Please Note: This journal contains a wide variety of stuff — complete stories, bits and pieces, commentary, and who-knows-what else. As is always the case these days, the material is protected by copyright. On the other hand, I publish it here to be shared. Feel free to pass it on. Just give me credit. Fair enough?
Pack Creek Ranch – San Juan County, Utah
The first week of December, 2017
Clear, sunny weather, but winter snuck in last night with a hard freeze.
Jupiter is the morning star.
When the serious side of my mind has been in charge too long, I shift into a loosey-goosey mode and look for Players. These are people who share my sense of humor and creative mischief. During my recent sojourn in the Czech Republic I found an ample supply of Players. The Bank Robbers I wrote about last week are prime examples.
Here are several more:
It is a matter of firm cultural custom among the Czechs to respect their senior citizens. Anyone over the age of 65 can ride free on public transportation, and anyone who appears to be old can expect courtesy on a tram or bus or subway. Czechs must offer the elderly a seat. The custom is sometimes fiercely observed, especially with foreign visitors.
When I boarded the #9 tram in Prague one day, an old lady was sitting in the seat nearest the door. She immediately rose and offered me her seat. Now I am not old – do not think or act or dress or feel or look old.
But the old lady thought otherwise.
“Prosim,” (please) she said – and gestured that I should sit down.
I smiled, shook my head, and gently declined.
She was not to be deterred.
“Prosim, Prosim,” she said, her gestures clear and insistent.
“No, no – thank you very much, but no.” and I gestured for her to sit.
The old lady shifted to English – “You . . . . sit . . . down . . . now!”
“Thank you, but I do not wish to sit down.”
“Sit! Sit! Sit!” she barked, and pulled me by the arm.”
By now this little drama had attracted the attention of other passengers.
A bystander said, “You had better sit – she won’t give up.”
‘SIT!” she commanded.
Crumpled down in defeat in the seat.
Suddenly I felt old.
The lady folded her arms and smiled at the other riders in triumph.
She had done her civic duty and was proud of it.
I should have left well enough alone . . .
But I didn’t.
I gestured to the old lady that she should sit in my lap and share the seat.
Maybe she was a Player.
She moved away in dismay.
As she got off the tram at the next stop she shook her finger in my face.
I don’t know what she said in Czech, but it probably wasn’t complimentary, and it made the other passengers laugh.
Not a Player.
(Hang with me – the Player in this anecdote is coming.)
Two stops later, a lovely young woman boarded the crowded tram.
She stood by me, took note, and asked, “Do you speak English?”
“Please forgive me, but may I have your seat – I’m pregnant.”
(The rule is that a pregnant woman trumps even a senior citizen – most riders on a tram will always get up and offer a mother-to-be a seat.)
I got up. She smiled and sat down.
I could not help noticing that the lovely young woman seemed very trim.
“How are you feeling?” I asked.
“I’m OK,” she said.
“Forgive me for asking, but you don’t look like you are expecting any time soon – how long have you been pregnant?”
“Oh, about an hour – and I’m exhausted,” she said.
As with the old lady, I sometimes make mistakes as to who is a Player.
I was walking across Namesti Miru, the great open square in front of the Cathedral of St. Ludmilla, and I heard singing – in English.
Five young women, neatly and conservatively dressed, were enthusiastically singing hymns, but not ones I quite recognized.
I walked over the stand in front of them and listen.
I caught the eye of one – we smiled at each other – she winked at me.
At least I thought she winked. . .
And thereby I guessed she might be a Player.
I winked back.
Abruptly she stepped forward, held out her arms toward me and asked:
“Have you found God?”
“Oh, dear,” I said – “is God missing?”
She paused to consider my question, and then said,
“No, no, I mean – have you found Jesus?”
“Oh, dear,” I replied, “Is he missing, too?”
The young woman stared at me, turned back to the other four girls, said something, and the five of them quickly walked away from me.
Two well-turned-out young men in the outfits I associate with Mormon missionaries – dark blue suits, white dress shirts, conservative ties, and black shoes – approached me.
One said, “I think you upset the sisters.”
“Yes – young women serve now as missionaries of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints. Those five girls are missionaries.”
“Well, I guess they didn’t have a sense of humor.”
“Religion isn’t a laughing matter sir.”
“I wouldn’t want to be part of a religion where laughter was excluded.”
They ignored my remark.
“If you haven’t found God, sir, we can help.”
“That’s like telling a fish where the ocean is,” I said.
They stared, nonplused, and walked away.
After a presentation at the historic Pilsner Urquell brewery in Plzen, I sat down to autograph books. The audience had been lively, and the laughter rowdy, especially in response to my stories about Czech Players and robbing banks. The mood in the line of people waiting was upbeat.
A smiling, red-haired pregnant lady placed her books in front of me.
By pregnant, I mean any-minute-now pregnant – huge belly.
While signing, we made small talk, and her mother and sister posed with me for a photo.
“When is your baby due?” I asked.
She shrugged her shoulders – “I don’t know,” she replied.
“Is it going to be a boy or girl?” I asked.
She shrugged her shoulders again – “I don’t know.”
“What names do you have picked out?”
Another shrug -“I don’t know,” she replied.
I looked up at the lady, pointed at her mid-section, and said, “Forgive me for asking, but do you know that you are pregnant?”
She looked down at her protruding belly, gave me a mischievous grin, and said: “Oh-my-God! So that’s what’s going on!”
Her mother and sister almost fell down laughing.
Players – all three of them – and probably the unborn child.
Arriving for a second performance late one night, we arrived way out in the back of the beyond, somewhere in the Czech countryside.
“Where am I?”
One of the actors said, “This area is nicknamed Hell – it’s a long story.”
I walked into the venue, where Czechs had been socializing while waiting for me to show up.
Just then I got a call from my son.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“In Dubai on business. Where are you?”
I paused and looked around.
“Well . . . I’m in hell,” I said.
“What’s it like in hell?”
“Well, it’s full of Czechs.”
“What are they doing?”
“Drinking beer and laughing.”
“I hope I go to hell, too.”
I don’t know where Czechs go when they die.
Though, if it involves beer and laughter, it would be hard to call it hell.
I imagine that most of them would be Players.
Oh, sure, I know – out of a nation of 10 million people, my sample is a small one – but I’ll go with my direct personal experience, which is, so far, pretty fine.
My mother always said I was going to Hell.
If it’s full of Czech Players, I’m looking forward to it.