Monday, April 30, 2012

Prague, my pretty

Prague can make a crazy photographer out of anyone. Here are my top 40 photos of this jewel of the Czech Republic.

S-s-s-s-s-spadina bus, the spadina bus!
Oh the Toronto Transit Commission is gonna be jealous.
How to feel small.
About $10.
Yup, pretty much like the illustration on the coaster.
Kafka statue... makes a girl blush.
Absinth anyone?
Fish eating dead skin off feet. Non, merci.
Communist art about brotherhood and working together. Except that guy in the middle who is stealing the bread.
Burb-fest 2012.
Another Bruce.
Sleeping it off in the middle of it.
Fruit Loop coloured buildings!
My favourite photo.
JM and the K-Man
Astronomical clock.
St. Christopher. My favourite saint.
This had to happen.
How long do I have to hold this lamp in front of the hotel?
Drunk 20-somethings clogging the escalator just long enough to miss the train. Arse-holes.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Prague, you can never tear us apart

The best advice I got from Prague was from INXS:

Watching the video and seeing the ornate streetlights, old brick buildings and the famous Charles Bridge got me pumped for Prague.

But INXS, there is room for improvement:

Prague: A burp fest

Castles, beer and shady run-ins with Communism. That's eastern Europe for you. Christophe and I filled one book bag each and took off for Prague.

First, a brief history.
Let's start at Prague Castle, which was a grand palace where kings ruled for a long time. Then some wars, marriages and politics happened. Eventually, the country landed in the hands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Hapsburg Monarchy. Then it was volleyed over to the Communist Soviet Union after WWII in 1948. Totalitarian bullying ensued for over 40 years until 1989, after the Berlin Wall fell, when Czechoslovakians said, "WTF, USSR? You suck. We is outta here." And the Velvet Revolution began, a peaceful demonstration, largely held by students,  that resulted in the Czechs freeing themselves from the USSR, Communism, and all that drab business of conformity and lame ass lameism. In 1993, Prague became the capital of the new Czech Republic, the world came to visit and the streets became lined with tchotchke shops hawking matryoshka dolls, ashtrays and fake fur hats.

But enough about that. Let's get to the beer.
Every hour in Prague is beer-o-clock. The country drinks more beer per capita than any other in the world. And I understand why. The secret ingredient is the water. Yumbo water gurgling from pure mountain streams. So a typical lager is delectable carbonated barley and hops glory.

Christophe and I arrived at the airport in the late afternoon. After a moment of Oh-fuck-I-wish-I'd-researched-how-to-get-downtown-from-the-airport, we found an airport shuttle that dropped us off smack dab in the middle of the action. After asking the driver to point at exactly where we were on the map, we oriented ourselves, found a currency-exchange place, and walked straight into this little house of Czech worship:
And so began our study of Czech culture.

Inside was a gang of 20-something dudes from Orange County, California, partaking in some wax-on-wax-off beer pong training. We would see the likes of these guys in the morning, sporting water bottles and looking like this:
The Prague Museum Bar has 30 regional beers and a booklet describing each one in sexy and scintillating detail:

Koute na Sumave is "pretty much where it's at when it comes to Czech Pilsner-style beer. Beautifully golden, topped with a rocky head that clings around until the very last drop is gone."

Weizenbier is "A perfectly fermented golden amber. This English style beer has a medium-sized creamy head, a bouquet of malt, hops and grass, and a full caramel taste that is pleasantly sweet."

Mazlicek is "Amber with a truly thick head, this lager tastes of candied fruit and honey."

After a lengthy study of Chotebor, we moved on to the next house of worship:
You just can't make this up, folks. 

Eastern Europe is a big ol' sausage fest and eastern Europeans like Christophe can tell the difference between them all. To me, there are two types of sausage: Those that make me burp and those that do not. 
"The land that vegetables forgot." -- Anthony Bourdain

I can't believe I used to be vegan.

Tomorrow, we storm the castle.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Commercial break

I packed a bag, grabbed the lover boy and took off for eastern Europe. I'll be back after this short commercial break to regale you with adventures of castles, army tanks, and Pilsner beer. This was brought to you by the number 7 and the letter B.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Exit Strategy Lesson 3: Unfinished business

I've been meaning to get to this post for awhile.

Each day I'd scribble in my journal: Write post about unfinished business.

But then the days went on and it never got crossed off the list. Until today mofo action item. Hi-ya! I karate chop you.

After I decluttered my apartment (Exit Strategy 1) and got real about saving or making extra dough (Exit Strategy 2), I looked around my apartment and saw that if I really wanted to eventually quit my job and hit the highway, I'd have to deal with my unfinished business:
  • Piles for Ebay, thrift store and yard sale
  • Magazines to toss... I wonder how the Pitt Jolie's are doing these days
  • Finished paintings that needed to be listed on Etsy
  • Blank canvases and journals
  • Books I never finished reading and never would
  • Recipes I'd clipped but never make... who was kidding who
  • Taxes... organizing bulging boxes of receipts
  • Gifts never given and store credits for gifts I'd received
  • More post-it notes than anyone needs in this lifetime
  • Sharpies from Costco (80 in a pack... Though I wish I had at least one Sharpie now. They don't sell them in Paris... and while we're at it, they don't sell popcorn, peanut butter, Ziploc bags or Crest White Strips.)
  • Paintbrushes galore, though I only use my five favorites and a palette knife
  • Phone books for the last five years
  • Old vitamins that made me want to hurl
  • Couscous I'd never make because the box was so old
  • Etc... it deserves it's own bullet point
  • Etc... maybe two bullet points 
Now that I wasn't going out for group lunches with Chugalug Chad, I had time to get done what needed getting done.

I started with two trash bags. One for junk (stale couscous and nasty vitamins) and one for recycling (Yellow Pages and magazines). I didn't sift through my magazines for one last look at whatever Amy Winehouse wore or did at a concert. I just chucked the rag mag and assumed it all went well. (I wonder if Nirvana is touring this summer. And when is Heath Leger coming out with a new film? I like that guy. Good hair. Yummy smile.)

I know I could donate magazines and get all goodie-two-shoes about it. But that attitude is what created the pile in the first place. I needed to devote to done. Recycling was as goodie-two-shoes as I was going to get. 

The toughest part of this stage was, believe it or not, tossing post-it notes. I couldn't put them in recycling. I. Just. Couldn't. Do. It. I snuck them back into the office supply closet I'd stole them from at work.

Most of the Sharpies were dried up. Tossed.

The paintbrushes, gifts and blank journals went to the thrift store. Note to gift givers: Writers are extremely picky about journals. Don't give me a journal unless it's the Twin Ring. Love.)

Once the recycling and junk was in the alley bins, the yard sale items were turned into a wad of onesies, and the bag hit the thrift store door with a loud thwump, I had the rest to do.

Like PayPal. I needed to remember my PayPal password and the email address I used to sign up for PayPal. It's a small thing but just annoying enough to avoid doing it. This bit of unfinished business was a pocket of plugged energy preventing me from selling on Ebay or Etsy and filling those pockets with coinage.

But I sat down one day, set my alarm for 20 minutes and raced through it. New email, new password and new link to a new bank account. Linked to Ebay and Etsy. Badabing badaboom! Done, bitches. And I had three minutes to spare. After that, I was a selling machine and inching my way closer to pulling out of the daily grind.

And then there were the taxes. Necessary evil. Sorta organized. But I'd likely be screwed if I were audited. Not  because I was stealing (I only did that with office supplies), but because I was disorganized. This job took considerably longer than 20 minutes.

I let myself off the hook about not finishing the books I'd started reading. (I'm sure it all worked out with Charlotte and Wilbur.)

All this unfinished business had been mucking up my mind. How can one think clearly when one is trying to remember their PayPal password? After I crossed the items off my list, I felt like I had a clean slate. I could finally think clearly about what I wanted to do once I quit my job.

So I turned to a map of Europe. I traced the roads, rivers and borders with my finger, picked up a pen and began to scribble a route for a nice long European vacation.

I never imagined I'd end up living in Paris, though. Oh this beautiful French life. It's amazing what a few moments of concentrated scribbling can do... and where it can lead.

Street art in Paris.
What unfinished business can you karate chop? Hi-ya!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pretty in Pink

"I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." 
-- Alice Walker, The Color Purple

I suspect God feels the same about pink.  

How nice of the tree outside to bloom at window-level. In Paris, even the flowers want to give other flowers a show.

I need to get this on a jacket and go find Danny Zuko.

One of the original Paris letters.

I lost Toto somewhere in here.

Yes, everywhere.

Dolled up for the Easter parade.

La Durée macaron. I think the vanilla is best. No, salted caramel. No vanilla. No, wait. Maybe chocolate. No, vanilla. But then again, the lemon is nice.

Oh Notre Dame! You're looking fabulous.

Yes, you are.

Don't be modest.

Leering statues. I wonder if they have cameras hidden behind their stony gaze.

This makes my mouth water even though I don't generally eat flowers. Generally (snort).

Oh no! I forgot my pants.

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