#99: R.E.M. – Green (1988)

Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not.

I accidentally hired a hooker once. Has that ever happened to you?

It was in 2001, before I became a stay at home dad to my two beautiful doggies. I enjoyed traveling and decided to visit the Czech Republic. On the web-site DestinationPrague.com, I found an amazing package deal.  For $1099 (plus fees), one gets an eight night hotel stay, a couple of meals, tickets to the theater, passage aboard a three-hour jazz cruise through the heart of the city, multiple spa treatments, and four hours with one’s own private tour guide. I’ll take a personal Czech!  This is an amazing deal! I filled out the form with my credit card info and faxed it over. They confirmed receipt via email. I was stoked!

Hold on for a second. That confirmation email? I noted it didn’t come from DestinationPrague.com; rather, it was sent from CzechBoys.com. I typed the URL in my browser. “You must be over 18 to enter this site. If you are over 18, click here.” I clicked there. On my screen there appeared several rows of headshots of young men. One Pavel after another. Talk about a Czech register!

I was confused. What exactly did I pay for? I went back to the Destination Prague website to see if perhaps I missed any clues. Nope. Hotel stay, meals, tickets, spa treatments, personal tour guide. Well, they didn’t call him a “tour guide.” They used a word that means tour guide. Escort. You know, one who accompanies another. They’re called an escort. I booked an escort.

Before I go any further, let me just say that I know what escort means in America. I’m not completely green. But this was Prague.  English isn’t their first language, so why would I think they knew our slang?

I already paid, plus I didn’t know if I actually booked an escort one who accompanies another or an escort Czechoslovakia boom-sha-boom. The email from CzechBoys.com had me pretty sure it was the boom-sha-boom. I had to think about this. For $1099 (plus fees) I’m getting eight nights in a hotel in a beautiful city, meals, shows, spa treatments, and somebody with whom to bake a potato? This deal was more amazing than I initially thought. Beyond stoked for this trip!

Two weeks after I purchased the hotel/spa/hooker package I got another e-mail from the travel agency that began “I’m sorry to have to bring some very disappointing and disturbing news.” It went on to tell me that the Czech police are cracking down on underage prostitutes. Wait, what? “If your plans to come here were partly based on meeting some young men….” No! Old churches! Art! Architecture! I travel to Europe to see that and to overtip waiters. And while it’s true that once I realized what I had done my anticipation grew, that was not why I booked the trip. The email also said that due to a police raid I could no longer stay in the hotel where they booked me. Wait, What – Part II Electric Boogaloo?  “If you would like us to try to put you at another hotel, please let us know and we will tell you the additional cost.”

Additional cost? Grrr. “Yes, please book me into another hotel,” I responded, adding “though I’m very disappointed I’m not getting what I contracted for.” I probably should have been clearer that I was referring to the less expensive hotel, though seeing that it was shut down by the police, there’s a better than average chance it wasn’t a Michelin 4-star property.

I didn’t get a reply. I wrote them again. Nothing. Days passed. It’s almost time for my trip, and I don’t know where I am staying, if someone is going to pick me up from the airport, etc.

I imagined the police shut down the “travel agency,” arrested everyone who worked there (poor Pavels) and confiscated their computers.  Guess whose name is in those computers!  Mine – Greeny McClueless! The Czech police will be waiting for me at the airport. Before I even get off the plane I’ll get arrested and will be thrown in an Eastern European prison cell, which, ironically, I will share with my escort. 

I had no intention of starring in the sequel to Midnight Express. Friends said they’d serve as character witnesses at my trial. “Yes, your honor, Glenn really is that naïve.”

First things first, though.  My credit card was billed $1338 (damn those extra fees!), and it looked like I was not going to get what I paid for. I wanted that money returned to me, should I need it for bail. I called my bank. “Customer Service? I need a credit for the $1338 charge on my statement.”

“Why? What happened?” 

“Ummmmmmm…services cannot be rendered.” 

“We’ll issue a temporary credit, and mail you a form to fill out.”

“Great! Thank you!” Glad that got resolved with my dignity intact.

I received the form a few days later. I filled in the transaction date, the amount, and wrote that my recent attempts to reach the merchant were unsuccessful. As part of the bank’s investigation, I was instructed to return the form with all supporting documents. All supporting documents, huh? “The police are cracking down on underage prostitutes.” “I’m disappointed I’m not getting what I contracted for.” Here you go, Chase Banker. I learned something about myself that day. The value of my pride is $1099. Plus fees.

Ultimately, I got my credit. I went to Prague. I didn’t get arrested. I found my way around on my own, and I had a great time. I ended up in a nice hotel, saw great art and beautiful architecture, luxuriated in the most relaxing spa treatments, had many delicious meals, and didn’t have to endure a jazz cruise and pretend I was enjoying it. So to you I say, should you wish to book a travel, go up to Czech without a Pavel.

My naiveté has gotten me into other precarious situations. I’ll save those stories for another time. Right now I should say something about my number 99 album. I don’t love R.E.M.’s Green solely because its title describes me. It was the first R.E.M. album I bought upon its release, and their then new label, Warner Records, put a lot of promotion behind it, so I got to soak it in for a good long while. It holds a special place for me as it was the big stepping stone to my becoming a huge fan of the band. And because I eventually got a job in the catalogue division of Warner Music, I now have five copies of Green. I added the group’s entire back catalogue to my collection and every subsequent album I got on release date.

There’s more R.E.M. to come on this list.

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