Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Extreme Seat Assignment, Hustler Style

The Ritalin Readings last night were a big hit, (although, note to self: Don't begin your set singing a song about your cameltoe... it puts the audience off.) And other than running 18 minutes long and not being able to find me way back to the green room (I give Johnny Carson so much credit for making it past those daunting pastel curtains night after night), the show was a huge success. Plus, I got to meet some of those faceless bloggers you and I like so much! And the good news? 99 percent of them were really great!

Below I've pasted the UNCUT, UNCENSORED version of my story. I only told about 20 percent of the story last night. And guess what? It's about Budapest! My apologies: A lot of things scarred me and the only way to move on is to scar at least a dozen other people. Give it a few more days, and it will be back to talking about our own cultural differences for a change. (laughing) Ennnnjoy.

* * * *

Last week, I took my first vacation in two years (not counting a “vacation from my problems” a few months ago at the Jersey Six Flags), packed up all my ill-fitting jeans, and headed over to Budapest, Hungary, a city I have been raving about ever since I studied abroad there in 2001.

Well was I in for a surprise. The cheap, dirty city that I so fondly remembered on walks down Memory Lame had now turned into an expensive dirty city. Thanks to the European-fucking-Union and the shitty dollar, what used to cost three dollars now cost five. It’s like, are there any reasonably priced hand-jobs left in this word?… And the people! My friends used to say “Did you hook up with anyone while you were abroad?” and I’d think back to the stinky, toothless Hungarian men with their protruding browbones and ape-like posture, and it hit me -- I don’t think anybody was interested in me!

One thing a Hungarian man is good for: Providin' fo his family, girl.

But now… the people looked really hip? And stylish? And were wearing funky glasses and pumas and Italian designer brands? No longer was I seeing the tantalizing outline of a ballsack through spandex biker shorts. And truthfully? It was the first time in my life I’m pretty sure I felt… sad.

So while the city had definitely gotten more metropolitan, and definitely more expensive, and the restaurants looked like the chic and fabled eateries seen on Sex and the City and According to Jim (my personal video diary of New York hot spots), there was one Hungarian tradition that hadn’t changed, not since I’d been there at least. And this was the tradition of Extreme Seat Assignment.

You see, here in America, when I buy tickets to the movies for, say, National Treasure, or Face/Off, or Windtalkers, or any number of Elvis movies, I show up at the theater at least an hour beforehand because I know the seats are gonna be motherfuckin’ PACKED! There are gonna be people all OVER and IN the motherfuckin’ SEATS! And if you know me at all, you know I tend to get a little panicky in stressful sitch-a-tions… soooo I insist on being the first one in line.

Well I'm not gonna sit in the front row, I'll tell you that much.

In Hungary, whose movie theaters rival those in Times Square -- (major side note: Don’t buy coffee-slash-chai in the Starbucks that’s in the lobby of the Loews 42nd St., because they won’t let you bring it in the theater, even though the Starbucks is, technically, IN the theater. There is a door that opens from the lobby into the Starbucks. Deceiving. Also don’t tell the manager that you’re going to pour it on the ground, and then shove the piping hot coffee into the managers chest while telling him to “Choke on it asshole.” They will ask, nay, force you to leave the theater, and then you won’t be able to see Terminator 3, possibly the best sequel of all timesies.)

As I was saying, in Hungary, they assign you your seats in the theater. My friend Annie and I bought tickets for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (or Durr Durr es Csok), because, well, it was either that or Jennifer Love Hewitt’s “Titty Con Carne”. So as per yoozh, I roll up to the ticky-taker 30 mins before showtime, and he looks at me like I’m out of my mind. He tells me, in perfect Hungarian, that I have to wait until 5 minutes before the movie. FIVE MOTHAFUCKING MINUTES?!!?!? Bitch - I need to settle! Nestle a foot in someone’s crack, pass a little gas, crunch some bagel chips mothafucka! Before the movie starts!

I just have to settle down for a few minutes, that's all.

For 25 minutes, we STARED this guy down, until finally we were let in. I tell my friend Annie -- hey! Let’s sit in THIS really NICE row -- look, the theater’s empty! We settle in. It’s a few minutes before showtime. These two goons roll in and are all (in Hungarian) “Botchus meg, ez a mi saykoonk” (spelled phonetically, forgive me) or “Excuse me, these are our seats.” I look around. The theater is empty. Not one to pick a fight in a language I barely speak, with two men I could barely wrap my thick farming arms around, I relented and gave the nice fellas their places. I figure, let’s take our seats in the last row, wait til’ the other 3 people stream in, and THEN move.

One minute to showtime. And I swear to god, like “A Day at the Races”, a bell went off, the door flew open, and these people were a-FLYING into their seats. In 24 seconds flat, the theater was nearly full. I was amazed!

Soooo the movie starts, and we’re sittin’ there, and about 15 minutes into it this couple comes in. He looks like Fat Stalin, and she’s kind of a chubbier bleached blonde version of a supermarket cashier in Cleveland. Kinda former prostitutey, but at least 45 years old. And what a ruckus these fucks were making. It’s funny -- as they came up the stairs, I just FELT that they were going to sit next to us. It’s what is known in my family as “The Ol’ Collins Luck”, i.e., really bad luck.

Of course, they turn down our aisle. In Hungarian, the man BOOMS that we are in HIS SEATS! Me, deer in headlights, say “Nem, nem” “Nem ertem” (“I don’t understand”). The piggish blonde he was with said in Hungarian “They don’t understand” so they plopped themselves down RIGHT next to me. Oh, and the smell. It’s like -- picture a tobacco plant, or like your hair the day after you’ve fucked Lou Reed, and then you try to cover up that smoke smell with like a used cat diaper? That’s about it. Incessantly wafting over to my nose-trills. (I have a very sensitive sense of smell, obvs.)

I am immediately disgusted by this couple, who also wouldn’t shut up. At one point I turned to them to say “Shhhh” to which, clever guy, “shhhh”ed me back. Because I didn’t know the Hungarian word for “Let’s play shadow” (although “I’m not touching you” is “Ain nem yootok hozod”, handy on long Hungarian road trips with your non-existant extended family), I clenched my jaw and went back to the movie. I tried my best to concentrate, but of course now am completely preoccupied with these stinky freedom-haters. At one point, I sideglance, and this man again, AT LEAST 45 YEARS OLD, starts FEELING UP HER CHEST RIGHT NEXT TO ME, while making EYE CONTACT -- WITH ME. I turn to my friend as my heart is palpitating to update her. I scowl. LOUDLY.

My neighbor: A class act all the way. Likes: Buddy-cop comedies. Dislikes: tweezers.

Next thing I see/hear, the woman starts UNBUCKLING HER BELT as her man-friend REACHES DOWN HER PANTS. Once again, I wish to remind you, I was sitting right next to her! Now I’m in full military mode: “Get your bags!” I hissed to my pal. Now I know a few dirty words in Hungarian “Bast Meg” is fuck you, “Courve” is hooker, “Levat Sarve”, eat shit… but not wanting to get clocked in the face by a dirty, dirty gypsy, I instead said some choice words in English that you maaaaay or may not have heard on “Salute Your Shorts”, or, possibly, “Hey Dude”. “Disgusting Pigs!” “Dirty dirty disgusting pigs!” “Filthy rotten swine!”

I mean, were they begging for an "Awful Waffle"? Cause I am NOT above it. I will DO it.

Making a bit of a commo, we marched down to the fourth row. I ate a bagel chip, and thought. Perhaps this was some kind of revenge for enjoying democracy my whole life. Who knows? And sure we missed a couple of plot points and the whole movie was ruined - but hey - what a story, right? It’s almost as good as that time I blew a hole in my face with a shotgun, scheduled to happen in the next 5 milliseconds.

By the way, Pravda absolutely looooved the movie. Might go to explain a few things.

The next night, we had tickets to Rigoletto at the “Erkel Szinhaz”, or as I called it, the “Stephan Urquelle Szinhaz”. We show up, check our coats, and waltz in. No one checks our tickets. It’s a busy night, and Hungary’s retirement community is dressed to the nines. I stride over to row 12, when I see 2 gentlemen sitting in our seats. “Bocsanot”, I say, “Excuse me, these are our seats.”

Cut to: Major commotion. Ticket stubs are whipped out, compared to mine, Hungarian is spoken at a rapid pace, a woman behind me points to the usher… but I feel confident. I wave her off, politely. These are our seats! Our motherfuckin ASSIGNED SEATS! Don’t you see?! It was MY turn to boot someone out of MY seat! After the grody fingering nightmare, I felt good and adamant about position.

It was only when I took a closer look at our ticket, now in the grips of an old rheumatic claw, that I saw it: Csurtortok. To you a nonsense word, full of umlauts, hard to pronounce. Csutortok. To me, a word I learned the first week of Hungarian 101. Thursday. Pretty easy. The tickets were for Thursday night.

Problem was, it was Wednesday night. And it wasn’t Rigoletto, but some lesser known opera, Norma.

I PLUCKED the tickets out of the gentlemen’s hand (a Simpsonian “Yoink” would not be an inappropriate sound to make), and said “It’s OK, we’ll work it out!” “Let’s go.” I muttered. So thanks to my idiocy, instead of seeing Rigoletto from the 12th row on Thursday, we saw Norma, an opera where we had NO IDEA what was happening, from the LAST ROW on Wednesday.

A still from Rigoletto. It's really such a shame that we missed it. It's been ages since I've woken up from a dream in a cold sweat with blood coming out of my mouth from the sheer terror of it all.

There was, thankfully, a ray of sunshine to this wild and long-winded tale: Norma was sung in Italian, but thankfully had Hungarian subtitles, so we could choose to not understand it by sight or sound. While trying not to nod off, every now and again I’d read the subtitles and see how much I could understand. One word caught my attention, and I nudged Annie, who at this point was slumped over the side of a seat like a Sopranos extra, to take note. The word? Balsors, definition in Hungarian: calamity, doom, ill-fortune. To us? Sores on one’s balls. So what did we take away from the Opera? Namely, for the rest of the trip, whenever the urge would strike, we would belt out “Nooormaa, you give me ballsooores!”

Moral of the story: Don’t be retarded, learn how to fight dirty, and learn how to read. Thanks for your time.

(Last side note: Don't let the frisky dirtbags fool you -- "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is thoroughly enjoyable.)

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