Friday, December 12, 2003

Last weekend, just prior to the collapse of the tree on Old Town Square, I got a call from my friend Theo asking if I wanted to meet up and drink hot wine on Old Town Square because, well, because that's what you do on cold December evenings in Prague. Sure, I said. I can be there in about half an hour.

Thirty minutes later I was standing on Old Town Square. The crowd was so maddening, I can hardly move. So I called Theo.

"OK, put your hands up so I can see you," I said.

"Sure... I'm the one with the glowing pair of horns."

That was a big joke, got it, cuz half the people on the square were running around with devil's horns, it being St. Nick's Day. (If you don't follow, read Arellanes's handy guideto the Czech St. Nick's tradition.)

Turns out Theo was on the other side of the square. So I finally met up with him after about 20 minutes, and sure enough, he had glowing (and blinking) devil's horns. We ducked into the alley next to the Cathedral that goes toward Ebel Coffee House, and stopped to browse at one of the kiosks selling Russian nesting dolls.

"I saw one on the square with Osama Bin Laden on it," Theo said.

"You've got to be kidding me."

"Hey, you have Osama Bin Laden?" Theo asked the proprietor.

"No! No, yes.... Oh, Osama, yes.... Osama osama osama...." He turned around, scanning the nesting dolls lined up behind him. There's Putin, there's Yeltsin, there's Bill Clinton (perhaps even the old classic with Monica inside).

"No Osama!" he finally says, shaking his head. "But this one is just like Osama!" He grabs the George W. Bush nesting doll.

And that was St. Nick's Day in Prague, 2003.


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