And I would drive one hundred more

I wake up with Cruel Summer in my head, the Bananarama version, not the Ace of Base one (although they are exactly the same).

I think it’s on my mind because the city may not be very crowded at all with it being a Friday between two days off and a weekend, but H is in Iceland and the Foxes are in Ireland and I don’t really have any other friends so they’re all away and I’m on my own.

On my way to work I find this little fella parked outside a row of panelák:


It’s a very old and very well kept Fiat 600, which is essentially a tumefied Fiat 500 with a little extra ass and one hundred more — what? One hundred more cylinders? Horses? I don’t know anything about cars that matters. I only like about six different cars ever built, which are all European and old, and mostly italian, and all of them tiny.

But we used to have thousands and thousands of these back home, only there they were called Seat 600 (seiscientos) and they were made in Barcelona and they were the first and only car Spaniards could afford so everyone had one, or memories of one. We didn’t — we had a Mercedes and an imported Mini because we were so precious, a family trait I have certainly perfected — but the seiscientos is engraved in the collective memory of every Spaniard regardless of your papi’s tax bracket. 

So I know it’s going to be a good day.

Because everyone is off work the office building is practically deserted. We have also been told that the cafeteria will be closed, so no free food today. When I arrive I see the cafeteria staff have barricaded the entrance with a bunch of trolleys, so I head down to my desk.

Your flying crew today consists of me, Other Copywriter (henceforth known as Other) and SEO Guy. No designers. No UX team.

Other is feisty and dark and lovely and looks a bit like Jennifer Lopez if Jennifer Lopez sang lead vocals in your cousin’s garage rock band. A bit.

SEO Guy is a very friendly American who sometimes destroys my copy with excel sheets of stupid shit people are entering into Google which needs to be added to whatever content I’m working on so that our employer won’t plummet to page 16 in people’s search results.

Since there is no free food today, I leave our office tower and cross the street to the Arkady mall and into the food court, past the crowded fast-food outlets, and into the nearly empty salad place. There I attempt to construct a salad order from scratch in Czech in my head, give up and head to Nordsee where I ask for a plate of seafood paella and pretend this fits my eating disorder diet.

I take my tray and choose a table next to a businessman and his very young daughter who starts jumping up and down in her seat and then pisses herself.

I crank up the volume of the Jessie Ware track I’m listening to and pretend this isn’t happening. 

Life is pain and ridicule, is what Other says to me when I get back, although I forget the context. I think it’s because she doesn’t like her new haircut.

Then I go to the work gym and back to my desk where I write some more promotional copy and just like that, it’s Friday evening and everyone is gone except me and SEO Guy and they’re literally vacuuming under my feet so I finish typing this and go home.

Not a target demographic for God’s creative power

Three million years ago, two Byzantine monks arrived in the Czech lands bringing the wrong alphabet and Christianity. Only one of those things stuck, but now we get two days off in the middle of the week.

And what I do with my two free days is go hunting for breakfast, which ends up being a spinach mango protein shake which looks like this:

Then H and I go to the gym, where I try very hard to move really heavy stuff with my legs. Then we go to Delmart where they ask me what ingredients I want in my salad and because of my astonishing ability to restrain myself I order spinach, chickpeas, smoked salmon, avocado, artichoke, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, boiled goat, deep-fried hedgehog, aircraft bolts, plutonium and olive oil.

Then we go to EMA which is a hipster/preppy coffee house next to the Hilton and the plot by Masarykovo Nadrazi where they claim they’re building a building by Zaha Hadid but we don’t believe them. And I ask for an iced coffee with no sugar and H begins reading to me out of a book someone has left behind, and he says out loud

“In Jesus’ name and on the authority of His Holy Word, I call these debts PAID IN FULL!”

so I grab the book to see what it is, and it is called God’s Creative Power and it has a chapter about literally praying your mortgage away.

H has a mortgage but isn’t baptized. I am baptized but I don’t have a mortgage. We are not a target demographic for God’s creative power.


Then H goes singing and I come home to watch Trainspotting for the first time in my life, because we’re going to Aero later in the night to watch Trainspotting 2 and I want to know what happens in the first one (what happens is drugs and poo).

And then we go out in Žižkov and take pictures on our way to a restaurant where I order a chicken burger. H eats all of my fries but none of his own, so that when the waitress comes to collect the plates he looks like the one with all the self-control.


Today I go back to the gym where I try very hard to move really heavy stuff with my hands, and then I come home and lay in bed with the fan on reading a novel by Chuck Palahniuk while H packs for his trip to Iceland tonight.

And that’s how I spent my two free days in the middle of the week.

 

 

 

Little Red Tripping Hoodie

I take five stops on the Prague red metro line to work every morning. It’s nice and clean and fast and it takes me to my ultra modern office tower in Pankrác, Prague’s skyscraper city, and the metro is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and I always get a seat in the morning and I get to read something or listen to music or just look at people from within my generous dose of personal space.

The collapse of modern civilization will probably look a lot like the closure of the red metro line this week, to the point that I am still not quite clear on how I manage to jam myself into the absolutely packed replacement bus this morning. I think I step on a baby.

The bus reeks of armpit sweat and salami. At nine in the morning.

How is this possible, I ask you? People having salami breath in the morning. Is that what normal people have for breakfast? Am I the freak with my cup of coffee and my greek yogurt and my apples?

And this is what the red metro line replacement bus looks like this morning as it departs Hlavni Nadrazi.


And about ten seconds into the red metro line replacement bus’ journey across the Magistrala (which is a highway built by the communists literally across the center of Prague like an asphalt middle finger), Salami Breath here in the red hoodie starts twitching and tweaking.

And about a minute later he is ranting.

And a little later he is screaming and scratching the window, because he is tripping balls.

And by the time we’re approaching Vysehrad, he has begun to take his clothes off.

And because the bus is full of Czechs, everybody pretends that none of this is happening.

And then I get a text from Jen in the UK with a link to a BBC article about a Japanese policeman who has the largest collection of Hello Kitty memorabilia in the world and I think that’s nice. How nice it must be to be a Japanese policeman and spend your days collecting Hello Kitty, and not inhaling predigested salami fumes on your way to work, and just as Little Red Tripping Hoodie begins reaching for his belt the bus pulls into Prazskeho Postavni and that’s my stop so I leave.

Later on I try the office gym for the first time, which looks like this:


And as I am working out I get another text from Jen who’s on her way to choose a puppy, and the text says “I just peed in the bushes and got stuck by nettles fml”.

So I guess it could be worse.

A thing of milk and two protein bars


H tells me about that one time he went to a Russian nouveau riche wedding, and the couple took to the dancefloor to share their first dance as a married couple to the tune of Mecano’s Hijo de la Luna.

Hijo de la Luna is a very popular Spanish song and I can see how it may have appealed to the nouveau riche Russian couple, as it is a mysterious, ethnic, sophisticated Mediterranean melody that you can fairly easily sway to, with no particular rhythm for Slavs to fuck up.

It also tells the story of a gypsy who murders his wife and newborn baby in a savage way, because the baby has pale skin and he assumes she’s cheated on him with a white guy.

Obviously don’t have this song at your wedding.

And H is standing at the edge of the dance floor and he keeps looking around, trying to make eye contact with anyone else who may also be thinking what the fuck ever, but he is the only one at the wedding who understand Spanish and everyone else is looking approvingly at the bride in her eggshell Vera Wang dress, dancing in the arms of her new husband while a gypsy woman gets disembowelled through the sound system.

I have no idea why I think about this while I am waiting in line at the cashier in the most depressing supermarket in Prague, I think — actually I should research this. There’s this one, which is an Albert under Namesti Republiky that’s so atrociously lit and distributed it feels like a grocery morgue. And there will be others — Albert in Olsanske Namesti, I’m looking at you.

But now I am here and the line is so slow because this particular horrible supermarket happens to employ a very nice cashier who is also a colossal asshole by virtue of being very nice. And it occurs to me that the old adage that nice guys are just assholes in disguise is true, OMG it’s so true, look at this jackass trying to be everybody’s best friend, you’re working in this grocery bunker on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon and you’re emoting everybody’s shopping experience.

I just want to buy a thing of milk and two protein bars so I can eat something after the gym and run to meet H at Svetozor to watch Not La La Land Moonlight at long last.

And I really don’t know why but my mind goes

A-aaah.

A-aaaaaaaaah.

Hijo de la Luna.

Ok yeah so yeah so hi

It’s been ages, has it not been ages?

I guess by now everyone who used to read this blog has long given up and moved onto more interesting things with regular updates or SnapChat or whatever, which is nice, really. I like the idea of completely inconsequential wordbarf.

Not that it was in any way consequential before.

This is what happened when I started writing for a living, in the sense of receiving regular paychecks in exchange for words I’d put together for someone else: I lost any desire whatsoever to write anything else.

The same thing happened when I took a summer job with Burger King when I was between countries, that one summer in Madrid between high school and university.

I only worked there for a few weeks before moving on to a nicer job at the airport where I picked up the phone and answered stupid questions such as

How long does it take to get to Paris by plane?” (two hours, lady) and “but if I travel in Business Class, how long does it take?” (a nanosecond less as you’ll be sitting in the front of the plane, lady, and yes this was a real question that someone called to ask and I had to answer),

and where I didn’t walk into the women’s toilet with a mop and a bucket only to find two trashy girls fingering themselves while facing each other from opposing stalls, which is a real thing that happened and I had to deal with – wait, where was I going with this?

Ah, yes. I didn’t go near a burger for months.

And so it is with writing. I have a collection of short stories I am meant to be translating for almost a year, on ice. A non-fiction thing with Ba, on ice. I have two other writty wordy things on ice. I have a lot of ice.

But now, I don’t know. I don’t know.

Maybe because I know nobody is reading. Nobody is there to expect or demand that a sentence perform or look this way or that or have a character limit.

But I’m here and it’s Saturday morning and H has left town to go see his parents and I’m having brunch by myself in the café across the street, and I could swear there’s a very crass middle aged corpsy woman from somewhere else having tea with a very obvious male prostitute.

And I felt like blogging about it.

Huh.

The Cheerleader

Marin’s superpower was making you feel like you mattered, and that what you did was great, and fun, and necessary. What some others saw as banal, she thought was fantastic. She was, in short, one of the world’s greatest cheerleaders — and that’s how I will remember her for as long as I live.

I have been desperately sad since I heard about Marin’s death.

Marin and I first met, –me a 17-year old snow-weathered senior, she fresh off the Oslo bus–  in our hippy, crunchy granola Scandinavian high school, where we solved all our problems by hugging. We met the world with a sort of wide-eyed sincerity that I haven’t really seen since outside of One Tree Hill reruns, and it’s hard to picture a more fitting image to illustrate our Nordic-flavoured life since then than her — the hair-down, fringe-swept, bright-red lipsticked, quiety wonderful Icelandic girl. A little salty, a lot kind, with a large order of side-eye.

It was coming up to 18 years of friendship – an adult friendship that can vote and drink and drive, only one of which we ever did together if you don’t count that one Model United Nations disaster – and from all those years here’s what I know, and what I think everyone who knew her knows:

Marin had the gift of unfiltered fandom.

When my first academic book chapter was published, she actually went and read it, and apparently loved it – and I don’t think I need to tell you, it takes a special kind of mad commitment to sit through your friends’ academic work. I spent a few weeks in Southern Africa, where she was born, and I swear she was more enthusiastic about my trip than even I was – asked for photos, impressions, recommendations, showed my pictures around. And every spring like clockwork we would engage in our favourite common kind of madness: the Eurovision Song Contest. Traded favourites, brokered hopeless televote deals like a 1960’s Democratic convention, hung our heads in shame together and had a big laugh.

You know, that’s rare. Ideally it wouldn’t be and we would all be more like Marin, but we’re not. We all know a few people who think nothing of cutting us down to size and putting us in our place with snark and passive-aggression, and some days it seems like everyone is a cynic, and then along would come Marin to like your selfie and tell you you look amazing. Loving things, and places, and people – loving us – without filter or qualification or irony.

Marin’s superpower was making you feel like you mattered, and that what you did was great, and fun, and necessary. What some others saw as banal, she thought was fantastic. She was, in short, one of the world’s greatest cheerleaders — and that’s how I will remember her for as long as I live.

I don’t know how to fix anything but here is her blog post. And it’s here to stay.