Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Drunken Kantor Man

This story I have for you today is one of those great experiences that can only happen while living abroad. I was needing to exchange some ever falling US dollars for some Polish Zloty to pay my rent. So I went to the same Kantor Man, named Zbyszek, I have used for several years. (Kantor is the polish name for cash exchange) I walk up to the window and present my green backs and once again as he has done in all previous visits he points out his calendar of naked women on the back wall. Before I go any further in the story let me give you a visual.

This Kantor is about the size of a small walk in closet. In the corner to the left of the glass is a small table, which usually has another man sitting at talking and drinking what looks to be coffee but not today. But this time the table is empty and only has a bottle of cheap knock off Coke product appropriately named "KOLA" with a K. There is a radio, a hot water kettle, some more nude pictures and 2 chairs. Not much in this place.

Now on with the story. He only speaks about 5 words in English, which I later find out are the same in Polish and English, Business (biz-nees in polish), moment (mo-meent), OK, No Problem ( No pro-bleem). The following conversation I have with him is all in Polish. NOW my polish is not that good when it comes to speaking but i can understand quite a bit. So I will tell the story from the English standpoint, cause I can usually spell most English words. (Remember he only speaks 5 words in English) He asks me if I want a drink. Ho holds up his coffee cup and I say sure. So I am waiting for him to pass me a drink through the hole in the glass. NOPE!! He gets up. Unlocks the door and begins to leave while saying MO-MEENT about 10 times. I am thinking to myself "where the f**k is he going" and realize my money is on the other side of the glass. I think he is coming back with a hot cup of coffee for me. I couldn't be more wrong.

He strolls back with a bottle of cheap polish vodka. OH F@#K! This is going to be fun. He unlocks the door, smiles and waves me in. He says to me in Polish, "please sit". I do then he follows up with saying Mo-meent, Pierwszy biz-nees which means Business First. He types in the currency into what looks like a computer from 1992. Green screen, small letters and a printer that uses paper with the holes on the edges. Yeah it's old. He then opens the safe. NOW this is getting crazy.

He trusts me enough to open the safe containing stacks of hundred and two hundred zloty bills as well as stacks of USD and EUROS. I am thinking there is about 300,000 in zloty, 50,000 in USD and 30,000 in Euros!!!! Holy Shit!! I can't believe it. To top it off he is HOUSED!!!! Later I will find out he drinks one liter of vodka a day while at work. I could easily clanked him on the head and walked out of that place with loads of money. But this was a test of my true character. I thought to myself this would be easy cause he is drunk, nobody is around, no cameras and I can lock him up inside. But of course I don't do it.

He gives my my money and now it's time to drink. He pours me a cup of vodka.
I am thinking maybe a shot or a double. NOPE wrong again. He says you must drink a half the bottle and then pours himself one but not before spilling some on his pants. He tops it off with some KOLA and we toast each other. Our conversation after the first drink begins with him saying he is not happy with the war, I think. He makes sounds like bombs going off and he points his fingers at me and makes machine gun sounds with his lips. Then says IRAQ.

So i am assuming this is what he is talking about. Which then leads into him talking about his life in the Polish Army. He told me his commanding officer like to drink only Russian vodka while he was in the service. So when ever he visited the office of his commander he had to either bring him Russian Vodka or drink some with him.
Doesn't it sound strange to you that a Polish military officer in the 1960's only drinks Russian vodka? I thought so and so did Zbyszek. But he said he had to do it or he would be punished.

30 minutes has gone by now and we have finished this small 300ml of vodka. Yeah, we smoked it down. He continues to talk to me even though i don't know half the shit he is saying nor does he know what I am talking about. All we keep doing istoasting and drinking. All the while i am looking at the open safe door thinking about running for the hills with some fat cash. He tells me his son learned English by reading A book english book and listening to music. He also asks me about 10 times if I can speak German, Czech or Russian. I replied every time with no. But he continued to try to convince me that I could. But he failed horribly. He asked me if I am married and I said No. Then he said"Nigdy w życiu nie wychodź za Polkę bo są zwariowane." while pointing his finger to his head and making swirls as if he were crazy. Which means, Don't ever marry a polish woman because they are crazy.

I laughed and said, I know I have dated some pretty crazy ones. We laughed and laughed then I finally had enough. I had to get out of this place. An hour had almost passed and I was feeling the effects of the vodka on my body. I knew if I stayed longer it would have turned into a mess and I would have to crawl home. The end of a completely true story. Only this could happen in Poland.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Rock Chalk Jayhawk

Alright alright!!!! I am still riding my high of Kansas winning the NCAA National Championship. It was such an amazing game. I was home alone watching the game live at 3:20 am. It was one of the best games I had seen in a long time. At least 9 lead changes and two great teams beating each other up and down the court.

So many things to talk about in the game. But what I have to think is the play of the game is not the Chalmers 3, which is was an amazing shot that was fully contested so not to take anything away from Chalmers because, I will never forget that shot but the great play and hustle by Collins throughout the game and especially the last 2mins. The quick steal off the inbound play the was flipped back to Chalmers reset the Jayhawks and then kicked back out to Colllins for the 3 to knock the score down from 7 to 4 was the key turn around. Then Collins speeds down the court with 10 seconds left. He blows by the defender makes the pass then gets shoved to the floor. No foul!!!! Chalmers sweeps around, jumps, pulls up and BANG THREEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

After Dorsey had just fouled out and they were done. Their heads were in their hands and you could see on their faces they were finished. Free throws were not made and clutch players for Memphis failed to do their jobs. KU stepped up and took the game from being down 9 and drove it straight down the throats of the tigers and finished the game and season in true Rock Chalk fashion. Oh I wish I was on Mass. St. when the Hawks pulled off one of the greatest comebacks ever. April 7th, 2008 will be remembered by many Jayhawkers as one of the best performances by a Kansas team.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ten Years of Warsaw Tortilla Factory

April 1st is not only known for practical jokes and playing tricks on people. In Warsaw it is the anniversary of Warsaw Tortilla Factory. WTF is recognized throughout the Ex-Pat community as being the best place to meet other Ex-Pats living in Warsaw. I went to Tortilla 5years ago for the first time. I have met so many people there and many have become my closest friends. On April Fools day 1998 TF opened their doors and started serving tacos and burritos to the Poles. Monday my close friends Andrew, Solli and Bill celebrated 10 years.(Bill missing in photo) They are three amazing guys who have changed the way service and food is served in Warsaw. As well as changed how I lived in Warsaw. I have grown to consider these guys to be family. They are three fellas who really know how to have a good time and I am so happy I have been blessed by meeting them. These guys have introduced me to some exceptional people that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Monday they kicked off the celebration with 100 free beers and two great performers. The first musician was Lindsay Martell.
He has been traveling around the world for several years and recently landed in Warsaw and become a fixture at Tortilla. After he warmed up the crowd with some covers and originals the main attraction was ready to perform.

Lola Lou is a very well known drag queen. Lola has performed at every birthday and the opening of WTF 10 years ago. Drag queens are not really socially accepted in Poland but music is music no matter who is performing. This was my first drag show and it was great. The music was good and he could really move and play the crowd. Now I know many of my friends back home probably wouldn't be caught dead at a drag queen performance because they would think that would make them gay. They would be wrong, missing a great show and missing out on a lot of single women. Women love the performances and the place was filled with many lovely single straight ladies. He finished up a 2 hours set and started the night off fun and everybody was in the mood to party.

I hoped to see a bunch of old friends but it was a young crowd and only a few of the faithful old regulars were there. Of course there were new regulars and it was a great party, don't get me wrong. Seeing those old friends and partying with shots, drinks and song in the wee morning was what I needed and what I am going to miss. We finally closed the night up about 3am and sailed home in a taxi. I knew it was going to be a long, rough day but luckily the kids were good for me the next day.

Boys, thanks so much for making my past 5 years of my life in Warsaw some of the best ever and congratulations on 10 years of great Mexican food in Warsaw.