Tag Archives: Guatemala

Is it still illegal to celebrate Christmas in England? + Eating sloths in Guatemala

Phoenix, Arizona, the perfect place to fry an egg

Phoenix, Arizona: a perfect place to fry an egg on the sidewalk

Yesterday I had lunch with someone who has just come back from Phoenix, Arizona.

“I read a while ago that it was the fastest-growing city in the US,” I told her, “but that it is a hell-hole and you can’t go outside comfortably because of the heat.”

“It was very hot,” she agreed. “They have a new law on the statute books which makes it illegal to fry eggs on the sidewalk any more.”

She swore this was true.

What fascinated me was the phrase “any more” and the fact that such a law might be necessary: that it had become so prevalent it was a problem.

In the 1980s, as far as I am aware, it was still illegal under the law of England and Wales for young adult males NOT to practice archery every Sunday (presumably in case the French invaded or the English monarch decided to invade France)… and it was illegal to celebrate Christmas (under an un-repealed Cromwellian law). As far as I know, it still is.

The mis-named English justice system is constantly fascinating.

Last week, I read in the London edition of Metro newspaper that Westminster Magistrates’ Court had given a 20-year-old man a £745 fine and imposed a curfew on him because he had been staying in a hotel and had “emerged from a cupboard naked, with a fire hose up his bottom”.

A fire hose with (it says here) a Finnish coupler

Fire hose with (it says here) a Finnish coupler

The 20-year-old man was said by his lawyer to be “truly ashamed of himself”. This sounds unlikely. He will presumably be bought free drinks by his friends for the next ten years.

The Metro report did not specify the exact law under which the man had been prosecuted. Can there really be a specific law prohibiting people being naked with a fire hose up their bottom?

Life is a constant mystery.

But one mystery has been cleared up.

Yesterday, I wrote that this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith had told me that her sister’s visit to Guatemala had resulted in three children and her (the sister) becoming an Anglican priest.

I wanted – I think not unreasonably – to know more details.

These have been forthcoming.

Anna tells me:

“Twenty five years ago, my sister met a cute Guatemalan refugee at Saigon Palace – a Vietnamese restaurant on Spadina Avenue in Toronto. They married and soon had three children. My Guatemalan in-laws were very happy when they found out I had been involved with British comedy – In particular, they were desperate to know if I had met ‘Benny Eel’.

“My new Guatemalan extended family also enjoyed visiting the Natural History Museum in Toronto. When we walked past the taxidermied displays of jungle animals, they said: Yummy Yummy… Remember when we ate that anteater in Rio Bravo?  and  Look – a sloth! Remember when Auntie cooked us some sloth stew?…

A sloth - highly regarded in Guatemala

A sloth – they are highly regarded by gourmets in Guatemala

“Then suddenly (well, after eight years at the UBC Theology School), my sister became an Anglican priest.

“She moved to a village high in the Guatemalan mountains. After years of being shot at during anti-mining demonstrations, she decided to return to Canada and has been installed in a church in New Westminster, close to where the recent Godzilla movie was filmed. She has recently completed a book about the evils of the Canadian mining industry in Guatemala and sat as a judge in some genocide trials.”

“Good heavens!” I said. “Genocide trials in Canada?”

“In Mexico City, I think,” replied Anna.”I will have to ask… She was a witness of a lot of exhumed bodies…”

Some answers just create more questions.

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Filed under Humor, Humour, Legal system

A cage fight, a slap on the buttocks, a silent woman and a trip to Guatemala

Dan March at his Mad Hatter party

Sober Dan March at his party

Last night, I had the choice of paying £35 for a VIP ticket or £25 for a standard ticket to see a cage fight arranged by self-proclaimed ex-gangster Dodgy Dave Courtney in his back garden in South East London or go to comic performer Dan March’s 40th birthday party at the Looking Glass Cocktail Club near trendy Shoreditch (£8 for a double vodka and orange).

It was a tough call but I am glad I went to Shoreditch, though I was unclear if getting into the back room through the looking glass door always entailed getting your buttock slapped with a riding crop or if this was a special addition for the occasion.

Lheila Oberman could not talk to me last night

Lheila Oberman could not talk to me last night

I am glad I went because I bumped into comedy performer Lheila Oberman whom I have not seen in years. She used to perform as 50% of the late and very-much-lamented Aliens Ate My Schnitzel duo.

Alas she could not tell me about this nor anything else much, because she had totally lost her voice. When I asked how long she had lost her voice, I think she told me it was two weeks because she held two fingers up. We partly conversed through her friend Tim Eagle, a very successful clown, who looked a lot like Jerry Springer and told me people kept saying he looked very like the recently deceased Lou Reed.

I returned home later to a message from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, who is currently working in a Vancouver bookshop. In its entirety, her email read:

Anna Smith in her Vancouver hospital

Anna Smith in Vancouver has an untold story of Guatemala

My sister went to Guatemala. The result was three children (now grown) and then she became an Anglican priest !

I asked for more details.

This morning, I awoke to emails with more details, but of Vancouver not Guatemala. The multiple emails read:

A guy who was in the bookshop two weeks ago strode in, eyes gleaming. He asked: “Has that chunky guy been round here much?” I had no idea who he meant.

On sale in a bookshop in Vancouver

Literary culture in a bookshop in Vancouver (Photograph by Anna Smith)

They’re making a movie at Macleods Books, down the street. Jenn, who usually works inside Macleods, was standing at the corner, eyes on the door. Her job was to extract the book hounds who wandered into the store oblivious of it being used for a film set, despite the grips rushing about taking measurements and the ladders and floodlights everywhere.

I had sold a couple of architecture books to the movie’s art director a few days earlier and witnessed my boss dismiss a location scout from a different film, possibly Fifty Shades of Grey. My boss was annoyed:

“Are you holding a contest?” he asked. “Because I don’t want my store involved in one of your contests.”

Marble Arch Hotel undercover in Vancouver

Marble Arch Hotel undercover in Vancouver (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“But it’s my job” said the location scout. We have to go to several potential sites, take photos and let the director choose. It’s not my decision.“

“No, I don’t want you people in here,” said my boss. “You leave a mess.”

A short, slight man rushed in and proffered a shopping bag with a thin wooden box inside. “Are you looking for some gold flatware?” he asked. I told him, “No,” and he immediately hurried out.

Across the street, the Marble Arch Hotel is clad in scaffolding and blue veiling. Three mentally ill drug addicts (two men and a woman) have been living there but are now locked out of the building. Yesterday, they pounded on the temporary plywood door and shouted in all directions, indignant and plaintive: “Would someone unlock the door to our OWN home !!!”

Workman

Chunky workmen seen from the bookshop (Photograph by Anna Smith)

A tall, good looking young construction worker walked into the shop today. He told me they are stripping the lead paint from the Marble Arch building. I must have looked alarmed, because he added: “Don’t worry, it’s not the bad kind of lead”. He asked for a book from the window display – How To Pick Up Women.

I still know no more about why Anna’s sister’s visit to Guatemala resulted in three children and her becoming an Anglican priest.

I live in hope of more details and that Lheila Oberman will speak to me again.

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Filed under Canada, Comedy, Humor, Humour, Movies

The manic-depressive comedy act and the fantastic female astronaut phenomenon

Tonight I’m off to see the last of American comic Lewis Schaffer‘s twice-weekly shows Free Until Famous at the Source Below in Soho. The shows should resume in January. As far as my extensive experience goes, “a rollercoaster ride of emotions” is pretty much what Lewis guarantees.

He tells me a psychiatrist friend told him his shows are an exact recreation of a bi-polar, manic-depressive incident. Bloody right. Rollercoasters. Comedy rollercoasters. That’s what they are. He has an extraordinary and mesmerising talent for plucking defeat from the jaws of victory just as often as vice versa. He has perhaps four or five hours of good, solid, funny material and you can never be certain which parts and which configuration will surface in any particular one-hour show… and then you throw into this volatile mix his occasional sudden bouts of self-doubt (which he then analyses as part of the act) and his low boredom threshold… plus he will career off-course if there is any distraction or any good audience interaction. He is a Wikipedia of knowledge. Throw him an audience member from some obscure village in Guatemala and the odds are he will know some bizarre and fascinating fact about it.

“Unpredictable” does not quite do him justice. And then there are the audiences he attracts.

A few weeks ago, he asked an American girl in the audience what she did for a living and it turned out she was USAF Sargent Katie Sparks, a former astronaut on the Mir Space Station. She had spent twelve days up there in space in 2006. Lewis got her up on stage and he and the audience asked her questions about what she’d done and how she’d felt and she answered with fascinating details.

Except that, after the show, Lewis checked out her 2006 trip to Mir and discovered that not only did the Mir space station burn up in 2001 – five years before she claimed to have been in it – but he could find no reference to any female astronaut called Katie Sparks. She had made the whole thing up – whether as an intentional con trick for unknown reasons or as a fantasist’s dream, he could not figure out. There is a photo of “Katie Sparks” on Lewis’ Facebook page.

Lewis won the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe for pulling a publicity stunt so outrageous that the Edinburgh Comedy Awards (showing a remarkable lack of any sense of humour) threatened to take him to court. Could he have been out-stunted and out-witted this time?

He (and I) would be interested to know who “Katie Sparks” is and how and why she managed to persuade Lewis and an entire audience that she was a female astronaut. Born-and-bred New Yorker Lewis is even beginning to doubt that she was American.

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Filed under Comedy, Science, Strange phenomena