Fireside Chat


I assume that none of you are mind readers – I know I’m not – and so it’s time to explain a little bit about what’s going on behind the posts you read here (nearly) daily.

Some of this may seem “obvious” to you and you may feel insulted because you think I’m talking “down” to you. Other parts may seem to be directed towards you personally and again you may feel slighted or angered. Try to relax and breathe, okay? I’m a grown adult and if I want to call you out by name, I will. God knows I’ve done it enough on this blog before.

I’ve written about the origins of this blog before but if you haven’t read it, I’ll briefly recap it here: I was in Bucharest a year ago on personal business and a Romanian clearly mistook me for being a fellow (native) Romanian after speaking with me for a while.

This got me to thinking – a lot – and I realized I’m in kind of a unique position. I’ve been in this dadgum country a long time and can speak the language well enough to fake it. I’ve also traveled from one corner of Romania to the other. None of this was planned ahead of time but the long and short of it is that I’ve gained a heck of a lot of knowledge about Romania, its people, culture, songs, food and customs.

The second thing that happened was I found out there were eight or nine million foreigners coming to Romania every year – far more than I would’ve estimated. Furthermore, there are lots of people outside Romania (who speak English) who work with Romanians and Romanian organizations. Other people date or are married to Romanians. And yet others are trying to learn the crazy language, both the official textbook forms as well as the actual daily life-on-the-streets forms.

And so I thought I’d share some of what I know on a blog – this one you’re reading. I started it without any fanfare whatsoever. Many of the posts people like the best were written when I had maybe 20 visitors a day, including Google and other search engines. Later on I compiled a lot of what I had written into a single document – my book – and then fleshed it out to be a proper guide on living, visiting and traveling in Romania.

I need money to live just like anyone else but I didn’t do any of this for money. Take a look all over this blog and you’ll see there are no advertisements from third parties whatsoever. The only links to products are to my own (books, keychains, etc) and they’re all low key. I don’t blast them in your face every week or send out emails saying, “Hey buy my stuff.” If you’re interested in my books or T-shirts, you can click on the links and buy ’em and I thank you for it.

But if you want to just read these posts for free, you’re welcome to do that as well.

I write what I write (both here and elsewhere) for one reason and one reason only: because if I don’t, I’ll explode. Writing is a creative outlet for me. I remember once reading a quote from Maya Angelou saying something like “the urge to write and not being able to do so is painful“. I agree with that wholeheartedly. If I were locked in solitary confinement in prison I’d probably be writing on scraps of toilet paper. I feel the urge to write coming from inside of me and that’s why I do it – so I don’t burst.

If you like what I write then great. If you don’t then well, too bad for you, really. Go visit some other blog. If you don’t like my book, get a refund. All of the sites selling my books offer returns and you won’t lose a cent.

I appreciate you coming here and I appreciate your contributions, whether in financial form (buying my stuff) or comments or email messages or Facebook stuff or Twitter or the other hundred ways, including occasionally a free beer or coffee face-to-face. I do. But I don’t write for you. I’m happy when you like it but that is not why I do it.

This is my website and I write 100% of what you see on here and I pay for it to be hosted on a server so you can click on it any time you like, day or night. There’s a metric ton of useful information on here, from slang words to travel information on Romania. If you find it useful and good, then I’m glad. If not then oh well, too bad. But it’s free to you.

It’s exactly like coming to visit me in my apartment and I give you a cup of coffee (or tea). It may not be the brand you prefer and it may not be served with whipped milk foam like you prefer but it’s fucking free, eh? You’re my guests here in my home and I expect a little damn decorum, the same as I’d give you if I were a guest in your home.

If you want to disagree with me, that’s fine. If you want to call me dirty names and insult me, or insult America, or insult Obama or Bush, call me ugly, stupid, crazy, idealistic or anything else, that’s fine as well. I’m in public here in Cluj at least once a week and you can come down and say these things to my face if you like. I’ve led a strange and sometimes difficult life (although not as difficult as some) and not a damn thing anyone can say or do is going to intimidate or deter me. All I can say is what T.I. said, really.

But this is my house and – whether you like it or not – my rules. All kinds of people come to this website, from teenagers to Christian missionaries to Europeans to New Zealanders to Americans. Some people speak English as their first language and as their only language. Some of you speak no Romanian and English is your fourth or fifth language. Others of you are native Romanians who are at a very beginner level of English. Others of you are Romanians who speak English better than I do.

It’s a real mix and not everybody is at the same level as everyone else. Not everyone knows the things you do – and other people know things you don’t know. But this whining and moaning and pissing and complaining, not to mention saying hateful things to other people or ganging up on them for mistakes or errors or whatever – all of this has got to stop. Immediately.

I’m a positive person and I think that comes through in my writings here. I write about all kinds of things and sometimes yes, I do cover stuff that might be scary or disturbing, but so it goes. I’ll get around to the kitty pictures and cute slang words again. And if I broach a subject that’s complicated (like energy) well hold onto your fucking horses because I’ll get more in depth on it in time. I’m not interested in being another blogger who daily points out faults and shortcomings in politicians and what the government or big business is doing and then sits back and contributes nothing to make this world a better place.

I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk, motherfuckers. I don’t just sit around and do nothing but piss and moan about corrupt politicians and law breaking and environmental poisoning and everything else. On this blog I point out when people are doing good things here, whether it’s a documentary or picking up garbage or students claiming their cultural rights of free expression. I’m out there “riding the rails” on Twitter and Facebook, constantly discovering new people and organizations who are coming to Romania or working in Romania and doing good things, encouraging them and linking it all together.

Frankly I’m running a pocket “Ministry of Tourism” right out of my apartment single-handedly. I do it because it’s what I feel called to do and because I like it. I don’t do it for money and I don’t do it to gain your approval.

I also do a lot of things offline and I don’t always write about it. A few months ago I came up on the scene of a rather minor car crash (a few smashed headlights, etc, but no injuries) between a male driver in one car and a female driver in the other car. And the guy was just screaming at the woman, yelling at her, insulting her for causing the accident. I’m sure he was in shock but so was she, and she was crying and terrified. And all the Romanians passing by were just gawking with their idiot mouths hanging open.

And so I stepped into the breach, as it were. I got him under control and told the idiot bank guard hanging around watching “the show” to get a broom and start sweeping up some of the glass. I made sure nobody was injured and that the police were called and were on the way. And I damned made sure that Mr. Angry backed the fuck down and quit screaming at this lady. She might’ve been at fault in the crash (I don’t know as I didn’t see it happen) but intimidating her was not going to happen – not on my watch.

Why? Why did I do these things? I have no statutory authority here. I am not even a citizen much less a police officer or government official. Romanian is my fourth language and no one would confuse me for a perfectly fluent speaker. But I do what I do because of who I am. I don’t treat this world – this reality – as some kind of TV show, to either applaud or else to jeer at, like some kind of passive entertainment.

This is my city (and country), damnit, and I’m not going to sit by and do nothing. If I see a piece of trash on the ground, I just pick it up and put it in the proper receptacle. If someone is mouthing off to customers, I’ll give ’em a piece of my mind. If someone asks me for directions, I take the time to explain how to get there until they understand. Sometimes I’ve accompanied people halfway across town to make sure they get to where they need to go. I’ve helped people find help for stray dogs suffering in the cold. I do all kinds of things offline that I don’t write about (and won’t write about) and I do it for the principle of doing it – not to get my name in the paper, not to get praised or rewarded, and not for money.

Last week I sent about 300 emails to various organizations and companies and NGOs and other outfits that work in Romania or with Romanians, letting them know about my book. Yeah I make a little money if they buy a copy of my book but my motivating factor is to do good things for this country. I got a lot of nice responses but I also got a few nasty ones as well.

Can you guess who wrote the nasty, bitter emails? Romanians. Every single time it’s always the Romanians. Foreigners flipping love my book. But a single email talking about my book and the good things it could (and has!) done for this country? Scorn and bitter, hateful comments from some Romanians.

Same as this blog. The nasty comments universally seem to come from Romanians. Insults, attacks, puerile asides, sometimes downright racist statements, petty ass quibbles over linguistic stuff, always the Romanians. I’m not talking about disagreeing with me (or someone else) but bitching, moaning and whining. Why? If you don’t like what you read here, go somewhere else. It costs you zero money to read what’s here so quit your complaining and go to Zoso’s blog. Go turn on the TV and watch Cronica Carcotasilor or make jokes about how Moldovans speak or look at pictures of LOLcats. Just get out of my house with that attitude.

I write because I have the urge to write. And what I care about is doing good things and living in this wonderful country – and making it more wonderful. If you can’t handle that then go somewhere else. If all this blog is to you is some kind of passive entertainment, like a TV show to amuse you, then go somewhere else. I don’t want you here and you’re just getting in the way. You’re no different than the gawking morons at that car crash, so go drool on someone else’s blog. I got no time and no more patience for this penny ante shit.

The other day I posted a piece with the good news that my book is finally for sale (legally) in this country. It got exactly one comment – from a guy who’s been on board with me since December and excited about the positive things this book can do for Romania. The rest of you? Not a goddamn word. But if I don’t include every nuance of some Romanian word you know, I get an earful.

Seriously, is this really how you want to live? Endless nagging and quibbling and complaining? Do you sleep better at night when you do this? Does it make you smile? Does it spread joy and light in your heart? Really I have to ask – do you even fucking think before opening your mouth or writing those things? Do you? Because I doubt it. I really do.

I already live in Romania. I’ve got a bloc full of quarrelsome, complaining, endlessly bitching neighbors. I can walk down the street if I need more scowling, negative, harping people to talk to. I don’t need any more of it here in my virtual house. So if you think this world is crap, if you think the glass is half empty, if you want to sit around and complain and bitch and moan, you are hereby uninvited. You are not welcome. Go write comments on Youtube or Adevarul’s website because I don’t need you and I don’t want you here.

A lot of people are excited and positive about this country. Those are the only people I want in my life, in my apartment, and on my blog. I truly get inspired and enthusiastic when I get messages, comments and tweets from these positive people and it’s why I still even allow comments on this blog. Most of these positive people are not Romanians but there are some Romanians as well and I’m truly glad you come here, you link this blog on your own websites and forums, and yes, even buy my stuff.

But the rest of you, I don’t need you and I don’t want you. I don’t care if I have 20 readers on this blog or 20 thousand. I write what I write because otherwise I’d explode. It’s really that simple. Get with the program here or else go away. I hate to be so harsh and blunt and use strong language but it seems some of you don’t get the message any other way.

One more thing – although I write almost daily, these posts linger around for a long time. Sometimes people will read – for the first time – something I wrote months and months ago. The comments that you leave also linger around as well, so think!

Remember that someone coming down the pike far into the future is going to read your comments. If you see them appear on the blog (i.e. they’re not in the moderation queue) then everyone can read them, not just me. So you don’t need to tell me “hey tell people this and that” as if other people can’t read them too.

If you want to read this blog and keep your ever lasting gob shut, you’re welcome to do so. If you want to read this blog and add something positive to the discussion, whether positive as in optimistic or positive as in helpful and useful, you’re definitely welcome to do so. But if you come here with an axe to grind and to pick on other people and be insulting and crass and racist, do us all a favor and go visit Zoso. Really. The poor guy has some serious inferiority issues and needs all the visitors and commenters he can get.

Once again – if you got something to say to my face, I’m in public right here in good old Cluj-Napoca at least once per week, usually at my buddy’s bar (35 Str. Clinicilor). You come on down there and say whatever you like, if you’ve got the courage to do so. But if you don’t have the balls to say it to my face, don’t be a coward and write it on the blog.

Okay, are we straight now? Can we go back to normal around here? I hope so. I hate to bust out a SOR on my own blog but my patience limit has been reached. I’m dealing with a whole lot of whining, complaining, negative Romanians offline in trying to roll out my books and it doesn’t leave me with a lot of patience or tolerance for bullshit on this blog, something I do for the sake of doing it.

Sometimes I swear some of you behave worse than my cats – and they literally do nothing productive all day, make a ton of messes, destroy things, never say thank you and scream for food when they’re hungry. But they’re cats and you’re not, so shape up, sheesh.

Okay, rant over. Time to get some regular posts done, eh? Good. Because I’ve got all kinds of things to say about energy, politics, realistic solutions to some real problems, pictures of cats to post, slang words to discuss and yep, even a few manele songs (probably featuring Roxana Printesa Ardealului :P) to parse out.

If that sounds good to you then stick around and we’ll all have some fun :)

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