Saturday, May 01, 2004

Here's my first dispatch from Occupied Europe.

On last night's festivities, as the Czechs enjoyed their last hours of freedom and celebrated their subjugation to Brussels bureaufascists.... Myself and three friends (one Czech, two American) celebrated with bubbly wine and fireworks. We met up at Tulip, where two friends arrived with two bottles of warm, cheap Russian sekt. I filled a plastic champagne jug with ice from the icemaker and gave it to them.

Then I had to go deal with some shit. I had to pay one of our cooks his final salary. This chef announced yesterday that it was his last day, and boy was I glad about that. You know there are two types of arrogant people: There are arrogant people who secretly have low self-esteem, and when they're home alone, they sort of hate themselves. This portion constitutes the vast majority of all the world's arrogant people, and they're actually relatively easy to deal with (NOTE: I orininally wrote they're "quite difficult" to deal with; but that's not what I meant), because ultimately they're just looking for some small measure of recognition. Then there those rare arrogant people who sincerely believe they're God's gift to the world. These ones are trickier, because ultimately at some point you're going to have to show them you don't 100% agree with the evaluation, and thus the reality they run into is cold, desolate and grossly unjust, and the collision is hard and often ugly. You can guess which of these two categories this former cook belongs to. Also, the night before I'd personally sacked a waiter who'd been rude to the customers, so it's been a rocky few days in terms of personnel. You didn't need to know all that.

Where was I. Oh yes, so I had to deal with that, which was annoying because I really just wanted to steal some ice and then leave. It was quite busy -- finally, after several slow weekends, people are really starting to populate our newly done-up garden out back. While I'm behind the bar, our front of house manager came up to me and held up a bottle of Frankovka (standard issue Czech red wine). "Look at this! Look at this!" she said irately.

So I looked at this. "It's a bottle of wine..."

"It's a bottle of wine brought into the restaurant from outside. Can you believe it? People bringing their own wine to a restaurant!"

Scoundrels! Do you bring a Happy Meal to Red Lobster? I think not! Oooo it made me so mad!

Just then I noticed the two bottles of warm, cheap Russian champagne sitting on the bar in front of my friends, in a Tulip-provided ice-filled champagne jug. I made a show of anger and annoyance and told them to put that shit away immediately.

Later we found a patch of grass in front of Rudolfinum and watched the fireworks from Letna. Impressive. Subdued.

When that was over, I'd already had enough sekt to develop a bit of a personality (that happens when I drink, they say) and I decided to have a hotel lobby adventure. Hotel lobbies are great, because they're always nice classy quietly active places and you can't generally get thrown out unless you seriously do something wrong. I've also had the pleasure of taking a sneak peak into the Four Seasons employees' manual and learned some interesting things. You're explicitly not allowed to touch the guests, unless administering mouth-to-mouth resucitation, for instance. So I figured it would be neat to slip and fall right in front of one of the lobby attendants and reach for his hand and him to help me up and then have him fired as soon as he touches me. I didn't do that though. That would be really mean.

My photograph has appeared in the contributors section of the most recent issue of Four Season magazine, the glossy rag they give out to guests of the hotel. So I parked the champagne bucket on a cement flower pot outside and went inside and demanded to be shown the most recent magazine so I could show the whole hotel. After some delay, they finally produced the most recent magazine, and the receptionist help up the magazine next to my face and said, "Ah, yes."

When we left we found the plastic champagne jug was no longer where I'd left it! I went back inside and asked about it. After some delay, the staff finally produced it. It was a pretty stupid place to leave it, and I apologized. They apologized back. "I'm very sorry. I thought it must have been some drunk people who'd left it there."

Well actually, I told him, it was just some drunk people who left it there.

Then we went to the cocktail bar Ocean Drive and had 170 crown mojitos. 170 crowns! That's more than six bucks! That's not just real money, that's fucking expensive!

So. The end. Welcome to the EU.

P.S. I'm going to Cairo a week from Tuesday and then to Sinai and Petra, Jordan. Will try to say more, soon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Here seems to be a good blog analysis of the various ramifications of the Cyprus vote. Found via Living in Europe.

A little more than a year ago, Steve of PragueBlog and I were looking around for blogs written in English from outside North American. (Some of the ones I found are here, and that was in fact the genesis of my long-neglected "Four Corners Blogs" over on the left.)

Just looking at the Living In Europe blog aggregator, it's wonderful and amazing to say how the English-language non-Anglo blogosphere has exploded in the past year. Where else could I find this ultra-kitsch Objectivist painting showing the evolution of man from Neanderthal through Aristotle to Ayn Rand? (OK, so this link originally came from Reason, but I found it on Foreign Dispatches, via Living in Europe, first.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

OK, why the hell not...

* Grab the nearest book.
* Open the book to page 23.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

From The Penguin Book of International Short Stories, 1945-1985, edited by Daniel Halpern:


Sunday, April 25, 2004

Oh, this is just classic:
It was, Woodward said, something Powell and his deputy, Dick Armitage, called the Pottery Barn rule: 'You break it, you own it.'
Not so, the company protested in a statement, saying broken items are seen as 'the cost of doing business and (we) would not require a customer to pay for an item that he or she inadvertently broke in our store.'
Being dissed by a retail chain specializing in ceramics and kitchenware summed up the week for Powell.