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Friday, April 09, 2004

Department of "She Didn't Just Say What I Think She Did, Did She?"

G. A. Cerny on Lisa Frankenberg: "Using an obituary to dis a paper that she left over a decade ago...Christ. That's just pathetic."

Understatement of the year. Now I've never met Lisa Frankenberg, but this article doesn't exactly make me want to set up an appointment. Hats off to NicMoc for uncovering that little turd-like nugget. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, don't worry about it.

*

A confluence of circumstances compels me to recall this post, in which I told of my second and final face-to-face encounter with Alan Levy, the editor of the Prague Post who died last week.

"Yes, we've met before, at Karlovy Vary. I'm Scott, if you don't remember," I said, holding out my hand.

"Yes, yes, I remember... Karlovy Vary and Prognosis," he said, shaking my hand.
Except I never worked for Prognosis.

A few days ago I attended the premiere of Rexpatriates, "the first movie about Americans in Prague" at Kino Aero. The film made my laugh pretty hard for the first 30-40 minutes, which by itself is quite commendable; by far the most notable thing about it was Alan Levy, playing himself, saying that years ago, before the revolution when he was living in Vienna, he'd had a premonition that he'd die in Prague. This speech had absolutely no relevance to what little plot the movie had. Yet there it was, premiering less than a week after Alan Levy, true to his word, died in Prague. It was rather moving.

Anyway, the real event was the gathering. It'd be easier to try counting the long-term North American Prague expats who didn't show up than to try naming all the ones who did.

So I'm there talking to Rob McLean of Czech & Slovak Construction & Investment Journal, which I wrote for briefly, before my life was consumed by the restaurant business.

"I can't seem to get my head around the fact that you didn't work for Prognosis," said Rob, who was one of those callow people who worked at Prognosis. His excuse was that I'm such good friends with those other callow people who also worked for that paper. I don't know what Alan Levy's reason was, although he obviously knew enough about me to make the association. (The man was a walking encyclopedia, they say; so much so that he even got the wrong facts right, if that makes any sense. Either that or he just didn't like me, and therefore assumed I'd worked for Prognosis.)

For the last time, people, I never worked for Prognosis!

*

Speaking of people who worked at Prognosis, again.

I noticed that recently Matt Welch has been linking to this blog here and there, sometimes just posting funny little phrases like "The Epic of the Freestanding Lasagna" without any further comment. That's cool, because I'd guess Matt's is the most trafficked web site that links to mine. (Matt was one of those callow Prognosis editors.)

So for all you people coming here from Matt Welch's site, I give you.... The Matt Welch Story.

OK, major caveat: Matt Welch does not appear in this story, and in fact has almost nothing to do with the story at all.

Many moons ago, in late 1996, just a few weeks after I'd moved to Prague, I went out to eat with a friend at a Polish restaurant. It was called -- get this -- "Polska Restaurace."

Two things I remember from this dining experience:

First, during the meal, large groups of people kept entering the restaurant -- for some reason I picture German-speaking tourists -- and going into the back and disappearing. We couldn't figure out where they were going, because the room in the back seemed pretty small.

Second, sitting at the next table from us was a very loud and wankish American guy who was annoying us with his lame attempts to impress his Czech girlfriend. The way I remember it, he had a pony-tail. Maybe he was a totally innocent fellow, but for some reason, he got on our nerves.

As we got up to leave, the annoying guy saw my Prague guidebook. "Excuse me, did you read about this restaurant in that guidebook?" he asked.

We replied that no, in fact, we hadn't.

"So how'd you hear about it?" he said.

I think somehow, collectively, we'd decided to get all obnoxious and snarky with this guy.

So my friend said, "Matt told us about it." (In fact, Matt did tell us about it -- Matt Carr, that is, who was then working as a photographer for, yes, the Prague Post.)

"Matt?"

"Yes, Matt. You know, Matt."

"Matt... Matt Welch?"

We burst out with guffaws of contempt. "MATT WELCH??? No, not Matt Welch!" Shaking our heads and laughing and muttering, "Matt Welch..." we left.

In fact, neither of us had ever heard the name "Matt Welch" before. We'd simply seized upon an opportunity to flummox this guy.

We later told this story to a friend, who replied, "Matt Welch? Didn't he move to Budapest?"

At that point it occured to me that Matt Welch was an actual person, not just a verbal symptom of one annoying man's annoyingness. And later I found out that I knew people who knew Matt Welch, and a little while later, I met the real Matt Welch. Pretty soon I realized that indeed, given one American talking to another American in Prague in 1996, if one were to say to the other, "Matt. You know, Matt," then "Matt Welch?" was actually a pretty reasonable response.

So that's when I first heard the name "Matt Welch," and sorry to disappoint you, but that's the end of the story.

No, wait. If you live in Prague you might be wondering about that Polish restaurant. It doesn't exist anymore. The Polska Restaurace had formerly had been an old-style Czech pub called U Stromecku or U Stromecek, which I never had the pleasure of visiting; it later turned into the Spaghetti Factory, and when that closed, it became Angel Cafe, which also closed. With such a string of failures, you say, surely nobody was stupid enough to try and open a restaurant in the same cursed location...?

Er, actually, I was. Today the former Polska Restaurace is called Tulip Cafe, and I own it. (Those Germans, I realize now, were obviously going downstairs to the room that's presently the Tulip Lounge.)

I'd like to insert some Remington razor joke here, but it's a bit clunky: "I liked the name Matt Welch so much, I bought the company..."

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