Monday, September 20, 2004

I'm writing from New York City, where I'm staying with my girlfriend's sister and her boyfriend in an East Village apartment. It's good to be back in the U.S. for a few days. I'm returning to Prague on Thursday morning. Yesterday I went to the local deli to buy beer, and stood there looking at the display fridge for about fifteen minutes in sheer anguish as I contemplated the huge selection of malt beverages available. Coors? Bud Light? Interesting and exotic, for me at least, but then there were my hosts to consider. Brooklyn Lager? Seemed a bit too obvious. Considered Rolling Rock for purely for the nostalgia value (that's what I drank in college). Found various imports with enticingly colorful packaging... Pilner Urquell? Czechvar? Bwahahahaha! Finally settled on a big bottle of Colt 45 and a six-pack of Chinese Tsing Tao.


Thursday, the night before I left, there was a Violent Incident at Tulip. I was sitting in the office when the manager ran back and started rummaging through the freezer. "Fucking Arabs!" he said. I'm all, "Huh?" and he's like, "Fucking Arabs, man! (pause) They tried to steal [our cook]'s bag and then hit him!" He was looking for a hamburger patty to apply to the cook's face.

Indeed, one of our cooks had been sitting at the bar, off duty, having a drink with a lady friend, when four customers who by various accounts were Gypsies, Moroccan, Non-Specified Arab, or White walked out of the restaurant. One of them grabbed the cook's bag as he left. The cook immediately noticed and went after the guy, grabbed the bag out of his hands, and said something along the lines of, "I saw that, now just leave." Not content to turn tail and walk away, the would-be thief smacked the cook -- hard. By one customer's account, he had a long wind-up, and the physical evidence was pretty severe -- glasses bent way outta shape, some swelling. He was quite disoriented, so we called an ambulance just to be on the safe side. Meanwhile, the bartender and the rest of the kitchen staff (two brothers you'd definitely want on your side in a bar fight) took off in hot pursuit, and a customer ran to find a cop. The law showed up in force -- by this point I guess we're getting to be pretty well known by the local cops? -- but the culprits were not apprehended. The bartender returned declaring loudly, "From this point on I am racist ty vole! If Morrocans come to this restaurant I'm not serving them jako I call the police immediately!"

I'm not sure there's any silver lining to the story. (The cook was OK in the end. No concussion.) But I don't think these guys will be coming back. My experience with this sort of thing is that gangs of thieves will generally stake out a joint, find a place where they can easily filch somebody's belongings and get away without making a scene, and will return until they exhaust the possibilities of petty crime. They definitely made a scene this (first) time, and I was impressed the way the staff and customers all came together to deal with it.


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