Tonight my esthetician threw a birthday party. I got the Evite and replied that of course I'd come. Later on, I checked the responses and discovered that, with the exception of one other respondent, everyone had replied in Czech.
Crossing my fingers that the English-speaker had not had a change of heart, I headed to the bar at Milwaukee and Keeler, where a sign on the front advertised an unpronounceable beer. I went through a bar in front to the room at the back Helena had reserved. People stood in groups and sat at tables, and a small buffet was to the right.
I greeted Helena and she pointed out the Czech people who could speak English. Of course, they were not speaking English with the other Czech people, and the last thing I wanted to do was sit at a table and have everyone give each other that "Well, I guess we have to speak English even here" look.
"This is going to be hard," Helena observed in her matter-of-fact way.
"Don't worry about me; I'll be fine. You go mingle," I assured her. I sat at the bar, and the girl behind it smiled.
"A ginger ale?" I asked. She looked apologetically puzzled. I knew that if I said "Coke," she'd understand, but I detest Coke.
"Pop?" I tried the Midwestern standby. She smiled, a little less puzzled, and held up some Arizona Iced Tea.
"Perfect," I said.
Helena introduced me to the other English speakers, a very nice couple, Debbie and Jeff.
"How do you know Helena?" he asked.
"She waxes my pubic line," I replied. "She's the closest I have to a relationship here in Chicago."
Debbie was also a client.
"I'm just going to tell you," I said, looking around the predominantly blonde room, "that I'm attaching myself to you two."
We sat at a table and had a great time. Soon, the band arrived. They began to set up on the small stage.
"I'm dying to know if they're going to say "Czech, Czech, Czech, one-two, one-two'," I said.
The band began to play. Like many Eastern European peoples, the Czechs are stuck somewhere in the last two decades. The guys launched into some Czech metal. Imagine The Ramones, only with very understated men with buzz cuts who stand perfectly still and make no eye contact with each other or the audience. And of course, singing in Czech.
"Wow. Three guitars," shouted Jeff, trying to be heard, wincing as the sound blasted the small room.
Given that there were only five guys in the band, it was extreme. An 84-year-old woman with whom Helena was very close sat at another table, her hair in a carefully-coiffed bun. She rocked back and forth to the music, her fingers jammed into her ears.
"It's like Skynyrd!" Jeff said.
We shouted to each other for awhile, then they announced they were leaving. We'd been there a couple of hours, so it was respectable. Helena made us food boxes to go, we kissed her goodbye, and outside we agreed we'd see the next Windy City Rollers game (I'd told them of my determination to see a game; there was a home game tonight, but clearly I'd had a conflict.)
By a stroke of luck today I'd found a black WCR tank top in a local thrift store for three dollars. The logo is a skull with roller-skate-wheel crossbones.
So very cool.