While visiting Poland this past week, I almost had an epiphany.
No, it was not the amazing theatre we performed in, or even the performances themselves (which were both exceptional). It was one evening, after we had all eaten Mexican food (really soaking in the Polish culture), and I decided to go home to pack my suitcase (two days in advance) instead of going out. I got a cab. No big deal, right? No, not right. You couldn’t be less right if you tried.
When I was in high school many moons ago, my friend Bryan Young and I had an obsession with this one video of a 1979 German disco band called Dschinghis Kahn singing and dancing to their hit song “Moskau.” I can only describe it as the best Star Trek Christmas Special that was never made:
So riding home in this cab in Poland, years later, what comes on the radio but a stirring rendition of MOSKAU! Unable to contain my glee, I start singing along (and by singing I mean shouting “MOSKAU!” and “Oh ho ho ho ho HEY!” when appropriate, and then mumbling whatever the fuck they’re saying in between). The cab driver looks back at me, stony-faced, and without saying a word, cranks it up and starts to sing along. At the end of the song, both of us panting from the exertion only a 1970’s German disco band can bring out in you, he looks at me in the rear-view mirror, and nods. In this moment, he is Farmer Hoggett, and I a simple pig.
As the cab pulled up to the hotel, I felt that I learned something profound about life, like some dark unspoken place in a Pablo Neruda poem. And there it was, my Polish epiphany: some things in life are universally understood, they supersede spoken language, and perhaps, just perhaps, Moskau was one of these things.
Unfortunately, Farmer Hoggett cut my epiphany into thin strips of jaded bacon. When I saw how much he had overcharged me, we got into an intense argument consisting mainly of accusatory pointing and head-shaking. Apparently, there is one thing that knows no cultural bounds: money.
I last updated from a pay-by-the-ten-minute-increment web kiosk in the illustrious Portos Hotel. (It is one of three adjoined hotels, the other two being Hotel Aramis and Hotel Athos. Not a joke.) The Portos Hotel had many, many charms. Here are a choice few:
1) It is located in a neighborhood named “Mangalia,” and while I don’t speak a word Polish, I am fairly positive that the English translation means “Neighborhood of Recently Released Criminals”. Everyone in the area wears a baggy windbreaker and walks with their hands in their pockets, which are the two universal marks of regretting one’s past actions.
2) The only nearby source of a food is a charming gas station called “Orlen”. It serves a concoction that combines a hotdog, a seamless pita, and ketchup–not-so-fondly nicknamed “The Delicious Menstruating Vagina”.
3) The carpets in the Portos Hotel would be Jackson Pollock-themed, if Jackson Pollock had used dark bodily fluids instead of paint.
4) The Portos Hotel is currently under intense and almost constant construction. Each night was like Christmas Eve. I would go to sleep wondering, when I wake up tomorrow morning, might I find myself lucky enough to look out these open curtains to see, no, not a a fresh dusting of snow or the soft silhouette of a reindeer, but the hearty Polish construction worker who much resembles Santa Claus? Will he once again be perched on the moldy scaffolding outside my window? Yes, he certainly will!
4) The hotel’s elevators are tiny metal boxes that hold four people at most. When you yell from inside the closed elevator on the ground floor, anyone standing by the elevator on the 6th floor can hear you clear as a bell.
Dear Dee Daniels, our stage manager and company mother, had the misfortune of being inside one the tin-can elevator cars when it broke down. A fifth person, a small girl whose weight might have seemed insignificant, crowded into the elevator at the last minute, and ruined everyone’s lives.
The elevator made it up a couple floors and then stopped, dropped a bit, and stuck. They were stuck inside the elevator for an hour and a half with no communication, despite the fact that the elevator is made of shiny paper you can probably punch through (and make Pai Mei very proud). Still, the doors had to be pried open from the outside, slicing the hand of one man inside, and everyone had to climb out to safety between the floors.
No doubt Dee was never in any real kind of danger. Sure, Dennis Hopper escaped, but Jeff Daniels and Keanu Reeves were always hanging above that elevator, like the very handsome and svelte SWAT bats they are, keeping the peace and debating whether or not it is ever appropriate to shoot the hostage.
Later in the week we all got stuck on a bus with Sandra Bullock, but who wants to hear about that.