weightgain across the pond: XXXL Wangers. Devastating to diets in all languages.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Live from Prague : The Fattened Foreigners

You used to be able to pick out the Americans in any crowd:
  1. Jiggling a little chub
  2. Wearing comfortable shoes
  3. Loud talking
  4. Rigged out in T-shirts featuring English words spelled correctly and clustered into phrases that actually make sense

Contemporaneously, indicators 1 & 2, not so much as telltale signs. Fat Europeans abound and they have discovered that double-D width sneakers and padded socks properly underpin the extra poundage. Gone are the days when Tom and I were the only ones taking on a six mile path up a mountain to some castle in sensible shoes while everybody else hauled ass in strappy sandles.

Blessed be for indicator 3. And 4. Holy truths even in these dubious times. You can hear we Americans coming across courtyards of cobblestones, our voices ringing above all others as we point out how unexpectedly short kings generally are, and how Joan Crawford and Yoko Ono share a lot in common. And for sure, we are not wearing T-shirts revealing hard facts like: "If you care how you look, then you wonderful," or shouting out to fans of the Orlando Pirates or Cleevaland.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Say Hello to Prague

The internet is not as good as the beer, comrades.

Catch you on the flipside of the week.

Na shledanou.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Steel Train / Piebald / the Format at Webster Hall, August 21

Tom and I travel to the cursed depths of Manhatten for a Tuesday night show at Webster Hall.

Steel Train

Opening band Steel Train consists of five dudes from Mr. Kotter's class. Their conjoined earnestness oozes from their pores and permeates the room with the faint odor Gabe Kaplan's encouragement.

Tom says they are "tight." I say one day, when moldy rockstar grime has smothered their dilligent fascination with their instruments, then, maybe, they will become intriguing enough for big-eyed girls with knapsacks to chase around.

Musically, Steel Train's songs contain an average of three notes, which the gaggling supersilious guitar player standing behind us repeatedly points out while he glances around to see if anyone has overheard how totally boss he is. I teeter on mentioning that this is probably why Tom Petty never really achieved much attention.


The guys in Piebald know what piebald means and they chuckle backstage at all the morons who are not clued in to their irrudite vocabulary genius.

I know what piebald means because I grew up in farm country and that's how we bumpkins describe the markings on a cow. Throughout half Piebald's set, I envision old Pennsylvania Dutchmen snickering at the city-ots who have named their rad band after a cow.

The Format

How do you pick out a 14-year old at a general admission concert?
Easy one: They sit on the floor during opening acts.

Oh, so sorry. It's a two-part question and here's the clutch detail:
They ask random guys standing next to them questions like, "Will you sway with me?" and if the guy refuses, one of their friends will immediately chime in robustly, "Don't worry about it, girlfriend, you're way hotter than him."

Usually, I have a knack for weeding out music liked by pink-lipped girls and the boys that love them. Unfortunately, my instincts deserted me on this one. Although, I will swear until the grave that The Format's studio album is at least three shakes edgier than the sugarcrap they play live.

The emaciated lead singer prances around like a googly-eyed moppet shaking out a nicotine fit. He rocks a polyester-blend I-love-the- 80s-inspired sweatshirt and a whispery voice that makes me wish I have a can of WD40 to squirt on his larynx.

Mike, the bouncy charasmatic lead guitar player is the only reason I stay. Him, and the other guitar player who seriously looks like he's been kidnapped from Cake. Why either one of them have anything to do with the giggling singer is a mystery I will promptly forget about.

Bonus question: What should Lindsay wear to the Barbie party?
I'm so scared. She said she might come as Malibu Barbie and someone should tell her no way.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Ominous Portent of Potato Salad

Me: "Why is there a whole lot of potato salad in the refrigerator?"

Tom: "Because a company of Dutchmen is coming over."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Entering the Ownage Phase : A New Chapter in the Raccoon Chronicles

Raccoons have thumbs which enable them to open many closed containers (such as garbage cans and doors). Their intelligence and dexterity equip them to survive in a wide range of environments. The densest population of raccoons in New York is in New York City."

Yeah but we already knew that. See the Raccoon Chronicles.

This is a new chapter.

What do you call a Catdoor with no door....?
Our Catdoor. Twenty pounds of ravenous fur ripped it off a long time ago. Raccoons have substantial hand strength.

So, our Cat Pass-Through is located in a basement window. After the raccoons began their nightly fandangos, we corked up said window. We spent our free time sketching scale drawings of mechanical fortifications that would feature the following must-haves:
  1. Tensile strength robust enough to withstand raccoon metacarpus.
  2. Blockage against nocturnal nemeses, but not against the cat.
  3. No requirement for anything to be strapped on or about Alex, Cat Houdini.
For a year, I tinkered with mini-garage doors on a timer (up at dawn, down at dusk), rotating drums with strategically placed openings, and portcullis-style barriers. I was a veritable chocolate fondue fountain of assbad ideas.

Then we went out to dinner with Erin and Guy and it took Guy about four minutes to devise a mofo ingenious solution all by his onsies. Gravy boat! It was hard to stay in the now. After some slackjawed disbelief, Tom and I giggled like feral predators.

Guy's key break came when he mused, "Raccoons can't jump." Ah, so simple in hindsight. Alex... Alex can leap small buildings in a single bound. Why had we not thought of this before....

The Raccoon-Proof Fence:

The fence surrounds the window with the Cat Pass-Through. It is 4' 6" tall. We are going to put sheetmetal on the sides and, as Dad suggested, grease it up with Crisco. Raccoons are worthy foes and not to be underestimated. The fence also keeps out dingos.

Notice the broad landing pad for cats flinging themselves skyward.

Topdown view showing Alex's ladder down to his Cat Pass-Through in the window well.

Zesty jubilance echoes throughout the land. The sieging tufted marauders have been thwarted! But alas, reminds Tom. Bushwackers creep on silent feet. He thinks I'm sounding dangerously cocky.

Friday, August 17, 2007

My Violently Jostled Ass

Unaware of the tragedy to follow, I laced up my rollerskates and waited for Tom to concoct a perfectly proportioned electrolyte mix. Fifteen miles is a long way to run, which is why I decided he required wheeled accompaniment.

Rounding a corner by the man-made beach, I got clotheslined by a canoe. In the back of a parked pickup truck. Flew right underneath and skidded down the path on my tushy. It was really very acrobatic, but I did not stick the landing.

Luckily, there was a lifeguard competition going on and the beach was packed with their loyal fans. Who all turned around when the canoe took me out. Because of the loud bang. If you're going to careen down a path on your ass, you might as well have spectators is all I'm saying.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cravable Talent with Foam

Never have I seen such artistry. Heartwarming whippery that'll fix you right up. My Joe frothed the hitch out of my giddyup and I was good for twenty more blocks.

Joe's Coffee
Manhattan/West Village
141 Waverly Pl
New York, NY 10003
The Art of Joe

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Night Vision and Crankypants and Corey Hart

The entire drive home from dinner, Dad clutched the steering wheel ten and two, his sonic alligator gaze locked on dim and trecherous highway. He struggled against all odds to avoid obstacles like street signs and parked cars. The nubilous darkness rendered him completely mute.

Now he's ticked at Mom. And for good reason. She never told him he had his sunglasses on.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Toppling Into One of Those Gaping English Language Pitfalls

My Brazillian sister-in-law bought a large ceramic chimpanzee. Very collectable.
I put up the baby-gate so Little Mark can't get in the livingroom. I don't want him spanking the monkey."

Friday, August 10, 2007

On the Phone with Grampy : Fresh Ink

I would not get a tattoo of a butterfly. I would not get any tattoo on my ankle. If I were to get a tattoo, I might get an eagle.

In the service, I thought about getting a tattoo, but my mother would have killed me.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hanging Around in the Spring Chicken Ward

Sethie: Maybe I'll just rest my eyes here a little bit. Everyone will be focusing on Ella and my powerful biceps anyway.

Mom: heeheehee.

Sethie: I'm pretty sure I've lost circulation to my lips. This perma-grin has my whole face locked up in its fierce unrelenting grip.

Mom: yipeeeee.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

On Becoming a Grandpa

As my mom tells it, when she woke him up and announced she was in labor and he needed to get snappy and get her to the hospital because I was on the way, my dad immediately hopped out of bed and combed his hair. Pantless.

Not much has changed in 39 years.

Re-enactment of my brother Sethie and Mary enroute to the hospital on the phone with my dad, soon to be Grandpa:

Mary: "We're headed to the hospital. Can you meet us there?"
Dad: "Should we just go to your house?"
Mary: "No, I'm in labor. My water broke. We're going to the hospital and I'm going to have the babies today."
Dad: "Oh. Well, we'll be there late tonight or maybe tomorrow."
Sethie: "DAD! We're having the babies right now. Where's Mom?"
Dad: "I have a doctor's appointment at 2:15. I can probably cancel it."
Sethie: "Good idea. Where's Mom?"
Dad: "So what happens now?"
Sethie: "I don't know, this is new to me."
Dad: "Yeah. It's new to me too."
Sethie: "Put Mom on the phone."

Jackson Thomas
6 lbs 3 oz.
19 inches

Isabella Grace
5 lbs 12 oz.
18 inches.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Was I Dressed Like a Tourist?

The NYC Half Marathon ended in Battery Park this morning.

Me: "Can I get a bottle of water, please."
Street Vendor: "That'll be $4"
Me: "$4?! No way. Lemme have a $2 bottle of water."
Street Vendor: "Ok fine. That'll be $2."
Me: "So the $2 bottle of water is the same as the $4 bottle of water?"
Street Vendor: "Yeah."
Me: "Fine."

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Like a Suicide Bomber

Alex the Curious Cat followed me into the bathroom. He seized on the opportunity to practice his Acrobatic Feats of Daring before a captive audience.

In a complete failure of foresight, I chucked the roll of toiletpaper at him.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I Need This like I Need a Hole in my House

The Good News:
We no longer have bees living inside the wall of our house.

The Bad News:
The bear who has been shitting around our deck ripped out the hive and ate it along with a mouthful of siding.

It's like one of those drama-packed thrillers where all the subplots miraculously come together inside a breathtaking climax. All the loose ends are wrapped up except for the hole in our house and the bear in our backyard.

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