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East Bloc of Eden

July 8, 2013

polandMy husband and I met in Eastern Europe, in Prague, at a 300 year-old candle-lit pub that boasted the name Molly Malone’s–as if it had been founded by some Irish wench who happened to be passing through that corner of the Austro-Hungarian Empire circa 1695.

I joke, but it was magic. I fell for my husband’s wit, his charm, his disarming humanity…oh, and he’s pretty easy on the eyes, too. In our early days, we smoked cigarettes, drank expensive whiskey and bonded over our love of black humor and Eastern Europe. Some would say they are one in the same.

Long story short – I didn’t have a prayer. I knew I wanted to marry this man from the moment he made his first, gaspingly inappropriate joke. We’re still married, and he’s still making gaspingly inappropriate jokes–notably, in his new satirical novel, Corporate America, which was published on July 1.

And despite the fact that I’m the jealous type, I want to share some of his wonderful qualities with you. But don’t go falling in love or anything – just go buy his book.

Without further ado, here is an excerpt from Corporate America, by Jack Dougherty. This short piece is, naturally, inspired by the very same visit to Eastern Europe that brought he and I together. {sigh} And it captures that part of the world beautifully – without a wasted word:

We stepped out into the street and peered through the haze of cigarette smoke and pollution. The cloud ceiling, about nine inches above us, was a menacing hue of periwinkle. The roads were inexplicably damp, despite the absence of rain or snow. The air reeked of coal, stinging my throat and making my eyes water. It was just as I’d remembered it. Ah, Poland in early winter: I ♥ Eastern Europe.
A melon-headed guy with fat, smooth checks, the whites of his eyes atypically clear in booze-soaked Poland, was approaching us. “Red Bird is in my sights,” the Prock security guy mumbled into a hidden microphone under his collar. Red Bird, or Judith Koob, shook hands with the leader of the two-man Prock Security detail. Black suits and shoes. They actually wore earpieces in their heads, as though they were the Secret Service. Judith and I were loaded into the back of a chunky black Škoda SUV, which was outfitted with a minibar. We drove beside frozen mud fields, coated in what to Judith appeared to be thickets of barbed wire. I explained they were actually climbing walls for the hops.
Every five minutes or so, for no logical reason, a twenty-foot-tall wooden cross popped up from a barren field. They were white, mostly, decades old and rotting, the paint faded or chipped off altogether. I had on my first visit to Poland, while researching The Enigma of Dilemma, been spooked upon discovering them as I steered my rental car towards Oświęcim, where the death camp was located. They seemed then, as now, to be a warning of the imminent doom ahead, or perhaps, if one was a Believer, designed to mitigate the threat, as one might wear a garland of garlic to repel vampires.
“I can probably serve as a more effective translator if you’ll tell me why we’re here,” I said.
“The fewer facts you know, the better,” she said as we drove past a queue of parked tractor-trailers. Shivering prostitutes in hot pants and cheap coats with fake-fur collars looked up at the bewhiskered drivers, who hung their heads from the windows of their cabs and negotiated. She watched the girls and looked back at me. “The fewer facts you know, the better for you, that is.” We drove another fifteen minutes in silence, past towering, leafless oak trees and yews, past an abandoned Soviet-made military truck, moss growing on its running board.
“Then would you mind terribly if I had a drink? It’s still last night, or this evening—I’m not sure which—according to my body clock.” I had been eyeballing the miniature selection of Polish vodkas since we got in the car.
“Yes, I would mind.” She scrolled through her emails as she spoke: “You had three on the plane on the way over here.” How she had seen me drinking in seat 14E from her perch in first class was beyond me.
A damp, gray mist seemed to have been wrung out over Katowice, settling over the factory chimneys, sterile high-rise hotels, and coal-tinged row houses. As we drove through the late morning traffic, Judith consulted her watch—a Timex with a mother of pearl dial—then removed a small prescription container from her purse and put two white pills in her mouth, washing them down with a club soda from the offending mini-bar. The Škoda rounded a bend and crossed the Rawa River, its still waters coated in a thin film of burnt-orange foam. Everything about Katowice was shabby and second-rate. Even the new office complexes—call centers and other back-office functions designed to lure Western corporations—were cheaply constructed and monotonously designed, their cheap vinyl-sided facades stained, their gutters already pocked with rust. It was grotesquely ugly. Yet, inexplicably, I felt joy amidst such decay; I had a visceral connection to this land of disappointment, this place long past its prime. poland 2

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From → love, Uncategorized

  1. Okay, I’m not in love with him but I do like his writing… 🙂

  2. Thanks for reading, Billy Ray 🙂

  3. WOW ! In love with his writing and I know he has a lovely wife and family …. in love withyou allas a group !

  4. The feeling is mutual, Catalina!

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