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!