All my blogs include a healthy amount of imagination- it's my little way of resisting the tyranny of reality. This blog is no different. I decided to help you our with identifying fact and fiction this time because other members of the Study Abroad group are involved and I make a few references to the Maltese police. I'd rather not find myself in a defamation lawsuit. So, while reading Mediterranean's 12 and The World is Mine, if you see bold italics, it's true. If it's regular typeface, then you know that I was spinning around in an office chair, spitting little flecks of foam and laughing hysterically to myself.
Mediterranean’s 12: The Shocking Conclusion
I had scoped out the Dubliner earlier that week from a luzza in the harbor. Disguised as an elderly and withered Maltese fisherman reading a copy of the Financial Times with discrete eyeholes cut out of it, I quickly identified the undercover Polizija (police). They’re clever, the Polizija. Disguised as a Japanese couple surrounded by luggage, in matching pastel-colored striped shorts, knee-high athletic socks, and Tommy Bahama knock-off Hawaiian shirts, the two Polizija were engaged in an “argument” meant to complete the impression that they were indeed lost tourists who just wanted to find their hotel. Very clever, Polizija, very clever indeed. When they finally left, at 2:17 exactly (the typical time for an undercover shift to end, as every international criminal knows), I rowed my little luzza closer to shore and removed my surveillance equipment from my Popeye’s Li’l Angler Tackle Box™ and pointed my Darkwing Duck Super-Duper Ear©®™ (available with 46,893 Proofs of Purchase + $3.99 shipping and handling) at the Dubliner to check for possible sleeper agents inside. Hearing no Japanese phrases that translate into “Well, what do you think? Is that sunburned fisherman in the Groucho-glasses-with-rubber-nose-and-mustache and “I HEART MALTA” T-shirt an incredibly well disguised American preparing to join Nick the Brit’s inner circle of up-to-no-good-guys-who-are-so-cool-you-can’t-help-but-wish-you-had-been-approached-to-heist-a-Maltese-Falcon?,” I removed the disguise, changed into my super-covert scuba gear and made for shore. 21 seconds later, and covered in rather gross seaweed, I emerged near a European couple each reading a copy of the New York Times with discrete little eyeholes (clearly so they could enjoy the view of the harbor). I sloughed off my gear, changed into my First-Impression clothes, and crossed the street.
I entered the Dubliner in as “I’m so totally into heisting things like the Maltese Falcon, you don’t even know” of an attitude as possible. I must say, I looked the part of a sophisticated criminal underling: a slight 5 o’clock of stubble, one eyebrow cocked mysteriously, a mustard stain on the right leg of my linen pants and a slight aroma of harbor sludge emanating from my pinkish sunburned skin. There was one bartender. He was toweling a Guinness pint glass while swearing at the Tele (British for TV, television, the boob tube). Carl.
I took a seat and waited for him to come over and “take my order” (Of course I was really waiting for the password exchange). The match or volley or trial (or whatever gaelic football games are called on the tele) ended and Carl threw the glass to the ground, smashing it to bits while he screamed some incomprehensible string of curses. After a few of those calming breaths people with high blood pressure and short fuses are told to take by all their various doctors and quacks, he came over to my end of the bar.
“Wutt’ll e’ be, eh?!”
I looked to each side of me with the sly and shifty eyes of an expert spy before I replied, “Liverpool is rubbish” and gave a solid wink.
Wull Fook! I kno’ ‘at! E’ry muffafooker kno’ ‘at. Wutt ‘ou ganna drin?!!”
“...Carl, LIVERPOOOL IS RUBBBBISH. Nick the Brit said to say so.” *Wink* *Wink*
“Kaal? Oim nought Kaal, Kaal’s dune-staars. ‘e alwuys dune-staars ‘n-da kutchin n’ ‘e ain’ kar wutt a fookin Yank ‘as-ta say 'boot Luv’rpoo. Git a fookin bier o’ git fookin ‘way frem mah’ bar!”
So I got a beer. And “Carl” (who turned out to actually be named Paul) settled down a bit once he learned I was named Paul too. Ok, so what calmed him down was the 4 euros tip I left. Clearly, the real Carl had already found a Paul for the group and couldn’t have a second Paul because that would just get too confusing, even if I had a cool nickname like “The Yank.” Oh well.
Or so I thought until I saw Carl for the first time; he's what you'd imagine the friendly neighborhood baker to look like. Short, round faced, a swirl of hair like a new-born, rides a bicycle to work, portly. Great guy, but no demolitions expert.
And so my quest for an international criminal organization continues...
Let there be Light
I sometimes have to remind myself that the Maltese are not as advanced as we are over in the USA. The light switch for every bathroom in the country is located on the wall outside of the bathroom. Clearly, children here have not yet invented the age-old and classic American prank of turning the lights off when someone is attending to a biological necessity or the Maltese would have figured out the value of keeping the light switches on the side of the wall were the vulnerably hunched and pants-in-the-down-position person is. I therefore see it as my duty to encourage every child I see to flip every bathroom switch they see until the Maltese update their country’s electrical wiring.
Some Friction Would Be Nice
If you’ve got a memory as ridiculous as mine, you remember an episode of The Magic School Bus in which they play baseball in a world without friction. Well, I’m pretty sure that episode happened in Malta. There’s a fine layer of dust covering every horizontal surface here that makes traction the sort of thing that people put on their Christmas Wish Lists.
“Somebody Poisoned the Water Hole”
Oh, and there are bugs in the tap water. Little swimmers that make me think of that terrible movie “The Faculty.” I haven’t been drinking it, but it puts the tingly feeling I get post-showers into a whole new light.
The World is Mine
The drivers of the OscarMeyers (buses) abide by their own set of rules both on the roads and within their WeinerMobiles. They’re the sheikhs of the streets, lords of the lanes, the padrones of the passageways. It’s the viceroy’s way or the vehicular highway, so to speak...ok, I’m all out of Thesaurus-izations now.
On one particular trip to school, we encountered the Ivan the Terrible of bus-drivers. His OscarMeyer had, as each of them do, a phrase painted across the top of the windshield that summarizes the particular bus driver’s mantra/life philosophy. There were three of us at the bus-stop, ready with our euros in hand to board “The World is Mine.” Classmate number one, a young lady, boarded without trouble (or a smile) from the surly driver. Classmate number two, however, was stopped by Ivan T.:
“NO! You cannot bring that coffee on this bus. It is not a cafeteria, this is a bus!”
“Wait, what?! My cappuccino? I won’t spill. Look it has a tidy little lid with an incredibly small hole in the top and even a built in spill-trap. Short of a child’s drink tumbler or an un-punctured Capri-Sun (who saw that reference coming?!), this is as secure a beverage as you’ll ever find.”
“NO COFFEE ON THIS BUS!”
This has never happened before in all the history of Malta. I know, I checked the library. So student number two, a bit flustered and surprised, got off the steps of the bus and made a very clear movement of putting the coffee slowly onto the ground. While this was happening, I got on. The bus lurched away from the stop before I even made it to the second stair. Yes, Student number two was left in the bus exhaust and road dust by ol’ Ivan the T.
At the next stop, an older british woman boarded the bus and flashed her week-long bus pass at the driver:
“Show me the date! I must see the date!”
“Here it is, I already showed it to you.”
“NO! I cannot see it from there, come up here and show me the date.”
“Don’t shout at me.”
“SHOW ME THE DATE!!!”
“Say please and I’ll show it to you. Don’t you know the word please?”
“SHOW ME THE DATE!!!!!!”
The woman put her pass away. Mien Fuhrer pulled the bus to the side of the road and turned off the engine. We sat like this for a minute or two before an Irishman from the back of the bus came forward and asked what the trouble was. Upon learning what the situation was, he very politely asked the British woman to just show her pass again so we could get moving because he had to be to work. She refused again so a few people got off the bus, cursing at her as they left. She responded to one:
“Don’t call me a c*** you ignorant dog.” which, in British English, is really a priceless thing to hear.
In the background, The Beatles’ “Let It Be” was playing. That is no exaggeration, fib, or little white lie. Sometimes life is just too perfect.