A live performance at the Brady Theater
Long Beach, CA
A live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center
A live performance at the Saenger Theatre
A live performance at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center
Buffalo, NY — with Robin & Linda Williams
A live performance with Robin & Linda Williams in Asbury Hall at Babeville
I missed out on the week our failing president, Borderline Boy, got depantsed by the news coverage of crying children he’d thrown into federal custody and a day later he ran up the white flag with another of his executive exclamations, meanwhile the Chinese are quietly tying his shoelaces together. Sad! I was in London and Prague, where nobody asks us about him: they can see that he is insane and hope he doesn’t set fire to himself with small children present.
London was an experience. I landed there feeling ill and was hauled off to Chelsea hospital where a doctor sat me down and asked, “Can you wee?” I didn’t hear the extra e so it was like he’d said, “Can she us?” or “Will they him?”
“Do you mean, Can I pass urine?” The doctor nodded. I said, “Yes.” Then he asked, “Do you mind if I feel around your tummy?” I haven’t had a tummy since I was 7, only an abdomen, but okay. It was all very efficient and friendly, with men and women in blue scrubs busying to and fro and I had perfect faith in the place: the problem was trying to understand the varieties of English spoken. Great Britain includes large pockets of unintelligibility, not to mention accentuous people from all over the Empire and Europe, and it gives an American from the Midwest the strange sensation of hearing human speech that you know is English but you don’t understand it. You can say “Pardon me?” only so many times and finally you say, “I guess so” though you don’t know if you’ve agreed to a frontal lobotomy or to wee in the bottle in front of you. Exciting stuff.
Prague is a city that rewards walking, scenes of beauty everywhere, ornamental plasterwork over doorways, painted window frames and eaves and shutters. It is the most beautiful city in Europe if you ignore the Stalinist apartment blocks, and it escaped devastation in World War II because it was handed over to Hitler without a fight and Allied bombers didn’t bother with it: appeasement and insignificance worked to its advantage. After the fall of communism, a generation of young Czechs set out to see the world and we managed to snag two of them, Kaja and Katja, to be nannies at our house in St. Paul. They were cheerful, reliable, curious, good company, and now they’re mummies themselves. We joined them for supper under a tent beside the Vltava, down a long narrow staircase next door to the Kafka Museum on Sunday, a supper of sausage and sauerkraut enlivened by small children including a three-month-old whom I got to walk around with and sing “Old Man River” and “Shenandoah” as her eyes got narrower and narrower. Something narcotic about the baritone voice when singing about rivers.
I feel gratitude to those two ladies who did our family so much good, but I wasn’t about to stuff big banknotes into their sleeves, besides which I don’t know what the Czech crown is worth, ten cents or ten dollars, so I simply wrote them limericks. Not many Czech women have an original limerick written on their name.
There was a young lady named Katja
Snuck up behind men and yelled, “Got ya!”
They weed in their pants
And she clapped her hands
And said, “Look what a lesson I taught ya!”
The jubilant humorous Kaja
Likes to get dressed up and tie a
Ribbon of bangles
Round each of her ankles
And boogie to Handel’s “Messiah.”
Now a train to Vienna and a few days sitting in cafes working on a book while my wife and daughter do the tourist walks, and then back to the U.S. and back to Borderline Boy. And back to the American Library Association, which has removed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from its award for children’s books because her parents say some offensive things in them. My grandma used the word “colored,” which may have been offensive, I don’t know. She said, “Colored people are just as smart as white people and they are better to their families.” Maybe that was patronizing. You tell me. I hope the Association finds a writer good enough to name its award for. Someone universally beloved, like Dr. Seuss, except his many references to Looking Around are offensive to us seeing-impaired people. And Beatrix Potter, but you will find racism in Peter Rabbit if you look.