Thursday, August 28, 2014

Overheard at the pawn shop

I hate to park in front of the pawn shop. I’m not headed to the pawn shop, but the parking is on the street near my destination. It’s not strictly for the pawn shop. It’s not that I think I’m too good for the pawn shop either, I’m just fortunate enough to not need their services. I hate to park in front of the pawn shop because every time I park in front of the pawn shop one of the skinhead no-necks that hangs out there, parks me in. The pawn shop owner often parks me in too, but he is a nice man who will gladly move his vehicle when you ask. He always calls me Pani and smiles at me. But the skinhead no-neck, no way. He takes pleasure in the fact that I am parked in. OK, I am no princess. I don’t hide or come back later. I find the guy and tell him to move his car. And he does move his car, but he likes to move his car just enough - just enough that you could get out of your spot if you had a hovercraft or could perhaps bend the laws of physics. The last time I asked him why he didn’t move down a bit further, I mean he was still double-parked anyhow so what was the problem. He laughed and said, “I wanted to see if you could get out.” I replied that I could get out, but that his nice, shiny car had no dents or scratches yet, while mine already had a few. “The first time always hurts the most, but you’ll get over it,” I said. He moved his car.

After that I decided to park somewhere else, but I still walk past the pawn shop on the way. I have mixed feelings about pawn shops in general. I mean, if you need some fast cash and are desperate, I guess the pawn shop is a pretty cool institution. If I had to, I’d probably take my TV in. I need my computer for work, and I don’t have any tools or any other valuable stuff.

Once I watched a guy from out of town take in an ipad. He came back out, money clutched in one hand and with a dramatic gesture thanked the lord above. I believe he gave the fistful of money a kiss. It looked like a scene from a silent movie when the villain gets away with his dastardly deeds. Maybe I’m not so far off. Maybe that ipad was stolen. From my casual observation, I see the same crew coming in and out of the pawn shop. They most often have cell phones and small power tools. I find it highly improbable that these are their own possessions or that they require pawn shop services on a daily basis.
Awhile back I parked in such a place that while not parked in front of the pawn shop I still had to cross in front of the pawn shop on the way to the parking ticket machine and back. To set the scene, it was early morning and there was the usual crew of men hanging out in front of the pawn shop. They were all dressed almost identically in track suits, drinking beer and smoking.
The smallest guy of the group was clearly agitated. He was bouncing around and jumping from one foot to the other. He also had some kind of nervous tic of grabbing his crotch. He started to speak to another man, perhaps the leader of the crew who was leaning on the building, relaxed, enjoying his alpha status.
Nervous crotch grabber: No kurwa, powiedz, stary, no. Byłes w tej Anglii, nie, stary, no. No powiedz no, jak było?
Alpha Übermensch w dres: No stary, kurwa, wiesz no jak w Angli. Było ok.
Crotch grabber: No staaaary, dlugo tam byłes, nie, w tej Anglii, no?
Übermensch: Trzy lata stary. Kurwa jak najebalem sie w tej Anglii.
Crotch grabber: No stary mówisz po angielsku, nie? Mówisz, nie?
Übermensch: No stary oczywiście.
Crotch grabber: No powiedz cos po angielsku stary. No mów!
Übermensch: (pausing to make sure all eyes were on him) Wassup motha fuckaaassssss!
I to by było na tyle.
I cannot imagine how it is possible that I overheard this conversation. I think the stars and the planets must have been aligned that day. It was like a small gift from the universe, I think, just for me.Oh wondrous universe I thank you.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I know you’ve been waiting.

Yep, I‘m a procrastinator. I totally procrastinated this one. You’re probably a procrastinator too (If I’m going down, I’m taking you with me). I mean we’re all procrastinators in at least some aspect of our lives. You can call somebody a procrastinator, right? It’s not offensive to say that somebody procrastinates. It’s not the same as calling somebody lazy (although I’m pretty lazy as well). The same words exists in Polish “prokrastynować” so at least Professor Miodek would understand what you’re saying. Be careful though when calling a Polish person a pedestrian. They’ll think you said something else entirely and you’ll have some explaining to do.

I know you’ve been waiting to contact me. Now you can thanks to the comment form I finally added to Kielbasa Stories. I know how strong the desire to contact me has been over the years by the sheer volume of e-mails I’ve received since I added the form two weeks ago. All that pent-up need. All those words gone unsaid. Yep, I hear you. All none of you, hee, hee, because Kielbasa Stories hasn’t received any messages yet. Not even from the crazies but they usually just post a comment saying that I am an idiot and then they move on.
So cheers to me for finally completing a task that has been on my to-do list forever. Check!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Wedding on August 15, The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw (1920)…

Why Do Our Friends Hate Us?
No, no, I’m just joking. We were honored to be invited to share this important event with our friends and the wedding was lovely. The bride looked gorgeous, just perfect. The usually casually dressed groom looked fine in his elegant 3-piece suite and bow tie. It’s just that somebody forgot to tell the priest that weddings are festive occasions.
I’ve been to quite a few weddings and this one was the most unusual to date. Most wedding ceremonies have been about new beginnings, fresh starts, long lives spent together, ups and downs on the way. Positive, positive, positive.
This one was a little bit different.
First, the wedding took place on an important holiday in the Catholic church, Mary’s Assumption into heaven. It could not go without comment or without 20 minutes of rambling commentary if you’d like the less generous (but more honest) opinion. August 15 also marks the anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw which should not go without mention or incomprehensible rambling. What do these two events have in common with each other or have in common with weddings?
Surprised? We were too.
I didn’t know it was possible to use the word death so many times in a wedding ceremony. It’s like the scene in Friends when Monika didn’t get invited to her cousin’s wedding but her brother Ross did so he takes her as his plus one. As she scopes out the other guests at their table she says, “I’m a relative and I didn’t get invited! A blood relative! Blood!” To which her brother Ross says, “Stop saying, ‘Blood’ to strangers.”
OK, I lied. There was something about new beginnings – how death is in fact your new beginning in the afterlife. Awesome.
If the wedding ceremony was black and white (and long and monotonous), then the wedding reception was a splash of color and life.The wedding reception was typically Polish, lots of food, alcohol, dancing and fun. I am American, it is true but occasionally, I feel moderately Polish. Weddings are not that occasion. That’s when I feel maximum American. First of all, I am not much of a drinker. Secondly, I cannot dance. Thirdly, I don’t like flaki or golonka. And lastly, I only know the first verse of Sto Lat.
The bride and groom had a blast as did their guests. They are both only children so the parents and families really lived it up and danced till dawn. We busted out about 2 a.m. My feet are killing me today.
I did dance bo wypada. I had to choose my dances carefully as the repertoire was heavy on the disco polo. Ona tancy dla mnie, anyboy?
It was just nice to see two people enjoy themselves entirely and share such a memorable moment in their lives.

To the mloda para!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

50 Shades

I’ve finally read that 50 Shades book. I know I am behind the times. Living abroad, I often find myself out of sync with what’s going on in the States. Being a weirdo, I often find myself out of sync with the human race, but that’s another story. Apparently this 50 Shades thing is old news to the point that the movie is coming out and I’ve just read the book. Anyone else behind the times out there?
As an aside, I read 12 Years a Slave at university if that scores me any points for cultural hipness.
I first heard about this book about a year ago in the supermarket of all places. A new supermarket opened up in our neighborhood and 50 Shades was one of their grand opening promotional items – only 30 zloty. Several stacks of books took up an end-of-aisle display, and I decided to give it a look. I looked. I scanned. I put it back.I bought bread and milk. Exciting day, it was.
Later one of my students asked me if I had read it. She read half and said it wasn’t worth reading further. I forgot about it.
Once not long after that when I went to help my 15-year-old neighbor with her homework, I noticed her mother was reading the book, the last of three in the series, as it turned out. The mother, about my age, asked me if I had read the books. I replied that I had not. Despite being deep into the third book, she did not recommend them either.
50 Shades of neighborhood Mom: Don’t read them. They’re not any good.
50 Shades of Amerykanka: Really? A lot of people all over the world have read them and the first book was on special at the new market. Isn’t that the third book?
50 Shades of Mom: OK, they’re good but not in the way you think. They’re kind of funny.
50 Shades of Amerykanka: Like funny, strange or funny ha, ha. (Yes, I am a conversational wizard).
50 Shades of Mom: So what would you say if you were in a room with a hot, sexy guy and he said he doesn’t make love, he only fucks?
50 Shades of Amerykanka: I’d probably laugh.
50 Shades of Mom: Exactly. I’d laugh too.
50 Shades of Amerykanka: Yeah, laugh and leave.
50 Shades of Mom: Oh no, I’d still fuck him, but I’d have a good laugh first.
Later while helping the daughter with her homework…
50 Shades of hormone-filled teenage girl: I read those books when my mom wasn’t home. They’re awesome.
Aww shucks. We started out together reading books in English, books such as Harry Potter, then we graduated to Twilight. I didn’t exactly know what was going to be next after Twilight but 50 Shades seems like a pretty big jump.
Even with all the hubbub, I still hadn’t read them. It’s not that I am a prude. It is more that I am never on the cusp of a trend. Not being up with the times means that you often don’t know what people are talking about. On the upside every time you fly, all the movies are new. Try it.
Finally, while visiting our village library, the librarian, a lovely lady who gives the library a real spirit and can only be described as serdeczna asked me if I wanted to be on the waiting list for 50 Shades in Polish. Apparently the book was racing through our village like wild fire. Again, I wondered, who is the target audience of this book and if it is as awful as everybody says, why is it so popular?
In the end, I did read it. I don’t know what logarithm my digital library uses but the book was constantly on my recommended list. I decided to give it a read.
It wasn’t awful, but here’s the problem with me and all books, films, television series – I often have a problem identifying with the main character. When I read Twilight with my teenaged neighbor I told her I couldn’t believe Bella would give up her life for her first boyfriend ever and anyway how could she do that to her father. The girl said, “Huh?” So in 50 Shades, I tried to remember that the characters are in their 20’s and what kind of person I was in my twenties and how I would have reacted at that age. I tried to identify to no avail. Basically, I think too much. I need to chill. Do they still use the word “chill”?
50 Shades is not the best book I have read recently, but I’d recommend it at least to know what people are talking about. The English version is way shorter than the Polish version. I know, because in the end I persuaded my husband to borrow it from the village library. At least when I was reading it on my Kindle, nobody knew I was reading “that sex book”. Totally inkoguto.
I don’t want Misiu to read it for any tips in the bedroom – he hasn’t started it yet. I suspect he may find the book a bit amusing as well. I want him to evaluate the translation. Some of my Polish friends said the book was vulgar. I didn’t find it vulgar in English. Detailed perhaps, but not vulgar. I also made him read some Marek Krajewski books with me in Polish and English. Result – Krajewski’s books have the same weird vibe in English as they do in Polish. Bravo to the translator.
I am most interested in the opinion of a friend who strangely enough started with book 2 in Polish. He plans to read book 3 in German which is universally heralded as the language of romance and sexuality, isn’t it? I’ve encouraged him to read book 1 first and in English before the German book 3. We’ll see which language is best suited to this kind of literature.
Other translating issues…
Every single day…

The short version…

It could happen to you…

A “thanks” to the Kindle which hides all my sins…

Can’t resist a good “pacz” joke…

And just in case they make a Polish version…

Laters, baby.*
*You knew I was going to write that, didn’t you?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fingers crossed and thumbs held

The exterminators were here a week ago. We are a couple of thousand zloty poorer and our house smells like chemicals, but fingers crossed and thumbs held*, let’s hope that it works. To recap, our house in the village has woodworm. The woodworm is eating away at the beams which support the whole structure. I cannot use past tense yet.
The most effective treatment would have been gassing the whole house. This is the solution that I pushed for, but the exterminators were worried about the proximity of the next door neighbors. Strictly according to the law, their house is far enough away but our neighbors are old and like to wander into our garden in our absence, so the exterminator was worried about their overall safety.
The next best method is to drill holes into all the wooden beams, inject them with a poisonous resin, and re-impregnate all wood in the house. It looks like this:
Luckily for us, our beams are exposed. If not, the ceilings would have had to be removed. This process isn’t an instant kill of the woodworm. Any worms die upon reaching the resin and if any make their way out, they will most likely not re-infect due to the impregnation. In one particular beam that showed no signs of infestation, the worms were clearly crunching away. Now all sounds in that beam have stopped. In other places, I can still hear them. It’s quite unsettling.
Additionally, the extermination team gave the barn a spray. The chemicals are available over-the-counter, so to speak, but I am not comfortable using toxic substances myself. They had all the protective clothing and masks and a power sprayer thingy so it was much better that they did it and we just paid for it.
I hope that'll be the end of the woodworm story.
Do you feel itchy?

*Polish equivalent to crossing your fingers for good luck.