An Idiot’s Guide To Czech Christmas

Have you agreed to spend Christmas in the Czech Republic next year? Worried about what to wear, or whether it’s in fact a Christian country? Here are answers to frequently asked questions about how the holidays are celebrated by these strange and mysterious people…

When Is Czech Christmas?
December 24th.

And that doesn’t mean that they really celebrate it on the 25th and just open presents on Christmas Eve, like some weirdo families in the U.S. It really means that the 25th is just another ordinary day, the night of the 23rd has special ‘Xmas eve’ status, etc.

Do Czechs believe in Santa Claus?
No. At least, not as the bringer of gifts. In the Czech Republic, presents are delivered by ‘Baby Jesus’ (Ježišek).

Santa is reserved for a lesser holiday called Mikulaš, when adults (read: drunk friends of one’s father) dress up as either Santa or the devil and caper about for the benefit of children.

So how does Baby Jesus make and deliver presents? Does he have a North Pole workshop and team of reindeer?
No. It remains unexplained how exactly the presents get into the house— somehow, they just materialize.

Does Baby Jesus even have a agreed-upon physical form that can be leveraged for Christmas marketing?
Visualizations of Ježišek have begun to pop up in order to combat the increasing infiltration of Santa into Czech culture (this is actually a phenomenon that Czechs perceive and mildly resent). Yet the cartoon representations that I find on the internet are so kitschy, I can’t bring myself to post them.

Is traffic bad during Czech Christmas?
Only if Vaclav freaking Havel decides to die right before the big day and clot up the entire city for his public funeral. Nice timing, hippie.

What about food? What do Czechs like to eat on Christmas?
Carp. Which is weird, given that the fish are generally marginalized in the country’s culinary habits during the rest of the year. This leads to the second-coolest phenomenon associated with the Czech holidays: carpmongers! In the weeks leading up to Christmas, there are guys standing on street corners with bathtubs filled with squirming carp.

What’s the first-coolest phenomenon associated with the Czech holidays?
Readily-available hot wine purchased from street vendors.

Do Czechs hate Christmas?
No, not at all!

What activities can I expect to encounter on Czech Christmas?
Basically, tons of eating and brain-deadening dosages of pohádky (searingly cheesy TV fairytales about princesses and horses and goblins and whatnot).

I’m in the Czech Republic and have friends coming to visit from abroad over the holidays. Are there any ready-made practical jokes I can play on them?
Wait until your friends have bought their tickets and then inform them that the entirety of December is spent celebrating something called ‘The Feast of St. Wenceslas’, during which there is no alcohol sold or consumed whatsoever. Then, pretend to ‘lighten their spirits’ by claiming that, despite this prohibition, the city is tons of fun during this month thanks to all the inspired Christmas pageantry.

In-The-Way Man

Last night, I had the chance to catch up with a friend who’s recently found work after a long bout of unemployment. Here’s his account of his new gig:

“Yeah, I got a job as In-The-Way Man at this new bar that opened on the Kollwitzplatz. You know how every bar has one guy who’s constantly in the way any time the bar is semi-crowded? This new place needed an In-The-Way Man, so I work there a few nights a week when business is good. Right now, I’m just getting in the way a few nights a week, but I hope to work my way up to working the door after a few months of this. It’s not bad: easy work… just not very challenging, and you have to be on your feet most of the night. Only when things are really crowded can you grab a seat and still get in the way.”

In-The-Way Man seems to be a burgeoning new career choice in today’s urban environment of increasingly-crowded bars. While In-The-Way Men often lack prior experience, academic institutions have begun offering two year programs in Getting In the Way.

In-The-Way Man should not be confused with Halfway Man, who is defined by a propensity to eat half a sandwich at a time and wrap the rest up in his pocket for later, or Line-Bifurcation Man, who specializes in walking into situations where people are queueing in a single line for two bank machines and creating a new line in which he conveniently happens to be the first person.

Mysteries of Czech Language: Diminutive Fever

Though I’ve left the Czech Republic for Germany, I feel obliged to keep up America’s favorite ongoing blog series, The Mysteries of Czech Language.

Czech language has a built-in structure where you can form diminutives from just about anything. A waitress at our favorite Prague restaurant seemed to have a nervous disorder that compelled her to use them constantly and ask me things like if I want ‘another little beer-y-poo.’ But the system of forming diminutives is applied most exhaustingly to children’s names: Zuzanna becomes Zuzka becomes Zuzinka and so on.

One couple we know had a daughter and named her Justina (like Justine, but the Ju sounds like ‘You’). Via the diminutive system, she’s most frequently called Justinka, like ‘you-STINK-a’. It’s almost impossible for me not to laugh every time I hear this. I try to keep a broad mind and remember that it sounds perfectly acceptable (a touch exotic, even) in Czech. But it just sounds like a corny set-up for one of those old ethnic humor shows, like Life With Luigi:

Hey-a. I come to America and everyone says, ‘Hey… you stink-a! And I say, ‘No, it’s-a not me. It’s my baby.’ And everyone says, ‘Oh, what a poor baby. She’s such a pretty girl. What’s her name-a?’ And I says-a-to-them ‘Justinka’. And they get angry and a-punch me in the cucalabanga! Hey-a!

While we’re here: my friend recently posted photos from his vacation to a small town in the Czech Republic, Lazy. He reports that there is also Horni Lazy nearby (Horni = high).

And: there is a phrase in Czech that sounds exactly like this: ‘FUCK YO?!’ It means, ‘Oh, really?’ and Czechs say it all the time. Just so you’re forewarned.

The Faery Of Electricity

With the end of the world seemingly at hand, I’m taking a small amount of comfort in the fact that the best day of the year is right around the corner. Granted, that isn’t much to hang one’s hat on– the rate of natural disasters and toppled dictators has been so alarmingly accelerated as of late that I’m half expecting this laptop to blow up in my face as I type. Also– strangely– I’ve been so overwhelmed with work this year and preoccupied with a prospective move to a new city that my usual seasonal affective disorder hasn’t fully had a chance to kick in, if that makes sense. Paradoxically, I’ve more or less breezed through the winter  in a cocoon of my own little micro-anxieties and fixations. So, in a sense, I’m anticipating clocks-go-forward-day with a little less eagerness than in years past. But still…

As an homage to clocks-go-forward day, here are a few other fun facts I’ve learned about man’s attempts to conquer darkness:

1. The Herring Angle

Lately, I’ve been trying to read The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald, on the RABID recommendation of a few friends. So far, it’s kind of falling into the Gram Parsons Zone for me– I appreciate it, but it’s not really taking.

One detail that I loved, though, is the mention of attempts in 1870 by two British scientists named (this is the best part:) Herrington and Lightbrown to use the glowing oil excreted by dead herrings to light the world. Their idea was that, since herrings mysteriously light up as they die, maybe a self-regenerating source of luminescence could be produced from tiny thirst-inducing fish. I love the idea of herrings becoming a key commodity in the modern world. This would be convenient because, as Sebald mentions, every herring lays enough eggs to produce a volume of herrings 70 times the size of the earth.

Also, imagine having a business card that states your name as ‘Herrington’ and underneath in smaller letters says ‘Herring Expert’. Outstanding.

2. The Two Sleeps Angle

If you wake up in the middle of the night after a couple hours of sleep (something that’s been happening to me a lot lately– see above micro-anxieties), it turns out this is what people routinely did for thousands of years, up until the industrial revolution. People would sleep a few hours, then get up, smoke a pipe, hangout, whatever, for a bit before going back to bed for a ‘second sleep’. Makes sense when there was no way for most people to afford artificial light, and so nighttime was about a billion hours long in winter. I guess this is when all the brooding got done in plays like Hamlet– he was up pacing around between sleeps.

3. Chicken-Or-Egg Electricity Thing

The whole two-sleeps thing had been buried for good by the time that Edison invented the electric lightbulb and (as an art history documentary I show my designs students puts it) ‘the faery of electricity was loosed on the world’. It’s sort of weird to imagine society suddenly ‘launching’ the lightbulb as a product and–  for that matter– electricity in general. I mean, I assume that lightbulbs were first introduced at a municipal level in the form of street lamps– you didn’t just go out and buy a lightbulb in the early days. But how, then, did the whole thing eventually spread to rural American homes? You need an electricity-powered lamp if you’re going to buy a lightbulb… but you also need a proliferation of lamps before the local store is going to start carrying lightbulbs. So how did it start?

The same conundrum sort of applies to electricity in general: how did they convince a ignoramousy public to allow electricity to be installed into their homes if there was nothing to use this mysterious force for?

I do vaguely remember learning that in the early days, a pointless little rubber mat was sold to a fearful Americans that you were supposed to place on your floor underneath the electrical socket, to ‘soak up’ any stray electricity that might happen to leak out of the wall socket and dribble down the wall. Such was their understanding of the whole phenomenon. Unfortunately, the internet is letting me down in terms of turning up a photo to confirm this, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

(Top image: Peter Behrens’ fantastic AEG ad from 1907, promoting a new lightbulb. Pretty early instance of the basic visual vocabulary of abstraction finding its way into mass commercial media).

This Week In Lego

As a parent, I feel it’s very important that my child understand and appreciate fully man’s dominion over the animal kingdom. So, over the weekend, I built this educational three-dimensional installation to help explain the concept to him:

Here’s how it works:

1. Wild animals— represented here as polar bear, elephant, and giraffe– are part of the scene, but demoted to the lowest plain, fenced in by man’s ingenuity and inanely distracted by a few plastic flowers placed in their midst.

2. Domestic animals— cat and dog– are one step closer to man’s likeness, and therefore get boosted up into ‘second place’, as it were, on the pedestal beside him.

3. At the top, exalted, and ruling over “every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth”, is man. Just to make it clear what his relationship is to the animals, he’s also a zoo keeper (as shown in rear view). If possible, I would have placed him in a leather overcoat, just to make the pecking order totally overt, but it seems that Lego doesn’t produce this piece.

In terms of my architectural influences, I would say I’m pretty close to Frank Lloyd Wright in terms of drawing inspiration from non-traditional forms such as pre-Columbian Mayan temples and Japanese concepts of space.

See also: Osama Bin Lego.

How We Laughed

Lately, the wife and I have been batting around the idea of spending a couple of summer months next year in Berlin, just to try it on for size. I’ve written several times in this space about my positive feelings for Berlin, so it’s not like this is a new sentiment on my part. But it does seem to consistently amaze many Germans to find that their capital city has become such a desirable destination. I’m still discussing with my German friend Patrick the idea of co-authoring a coffee table book that will explore this phenomenon under the title Germany: Finally Cool After All These Years*.

Really, the only thing that gives me pause about the whole experiment would be subjecting myself and my small child to the infamously deficient German sense of humor. The English and – particularly – Irish sense of humor seem to exist as a pointy weapon to be used against ones’ social superiors, a manner of leveling the playing field. The Jewish humor tradition that dominated American culture until the 1970s probably serves the purpose of that Freud imagined for humor: allowing us laugh at those things that are not, in fact, funny. Meanwhile, the German sense of humor, from my observation, seems to be a humor of consensus and agreement– ‘we all agree this is funny and will now laugh together.’ Which is not, in fact, very funny.

Digression: I developed my own theory about the origins and/or social function of humor from watching my infant son develop. You know how small babies spend hours upon hours waving their arms and legs around as a instinctual means of building up the muscle strength to later be able to walk? I think humor provides the same role in a social sense: it gives tiny children a means of interacting socially with their parents before they have the ability to speak or formulate many opinions or ideas. Crying is obviously the first learned social behavior– infants do this from this moment they’re born. But laughing and smiling come shortly thereafter, before a child can do much of anything else.

Here are two interactions I had with Germans that defined my impression of the national brand of humor:

1. At a hostel in Dresden, I provided the receptionist with my credit card which, having been issued by Wells Fargo, bears the romantic image of  stagecoach. ‘Oh, this is nice,’ she remarked. ‘Thanks… you can keep it,’ I replied with a facetious lilt, signaling that I was not in fact being serious. ‘YES… AND YOU GIVE ME THE CODE NUMBER… HA HA HA,’ she answered, looking up at me with the intent we-are-now-making-a-joke expression. This seems to me to be the main deficiency in the German humor gene: a desire to take all nuance and uncertainty out of the equation. HA HA HA indeed.

2. Wearing sunglasses, walking along a street in Berlin on a technically overcast but actually very bright and hazy day. A large, florid, long-haired guy passes me with a group of his friends and says mirthfully (in German): ‘Why are you wearing sunglasses when its cloudy outside?’, to an immediate volley of ho-ho-hos from his entourage. I didn’t understand this as it was being said, so I was powerless to respond… once my wife explained what had happened, I whirled around in disbelief to find my antagonists, but they had disappeared into crowded Warschauer Strasse. In any case, I would submit this a classic example of humor-to-establish-consensus-and-social-norm, with the normies ganging up on the apparent outsider.

* That’s a joke, by the way.

(Photo: David Hasselhoff single-handedly ruins one of history’s great moments with his performance atop the remains of the newly-fallen Berlin Wall in 1989.)

Mistake, or Blunder?

As Krafty intimated in his Attacking and Defending post, he and I have nerding out and playing a lot of chess online in recent months. I’ve also been playing against his father, who employs a two-pronged approach of (1) being very good and (2) taking FOREVER between moves, such that its very hard to feel that you’re ever making any progress against him. Some easier pickins finally came along in the person of my friend Ryan, who mentioned having played against various math experts (or something like this), but  turned out to be not very good and relatively easy to subdue.

Any you finish a match on, a button appears that invites you to click it to receive ‘Computer analysis’… but every time I’ve done this, I’ve simply gotten a message asking me to wait a very long time, after which nothing happens. For whatever reason, when Ryan clicked the after our match, he actually got a report that included the following taxonomically-curious information:

  • Inaccuracies: 6 = 31.6% of moves
  • Mistakes: 3 = 15.8% of moves
  • Blunders: 4 = 21.1% of moves

Now, inaccuracies I suppose just refers to any move you make that’s different (and, therefore, less accurate) than the one the computer would have made. Maybe. But I’m dying to know the difference between mistakes and blunders. Does the percentage of blunders include the number of mistakes, or are they counted separately? (If separately, that would mean that the computer is essentially telling Ryan that a full two-thirds of his moves were bad). Is there a level worse than blunders? Oafish calamities?

The whole thing reminds me of the mysterious classifications that used to lurk at the bottom of the IQ scale (before they cleaned up the terminology to use less pejorative terms):

  • 50-69: Moron
  • 20-49: Imbecile
  • below 20: Idiot

This is weird, I think, because most people would probably think of these terms as synonyms, not as a hierarchy of mental capability.

In any case, I think the chess analyses would be much better if assigned some final judgement like this at the end.

The Restaurant That Used To Be A School and The Inventor Who Never Existed

This weekend, the wife and I went back to the farm where we got married. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all reflections on two years of marriage to a beautiful woman on you. The reason I bring it up is just to tell you about the village restaurant we stopped at during our farmland tramping:

First, if you peer first into the distance, and then into the shadows of this photo, you can see a happy co-mingling of beers and children’s toys. This is fairly typical of Czech restaurants in general, but the connection is especially striking here because the restaurant is located in an old one-room country school house. Here’s the cheery exterior:

Inside, most of the educational props are still intact…

… including the good old Periodic Table of Elements:

(For once, the Czech language isn’t made conspicuous by its clusters of consonants and scarcity of vowels.)

I ordered the traditional classic Svíčková, which Krafty once memorably described as a ‘meat Sundae’ in his one visit so far to the Bohemian lands:

After tucking in my meat sundae, I blearily staggered back inside to peer at an inscription I’d noticed on the wall inside (vaguely discernible in one of the above photos):

The text is just a nostalgic verse about when author was a schoolboy. But what’s notable is the attribution, Jára Cimrman. Cimrman (pronounced ‘Zimmerman’, like Bob) was a fictitious inventor and educator who’s become a kind of de facto Czech national hero despite never having had existed. A Zelig who’s credited with suggesting the Panama Canal to the Americans and inventing yoghurt, among other accomplishments, Cimrman is even the subject of a museum exhibition located in the basement of the tiny replica Eiffel Tower that stands at the top of Petřin Park in Prague.

This is one of the photos at the exhibit. The caption explains that Cimrman was training police academy recruits in a new technique he’d developed for approaching an armed assailant. The idea is that the criminal supposes that the figures approaching him are actually reflections cast in a body of water, so he subsequently fires over their heads. The exhibition is filled with ridiculous stuff like this– it’s fun to take visiting friends there and see how far they make it before catching on that the whole thing is 100% made up.

Associated Research Partners

Last night, I was talking with friends about the some of the dreadful stopgap jobs we held between the ages of, let’s say, 18-23. I know a few purposeful, self-directed people who proceeded straight from college onto meaningful, rewarding work, but lord knows I wasn’t one of them. Pretty much the consummate late-bloomer, I found these people as baffling and exotic as a hetero unicorn. In my recollection, the period of entering the workforce felt much more like the opening minutes of Saving Private Ryan: trepidatiously heading out in a vast, dangerous expanse where the rules of engagement are not very clear and you’re liable to be met with a hail of bullets. (Now if only it had been more like the opening minutes of Shaving Ryan’s Privates– that would have been much more accommodating).

My friend got things rolling by describing a dubious job he held where his role was to enter various high-rises, walk into a particular establishment and pretend that he was doing student research on the company– in actuality, he was in the pay of some giant realtor and was supposed to rat out when the company’s lease expired so his overlords could swoop in and take it. This immediately hit upon a common thread in our crappy early jobs– most of them had a distinctly morally-compromising flavor. For my part, I worked for two days at the O’Farrell Theatre sorting timecards of strippers by stripper name (Mystique after Mercedes, etc). I was an admin for an all-female Real Estate firm in the Marina (talk about being marooned on a foreign beach). When I was 18, I walked up to a new-looking establishment to see if they were hiring, only to discover that it was a fake movie-set building for Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit (not the first time and not the last that I’ve been bamboozled by Whoopi Goldberg, I can tell you). The only fun job I ever had during those years was later that summer, working on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley selling cheap jewelry on the street.

The most fascinatingly sinister job of all for me was also my first official paid design gig: building and maintaining the web site for the term paper kingpin of San Francisco, one of these guys who sells pre-written term papers to students. I’m not going to name the company or link to the site or anything because the TPK is sensitive about publicity and might have my legs broken. But, somewhat amazingly, the site is still up and running, now 12 years old and still generating the occasional pre-written term paper sale. At one point (before the business fled to India and other distant locales) the TPK and other plagarini were doing so much business that SF State briefly adopted a policy of including the following question in its undergraduate final exams: ‘Briefly describe the contents of your own term paper.’ Needless to say, this shot ’em down in droves.

One of my favorite bits of term paper lore was the fact that the TPK maintained a legitimate shadow company so that he could point to something non-term-paper-oriented that he was involved in if circumstances demanded it for whatever reason. Seeking the most vague, inscrutable business identity possible, he settled on Associated Research Partners, a company that ostensibly had something to do with import/export market research. In reality, the company did virtually nothing at all– it was just standing idly by in case the TPK needed a clean change of clothes to jump into– and consisted of one dedicated phone line running into the back of his office. Nevertheless, maybe once or twice a year, this phone would ring, necessitating a awkward clamber to the back of the office to pick up the dusty handset, at which point (in the TPK’s words:) “the curtain would go up on Associated Research Partners.”

So here’s to you, Associated Research Partners. Today, this blog salutes you.

The Devil's Disciples

One of the best ideas I ever had in my life came to me in high school, moments after some crackpot on the street had handed me one of those Jack T. Chick religious tracks that everyone’s run across at some point. I specifically remember it was one called Dark Dungeons, a stern warning about the devilish evils of role playing games:

Anyway, my epiphany was to write to the address printed on the back and present myself as a high school teacher looking for religious materials to help me save my damned and unruly students. I used my high school’s address to make the teacher ruse more believable, and sat back and waited. A few weeks later, a box containing a motherlode of religious junk appeared, including…

  • a ton of those afteromentioned tracts
  • These great full-size comics called The Crusaders about two musclebound guys, Tim and James, who go around busting satanic plots in small towns and are always kneeling down and praying together on the floors of supermarkets and stuff like this. There’s homoerotic tension oozing out of every page, believe you me.
  • A lenghty hand-written letter (!) questioning the sincerity of my faith (it’s quite likely that my letter wasn’t entirely convincing, given that it was written by a stoned 15 year old).

But the crown jewel of this haul was a 345 page treatise called The Devil’s Disciples, written by one Jeffrey Godwin (one hopes this is a pen name), that purports to “rip to away the curtain of lies, ignorance and misconceptions about modern Rock music” and “show the Satan-worshipping world of Rock in all its sick and deceitful glory”:

In an appendix in the back, we’re informed by Godwin that he used to be a slavishly devoted metalhead before he saw the light and turned to God. The book is quite likely the funniest thing ever written, in large part due to Godwin’s prose style, which veers between wild hyperbole, leering hatred, snide condescension, pathetic gullibility and then — just when you’re thinking that the whole exercise is appallingly pitiful — unexpectedly lucid insight. Some examples…

Writing style:

“From a sneering, hip wiggling hillbilly named Elvis Presley to a blood drinking, bat biting maniac named Ozzy Osbourne, today’s Rock Stars have the full blessing of Satan in the work they do,” Godwin warns. And this is the second sentence in the book! Within the next two pages, rock music is characterized both as a “ravenous leech” and a “huge sprawling parasite”, performed by “male singers wearing heavy mascara and lipstick, fondling themselves while hissing demonic lyrics at a mesmerized audience.”

Frequently, the author gets so carried away condemning the musicians he hates that they come across as evil comic book super-villains. Still in chapter one, he delivers a scathing account of Altamont and the Rolling Stones’ (described in passing as ‘a band of depraved, drug addicted black magicians’) culpability in the disaster: “What were the Stones doing during this pandemonium? They simply continued playing as long as possible, coldly noting the chaos they had brought about, occasionally leering at one another“. [emphasis mine]. What an image!

Tragic Gullibility:

One thing that’s sad about this delightfully enjoyable book is how much the author gets taken for a ride by all the flash-in-the-pan nobody bands that were affecting a cheesy veneer of satanism in order to sell records to suburban teenage boys in the 80s. I mean, I can believe the Rolling Stones were devoted satanists… but PileDriver? Or Keel? Or jokers like Twisted Sister? Not so much.

There are a few not-so-menacing names that make it as far as Godwin’s countdown of Top 10 Most Satanic Bands Ever. Number four, for example, is Motley Crue: “A ragtag gang of foul mouthed and vulgar fornicators who openly brag of their detestable lifestyles, Motley Crue is Satan’s Pied Piper of the 80s, their siren call dragging thousands of fresh souls down the well-worn ruts of the Highway To Hell.” Yeah… in Tommy Lee’s dreams.

All in all, these parts just remind you more than anything else about how goofball mainstream metal mores were in the 80s until Nirvana restored some sense of seriousness.

(Number ten on Godwin’s public enemy list is the totally negligible W.A.S.P.)

Strange moments of lucidity:

Just when you think he’s gone totally off the rails, Godwin comes up with something strangely probable. Consider, for example, his explanation for the shooting of John Lennon: Lennon, in his telling, had dropped out of the Rock-n-Roll lifestyle by the mid-70s and was instead producing records like “Double Fantasy”, an album described as “a record filled with passionate devotion to wife and family”. In Godwin’s telling, Satan is now spurned and sends Mark Chapman after Lennon because the latter has gone off the reservation. In conclusion? “Lennon had outlived his usefulness as the Devil’s slave, and he ceast to exist”. There’s a certain logic to this– certainly, it’s more believable than ‘some random nut read too much JD Salinger and decided that Lennon needed to die.’

And, lastly, the chapter on Punks:

I can’t end this without mentioning the fantastic chapter on Punk rock (which Godwin believes in somehow tied in with England, socialism, and a determination on the part of the dark lord to overthrow capitalism). A few passages:

We remember to well what Punks and their music were like in the Seventies — a screaming, cursing, insane mob of monsters. Let’s take a look at Punk today.

Another simmering, steam-bath night is descending on Los Angeles in the sweltering summer of 1986…. In defoliated, bombed out suburbs like West Hollywood, the Punks, or “street survivors,” as they are also called…

Street survivors?

…. mass on the trashy sidewalks outside their favorite Rock & Roll clubs. California punks come from far and wide to join in Fascist sprees of Nazish violence and blood-letting, a feast of “slam dancing” that leaves many with broken bones, slashed faces and busted heads.

Some sections of Los Angeles have been completely taken over by Punks. Santa Monica Boulevard is a good example. The place is a nightmare in 3D, a living, breathing abomination, a riveting and horrible example of what thirty years of Rock & Roll has mutated and produced in our young people and our culture. If you ever drive through this area, keep your doors locked and your windows up.

Many Punk clubs here resemble fortresses with barred windows, heavy doors with peepholes and walls thick enough to repel any enemy invasion. People stand in the street, threatening passerby and harassing traffic. Others lounge on upturned garbage cans, or squat on the sidewalks, bored, waiting for some “action”.

I could really go on with this forever. But, time to sign off and go find some “action”.