I apologize for the freaking paucity of posts lately. The truth is that everything was humming along smoothly until last Saturday morning, when I took my kid to the park and read a magazine article while he was sleeping about all the problems with drug cartels in Mexico. There was one part where the journalist interviewed townspeople in the city of Zitacuaro, a place that has become entirely captive to drug lords. Kidnapping has become so prevalent there as a routine source of revenue for organized crime that “everyone I talked to in Zitacuaro seemed to know someone who had been kidnapped,” the journalist explained. This statement was followed by an unbelievable interview with a school teacher who explained the precautions one takes against being kidnapped: “Everybody has to vary their routines, all the time.” When the journalist expressed astonishment that a school teacher could vary his routine all the time, the teacher replied, “You just have to. They’re watching.”
After reading this, it occurred to me that I should try to continually vary my schedule as though would-be kidnappers were targeting me for a nabbing. Partly, this is about expressing solidarity with the people of Zitacuaro, but it also seemed like a good skill set to develop if and when the political situation deteriorates here in Czech, once the Russians eventually cut off our supply of drinking water. For me, this continual varying-of-routine has mostly been a matter of wearing disguises and eating at a variety of outlandishly bad restaurants, although I’ve definitely cultivated a full quiver of lesser tricks as well.
So it was that I found myself in my druid outfit, sitting in a Czech Mex place and eating a burrito that tasted like an oversized sleeping pill filled with yarn. It was in these dismal circumstances that I decided to risk phoning my wife. Calling home is definitely a gamble, but I had been hiding out in a silent Quaker prayer session the last two days at this time, so I imagined that my antagonists couldn’t possibly anticipate this sudden burst of communicativeness on my part. With eager hands, I brushed the wizardy beard wisps away from my face and dialed.
“Where are you?” she immediately wanted to know, forgetting that this type of location-revealing question is completely against protocol when one is trying not to be kidnapped.
“In a fist fight,” I immediately answered, hoping this would throw them off. The truth is that that there had been some serious tension at the last Quaker meeting, so I hadn’t entirely fabricated this response out of thin air. I was getting sloppy. I’d have to be careful to avoid an actual fist fight at the next meeting, lest I inadvertently establish a pattern of behavior.
“What?” she said. While one could forgive her for being confused, the truth is just that she hadn’t heard me clearly, given that I was mumbling through my Gandalf beard in a sotto voice in the darkness of the unpopular restaurant. Meanwhile, I was having trouble concentrating– my mind was wandering from the tiredness accumulated from continually waking up at odd hours to stage the diversionary errand of going to the bank in the middle of the night. In this bleary state, I started thinking about the way that married couples are portrayed in most movies, as these sorts of bland paragons of maturity. In my experience, this couldn’t be further (thankfully) from the reality of spousal interactions, which better resemble the long rides you had in the back seat with your best friend when you were 8 or 9 years old, where you enjoyably resort to the most slapstick of humor in order to pass the time together. Moreover, people never mishear each other in movies, unless it serves some kind of comic purpose. In order for Hollywood depictions of marriage to resemble what I know to be real, the two people would have to get over themselves somewhat, amuse each other with a lot more dumb jokes, and mishear each other almost constantly during certain intervals.