Friday, April 29, 2005

On my good friend Christian, who amazes me

My friend Christian, solicitor by day, dj by night, is currently on a 1,000 mile bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for tsunami relief.

Christian was in Sri Lanka with his mum when the tsunami hit; thankfully they were all right, suffering no more than a ruined holiday.

Christian loves that region of the world and has spent quite a bit of time over there. He has great stories, mostly about eating weird stuff in Vietnam and Cambodia (and their digestive consequences: he loves telling stories about shit), and he does great, very un-PC, impressions of Bangkok street merchants and tuk-tuk drivers.

When Christian was first in Thailand he went to visit one of his countrymen in a Thai prison, and subsequently ended up representing him under his law firm’s pro bono scheme. While Christian was still a trainee solicitor, in 2001, the Law Society named him Young Human Rights Lawyer of the Year. Christian was given the award “for his outstanding pro bono work in highlighting the civil, political and human rights violations of prisoners abroad and his instrumental role in the changing of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's policy regarding support for clemency pleas of Britons imprisoned overseas.”

And Christian is really really fun to hang out with.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Gun Story 3: Moscow

I was visiting my friend Dan in Moscow in July 2004. This is us leaving a trendy club in the wee hours of the morning...

We decided that Nadia should come home with us; Dan had put another bottle of champagne in to chill that we had not managed to get to before dinner. Dan waved down a car (as you do in Moscow; no one bothers with taxis). We got in and Dan was chatting away (in Russian) with the driver who turned out to be Georgian. He was very friendly and Dan seemed to be enjoying the conversation very much because when we arrived back at the flat Dan invited the driver up to have champagne with us. I do not remember if we ever learned his name so I shall call him “the Georgian”. We could not all fit into the lift in Dan’s building. I think Nadia and I took the lift while Dan and the Georgian walked up four flights of stairs. We got in and put the Georgian on the couch. Dan opened the bottle of champagne for me and Nadia but the Georgian declined because he was driving. Dan drank whisky. We had not been sitting there for long when the Georgian apologised for removing his gun from its holster and placing it on the table. It had been digging into his hip, he explained. I remember being surprised but not really worried that we had a strange Georgian man with a gun in the flat. We carried on drinking and chatting. The Georgian asked if he could smoke. I imagined that Dan was about to say ‘no’ so I suggested that he make an exception on this occasion. So now we had a smoking Georgian on the couch, a gun on the dining table, an open bottle of champagne that was not being drunk and Nadia asleep on the armchair in the corner. The Georgian just stayed and stayed and stayed and Dan was very reluctant to ask him to leave so he asked me to do something about it. I must have simply announced that I was very tired and that I would have to go to bed soon, I pointed out that Nadia was already sleeping, I told Dan that he should go to bed too and I may or may not have asked the Georgian if he was not tired as well. It seemed to take a long time from that point to when the Georgian finally left. He wanted to take Nadia with him, said he would be happy to drive her home, but Dan and I felt a lot more comfortable keeping Nadia with us. The Georgian finally left, gun in holster under jacket. Dan and I put Nadia to bed in my room and then we went to sleep as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wednesday Morning Diary of a Drunk

Wake up, look at clock: 6.24 - excellent, another hour to go. Ouch, head hurts. Why does my chest feel like I smoked last night? Remembering: I was drunk and I smoked. Okay, I can handle that. Fall asleep again. Wake up again, remembering things from dreams. Imagine self reaching for notebook but can’t quite muster the effort. Reach for phone: text message from Monkey – feel better. Remember posting very stupid comment to blog while drunk – feel worse. Manage to dig notebook out of handbag on floor at foot of bed, write stuff down. Sink back into pillows. Alarm goes off, hit snooze. Get up before alarm goes off again.

Bathroom, shower, etc. Mess up routine by getting online to delete stupid comment, hoping that no one has read it. Realise going to be late to work, don’t care. Notice that bra smells like cannabis because of placement of said substance in wardrobe. Throw substance in with shoes. While putting on eye make-up, realise forgot moisturiser. Finish putting on eye make-up, then attempt to moisturise without smudging make-up. I hate when I do things in the wrong order.

Walk to work, sunglasses on in spite of clouds. See woman with two small children, wonder if being a mom would be better than being a drunk. Quickly decide that no, it would not. Think of the famous Dean Martin line: “I feel sorry for people who don't drink. They wake up in the morning and that's the best they're going to feel all day.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Max loves Maureen Dowd

On yahoo this morning: Weapons Inspector Ends WMD Search in Iraq. “…the CIA’s top weapons hunter in Iraq said his search for weapons of mass destruction ‘has been exhausted’ without finding any.”

I was surprised to see this story because 1) I did not realise the US still had people dedicated to searching and 2) I did not think the US would ever admit the search was over if nothing had been found.

On Sky News last night: Michael Howard, the opposition leader in the British government, was being interviewed. There is a general election in the UK next week so Howard spent a great deal of energy emphasising that Tony Blair had blatantly lied, “with intent to lie,” to the British people about WMD in Iraq. A prime minister lying should be a serious thing, yet in the six major polls Blair’s Labour party remains from 4 to 10% ahead of Howard’s Conservatives.

We also know that George W Bush lied to the American people about WMD and we re-elected him. It is as if we have accepted that politicians will always lie to the people, and that acceptance even extends to lies that bring dire consequences.

I believe in the concept of ministerial responsibility, something that seems to have fallen out of fashion in the US. I thought that Rumsfeld should have resigned as soon as the abuses at Abu Ghraib came to light but that fascist pigfucker is still in the government too.

The people need to rise up and take the country back, but everyone seems to be too damn comfortable to try to change anything. Our next president will probably be Jeb Bush. But if we do not do anything, then one day something is going to happen to force change, and I expect that whatever that is will not be pleasant.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Gun Story 2: Paris

My friend Devastatin' Dave likes his knife, but I am from LA: I have gun stories. I have 3 stories but I think I will skip the 1st as it is not entertaining without loads of background information. Here is the 2nd, which took place in Paris in October 2003.

Jono and I walked into a bar on the edge of the Marais after dinner on a Saturday night. We had been upstairs in the same bar for karaoke the night before at about 4.30 a.m. This time we sat downstairs near the bar. Jono got the beers and we noticed that the barmaid was missing a few key teeth. The we noticed that one of the waitresses had tattoos all over her back. And then we noticed that certain people who appeared to be the bar's regular patrons also appeared to be completely cracked out. We also noted the man with the shaven head who had Chinese characters tattooed on his scalp in a highly irregular fashion. Then the bouncer started covering the shop-front windows with pieces of wood which had clearly been cut for that purpose. He covered them completely and then came inside and the next customers had to ring a bell to be let in. Jono and I were puzzled because we did not remember the bar being at all like this the night before. We realised however that it could have been even worse and we would have been oblivious to it. Jono said he felt on edge; I said it was fine, the place had some colour and character. Then the bald man reached around and scratched his back. His shirt came up a bit and I spotted the gun that was tucked into the waistband of his jeans. I told Jono, he said 'drink up' and we were out the door within about 90 seconds.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

On Separation of Church and State

I realised that the US was truly a Christian country when I was 15 and my family moved from an urban ethnic ghetto to the suburbs. My urban ethnic ghetto was West LA where almost everyone I knew was Jewish, and the suburbs were Orange County, which was the most shockingly white-bread place I had ever been in my life.

More recently I was teaching at the Czech military university in Vyškov where we had a guest speaker, Charles Moss Duke, Jr, an Apollo astronaut and one of only twelve people to have walked on the moon. He was an interesting speaker, as you would imagine, until he finished talking about space travel and started talking about Jesus.

The Czech Republic is the least religious country in Europe according to how people report their religion in the national census. I love the fact that there is no religion in daily life here. No one preaches to you or tries to tell you how to live, and you can be as irreverent as you want and no one gets offended.

I have just read the first two instalments of an article by Steve Weissman on www.truthout.org entitled “America's Religious Right - Saints or Subversives?” Weissman reminds us of the First Amendment to the US Constitution and that the founding fathers of our country intended to keep religion out of government.

“The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” -- Treaty of Tripoli, signed on June 10, 1797, by President John Adams

Weissman goes on to write about General Boykin, known as the “Christian General” who has claimed that his god is bigger than Islam’s and that we are fighting “in the name of Jesus”; and David Barton, the leading spin artist for Christian nationalism, who uses revisionist history to try and prove “that America once was and should again become a Christian nation.”

I really do not care what religion people are or to what degree. I just want them all to keep their religion out of my government, and stop trying to use the name of one god or another to take away my freedom.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

I want to be political today too

I remember my reaction as a child to learning of the existence of the Geneva Conventions. I thought it was absolutely absurd because, I reasoned,

If they can make rules to dictate conduct in wars, then why can’t they just make a rule that we won’t have any wars?

And it turns out that I was right all along. We have these rules on the treatment of prisoners of war and it is an absurd idea and no one is following them. Perhaps US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was right when he called the Geneva Conventions “quaint” and “obsolete”.

I have been worried about the deterioration of freedom in the US and elsewhere. The Patriot Acts in the US and the Terrorism Acts in the UK are taking rights away from us in the name of protecting us from some great undefinable danger. People accept this because they believe what they are told, they think our "security" is the most important thing and/or they believe it does not directly affect them, as in “I’ve got nothing to worry about because I am white and christian”.

But this is the fascist way. The government takes small steps because people do not object to them. Other people’s rights are taken away first; the majority can usually live with that. But we need to be aware and we need to be very cautious because the small steps will eventually cover a lot of ground.

Patrick Henry said in 1775:
"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

Friday, April 22, 2005

Iceland

Two nights ago I dreamt of Iceland and I feel that it has to mean something. I have been asking people and even looking in online dream dictionaries and no one knows what it could mean. Does anyone have any ideas? Thank you.

Thursday Night Drunk

It is 1.30 in the morning; I have just got home from U Zpěváčků. It is a work night and I should have been in my bed over an hour ago. I was at work until 8.30 and was supposed to go see friends play at a benefit concert for the legalisation of cannabis but could not be bothered trying to get to the club in time. Instead I went to U Zpěváčků, the obvious alternative. I was tempted to go home after 2 small beers but it is hard to leave when you are friends with the barman. Then after 3 beers, Dan showed up so I had to stay to have a beer or two with him. Then when I was really going to go, Dan ordered another beer for me; everyone knows it is rude to refuse a drink that someone has just bought for you. I left after that beer and I was about a block and a half away when Mike called me to come back because I had left my folder at the bar. The folder contained tax documents that I had been forgetting to bring home with me from work for at least 10 days. (Please see The Chronicles of Devastatin' Dave for more information about taxes.)

On my second try at going home, I saw a man on the street who looked like my friend Adam, at least in the dark and at a distance. Adam died last summer because he had a big tumour in his brain that would not go away. So I spent the rest of my walk home, which to be fair is only 10 minutes, talking to Adam. He never answered.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

On working for women

It has been said that working for a woman is more difficult than working for a man. I will not go into the reasons for this generalisation; they do not matter. I have always thought anyway that this could not be the case, probably due to my feminist sensibilities. But this morning when I told another friend about my run-in with the managing partner of my firm, his first question was whether the partner was a man or a woman. I thought about this on my walk to work, and I realised that I actually have had a lot of problems with female bosses.

However I have also had problems with male bosses, and I have not had problems with every female boss I have had. My mother has said that I simply have a problem with authority, which is also true.

One of the best bosses I ever had was a woman. She was a high-powered, high level executive recruiter and I worked as her secretary twice in between bouts of studying. She was demanding and difficult and no one else could work for her, but I got on with her very well because we respected each other.

The worst boss I ever had was a man. I know people who work elsewhere for him now, and they hate him too.

I am still thinking about it and I think that yes, I have had more problems with female bosses than with male bosses. I shall have to think about it some more in an effort to determine the reasons.

What Max hates, and Monkey salvages the day

I hate being accused of doing something that I have not done. When I was 22 I got fired from a temp job as a receptionist because I had stood up for myself and refused to take blame. I still remember everything that was said then, and it was a fair few years ago: that is how much it bothered me. I was reminded of that situation yesterday because the feelings of anger and frustration were the same when 2 of the partners in my firm ganged up on me. But, as Monkey drilled into my head later: they're irrelevant. So I will not bore you with the details.

I left work nearly in tears and rang Monkey. He said "I'm walking over the bridge now. Where do you want me to meet you?" We sat in a dark and private booth for hours. Our only contact with the outside world was our lovely waitress who brought us drinks. We talked. Five (six?) cocktails each and a pack of cigarettes later...

We walked out of the bar and turned right. We stopped to discuss whether going the other way might not in fact be a better idea. We turned round and walked to the left. There was a group of kids, 4 boys who could have been 16 or 26, standing in front of the bar next door (Aloha) to the bar we had just left (Parker's). I smelled something.

"Co kouřite?" - What are you smoking?, I asked.
"Trávu." - Grass, one of the kids answered.

Next thing I knew I was being offered a spliff so I put it to my mouth, inhaled deeply and passed it on to Monkey.

"Děkujeme, ahoj, mějte se hezky." - Thanks, bye, enjoy yourselves.

We walked home across Charles Bridge and through Kampa Park, giggling our heads off. It had turned out to be a perfect evening.

When I got home I found my dinner waiting for me
...and it was still hot.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Monday haiku

On Jesus:
Jesus is our friend
He gives us money for beer
He likes us to drink

On the leader of our country:
Bush is an asshole
Jesus does not like him be-
cause he does not drink

On dating:
One evening Jono
texted to say: "How's the date?
Jesus would do you."

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Politics and Prophecy

I look at a prophecies forum website from time to time to see what the “seers” are predicting (“seers” in quotation marks because some of them may be, but many of them certainly are not). One of the things that initially surprised me about this website was the reliance that many of its contributors place on biblical prophecy, and how they try to interpret that prophecy to fit what is happening in the world today. Basically there is a lot of chatter about impending armageddon.

Meanwhile, there is a popular theory that President Bush and his right-wing Christian government are trying to speed on the 'great tribulation', which will, in turn, bring about the rapture and armageddon. This religious fervour is unquestionably a driving force behind US policy, particularly in the Middle East.

Thomas Jefferson said the book of revelations was the ravings of a lunatic. George Bush organises his foreign policy around it.” -- Bill Maher on Larry King Live, 22.07.2004.

How is it that the founders of our country were enlightened humanists over 200 years ago, and yet our current president is little more than a Jesus freak with too much power?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Friday afternoon ruminations

I may have used my thesaurus for this title.

I walked out of U Zpěváčků this morning at 2.30. I had just been involved in an intense conversation about people’s characters, and actually realised things I had never thought about before. An acquaintance was analysed as being egotistical but with very low self-esteem, which suddenly explained an awful lot, but I had never considered the possibility that such a combination existed. My interlocutor and I also discussed how some people can fundamentally never understand each other, and therefore what is necessary to a peaceful mutual non-understanding is only that they realise that.

Yesterday I heard someone describe his life as “surreal”. From my new dictionary: surreal ~ having a strange dreamlike irrational quality. A life must have surreal aspects to it, certainly, but can every element of someone’s existence really be like a dream?

As I walked home I ran into a major from the Czech army who used to be a student of mine. He was with an army mate, they were both drunk (fair enough, it was 2.30 a.m. and I had also just come from a bar), and they asked me to join them for more drink. That was rather surreal.

I continued on my way.

I looked up at a building I walk past most days and focused on something new, as one so often does in this city. There were two stone cherubs perching on the corners of the railing of a 3rd floor balcony. One had one of his hands on his chin, and the other had a hand on his brow. They were suddenly so clear and so removed from everything around them: that was also surreal.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Haiku

On Monkey:
Clever, wonderful
Uniquely mischievous, thank
fuck there's only one

On DD:
Lover of monkeys
Distant and mysterious
Hates photos of self

What's šunka?

Today the firm finally bought me some of the tools of my trade: a large hardcover English dictionary, a Roget’s Thesaurus, a large hardcover English-Czech/Czech-English dictionary and an English-Czech legal dictionary (the Czech-English is on order).

I love language reference books. Most of my personal belongings are in storage in Gareth’s dad’s garage in Hemel Hempstead, northwest of London. The things I miss most are my photographs, my CDs, my beautiful beaded shoes, my hat from last June’s Royal Ascot and my dictionaries. I love words. Here is my inventory of dictionaries:
2 English dictionaries
Roget’s Thesaurus
The Oxford Dictionary of Law

1 Czech-English
1 French-English
1 Polish-English
1 Polish-Czech
1 Slovak-English
1 Spanish-English
2 German-English
a 3-volume Hebrew-English
1 Russian-English
1 Russian-Czech

Sharon has lived in Spain, the Czech Republic and Japan. Sharon’s husband Brian was with her in two of those countries. One day Sharon asked Brian, “What’s šunka?” Brian said, “It’s ham.” And Sharon said, “I know it’s ham, but what language is it?”

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Don't waste your time viewing my profile

It says only that I am female, I am Sagittarius and I live in Prague. I had listed my favourite books: Catch-22 and Where the Wild Things Are, but today I realised that listing books caused me to be linked to other people who had also listed those books. I am not a fan of artificial links and I do not want to be associated with people I do not know only because we once visited the same section in the library so I have deleted the books from my profile. However, if there is something you wish to know about me, please feel free to ask.

On the dangers of blogging

You feel fairly anonymous, you feel fairly secure in your anonymity, and then you realise that you have a very big mouth and you may have told too many people about your blog. Is it only a matter of time before the people whom you never wanted to read your blog find it?
Don't worry about it, don't think about it at all:
just keep writing.

Happy Birthday, rtm!!

May all of your wishes come true this year.
Love & kisses
Max

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Just a Blur

Yesterday on my way home from work I stopped in at U Zpěváčků to pick up a book that Steve (not rtm’s cat) was meant to have left for me there. Of course I decided to stay and have just one small beer and chat with George, the sweet young Czech barman.

George was listening to the Dead Kennedys and he said that he also liked The Clash a lot. I said that I had seen both bands, probably before he was born. I was wrong on both counts: George was probably about 10 days old when I saw The Clash, and about two years old when I saw the DKs. I find it very amusing to be in my late 30s.

A young couple walked into the bar, an American boy and a Czech girl. I thought the boy looked familiar, but simply assumed that I had seen him there or in another bar, no memory of actually speaking to him. Then I thought he might look familiar because he bore a resemblance to another American boy that used to live in Prague, a kid called Joey. Joey was from New York, and was here years ago. I think I knew him from my JJ Murphy’s era (1999-2000); I can’t remember much about him except his very black hair and his very strong New York accent. I have no idea when he left Prague, or if he’s still here, or what. Thinking about it all, I decided that it was very weird how people can blur into each other and how some people can just disappear without a trace. And that I probably would never have thought about Joey if this boy had not looked like him.

I got up to call Mike and ask him if Steve had ever even left the book. He had not, but that is beside the point today. When I went back to the bar, the kid started talking to me:

How are you?

Just fine, thanks, how are you?

I remember I met you when I first got here. You’re American but you have a funny British accent.

He had not recognised me by sight; it was my fucked-up accent that rang the bell. I, of course, had no memory of meeting him (he said it was last November): all the young American kids blur into each other, just like all the rest of the people do.

On being extremely spoiled, or, in the words of Monkey, my life is weird

I mentioned my flatmate to a new friend last night. That was stretching the truth a bit, but it was not the time to explain my unusual living situation. You see, I currently live with my ex-boyfriend’s parents. It sounds really weird, but people that have met Carol & Mike (not their real names) completely understand.

Carol & Mike are unusually nice people. They go out of their way not just for me, but for everyone. Carol has even mended Monkey’s clothes for him. Carol & Mike are limeys, and they have been in Prague for almost as long as I have. Mike is a banker and Carol looks after Mike. They are not much older than me; in fact I am slightly closer in age to Carol than I am to their son, my ex-boyfriend.

Anyway, I first stayed with them in the summer of 2003, when I was over in Prague from England for only 2 months. They invited me to, and it seemed to make a lot more sense than spending money on temporary accommodation. So when I finished law school in 2004 and I did not know what I was going to do next, they offered me once again to stay with them.

I came back to Prague in the middle of July and started working at the end of August. Carol & Mike, being aware of my student debt, said that just because I was working did not mean that I had to move out and that I should stay and try to get some of my debt paid off. They said that they love having me live with them (I don’t really understand it, but they seem to find me extremely entertaining), and the only reason for me to move out would be when I felt I needed my own space.

So I was ready around Christmas, and Monkey found a flat for me, and Carol & Mike talked me out of it because I was being sent to South Moravia for work for 6 months, and they thought it would be silly for me to pay rent on a flat that I was only going to use at weekends.

And it is not only that I live with them. My room in Carol & Mike’s flat is large and light with huge windows looking right out onto the river, and across to the Dancing Building. My view is stunning. The household’s computer is in my room, with a high speed ADSL connection. Carol does all the cleaning, she does my laundry and irons everything. I pay no rent; I do not contribute financially to the housekeeping; if I am home in the evening, I am fed a very nutritious meal (Mike is on weight watchers and Carol cooks). They take me out for meals and I am never allowed to pay even for myself. They have bought me plane tickets to go to England in the past (the first one was to visit their son before he dumped me for a tall, skinny, horsy-looking limey; the other was to help me get to law school). In short, they treat me like a daughter, but without any of the parental expectations, and I am spoiled beyond belief.

Monday, April 11, 2005

On Make-Up

This morning, a Monday morning, I was putting on my make-up to go to work when I made the mistake of thinking about what I was doing. This lapse of judgement caused several questions to arise from the depths of my consciousness, where I was keeping them safe from active contemplation.

1. Why was I putting stuff on my face at all?

I realised that I actually enjoy the process (except when I accidentally stick the mascara wand thingy into my eye). It allows me to be an artist for 5 or 10 minutes first thing in the morning.

2. Okay, but why do women in general, and some men, do this as a matter of course?

That was a harder one. It is a weird thing to do, to paint your face to go to work or to go shopping or to go out to dinner or to a bar. More “primitive” cultures paint their faces to go to war. Wait, even modern soldiers paint their faces to go to war.

Do we really think it makes us look more beautiful? [Oops, I just broke a Monkey rule about not answering a question with a question.] Not in my case, no. I am equally stunning without make-up. It does, however, make me feel more ‘polished’, like a scarf or any other accessory.

3. Why is it that people used to use make-up to make their skin whiter, and in more modern times it has become popular to make one’s skin look darker?

The collective schizophrenia of the human race.

4. Why do I torture myself with an eyelash curler?

Because I am ridiculous.

5. Why does Jono torture himself with an eyelash curler?

Because he secretly enjoys the pain.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

A Visit to Drake's

I went home last night at 12.30. This is Max behaving like a sensible non-drug taking, non-smoking, really boring very tired lady. Walk home uneventful except for when the man came running towards me on the bridge and then, when he saw he was making me nervous, slowed down and said, "Sorry, sorry, sorry, don't worry. Do you know where is the Charles Bridge?" Bloody insane tourist. Got home, went to bed. Meanwhile, my paraders stayed out all night.

I woke up at about 7 and found a message from P on my phone. I turned the ringer back on and went back to sleep. P messaged again at 9, so I rang him, got out of bed and left the house (obviously excluding some of the more mundane in-between steps). I stopped at the trafika to buy rolling tobacco and papers, both necessary for rolling spliffs. A tram was coming as I stepped out of the shop, so I hopped on it and rode the 3 stops to Monkey's. Just before I got to the stop, my phone rang and it was Monkey. He and Dalibor were just on their way home, so I promised to be there and rolling by the time they arrived. And I was.

P had decorated the flat in honour of Dalibor, because he is leaving in a couple of days. Lovely hand-made (paper and black magic marker) signs, and beer glasses, biscuits, plants and other paraphernalia arranged around the signs to create shrines. P had also picked up a couple of frogs on his solo rambling walk home; these were in Monkey's big silver pot, more often used in bean-related culinary adventures.

Monkey got the drinks: beer, then green tea, then red wine, then white wine and then Monkey's own strawberry-banana smoothies. Not all at once, but over the course of the next couple of hours. We also smoked a big fatty and talked about the frogs. The big question was whether they were frogs or toads and, if toads, whether we should lick them for the benefit of their psychedelic secretions. Monkey started researching magic toads on the internet. I said, of course, that I did not give a rat's arse whether they were frogs or toads or could make me high or what... I was not going to lick a weird slimy smelly old frog. So Monkey suggested that I lick the female, and offered me a dollar to do so, but I am not so easily bought.

P eventually got into bed, and it must have been after 12 when Monkey, Dali and I left the house. We took the frogs. Monkey and I refused to touch them, but Dali managed to get them into a bag. Our original intention was to take them back to Kinského zahrada, where P had picked them up, but we decided to dump them in Kampa Park, on the Čertovka canal because it was closer and they did not seem very happy in their plastic bag.

Then we made our way to Drake's. www.drakes.cz

You should know that I told Monkey I did not want to post anything about Drake's on my blog because if P reads my blog he'll go ballistic. He makes it a condition of their relationship that Monkey not go to Drake's. You may understand why as you read on.

Now I have always been curious about Drake's because both of my gay best friends really enjoy the place, but I had never been because it is not like Friends or G-A-Y: it is the kind of establishment that is exclusively for gay men, and women are generally not welcome.

We went in, and no one said a word to me or about me. There was only one other customer in the bar area; I did not notice any reaction from him or the barman. We sat down on one side of the bar and Monkey ordered 3 beers. Aside from the small dance platform with the pole and the gay porno on the tvs in the corners, it was much like any other bar, if not a little dark. A couple of other customers emerged from the mysterious back areas.

Monkey was very determined from the start that I see absolutely all of Drake's but for whatever Monkey reason he did not want to just blatantly show me round. I obstinately refused to wander round on my own. I was not afraid or uncomfortable; it was more out of respect and awareness that I did not really belong there, i.e. that it would not be fair to surprise the gays if they thought they were in a 100% safe, gay, intruderless environment.

Monkey asked the barman for the key to the staff toilets so that I could use the loo in a decent manner. I did not need the loo but I went along with it. Monkey introduced me to Lada, the cleaner at Drake's. Lada let me into the toilet and into the men's to wash my hands afterwards. I thought Monkey would be waiting to take me into the back but he had returned to his beer at the bar. Monkey then insisted that Dale take me into the back while the barman was not paying attention. Dale said he would be delighted to show me round.

It was very dark in the back, and the walls were painted a very dark red. We walked through a little maze of video cabins and glory holes. There were lots of conveniently dark corners, and even a man with unbuttoned jeans sleeping in one of the video areas. The back was otherwise empty at the time. It was interesting, but nothing I had not already heard about repeatedly.

The basement/dungeon was a bit more titillating. Monkey got Lada to take me downstairs: it was closed for cleaning and all the lights were on. The basement was bigger than the back and even more labyrinthine. In the dungeon there were two cages, one with some bondage equipment hanging from a post. There were many cabins and glory holes galore and more tvs playing gay porn and paper towel dispensers mounted intermittently along the walls. I think my favourite part may have been the long space with the raised platform along one wall. The platform had a low wooden fence separating it from the floor, of course with glory holes (5 or 6 of them, I think) cut out of it, at the height of the mouth of a man standing on the floor. I hope you can picture what I mean. I am very glad Lada was with me because I am not sure I would have found my way back out of the basement's twisting corridors.

After another beer at Drake's, we went to Nostitz because I was hungry, not having been on methamphetamines all night. We had got our beers and just ordered our food when Monkey said that Dale was clearly fading fast and that therefore we would need to get more thingies right away. I texted McPontiff (not his real name, and once again apologies to the real McPontiff) and he said he would be where he was for 15 minutes and we could go see him just then. Monkey suggested that I go but I laughed in his face, so he and Dali took off to get the goods.

More beers, some food, some thingies (but not for me: I am being oh so good this week), and then we decided to go home to Monkey's to try that second spliff I had rolled, that was sitting on the table waiting for us. That was probably about 3.30 or 4. Now it is late afternoon, nearly 5.30, and all my gay paraders are asleep in the flat around me.

The parade will continue in due course...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

On having too much work

It is nearly 6 o'clock which is the time I get to leave work (and hopefully find my Monkey!) and I have not had time to write in my blog all day.

The problem: I had too much actual work. I realise that is what I get paid to sit here for, but still, one hopes to have some time during the working day to pursue one's outside interests.

Then [DD - I hope you are paying attention to this] I had to answer an e-mail from my congressman's office. A real person who used his own name and e-mail address, and who works on the congressman's Government Reform Committee staff. So I wrote two A4 pages further explaining our complaint. And Government Reform - that is fucking brilliant. What if we could reform the government just by writing bloody e-mails. I realise that Devastatin' Dave could still be proved right, that all of this could come to nothing, but at least someone has paid attention.

And one observation for today: I see that no one has commented on my last post. I realise that is because men are afraid to comment on rantings of a woman that concern men. That is very prudent of you both and I respect it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Rantings inspired by a heterosexual man

I shall call him “Steve” because he needs a fictional name and I quite like the idea of naming him after rtm’s cat.

Steve was a big score for me, mostly because he was:
1. age appropriate;
2. heterosexual; and
3. not currently married.
I have a hard time managing all three of these elements at once. Steve had additional positive qualities but they are now, unfortunately, a moot point.

Steve at first said lovely things to me like:
“I have fancied you since the first time I saw you,” and
“Do you realise how incredibly sexy you are?”
- you know, things a woman appreciates hearing over and over again.

Later Steve said, “I know I am being incredibly stupid in turning down a nearly perfect package, but I do not want a relationship right now.”

I had, and still have, two problems with that statement:
1. What did he mean by “nearly” perfect?
2. Why do men always assume that a woman wants to dive straight into a relationship?


AN OPEN MESSAGE TO ALL MEN IN GENERAL AND NO MAN IN PARTICULAR:

• just because you may be handsome enough to attract a woman, or

• entertaining enough to make a woman laugh, or

• intelligent enough to engage a woman in conversation, or

• capable of fucking a woman with some degree of skill,

IT DOES NOT THEREFORE FOLLOW THAT A WOMAN WILL IMMEDIATELY WANT TO POSSESS YOU FOREVER.

GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK AND GET OVER YOURSELVES.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

On writing to my congressman

I have just written to my congressman for the first time. I have been to his house before (I knew his daughter at university) but that was not relevant to my message.

Everything is so easy when you can do it electronically. I am not even sure why I thought of writing to my congressman, but nothing else has worked so far. I am trying to help a group of former colleagues solve a problem that they (and I) have been having for years. Communication with the Office of the Inspector General at DLI in Monterey came to naught, as did communication with the Office of the Inspector General at DLI in San Antonio, as it seems that we have been "Catch-22ed"* by the Department of Defense. So then I wrote to the federal Office of Personnel Management and twice to the Department of Labor. No one bloody answers. But as I have all of my communication electronically, I can copy and paste and send it to 6000 more people if I so choose without a lot of extra effort.

I reckon I will hear back from my congressman's office, but I also reckon they will say there is nothing they can do to help us. We shall see...

*Catch-22 is my favourite book ever

On being a gay icon

I would never use the term ‘fag hag’. I may be a lot of things but I am certainly not a hag. My friends have coined the term ‘fag mag’, as in magnet, but I prefer to think of myself as a gay icon.

“Like Madonna,” I have said, “only on a smaller scale.”

I went on a day-trip from Israel to Petra in Jordan on Christmas Day last year. There were 12 people in the tour group. As we waited at the border crossing to go into Jordan, I said to my friend Oranit about two of the men in the group: “See those two men over there? They are gay, and by the end of the day they are going to be my new best friends.” Sure enough, by mid-afternoon I was sharing cigarettes with Mark and we had exchanged contact information. When Monkey and I went to Paris in February, we had a drink with Mark, although we did not get to see Pascal because he and Mark had had a falling out.

Why do the gays love me? I don’t know. Theories range from the very practical: “It is because you are open-minded and non-judgmental” to the more flamboyant: “It is because you are so fabulous, darling.” Thank you to Knottyboy for the latter opinion.

But without knowing why, all that really matters is that I enjoy being a gay icon and I like my parades.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Day with my Sunshine at the Races

Sunshine still had his tan from his holiday in Cuba and he looked very tasty yesterday. I had slept for only about an hour and a half so I am sure I looked lovely too. We took the train to the racetrack at Velká Chuchle. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were very happy to be out and enjoying it. I was still totally off my head from the night before.

We got beers and sat down to plan our betting strategy. We picked horses whose names we liked and Sunshine made up combinations. The betting lady thought we were crazy, but she was really nice to us and liked to laugh at Sunshine's Czech. We won a few times. Sunshine had our betting money in his pocket, and I had the winnings in mine. In fact, I still have the winnings in mine. We drank more beers and celebratory shots and Sunshine ate klobasa. I am still not smoking, but I had blown that on Saturday night so on Sunday I allowed myself drags of Sunshine’s cigarettes.

After the races were over we came back into town, probably by train but I don’t really remember. That is very bad. We went to meet Monkey, P and Dalibor at the Staropramen brewery pub. I was happy to show off Sunshine to my paraders. From the pub I went home on my own, and then very stupidly went out again to U Zpěváčků. I talked to Mike for a bit and then I fell asleep while sitting at the bar. Sad sad girl. Mike mentioned hearing rumours about me and someone who shall now be nameless; I don't remember if I confirmed or denied. Finally I went home and realised that I did not have my keys.

Now I know why weekends are only 2 days long.

Saturday Parade

We started at Monkey’s at 6 p.m. with a glass of wine and kisses all round. Dalibor had not slept in days, having travelled from Illinois to Prague by some circuitous route with about 64 layovers. “We have to leave the house or I won’t make it,” he said, so we left the house. Paraders this day were Monkey, Dalibor, P and me, Max.

Our first stop was for a beer on a terrace by the river. We then walked over Charles Bridge, which was when Jono rang. The poor boy was stuck at work all weekend and was calling for company. I tried to be very sympathetic but Monkey was the opposite, telling Jono to just leave his office, get on a plane and come join the parade. From the bridge we walked to Friends.

Friends is in a cellar space and you have to walk down two flights of stairs to get to it. “Dalibor, these stairs are wooden,” said Monkey. “Do you realise that if there were a fire in here we would all be trapped? This place makes me really uncomfortable.” Monkey says this at least once every time we go into Friends. We had some more beers and waited to hear from Pablo Escobar. Actually, Pablo had gone missing so we were waiting to hear from his friend McPontiff (not his real name) instead.

At last we left and went to see McPontiff. After exchanging money for goods, we decided to forego dinner and continue on to U Zpěváčků, my home away from home. Some nights U Zpěváčků is a really mellow neighbourhood bar, and some nights it is just the weirdest place in the world. Saturday night was a freak show. Charlie the bar manager was whacked out; the place was filling up with Americans who wanted to watch the NCAA tournament; the pope died: the place was just brimming over with an odd energy. Mike the barman, luckily, remained his normal capable self and kept the whole place from collapsing in on itself. We ate halves of the thingies we had obtained from McPontiff.

The four of us sat in the back room of U Zpěváčků and just talked and talked and talked, occasionally being interrupted by other people coming to say hello, or making trips into the front room for more drinks or to see who else had come in. I danced with Tim. Dan and Radka came in but we could not find Rusty. DL rang from Melbourne (welcome to Max’s Gay Parade, DL!). Finally the weirdness got to be too much for us in our altered state, so we left. The original four paraders went back to Friends.

Friends was too loud and then there was that problem of the wooden stairs so we did not stay long. Monkey, Dali and I decided to go to Stella, and P decided he would go home to bed.

Stella was uneventful: just three friends drinking some beers, smoking some cigarettes and spreading mutual love and adoration. But then Stella was closing (it was about 4.30) so Monkey decided we should walk over to Le Clan. We rang Rusty on the way.

Le Clan is an after-hours club that is a world unto itself. There are two bars, rooms with couches and tables, a dj and a small dance floor, and toilets with mirrors in the stalls which are mounted perpendicular to the wall to facilitate the snorting of cocaine. You always run into people that you know there.

We took a couch in a back corner, sharing a table with two Czech men. They had their conversation, we had ours, until suddenly one of them started talking to Monkey. At first Monkey was resisting speaking English with them but Dalibor jumped in when the first man started in on how Americans were all alike and all idiots because they smile too much. I stayed out of it from the beginning, never interested in arguing with stupid drunk people. This man was called David, and he and Dalibor went at it. The man’s friend, a big obnoxious arsehole called Lada, whom we soon learned was a member of the Czech parliament (ODS), got in on the conversation every once in a while, but only in Czech so that Dalibor did not know what he was saying. I refused to translate because nothing he said had any value. The gist of it was that all Americans are stupid, just like Russians, and all we care about are our swimming pools and Porsches. And on and on, repetitive and just plain dull. Not only would I not translate, I also refused to respond. Finally Lada started repeating himself in his shitty English, so I finally said to him in Czech, “I understood everything you said. I am simply not interested in your views of my country.” Meanwhile, Monkey had dived in and was arguing with both David and Lada about whatever ridiculous point they were making at whatever given time. Monkey really enjoys that sort of thing. I just wanted them to go away. Rusty finally showed up so I just talked to him. After what seemed like years the two arseholes went away.

The parade was able to relax again. We chatted amongst ourselves until two Danish boys came over and said they wanted to talk to us. They were lovely: Sune and Thor, both students and both currently doing internships at Danish embassies, Sune in Bratislava and Thor in Budapest. They were in Prague for the weekend. Sune had fair longish hair and looked a little bit like a lion, and Thor had short dark hair; both were handsome lads. They were sincere and clever and the conversation was good. It got rough when Thor told us that his kid brother was a soldier in Iraq and Monkey stated that he would never let his brother go to Iraq, that he would do anything to prevent him, including grievous bodily harm. Thor had not wanted his brother to go to Iraq, Thor had done everything he could to try to dissuade his brother, but had stopped short of actual physical harm. Monkey took exception to that. Thor was getting upset, Monkey did not want to back down from his statement, and finally I had to tell Monkey that he was being insensitive and he had to stop. I felt very sorry for Thor, having to worry about his brother in Iraq, and knowing that of course he did not want him to be there. And then Monkey wanted to take blame for the whole situation because it was our country’s actions that had created the need for Thor’s little brother to go to Iraq. Serious stuff for a parade.

A group of three men sat on the couch opposite our little area. Suddenly one of them threw a bottle in our direction, and it landed on the floor between Rusty and Sune. Rusty and I moved back round to the other side of the table so as not to have our backs to the rowdies. The next thing we saw was two of them getting it on, the third one having left. Then they pulled a waitress in between them, then another girl joined, and it was like a free erotic show, although not a very good one.

Then it was 8.45 and time for all good paraders to go home and sleep.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Max's Gay Parade

Max's Gay Parade is not a single event, but rather an on-going phenomenon. It started in October of last year, very innocuously, with a brunch at the Mövenpick Hotel in Prague. Or, more accurately, when the taxi containing Monkey, P and Wayne stopped in front of Švandovo Divadlo (our local theatre: I think that set the tone for the day) to pick me up. That was my first meeting with Wayne, who fawned over me lovingly, as was appropriate, and I am sure the taxi driver had absolutely no idea what to make of us.

A hotel brunch in Prague is a beautiful thing. It can also be a very messy thing, depending on the company you keep, but this party was perfect. The food was lovely, although secondary; this brunch included all the beer and wine we wanted. And we wanted a lot of that perfect Plzeňský prazdroj, known to the rest of the world as Pilsner Urquell. We also ordered bloody marys, and they brought the ingredients for us to make them at the table ourselves, augmented by a quick Monkey trip to the buffet for horseradish. We had a table next to the window looking out on the garden, the sun was shining, our waitress was very sweet and attentive, and it was basically a perfect day for a parade.

I could get this day a little mixed up with another brunch Monkey and I had at the Mövenpick. That was a different kind of Gay Parade because the couple with us did not realise that it was a Gay Parade, even though the pastry chef in the window during the post-brunch parade part of the day could tell immediately.

After brunch (back to the original Max's Gay Parade) we rode the hotel's cable car up the hill for a lovely view of Prague, and then went parading. At some point Jono joined us on the parade by phone from London; it is normally very important to have some sort of international aspect to a proper Gay Parade.

Did we finish in El Centro that night? Could that really have been our last stop? The episodes of Max's Gay Parades can blur into each other very easily. Jumping ahead to the present time, we shall have a new participant this weekend as Dalibor is coming to town. Hooray!!