Monday, June 11, 2007


I am in Salzburg. More on that in a later blog entry. Salzburg is too glorious to share an entry with the sleazy quacks described here.

I spent most of the last week preparing for my Salzburg trip and househunting. I seem to have found a place - a nice pad, just renovated, all new everything including furniture, lousy commute to the university, but mostly on a streetcar so I can read or meet people.
I do have one adventure worth relaying. Moral: if you see an ad for an apartment that costs €190 per month, don't go. It was seedier than a nursery. I met the landlord at the Sielwall streetcar stop in the already iffy district of Viertel. The guy was a smelly, squat, sunken eyed Turk. He shook my hand with a tough mass of leather knobs and smiled with teeth that looked like he gnawed a stone clad highlighter. We walked about 5 minutes to the apartment through a progressively declining neighborhood, seamier than a Levi factory. We made the usual small talk. He spoke good english. The apartment had 2 huge windows facing an alley. Both had thick white curtains drawn over them. One had a very old, cheap blue and white teddy bear in front of the curtains, looking out as if standing guard. It looked more black and bloody in the deep red glow of an invisible neon bulb. I admit to some poetic embellishment in the dialog below, but it's mostly true, including all the snakey sneakery at the end.
He showed me around the apartment, rife with every warning flag I (thought I) was used to looking for. My nose wrinkled at the sight of it, and this was before the smells hit. Water stains everywhere, exposed wiring, carpet's original color a mystery bur probably not waterstain brown, holes in the walls, scum on the ugly brown-green bathroom tiles like a veiled rotten Granny Smith, the tile grout looked like his teeth. 'And you have two roommates, they are very nice girls,' he said, busting out a cigarette though only halfway done with its predecessor. 'One of them is a student.' Your room is here - actually a fairly big room, but no windows. How is this possible? It was not in the basement. I had a windowless office in the basement of GSU in Atlanta, and it's quite unpleasant. Was it a mad designer, botched construction, or would the view have been even worse than the decrepit wall? I went through the motions of inspecting the room (no internet connection, every corner of carpet and paint peeling) and we headed downstairs. 'This is the kitchen,' he said, but I stopped listening. Across the street, a John gignerly exited one of the apartments and walked warily down the street. His head shrunk in to his overcoat and his brim was pulled way down low. His head was tilted down at a 45 degree angle, and his straight left hand covered his forehead and cheeks as if he were saluting the sidewalk. The ring finger of his hand boasted a nice looking wedding ring, wrought of diamonds and gold plated lies, gleaming prismatically in the red light from another flourescent bulb. 'The oven will be fixed soon, right now-'
'Excuse me.'
'What do these girls do?'
'What do they do for a job?'
'What do they do? What is their work? How do they make money?'
'Oh. They are a student.'
Don't fucking pretend you don't speak English, asshole.
'No, I mean their job. How do they make money?'
'Sorry, I do not speak so good. What do you mean?'
OK, I'll switch to German then.
'These girls, the roommates. What is their work? How do they make money?'
'Oh, they do many things.'
'They do many men?'
I didn't expect him to catch puns, but still fun.
'Yes. They have sex with men for money. Yes? They sell their pussy to many men.'
'Oh!' He acts surprised, then returns to English. Of course a guy like him would respond to vulgarity. 'Oh, yes. They are prostitutes. You know what is prostitutes?'
'Yes.' My English was never in dispute.
'Yes. They are very nice girls. So, the oven will be fixed soon-'
'Isn't prostitution illegal?'
'Against the law?' He feigned confusion again. I was annoyed. Fine. We'll see who gets outpunned in a battle of wits over an unarmed ho. 'The police will come here?' (And another pun gone)
'Oh, no trouble with the police.'
'How are you sure? It would be an easy bust.' (And another pun gone)
'Oh, no trouble. You can look, there are many prostitutes around with the other apartments.' He had a point. 'You will make many friends, yes?' He smiled broadly. Ewww!
'Are you a prostitute too? You rent apartments, and also you are a man prostitute in the end?' (And another pun bites the dust, yeah!)
He looks insulted. Good. Make him fretty. Mercury rising. 'No, no! Why you ask this? Do you like men?'
'No. For example, I do not like you.'
'Ah.' Pause. 'Well, so here is the kitchen. You may smoke, this is OK. You can have no pets.'
'Can I just have a little pussy?' (And another p-)
He started to respond, then smiled. I forgot, anything vulgar is right up his alley. 'Ah, you make joke, yes? Pussy, like a cat as well?'
I smiled back. 'Yes.'
'Ha, I like the jokes. No pets, but what you do for the girls, that is for you.'
'Do either of them study Psychology?' (NO! Bad testes! BAD! DOWN!)
'I do not know. Here is the recycling bin. Different bins.'
'Paper, cardboard, cans, glasses, plastics, and rubbers?'
Just when I thought I had adjusted to his communication protocol, he missed that one. Suddenly one of the doors opened. Out bounds a guy who resembled Don Rickles, but fatter, with Karl Malden's nose. He wore horrid brown pants, a plaid shirt with different shades of brown that looked like he puked shit all over himself, and a faded red derby. He was clearly drunk. He saw us, grinned, and raised both his arms to flex his flaccid biceps. In so doing, he hit his left hand on a wall, cursed, repositioned, then succeeded. I saw no change whatsoever in his upper arm diameter. 'RAAH!' he declared. 'RAAH - HA HA!' You don't brag about getting laid after paying for it; this is like taking a helicopter to the peak of Everest. He reached over to slap my shoulder and again stubbed his left hand. I failed in my effort to not grin, but he thought it was in manly empathy. 'RAAAAAAAAH!' He starts speaking in German, far too fast for me, but I think that he thought that Mr. Landlord and I were both next. The landlord told him no, and Don shrugged and left. Behind him, I caught a glimpse of the team that elected to receive, who unglorified prostitution like Paris Hilton. Wow. She was the oldest younger woman I had ever seen. She was more worn than a pair of British soldiers' boots given to a starving peasant in India. In the 1870s.

'Twas here we [last met] ... three summers and a thousand years ago.'
-- Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine), The Man Who Would Be King.

I suddenly realized that Mr. Landlord was talking. Why should I pay attention to him? Oh yeah, I wanted to fuck with him. 'And you can pay security deposit in cash?'
'I can. But about the pets-'
'No pets.'
'I think she has crabs, actually.'
'No. No pets. You have no pets?'
'No, you have no pets?'
Pause. 'Do you have pets?'
'Yes. I have a snake.' He looks scared. This time I succeeded in not grinning.
'I do not like snakes.'
'He is a very nice snake.'
'No. No snakes.'
'He is very nice. I have him here in my pants.'
'I always have a snake, here in my pants. Whevener I wear pants.'
'Does he have a cage?' Crude and trite, but clever. ??? But no. He was serious. Never bring a sword to a punfight.
'He is very nice. Less than a foot long. Here, I show you.' I reached into my right pocket. He leaned back, but I ignored him as I whipped out my snakeskin wallet. He looked worried. Good. 'See, this is a snakeskin wallet. From a diamondback rattlesnake.'
'What? That is a snakes' skin?'
'I do not like snakes.'
'Snakes are nice. I am a snake expert. I study snakes.'
'What? You say you are scientist.'
'Yes. I have a PhD in snakes.'
Pause. 'OK. But you do not have a real snake? Just the wallet?'
'No.' This guy really needed to learn unambiguous phrasing.
'No, what?'
Pause. 'Do you have a real snake? That is alive?'
'No real snakes?'
'No. I have six of them.'
'Six snakes?'
'Very nice snakes.'
'I do not like snakes.'
'Three of them have a cage.'
'Do they have poison?'
'Poison? You know what is poison?'
He tried pronouncing it several different ways. Pizon, poysson, poiSON. I looked confused and kept shaking my head. 'No word in English.' His brow wrinkled like an indecisive caterpillar.
'What is this called? If a snake bites you, you will die?'
'Oh! Not poison. That is just a bad glamrock band from the 80s.'
'Not poison.'
'What is that word?'
'Palandt. You mean to say palandt.' (There is no such word in English.) He gave no hint of suspicion; nonetheless, I was getting bored. I repeated it for him. Pause.
'I do not like snakes.'
'Oh.' Pause.
'Well. You are nice man, but no snakes.'
I was really hoping to end it with another shotpun blast, but no such luck. Pun control got boring and I still had more work before Salzburg. 'OK. Well, I love my snakes. Goodbye.' I reached to shake his misshapen hand.
'You may be here if you have no snakes. You have no snakes here, yes?'
I left.

Steve walks warily down the street,
With the brim pulled way down low
Aint no sound but the sound of his feet,
Machine puns ready to go ....

And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna fret you too
Another one bites the dust
-- Freddie Mercury (Queen), And Another One Bites The Dust [two words changed]

Billie: Who told you this guy was in here?
Lieutenant William Snyder: Nobody. I just know what kind of woman he likes. Going to check all the joy houses till I find him.
Billie: Oh, well maybe I could help you, if you tell me his name.
Lieutenant William Snyder: I doubt it. Which way are the rooms?
Billie: Right through there. But I wouldn't go in there if I were you.
Lieutenant William Snyder: What you are going to do, call the cops?
Billie: I don't have to. You'd be busting in on the Chief of Police just up the hall.
-- The Sting

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