Monday, September 28, 2009

Wau! Podzim je mýtus!

Well, I've had a pretty busy but very fulfilling couple of months but now that the summer's over I'm kind of shocked by how happy I am to have the bitter cold back. Don't get me wrong, I don't like being cold. I hate it, in fact. But I really like what the cold does to you. The way it makes your blood race. The slight sting of the frost. I'm looking forward to the snow hiding all of the grays and browns. The cabin-fever-induced productivity. After growing up in a place where you throw a party whenever a hurricane hits I think I've acquired a taste for extreme weather.

Anyway, my busy days all started when I hosted my first visitor from back home:


He was only here for a little over a week but we packed as much bro-ing down as we could into the limited time we had together. In between exploring the city, strolling through parks, and drinking lots of beer, we found the time to take a daytrip to Kutna Hora with my roommate David.
We visited the infamous Sedlec Ossuary (the bone chapel!)...

...where I posed for a picture that now makes me feel obligated to record a death metal album.

Then we went to see St. Barbara's Church but were quickly asked to leave after Derek ate one of the gargoyles.

And before we headed back to Praha we took a couple spins on the local Bobova Draha and unleashed our inner 12 year-olds (who am I kidding, our inner 12 year-olds are never restrained)

As we wandered around Prague I was happy to see how much of an interest Derek took in the city's cultural history, particularly it's sculptures.

As a nice twist of fate, his visit coincided with the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. We celebrated the occasion by treating ourselves to a Leonard Cohen concert. He's now a Buddhist and he's getting up there in age, but he was surprisingly spry, dancing on and off stage between the encores. Even though he's touring to raise money to deal with financial troubles, it seems like his religious path has brought him peace. Of course the downside of this is that you'll never again hear him howl an epic drunken self-loathing performance like "Please Don't Pass Me By". But he's still got plenty of songs of love, loss, and redemption that have a really poignant ring now that he's found peace. I loved the show, as did Derek (despite missing "Hallelujah" on a piss break).

After we had such a great time together, Derek was thinking about skipping his return flight and staying with me here in Prague but that option disappeared when I was eaten by a giant tree, so he went back home.

Having an old friend to talk to in person allowed me a great deal of badly needed self-reflection. Seeing such a familiar face in the streets of my new home allowed me to build a little bit of a bridge back to my life as a whole. For a long time I felt like the plane touching down at Ruzyne Airport was the start of my life. I felt like a recovering amnesiac. I saw my past like it was a dream or something that had happened to somebody else. But having D here to have big "life" conversations with allowed me to reclaim myself and was a fantastic reminder of where I come from.

Speaking of where I come from, with a little luck and a lot of digging I passed through the tree's digestive system just in time to welcome a visit from my mom (Hi Mom!). Though we didn't make it out to Kutna Hora, it was a wonderful visit. It was awesome getting to be the straw that broke the camel's complete lack of trips to Europe. I sort of felt like a 7 year-old again, showing off the picture of an epic dinosaur battle that I drew in art class, only instead of just scribbles of crayons it was actually something almost as cool as a dino-battle. To top it off, while Mom was in town Marit returned from her summer sojourn in Scandinavia.

Since then I've been busy teaching, playing music, hangin' out, and studying Czech. Lately I've been using television as a study aid, particularly a very dubbed Walker: Texas Ranger. Needless to say I revel in the irony of using a 100% flag-wavingly American show to learn a language that most Americans don't know exists.

So this morning we got the first snow of the new winter. Autumn was a short handful of days of very confused weather and it feels like winter following her tail in circles before she lies down and sleeps on the city for the next 6 months. Got no complaints here!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Where is that sound coming from?

Well, it's been a fairly quiet and lazy summer. Between everyone being out of town and a lightened workload, I've had a lot more free time to.... well....what have I been up to again??

Oh yeah.... I guess the big news is that I'm back to playing music, after an almost year-long exile from my oldest dearest friend. I've been practicing weekly with my new french friend Clementine. We're going to start off by playing covers of old standards and early rock music and once we get our sound down we'll starting working on originals. I have a lot of ideas for directions to go with it but the only things I'm sure of is that our music will be 1)synthy 2)noisy 3)fun and 4)good (not sure if I've ever been this confident about future creative output but maybe moving to the other side of the world and starting your life anew does something for your self-confidence). Clementine's got a wonderful voice and I've been finding my voice more and more, thanks in part to the help of karaoke night at the Blind Eye (which I co-hosted for a couple weeks while Noah was out of town). We've been practicing in the centruries-old basement of Clem's apartment building in a space we've dubbed "the Dungeon". During our first practice a man was subdued by heroic firemen while attempting to jump off the roof of the building across the street and since we've moved our operations into the Dungeon it has rained during every practice, so maybe we're fated to be a little goth, too. I also suspect that I'll be starting a solo project at some point in the near future, as an outlet for my even noisier inclinations.

Other than music, the second most exciting part of the summer has been that after a lifetime of slowing down and scanning for shamrocks when walking by clover patches, I've finally found not one, but TWO four-leaf clovers. Not only that, but in the same week that I found the first I saw a full rainbow. I'm not generally superstitious but hopefully this indicates good things to come.

One beautiful Saturday a couple weeks ago, Clementine and I were tempted away from a planned band practice by an offer from a friend of hers to take a daytrip to Český Šternberk, an old majestic castle out in the countryside about 50km from Prague. We drove out there and spent the majority of the day walking around the town, hiking in the woods, and generally soaking in the fresh air and idyllic scenery. It was a perfect break from the bustling city life.

I'm proud to say that I've also managed to spend a lot of my free time studying Czech. I'm still pretty far from being a conversationalist but I've almost learned all of the convoluted case endings and I feel like I'm getting a much better grasp of the language.

Other than that and teaching, I haven't really been doing much. The biggest and most exciting news on the horizon is that Derek is coming to visit me in a week and my mom is following suit a few weeks later! It'll be fantastic to see people that I've known for more than 8 months. And even moreso that I'll be able to show them around this crazy town.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Captain's Log:Stardate 6.7.09

I've officially been in Prague for 6 months and I still don't know what to make of this wondrous multi-headed beast.

What I do know is that beer is best when it's mixed (or řezané).

I know the importance and surprising depth of fleeting friendships.

I know how to say "cheers" in a few more languages.

I know that you actually can get used to walking around in a city full of fairy-tale architecture. But it's not just a simple matter of familiarizing yourself and "getting over it." Something really great happens in your subconscious when you can walk casually past things like this and this without looking up, instead just feeling the details and history of the atmosphere in your bones. It injects a dose of romanticism into your heart. It puts a spring in your step. It gives you back a little bit of your childhood.

But perhaps most relevant of all, I know that despite missing some really amazing people (and food), I won't be coming home any time soon. (even accounting for the shifting nature of the word "home" itself)

Love y'all

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP King of Pop

You will be missed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What, me macabre?

I've been thinking a little lately about Spalding Gray and his constant search for "perfect moments". It's not that I'm on the same quest but I do think that two of the most important things in life are collecting stories and experiencing these perfect little moments. I don't know if mine reach the same intensity of Spalding's but maybe that's a good thing (I don't know if I'm ready yet to share his fate).

But the other night I was coming home late from a private lesson and thank god the tram reached my stop when it did because I was listening to Dracula Mountain by Lightning Bolt on my headphones and I didn't know how still I'd be able to sit when the song kicked into overdrive again about halfway through. On the two block walk from the tram stop to my apartment I was really very pleasantly surprised by the way that a song that I hadn't listened to in years could still fill me with such joy and light a spark in my adrenals. And just when I thought my smile couldn't get any bigger I turned the corner to see fireworks bursting in the west-texas-big evening sky, perfectly augmenting the already gorgeous view that I have from my front door. I really love it when you can feel how the present is just a collision between the past and future.

I've since asked a few of my students about the occasions for this and other inexplicable displays of pyrotechnics I've witnessed and they just generally shrug their shoulders. Apparently fireworks just happen sometimes in this city.

Another nice surprise came on a Saturday afternoon when Marit and I were showing her brother and her friend around the tourist parts of town. We were walking down the street and we noticed what seemed to be a small group of zombies staggering towards us, so out of respect for the dead we stepped to the side to let them pass. But what at first seemed like only a handful of sanguine catatonic strollers soon turned into an entire horde of brain-hungry undead. Thankfully the Swedes and I had all left our brains soaking in jars back at Marit's, so they didn't hassle us too much. But it was nice to see trails of blood splattered all over the cobblestone streets of Old Town (which I'm sure has seen much more horrifying events than a few hundred zombies wandering around).

Prague recently held it's own incarnation of the international theater Fringe Festival. I was very busy at the time, but I was able to make it to a wonderful show called Kubrilesque, which is as you might guess a burlesque interpretation of the films of Stanley Kubrick. It's not every day you get to see beautiful women stripping their way out of monkey costumes or showing off fishnets while rolling around in a wheelchair routine.

Two weeks ago Marit left to go work for the summer in Scandinavia. I promised myself that I'd spend this summer in as lighthearted and sunshiny a way as possible, so naturally the first thing I did when she left town was take a trip to Olšanské Hřbitovy (Olsanske Cemetary) with Roni.

We peeked into the abysses of cracked tombs (yes, that's an IMAX),

played the statue game,

and tried our best not to get swallowed by the ivy.

Thanks to the play that I'm in, I've also had the luxury of spending my Friday and Saturday nights lying down drunk in an alleyway waiting for tourists to come kick me awake and question me about a murder investigation. But hey, at least I've still got my dignity.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Easy Like Sunday Mornin'

Here's a great song for y'all. I can't find a proper studio version of this anywhere, but I don't think the song needs one.

Dog Faced Hermans - Bella Ciao

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Is this sentence really a lie? Probly.

Tak……I guess it’s about time for a proper post.

While walking through the square near my apartment today, I noticed the unmistakable scent of freshly-cut grass. To someone coming from a sub-tropical climate where the grass can grow up to 3 inches in a week in the summer, this smell means home. I felt another item on a sort of subconscious checklist being ticked. Something to do with conflating places through familiar sensations. Probably something Proust wrote about it, but I wouldn’t know because his writing style bores me to tears. Anyway, this sort of mental nesting has been a recurring theme for me the past few weeks and has been pretty key to staving off any homesickness that might crop up (especially since a couple of my friends from the TEFL program have bowed out and returned home already).

The most intense of these “adjustment” moments came a few nights ago, while I was waiting for Marit at the I.P. Pavlova tram stop. It was a Tuesday night in the city and I was probably one of the few people in town trying to find a proper place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The weather was comfortable enough and, save for a few fellow pedestrians, I pretty much had the street to myself. In the quiet of the night and the absence of the seemingly inescapable language barrier, I started to feel like the city was mine, that I was no longer a “cizinec” (foreigner). And in that same moment something clicked for me. Something that had been nagging at me for months.

When I first arrived in Prague I was completely taken aback by the beauty of this place. It really is quite something. It was actually too beautiful for me.

I was disappointed.

You see, when I first fell in love with this place through the books of Hrabal, Kundera, etc., it wasn’t the grandeur of their prose that attracted me, but the inwardness, irreverence, humility, and self reflection of their writing. They didn’t celebrate the extraordinary so much as the simple beauties and truths of beer, sex, music, and philosophy. Underneath everything there was always a touching way of laughing respectfully in the face of tragedy. A knowledge that brutal history is just that: history. They managed to bring to light the soft, forgiving undercurrent of love in everything, even suicide. I’ve had the hardest time trying to reconcile the Prague that Czech literature inspired in my imagination with the Prague that’s right here in front of me every day. The poetic drunken debauchery of Hanta has been the square peg to the round hole of the almost stuffy majesty of the ornate spires and statues in the gothic/baroque/etc. architecture of the city. There is so much beauty and history here that the city itself almost stands like an intimidating monolith. So yes, I was disappointed.

But I shouldn’t be so surprised that the city of Franz Kafka is a city of contradictions. After all, I think there are almost as many cathedrals here as there are Christians. And being a lover of paradoxes, I shouldn’t get so frustrated and stubborn when brought face to face with them. The more time I spend here the more I understand how the history here can simultaneously inspire the humility of knowing your infinitesimally small place in the gears of time and pride in knowing that you are in some way bound to the magnificence of the city’s splendor, be it through blood or fate or whatever the hell else keeps you here. It’s almost like a pride that makes you humble. Prague has retained is beauty through the centuries thanks in large part to this odd combination. Its survival always makes me think about this amazing conversation in Catch 22:

Old Man: You all crazy!
Nately: Why are we crazy?
Old Man: Because you don't know how to stay alive. And that's the secret of life.
Nately: But we have a war to win.
Old Man: But America will lose the war; Italy will win it.
Nately: America's the strongest nation on earth. The American fighting man is the best trained, the best equipped, the best fed.
Old Man: Exactly. Italy, on the other hand, is one of the weakest nations on earth. The Italian fighting man is hardly equipped at all. That's why my country is doing so well, while your country is doing so poorly.
Nately: That's just silly! First Italy was occupied by the Germans, and now by us. You call that doing well?
Old Man: Of course I do. The Germans are being driven out, and we are still here. In a few years, you'll be gone, and we will still be here. You see, Italy is a very poor, weak country, and that is what makes us so strong. Strong enough to survive this war and still be in existence... ...long after your country has been destroyed.

Anyway, I guess that’s enough falafel-sizing for now. I’m not much of a writer so I don’t know if any of my dots will connect for any of you, but they’re connecting pretty well in my head.

So here’s a quick run down of the cold hard facts of what I’ve been up to since my last post w/substance.

  1. Saw the Obama speech in front of the castle. It was pretty amazing, even though the speech wasn’t his best. He’s 10x’s a better speaker in person than on the TV. The man knows how to work a microphone like Marvin Gaye.

  1. Definitely still teaching. I got some classes at a pretty great school and I like every student I’ve had so far. Still have tons to learn but I’m getting better.

  1. I got cast in this tour guide/guerilla theater who-dun-it thing that takes place on the streets of Prague. The suspect that I’m playing is this alcoholic psychotic janitor who just got laid off by the theatre he worked for. I’m gonna get paid to “act” like I’m drunk and “act” like I’m insulting American tourists.

  1. Been spending almost too much time in gorgeous parks this spring. Relaxation is all well and good but sometimes I feel like a layabout.

  1. Still DJing semi-regularly at the Blind Eye. It’s a fun gig. It’s a good way to have a fun Saturday night sharing good tunes, dancing, and drinking free.

  1. It turns out me and my friend Eli won a Storer Boone award (Stoner BonerLOL is a New Orleans theatre award) for best set design for the design we did for “Assassins.” Though I don’t generally care about these kinds of things, it’s given me an odd sense of closure about leaving behind a job that I really dearly loved. It allows me to apply some sort of Veni! Vidi! Vici! logic to the situation instead of feeling like I should be back there continuing with the job that I was so good at.

  1. I’ve been karaoke-ing fairly regularly as it is my only musical outlet until I get some instruments shipped over. Though I think I might’ve just found a bandmate to start working with.

  1. Tomorrow is a national holiday celebrating the end of WWII. Andrea and Ulana are hosting a potluck at their apartment for the remaining TEFL grads of our class. I am cooking some spicy spinach. I am soooo pumped.

Anyway, gotta go meet some friends at this awesome beer garden with one of the best views of the city.

Na shledanou!

Monday, April 27, 2009

two mosquitoes with one slap

Just taking a brief break from some heavy duty lesson planning to let y'all know I'm surviving in style. Here's a fantastic song for you:

Thieves Like Us - Your Heart Feels

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!!!!

It's really hard to ignore a holiday when the world around you is celebrating it.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Boogie We Can Believe In

Time for another Saturday tune. As it stands now, it looks like I'm DJing tonight at the Blind Eye in Zizkov and then attempting to wake up bright and early to assure myself a spot in Hradcanske Namesti to see President Obama deliver his first speech in Europe as leader of the free world. In keeping with both themes of my weekend, here's a great medley of the Flinstones theme song and Hail to the Chief as performed by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band:


Sunday, March 29, 2009


So I borrowed a camera from my wonderful friend Roni (thanks again!) and took some pics of things. Here are some snippets of a day in my life.

I wake up and turn on the light. The Czech light switch, which is similar to its American counterpart in operation, is far superior in design due to an increased smackability:

Then I gotta unleash the dragon (pee). I know. You're jealous. It's only natural.

Then I step outside my apartment and breathe in the frigid air. Ahhh, what a doorstep view!

Then I gotta go teach. I take the metro to Pankrac and take a leisurely walk to my class. On the way....what's that?.......that's right, more beautiful scenery!

Class is over! On the way home I gotta stop by the store. Just down the street from my local grocery store just happens to be a mural dedicated to my favorite author, Bohumil Hrabal. Apparently he used to live in this neighborhood.

It's a rare sunny day so I walk home instead of taking the tram. Here's an abandoned theatre/cafe/etc. that Hrabal used to write about:

And here's some random nice old building on the way home:

Walking through the park. I'm almost home!! (my building is the yellow one)

Later that day I dropped off a job application at a school in Zizkov. I'm glad they never called me back because their street is pretty crooked.

Instead of just tramming it home, I decided to walk under the mountain to get from Zizkov to the Krizikova metro station. The tunnel is one of my favorite places in Prague. The acoustics are just amazing.

In the afternoon, Marit and I went for a walk around town. I promised myself I wouldn't take any touristy pictures but I succumbed for a couple minutes (these next 3 pictures are all taken on the same 2-block spanse).

some building:

some fountain:

some CASTLE!!:

Later in the evening we met up with Roni in her neighborhood for dinner. Little did I realize that the artist David Cerny had a sculpture in this neighborhood of a pink Soviet tank sinking into the mud. This is of course in reference to his previous act of vandalism inflicted on the Moument to Soviet tank crews. I think reading about Cerny in Hrabal's Total Fears (which is the first book that made me fall in love with this city) was probably what began my fascination with the color pink.
So I gave Roni her camera back. Thanks again Roni!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jaro je tady!!

So even though Spring officially started a week ago, today was the first day that I was able to walk around outside comfortably without a coat. After my first real winter, the sun and the warmth felt amazing. The next 5 or 6 months are gonna be heaven.

In honor of such a lovely day, here's a Tom Lehrer classic for y'all:

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Come on baby. Get in this mud with me.

Alright, well I'm still having trouble getting these mixes into a sharable form, so I've decided to post a song a week until I figure this out.

So I've been dling a ton of New Orleans and Louisiana music from the 50s to the 70s because I want to start DJing a New Orleans music night at a bar somewhere around here. This track isn't by any means the funkiest or most danceable of the songs I've hoarded, but I can't help but chuckle every time I listen to it. Enjoy!

Danny James - Boogie in the Mud

PS-sorry to all the mac users, but it's in wma format. I'm sure you'll figure something out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring is on its way, I can almost taste it

Sorry it's taken forever to update. I was hoping to unveil the new blog look with a mix available for download but I keep running into tech roadblock after tech roadblock trying to make that happen. So you'll have to settle for more words and a couple pictures.

I've begun teaching! I only have 2 elementary classes and 2 advanced classes per week so far, but I'm loving it. All of my students are fantastic and fun. The hardest part of the job, lesson planning, is getting easier each week.

Whilst job hunting online I stumbled across a few ads looking for American males for "dubbing." Now, I've heard that the porn industry is pretty big here in Prague, so I can't help but assume that these "dubbing" jobs will require just as much of a mastery of American English as the ability to give a good groan on command. I possess both of these talents. Unfortunately, both of the jobs were already taken, but since that morning I search for "dub" on the employment sites every day. A dream has been inspired within me of making a full time living as a voice actor for Czech porn. I know you're all thinking "but Kyle, you're a star, you don't need to work behind the scenes, GET IN FRONT OF THAT CAMERA!" Well I'm saving myself for Jesus, so you'll just have to make do with my luscious voice. I hope!

Back to real life. As I'm sure some of you know by now, I've been seeing a lovely Swedish pre-med student named Marit for a while. For one of our first dates we went to see the ABBA show with some of her fellow students. They were about the most faithful, impressive tribute band I ever could've imagined. Going to see the equivalent of ABBA with a Swede was almost like getting invited by the Pope into the Vatican to see the Ark of the Covenant. Only Abba are way cooler than the Ark.

On Valentine's Day there was a pink-themed party at this great bookstore/cafe/bar called Shakespeare & Sons. I know many of you might think that a pink party is right up my alley, but I got rid of all my pink clothes as part of the whole "starting over" thing. All I kept is my Flash Gordon belt buckle with the pink lightning bolt. I still ended up going to the party with some friends, just not in costume. In the back room there was a little Valentine's themed open-mic nite. During a lull in the evening I decided to serenade the room with my now-legendary rendition of "the Girl from Ipanema." We went out dancing after that and then took a midnight walk up to the castle. A week later I did my laundry and apparently one of my red shirts felt the need to share its dye with the rest of the wash. Pink has followed me to Prague. Apparently not everything can be left in the past.

A few days later was Masopust in Prague! The celebrations were very similar to those of Vesely Kopec only there was a parade through the streets of Zizkov, stilt-walkers, free beer, and some Marigny-looking mutant bike. It was nice.

My name day for Svatopluk landed on Feb. 23rd. Marit, Josef, Barbara and I went out for some good authentic Czech food. I drank some Slivovice, which is a plum brandy and one of the CzR's national drinks (right after beer, wine, absinthe, and Becherovka). We met up with some friends afterwards for Karaoke at the Blind Eye.

A couple of weeks ago two of Marit's Swedish friends came to visit. Thanks in large part to the wonderful care package sent by my mom (THANKS MOM!), I was able to treat them to a small American junk food feast. A main course of fritos and rotel dip followed by a dessert of peanut butter rice krispie treats with chocolate on top. MAGNIFIQUE!

Later that night we went to go see My Name Is Ann again. This time at Hall C, which was more like the punk warehouse artspaces I'm accustomed to seeing shows in back in the states. They were predictably fantastic.

That's all I've got the patience to share right now. But how do you like the new blog layout? Snazzy, huh?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Rad tančim a zpívam

I graduated from the course on friday. It was an almost hellish four weeks but I've got a fantastic feeling of accomplishment. I'm pretty sure I'm fully equipped to become a great teacher, too. Just in the lessons we taught at TEFL, I got a really proud glow whenever I heard my students using new lexis or grammar that I had taught them. Now it's time to job hunt. I've got an interview on Tuesday and am in the process of scheduling a few more.

I'm moving in to a new place today. I'll be living in Liben (Praha 8) with some Czech friends I just recently made, David and Karolina. I'll be sharing a room with David, but it's a pretty big room and he travels a lot, so i won't be wanting for privacy too much. Plus, I get my healthiest chunks of alone time when I'm just walking around the streets of the city. The apartment is pretty sweet. It's got wifi (hint: Skype: for those of you who haven't heard my voice in ages), a transparent aquarium-looking toilet seat and lid, and a beautiful view of the city when you walk out the front door.

Yesterday, Josef and his girlfriend Barbara took me out on a daytrip to Vesely Kopec, a centuries-old village out in the beautiful hills of Moravia. We went to celebrate Masopust (the czech mardi gras). A couple dozen locals were dressed up in ridiculous costumes, drinking, dancing, and marking everyone's face with coal. I'm still not sure of the significance of the coal. The whole experience actually reminded me more of the May Day festival in the Wicker Man than of NOLA's Mardi Gras. It was still loads of fun though. At one point I wandered up a snow-covered mountain and for a second thought that I was in the Sound of Music. Josef veered off the main roads for a while onto a country road in the middle of nowhere so his beautiful beagle, Rosara, could run alongside the car for a while. We ended up getting stuck in the snow and spent about 30 minutes shoveling the snow out from under his Škoda and trying to push the car out of the trap we had landed in. Needless to say, it was some of the most fun I've had in ages. Josef and Barbara took lots of pictures, so i'll try to post them when I can get a hold of them. For lunch we ate at this little uber-authentic Czech restaurant nearby that's been around for over a hundred years. I had my first non-smazeny syr Czech food so far (in my defense, being a vegetarian rules out about 95% of the Czech diet for me). It was what I think were boiled nuggets of potatoes smothered in sheep's cheese, with a side of cabbage. Delicious (is anyone else bothered by the fact that sight, touch, and taste are the only three senses that get their own adjectives regarding quality? or am i really just forgetting something. i guess smell has it too, but i'm having an impossible time thinking of a word that means "good sounding" If you can think of something, please prove me wrong). I also went to Josef's birthday party a few days ago and had some homemade pickled birthday cabbage. I had no idea cabbage was so delicious. I think my diet is about to get another staple food.

On my birthday a couple weeks ago, a few of us went out to Karaoke at this place called the Molotow Cocktail. The vast majority of songs sung that night were sad ballads in Czech. I sang the Final Countdown. It was nice.

thanks to pilates, I can now touch my toes. This is exciting.

In by brief moments of spare time lately, I've been doing a good bit of dancing, a very healthy enterprise. The main place I've gone is this club called Lucerna, where every Friday and Saturday night they have 80s and 90s dance night. It's quite a different experience from what you'd find in America. There are still as many meathead douchebags and flaky girls as you'd see at the American equivalent, but when the whole crowd goes crazy for shit like "cotton eyed joe" and "barbie girl" you can't help but shake your head in wonderment. They make up for it with healthy doses of Abba, Boney M, and Kylie Minogue (her Stock Aitken Waterman stuff). Though why they're always so eager to play Gloria Gaynor and the Village People and never go for the gold with Donna Summer is beyond me.

That's all I can think of for now.

PS-Czechs celebrate name days as much as they do birthdays, so I've chosen my own Czech name: Svatopluk. It's the name of a legendary Czech king and it means "Saint Column." Meaning the military form of "column." I intend to learn how to ice skate, eventually achieve Czech citizenship, and lead the Czech curling team to its first ever olympic championship as Svatopluk Herbert. So keep your ears to the ground, because the Svatopluk train is on its way. Later in life I will write and direct a Rocky style movie simply called Svatopluk and Survivor will come out of the woodwork to write a song more inspiring than Eye of the Tiger, the Final Countdown, Don't Stop Believing, and You're the Best put together. Just look out is all I'm sayin'.

Monday, January 19, 2009

week 2.5

So I don't even know where to pick up.

The last few weeks have felt like months. This one included.

I made it through my first week of classes. Three more to go. They weren't kidding when they said it was intensive. I've already taught for two 15 minute sessions and one 45 minute session. I've got two 45 minute sessions every week until it's over. School is fascinating. Teaching language is both a science and an extremely delicate art. There's a lot more psychology and theater involved than i thought. I've got two excellent teachers/trainers, one of whom co-founded the school. His name is Terry and I do a mean impression of him. Watching him teach us is like taking that first bite of some good tuna tataki or having a really good kiss (i'm not trying to sexualize him, he's just THAT good at teaching).

My classmates are a fascinating bunch. Anyone who's willing to drop everything and move to a foreign country has got to have at least one good story to tell. My roommate is a Bostonian basketball player named Ray who has a penchant for electronic music and can drink almost anyone I know under the table. He and I have come to the agreement that our apartment used to belong to an old lady who recently passed away. There's a china cabinet taking up an entire wall in my bedroom. I also forgot to tell you that you have to hold the knob down to keep the oven on, so when i want the bread on my egg and cheese sandwiches to be toasted, the whole thing turns into a fairly amusing acrobatic act. I've been doing pilates almost every day and i can almost touch my toes without bending my knees. i'm very excited about this fact.

At nights, I've been meeting fairly regularly at a teahouse with a Czech friend that I've made named Josef. He responded to an ad I posted on craigslist about a czech/english language swap. He speaks English very well, but he's out of practice and has forgotten a lot, so I'm providing him with some good English conversation and he's teaching me Czech. He speaks Czech, Russian, Polish, French, English, and some Chinese and Spanish and works as a yoga instructor/tour guide all over Europe. Our last lesson wasn't much of a lesson, but he invited me over to his awesome apartment. he's aparrently an amateur photographer and he showed me a bunch of beautiful pictures he's taken of prague and other wonderful european sights. His girlfriend came over and we drank fancy Thai tea and chatted about random stuff. They're both very kind people. At our next meeting we're going to watch Easy Rider and I'm going help him out with the parts he doesn't understand. He's very excited about it. Every time he brings up the movie he tries to explain to me what he loves about it and talks about a freedom that doesn't exist anymore and eventually gazes off into the distance with a smile on his face.

Friday night I dragged some of my classmates out to see My Name Is Ann, who are the only czech band that i know of that I really take a liking to. They played in the basement of the Chapeau Rouge, which ended up feeling like some bizarre combination of Spellcaster Lodge and castle greyskull. The music was great, though of course being the stickler I am, I spent half of it dancing and half of it thinking about all of the things that could've been done better. I also found that the bathroom waiting area is about the easiest place to buy drugs in the world. Not that I'm looking, but i guess it's nice to be in-the-know. I got a little sad at one point in the night and wandered away from my friends/the bar and took a nice refreshing walk around the area (which is the heart of the inspiring Stare Mesto) before drunkenly hopping onto Tram 54, which is a godsend. It was like a magical fairy who picked me up from the heart of the city and dropped me off at my doorstep. I passed out for the entirety of the 45 minute ride and only woke up a stop before mine. Funny how the fates shine so brightly sometimes.

Saturday night I dragged almost the whole class out to this place called "the pub" where you sit at a table with 4 taps in the middle, so everyone can pour their own drinks. They keep a tally of all of the drinks (a half a liter counting as a drink) and you compete with other tables at the bar, and other tables at other bars in the franchise, which are scattered all over central Europe. We did our best to compete, but being in one of the beer capitals of the world, we were under-equipped merely by the virtue of our being American. The 54 took me home that night, too.

I'm finally starting to figure out what it is about this place that moves me so much. Part of it is what it has in common with New Orleans, my eternal home (though i don't know when i'll ever return and currently have no desire to do so beyond to see those who i love and to eat crawfish again). It's a place where higher art meets the average guy. For years under communism the artists, poets, writers, musicians, and intellectuals in general were forced into jobs as street sweepers, barrel rollers, trash compactors, etc. in order to keep them out of positions of influence at all costs. This brought about a bizarre connection between the intellectual and working class, which i feel like is an important aspect in the heart of new orleans. i'm a big fan of the idea that the greatest thinkers and most creative people in a zeitgeist should be searched out in dive bars. Prague and New Orleans are the greatest examples of this that i can think of. The defining difference being that New Orleans as a city is stuck in its past (though it is indeed a beautiful, beautiful past) to such an extent that it will only stifle its future unless something changes drastically. Prague on the other hand, though it has an amazingly deep pride in its rich and storied history (far beyond anything i ever saw in New Orleans), is extremely forward thinking, both politically and artistically. They've got the presidency of the EU right now and they fund the arts more than any place in america ever has. It doesn't hurt that all you ever have to do around here to lift your spirits is take a walk around town. There's just so much beauty here.

Going to an expat Obama inauguration party at some restaurant right off Vaclavske Namesti tomorrow night. Feel sorry for those of you back home who will be at work during the speech and not drinking with friends. I'll dedicate a drink to all of y'all back home.

Gonna go take a midnight walk around the neighborhood right now to try to find this massive mural painted in remembrance of Bohumil Hrabal, my favorite author, who apparently lived in the same area of this internet cafe/bar I'm at right now. Wow. I mean really, fucking wow.

hope everyone is doing well and has love filling their lives.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Beyond the Moon

so for those of you that wanted to know more about prague than "the fucking moon" this is what's gone down lately. despite staying up all night sunday night i barely got any sleep during the flight, but oh well. i got into prague around 7 in the morning. the year's first snow had just ended but it was still several inches thick on the ground. I found out from the girl who was at the hotel to welcome me that it was almost as exciting for her to see as it was for me, since it apparently didn't really snow last year. She gave me a minitour of the area i'll be staying and studying in (called Prague 9, it's sort of Prague's New Orleans East).

I'm in an apartment with a private room and a kitchen/bathroom i'll be sharing with one other person, who hasn't moved in yet. the apartment is definitely what jef would refer to as a "human storage unit." the building is a perfect example of the sterile, functionalist architectural style employed by the communists. I find it charming rather than depressing, since all I have to do to see some of the most beautiful architecture in the world is walk 30 seconds down to the metro and take a ten minute ride. after she showed me around Prague 9 I hopped on said Metro and went down to explore the streets of Stare Mesto (old town). It's even more amazing than pictures suggest. Every street is like something straight out of a fairytale.

In the last three and a half days all i've done is walk and walk. every muscle, joint, and bone in my legs and feet aches but i can't help but keep going. Here's the lowdown on some specifics:

The metronome isn't in working order right now but it's still a beautiful sight to see and it's right next to a gorgeous park scattered with what look a lot like douglas firs and blanketed in a few inches of pristine snow.

The Charles Bridge is really a lot more amazing than I expected. It's just a walking bridge and from it you get a really great view of the Vltava and both banks (each of which are full of beautiful buildings). Each statue (there must be at least 20) is a great work of art in itself.

The Kafka museum is a lot more entertaining than i expected, considering how boring of a life he led. the moving sculpture/fountain out front of the two men pissing towards each other is really something to see, though one of the men's gears must have broken down, so he only pees in one spot right now. Inside the museum, the documents, pictures, letters, manuscripts, and stories of his life are all spread among a handful of rooms, each with its own theme very much in keeping with the feel of his works. Like the room about his job, which is walled in with towers of menacing black file cabinets. i don't really know how to describe it well, so i'll just say that the whole feel of the place is very kafkaesque.

Next to the Kafka museum was a small exhibit about the life (thus far) and work of Vaclav Havel, the great Czech playwright, revolutionary, and president. His role in the Velvet Revolution was even more inspiring and exciting than I had previously thought. Gotta love a great leader who's more than eager to make fun of himself or crack a cheesy joke at the drop of a hat.

other than the metronome, park, and the museums, i've been avoiding exploring the real tourist mecca of mala strana (the west bank of the Vltava), which is Hradcny, the largest palace complex in all of europe. I think i might wait until i meet some of my fellow students before embarking on that journey.

Other than that, I've actually spent most of my time on the east bank so far, mainly in the sections called Stare Mesto (Old town), Nove Mesto (New Town, which is only 7 or 8 hundred years old), and Zizkov.

The center of Stare Mesto is Old Town Square, which is the home of the old Town Hall, the breathtaking church of Our Lady before Tyn, and The Astronomical Clock. Supposedly the king at the time had the clockmaker's eyes poked out after he finished his work so no other city would have such a beautiful contraption. Seeing the clock toll isn't really anything special in itself beyond the fact that you're looking at such a beautiful clock. No need to stand around like a tourist fool waiting for it to strike 12 though, because it's just got a skeleton ringing a bell and a cast of sculptures of saints paraded past 2 windows.

the Fred and Ginger building looks awesome and actually blends in with the surrounding baroque architecture a lot better than i thought it would.

i haven't yet even ventured into any of the old buildings and churches. their exteriors alone will make your jaw drop. It's almost impossible not to get lost in Stare Mesto, even if you've got a map. the streets bear no resemblance whatsoever to a grid. but getting lost in a maze like central prague is more good dream than nightmare.

there's a long boulevard in the center of nove mesto called Wenceslaus Square. The national museum and a statue of wenceslaus riding a pony are at the head of the street, which is filled with shops and restaurants. It kind of reminds me of Canal Street, only with nowhere near the automobile traffic and it's generally more magnificent.

The hostel I stayed in the first night was called Hostel Elf and was located in Zizkov, whose buildings are only about 300 years old. I went out to dinner that night with a scotsman, an englishwoman, and an italian guy, all of whom were staying in the dormitory-style room with me. All of whom were full of their own fascinating stories that I don't have time to go into right now.

Last night I went to this nightclub called the Cross Club. It's this amazing 3-story complex that's owned and designed by a sculptor. The first floor is a dance club decorated wall to wall with moving sculptures made almost entirely from car parts. all the chairs and tables are made from rebar and various other pieces of junk metal. the bar and seating area is separate enough from the dancefloor to enjoy what the DJs spinning but still be able to have a conversation. the second floor is yet another industrial nightmare but has a stage more suited for bands. there was this lame czech metal band playing that was sort of like a cross between evanescence and no doubt. then bizarrely enough, the third floor is more of a coffee and wine bar with an earthy hemp feel to it. the whole place is a wild maze of rooms. you can walk two rooms away from the metal band and take a seat at one of the junk tables and only faintly hear the metal band below the sound of "mas que nada" playing over the speakers. whatever picture you've drawn of the cross club in your head from whati've described, i guarantee you it's 5 times cooler. i didn't drink too much because i had to get back to the metro before it shut down at midnight and i turned into a pumpkin.

today i had to make the rough choice between checking out a Dali exhibit and a Mucha exhibit. I chose the former and ended up regretting it. Not to say that Dali's work wasn't beautiful and darkly hilarious, but it was all just lithographs, sculptures, and woodcuts, and my favorite things about Dali (beyond his content of course) is the amazing amount of detail that he could capture with a brush. I mean, that Melting Clocks painting is pretty tiny in real life.

the food here is... interesting but mainly pretty good. i'm sure i'd be enjoying it more if i ate meat, but oh well. it's a palate i'll have to get used to. i've had several different varieties of fried cheese so far, all of which have been good. the beer here is delicious and cheap, a very good combination.

it's cold as shit but im wearing enough layers to handle it and i'm growing to like the spur of life that the chill gives to your bones.

anyway, that's all i can think of right now, though i know i haven't covered half of it.

im gonna go see if i can hunt down some of my fellow students that should be in town by now.

Edit: Apparently this week is the coldest it's been here in many years and the snow is a fluke, so if I can handle this with no problem, I'm set. Might be needing to pay a visit to a solarium in a month or so, though.
Also, I finally visited the castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. I can't stress enough how beautiful the cathedral is in person. Any church that can bring tears to the eyes of an agnostic must be something to behold. If you're Catholic, or even Christian, you need to see this place before you die. It's truly a magnificent, inspired work of art.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Zítra budu v Praze

This past week in NYC has been nothing short of wonderful and has really been the perfect anteroom to the adventure I'm about to embark on. We had our New Year's Day festivities at an impressionist artist's loft in Soho where our friend's girlfriend's tiny Israeli-born father stuffed us with quiche, cheesecake and beer. Since then it's been nothing but great food, lots of drinking, and most importantly fantastic company (including Dangle!).

Unfortunately, I left my trusty old Polaroid camera at the Dream House when Andy and I went there the other day, so you won't be getting pictures any time soon. C'est la vie.

I'm currently in the process of pulling an all-nighter in order to minimize the jetlag/time-zone-brainfuck that I know I've got coming. Earlier, I closed a bar called the B-Side, where I had some drinks and scintillating conversation with a friendly Irish expat who's been a private investigator for the past 10 years. It seemed an appropriate way to spend my last night in America. Well, that and laundry.

Apparently when I roll into Prague around 6:30 in the morning it will be about 8 degrees fahrenheit, which I'm pretty sure will be the coldest weather I've ever experienced, but I should be able to handle it.

Wish me luck!