Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hate is a Strong Word

That's what I was always told when I was in elementary school. A teacher would ask me about something and I would reply that I hated it and almost every time the teacher would respond, "hate is a strong word."
Later in life, in college, I was told using strong words improves your writing and makes it more powerful. This is of course in direct conflict with people who always say you should try to live a life without hate. Perhaps Dr. Bob Gassaway didn't have hate in mind when he encouraged the use of strong words. Maybe William Strunk, Jr. meant something else. Who knows. It could explain a lot of journalists though.
I will table the rant about hate for a moment and answer a question I have been asked a few times since leaving the good ole US of A:
"What do you miss most?"
Me being who I am; I would be completely out of character if I actually cut right to the chase and explained what I miss first. That's just not me. I always have to take the long way. Besides, reading this wouldn't be quite as interesting distraction if I didn't fill it up with some love first.
Honestly, there isn't much I miss about the US.
I don't miss politics. I still read news from the US and I slap my forehead just as much, if not more, than I did when I read the news in the states. Does it really take a filibuster to ask Obama to explain why he thinks it's a good idea to have drone strikes against US citizens on US soil? I suppose so.
Is the Tea Party insane? Most likely.
Is the US becoming a nation of polarized citizens and politicians who are too busy making sure the other side can't move rather than actually getting things accomplished that could help the country? Yup. So good luck everyone in the US. The more you fight about right vs left the more other interests can take control while you aren't looking. It's like a game of twister where Democrats and Republicans are on the board and corporations are spinning the wheel laughing like mad.
Do I miss Americans? Not really. There are tons of them here and frankly, if I hear American accents on the street I try to distance myself. That isn't to say that I hate Americans, I have American friends here. I realize that just sounded like the typical, "I have black friends." Or "I have gay friends." But really, I wasn't really the type of person to engage in conversation with random people on the street in the US, why would I seek the same thing out 6,000 miles away? I do have black and gay friends by the way. I think even some gay, black friends. I'm so tolerant.
I do offer a hint to some Americans traveling, well anywhere, never assume people in public in a foreign country don't understand you. They do and it can frequently make you out to be a jackass.
Do I miss driving a car? No way. I can't even imagine trying to find a place to park in this city, especially down town. I've seen people driving here and it doesn't really seem all that bad. I think everyone likes to complain about how terrible the drivers are in their city. This seems to be a universal constant. I've heard many Czech people complain about bad Czech drivers. Really, with the public transportation the way it is here, there is no reason to drive. And, I'm in better shape from walking.
Do I miss the sun? This is a tricky one. The short answer is "no, I don't." The sun comes out so rarely here that it is like an event. I see it as the blessing from God it really is. It's like a miracle whenever it burns through the grey sky. It's like rain in the desert.
Do I miss English everywhere? Nah. This isn't really a big deal. Frankly in Prague English is pretty common, which isn't really helping my Czech. I'm pretty used to not hearing English in normal places anyway. Having lived in New Mexico where it is easy to find yourself surrounded by people speaking spanish at any time I'm used to it. The same thing happened on the Navajo reservation a lot to and trust me Diné is WAY more foreign of a language than Czech. Just ask the Japanese.
There are many other things I don't miss, like some foods. If I really want chicken and waffels I'll just make it myself. Trust me there ain't no soul food restaurants in Prague.
So, here it is. I'll start small. There are only really two things. The easy one is spicy food. Green chilie, carne adovada, a jalapeño you can taste not just see, salsa that doesn't taste like onions in watered-down ketchup, pasole, Richard Trott's green chilie stew (yes I realize I have green chilie twice) and the pleasure of eating something spicy and tasty. Czech people don't really like hot food from what I have seen. In fact I have had several lessons where I've not only taught my students English, but also the secret of salt for soothing a flaming beast in your mouth. I can live though. It's not the end of the world.
What I really miss is the one-dollar bill. Yes, the greenback, a buck, singles. There is something comforting about paying for a meal and seeing good ole George Washington staring back at you from the table after you slap your green down. He reminds you that being an American is a good thing and what it is all about. He is the foundation of our country and the foundation of a happy wallet. The one is honest and pure and elegant and most of all SILENT.
If you are walking down the street with a pocket full of ones pushy beggars can't hear that you have valuable money. What's a pocket full of jingling quarters good for? Does the bum need to feed the meter? Doubtful. And if you are feeling generous and decide to help a panhandler out it's pretty unlikely you'll make a mistake and give him $2 of your hard-earned money if you toss him a few coins. In Prague you can do that with one coin, heck with the Euro you can make the same mistake. If you want to give alms, go for it but I doubt many people want to give a beggar $2 in one shot.
I have been told street musicians think high-value coins are great because they don't blow away. It's a fair point and about the only argument for coins I can accept.
Another argument is that George gives your wallet a false sense of masculinity. You might be walking around with a big fat wallet only to discover you only have about $20 or so in it. This is bogus. If you were rolling around with $20 in Euro coins or Czech Korun you'd sink if you accidentally fell in the Vltava. Not to mention the fact that you'd sound like a Gypsy dancer or the tambourine man with every step. I'd rather think my wallet is better endowed than it is then sound like a poorly-timed car when I walked down the street. Do you need your points changed or are you just going to buy me dinner? Do a google search for ignition points you kids under 25.
What about strip clubs? I have not been to a strip club in Europe yet so I may be making a ridiculous argument, but that's kind of the point. In the US it is customary that if you approve of the performance of the lovely lady on stage in a strip club, you show your appreciation by giving her a $1. The gentlemanly thing to do is place it in her g-string. She is busy entertaining after all and stopping to organize such a donation would ruin the moment and perhaps disrupt her flow. If you are shy you can lay George on the stage so he can enjoy the show as well. I'm pretty sure if you walked into a strip club in Prague and started tossing 20Kc coins at the ladies on stage you'd be in trouble pretty quickly. How are you supposed to show your appreciation to these talented women?
Do you lay your coins on the stage? Coins are harder to collect than bills when the dance is over and it must be easier to carry a stack of bills off stage than an armload of coins. This assumes a dancer with enough talent to garner some descent appreciation.
It goes without saying that a g-string will not hold coins. Perhaps the dancers in Prague wear special thongs with pockets for coins. I think that would distract from the show and presents the potential for injury. What if a coin becomes dislodged during a particularly vigorous rump-shaking session and hits a client? What if the dancer is performing a difficult, inverted maneuver on the traditional pole and a shower of coin hits her and ruins her concentration? As you can see the implications are quite horrible.
Really, I just hate coins. I hated them in America. I hated them in Canada, which is technically America. I hated them in Mexico, once again technically America. I hate them in Europe, technically not America. I hate having one heavy pocket than makes a ton of noise when I walk. I hate having things in the same pocket with the coins beat up. I won't carry a coin purse because that's just another stupid thing to occupy space in my pocket, besides I have enough trouble admitting that I'm carrying an actual purse half the time now anyway. It's a satchel and it's pretty high tech before you start thinking anything. I hate the punter holding up the line in the grocery store sifting through his coin purse or handful of coin to pay for something. I hate being the punter holding up the line in the grocery store, but if you don't try to pay with exact change guess what you'll end up with? More damned coins. I hate not knowing what to do with a carboy full of pennies in the corner that you have been filling for 20 years and need a forklift to move. I hate having a pile of silver coins on my desk that can buy absolutely nothing and just takes up space. I guess I need a carboy. I hate the fact that there are $.08 worth of materials in a $.05 US coin. Coins were fine for the Romans, but it's been 5,000 years and there has been this thing invented called the printing press. I'm pretty sure Charon takes bills now, or would even be happy with a quarter, so there's no point. Heck, I bet he'll even let you pay for you're trip across the river with a debit card at this point, or your digital wallet smartphone.
Yes, the world needs coins. When you have to split up a dollar only coins will do. I understand that. The world does not need a $1 coin. Sorry Sacagawea and Miss Anthony. The world does not need a £1 coin, £2 coin, €1 coin, €2 coin, 20Kc coin, 50Kc coin or anything more that what is essentially one dollar. Does it really cost less to strike a £1 coin than it does to print a £1 note? I doubt it. It's valuable metal we could be using to make cars and bridges and stuff.
Yeah, yeah, yeah paper money takes resources. LIKE TREES and cotton if you're in the USA. Trees grow back, and while nickel might "grow back" it takes a little while longer than trees. Mining is nasty business and is much more damaging to the environment than trees. Unless you're clear cutting the rainforest in Brazil to make your money there isn't really an argument that paper money isn't "greener" than coins. Get it? Paper money -- "greener" dollars are green. Never mind.
So there it is, I hate coins and not much else really. I try to live a life free of hate, it can really mess with your chi.
Here are a few photo examples because I think blogs get boring without photos and there is a lot of copy in this one.

Here we have two good old 'Merican dollars, the Czech equivalent to two dollars on the left and a two Euro coin on the right. Who needs a two-dollar coin? I suppose it reduces the amount of this crap you have to keep in your pocket but we 'Mericans did away with our two-dollar currency years ago. That was a wise thing to do.

This is a bit more like it with our good friend and founder George right there, 20 Czech Koruna on the left and a Euro on the right. It's a little better I suppose.

 Here we have the equivalent of about six US dollars in coins. Imagine trying to stuff even part of this in a stripper's thong. What do you think this will do to your cell phone when its rattling around in your pocket? Notice anything else? Look closely. They don't have heads on any of the coins. This makes calling "heads or tails" pretty difficult. How do you call it? Dragons or buildings? That doesn't work because the 20 has a horse on the back, or the front I'm not sure which side is the front. The Czechs have a way to call heads or tails, but I forgot what it is. It's pointless anyway because the coins are constructed so that they don't produce the satisfying ring US coins do when you flip them. Who wants to flip a coin when it doesn't make any noise? Not me. I never considered how satisfying the ringing was when flipping a coin, maybe because I don't like coins, but it has to be the only redeeming quality of a coin. If you take the sound away it's just not worth having.

 Do you know how much this pile of silver coins is worth? Me either. It's just an annoying pile on my desk that keeps getting bigger. That is about all this pile of metal is worth, frustration.

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