Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Already Fall :(

Let's see if I can remember anything from 2010 thus far.

1) I took part in a joint black light birthday party with 3 friends in the Dungeon. Because of the limited space and number of hosts we had to have trimmed guest lists but it was still a great time. Here's a work of art I made for the invitation:

And here are some shots from the party:

2)So I can basically ice skate now. I'm still pretty wobbly sometimes and need to work on braking/turning, but I can go around a rink pretty quickly several times without stumbling. I really never would've predicted this development in my life.

3) The Saints won the Superbowl!!!!! I caught the game with a bunch of fellow fans at a sportsbar in the center. The moment when Porter pointed to get his blocker in place on his way to the endzone after picking off Manning was probably the happiest moment in my life. Who Dat! I only wish I could've been in the French Quarter with friends and family for the celebration.

4)Marit and I unintentionally developed a new style of travelling that I've since somewhat altered and dubbed "the extended daytrip" when we set out for a nice weekend in Hradec Kralove only to get turned away from every hotel/hostel (on account of bad planning) and find that we'd missed the last train back to town. We decided to make the most of it and spent the night visiting several local bars and stayed out drinking until the first morning train back to Prague departed. When life gives you lemons get out the tequila and salt.

5)I lived the first half of the year in a shared flat in Zizkov and had to move in when I was deathly ill from the flu. This summer I moved into a nice spacious (i.e. unfurnished) flat with my buddy CR (a fellow TEFL-Worldwide grad and a fearsome karaoke performer). He's from Houston but I don't hold it against him. We've been slowly furnishing the place bit by bit and are liking the results thus far. The good thing about starting from scratch is that you get to really personalize your surroundings. For example, here's the wardrobe I've rigged up from a cheap ikea wardrobe, some hinges and zipties and a cardboard standup of Terminator 3: Vzpoura Stroju:

And I've got plans to build some lamps from junk I find at the market and hand-sew my own frankenstein curtains to cover my awesome massive windows.

6)Clem and I now have a name for our band (the Thief and the Cobbler) and enough material (mix of originals and covers) to play a full set. We had a practice show in the dungeon where we played with some friends' band and invited a few friends each to be our audience. It was a lot of fun. But now Clem has moved and we need to find a new practice space before we start scheduling gigs, though we've recorded a lo-fi demo to shop around to venues/promoters once we're ready again. Here's a pic from the show:

7) In May the annual Prague Zombie Walk was held, and considering this is the closest thing to Mardi Gras here in Prague I just had to participate. So I bought some second hand clothes, ripped them up a bit, mixed some sweet drink syrup with red food coloring and join the hordes out in old town square for a nice walk through the center. The confused looks on tourists' faces was my favorite part. You can see video of it here (I'm the cell phone zombie that comes in at about 0:33)

8)In July there was a music festival in Kutna Hora that piqued my interest so I decided to take another extended daytrip, seeing as how the band I most wanted to see didn't hit the stage until after the last train back to town. I couldn't get any friends to go with me so that Saturday morning I set out alone. I had time to visit the bone church, the bobova draha, and the cathedral before the first act played. The festival was a mixed bag. Some pretentious boring chillwave --> a pretty enthusiastic hardcore band --> some great ambient -->boring synthlounge --> a quiet heartbreaking guy on the piano --> These Are Powers, who were my reason for attending. They didn't disappoint. It was some of the most fun and inspiring live music I've seen in a long time. The crowd braved a pretty torrential downpour to dance to these weirdos, who reciprocated by inviting some of the audience (including yours truly) to dance on stage with them for a blistering trance-punk finale. With the festival over, I decided to while away the evening in some of the fine local drinkeries. I was wandering through the historic streets of the old town when I stumbled upon a lit Pilsner Urquell sign with just the word "Discotek" on it. The sign on the door said "Travesti Show" which I assumed meant a post-punk type gloomy dance night. I should've looked a little closer at the cognate that was staring me in the face to see that there were no travesties on the dance floor that night, just some nice small-town drag queens. So I spent the night drinking, dancing and laughing at the over the top drag show until the time came for me to go get lost in the cold rain for an hour before finding my way back to the train station for the 5:30 do Prahy.

9) I've almost got enough solo electronic material written to start playing shows around town. I'm looking forward to that.

10) Unfortunately, my favorite dive bar/karaoke joint, the Blind Eye, closed down a couple months ago. But to keep the karaoke torch lit, CR and I have started co-hosting a weekly Zizkov Karaoke night at various bars around town. We've now been at it for 4 weeks straight and it's been a blast each time.

Gotta go teach!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jeden rok!

As of today I've been here for a year. It seems like just yesterday that I stepped off the plane and onto the blank page. With time going by this fast I must be doing something right.

Sorry about the lack of updates the last couple of months, but my free time in November was spent on the National Solo Album Month challenge, in which I somewhat successfully wrote and recorded an album(-ish thing), and December was, well, you know, December.

Other than the album the only thing I can remember about November is that Marit and I attended a small vegan potluck at Andrea's place for Thanksgiving. It was a workday, so we didn't get started with the feasting until the sun had long been down, but that didn't stop us from pigging out and going into a food-induced coma. I'm not sure if I've fallen asleep so quickly since I was a toddler.

A couple days before Christmas my friend Clementine and I had our first "gig". It was just an unplugged set at a high-quality hole-in-the-wall cafe. It was mainly covers and not really the style that we're aiming for in the long run, but it made for a very nice evening.

I ended up spending my first Christmas away from home in about as wicked sweet a way as possible. I went with Clem and Lukaš (her boyfriend and our band's manager) to Lukaš' family's house in the small Czech village of Řetůvka, not so far from the Polish border. We ate, drank, sang, ate, drank, went to mass, sang, drank, ate, slept, ate, did the gift thing, ate, drank, and then ate. In addition to the delicious smorgasbord with an ever-rotating cast of dishes and sweets provided by Lukaš' dynamo of a mother, I cooked up some Audryburgers (Red Beans n Rice, NOLA-style) to test the Czech tolerance for actual spices, and Clem cooked up some French-style crepes. By the end of the trip I felt like a veal calf. Czech Christmas is very similar to American-style Christmas save a few exceptions:

1)the main celebration is on the 24th (though it definitely doesn't end there)

2)their equivalent of eggnog is stronger and tastier

3)there's more eating and drinking and

4)instead of having their presents delivered by an old bearded man who sneaks in through the chimney, Baby Jesus Himself delivers them (i think so that sins may be forgiven or something). I'm still not sure of which is creepier.

For New Years Eve, I went to a potluck with some friends and had my first authentic Swiss cheese fondue, which as it turns out is sort of like nachos con queso but better (unless we're talking about a really good spicy queso blanco a la Gordo's). After a filling meal, tequila shots, and pea shooter wars, we went to a H.R. Giger-esque club and danced our way to a (disappointingly English-language) countdown.

So I sort of have a 2-part New Years resolution.
1)Learn Czech well-enough so that people don't have to talk to me like I'm a 2-year old. My Christmas experience was comforting in that I realized just how much of the basics I've got down pretty strongly, but it also showed me just how much there is yet left to learn (not that I didn't know, but at least now I have a better idea of what to work on)
2) To make this the best year of my life. Not exactly sure of exactly how to make this work, but it involves some mix of music-making, celebration, learning, exercise, and hopefully travel.

I started to attempt my fulfillment of 2 just this past weekend. On Saturday, Marit returned from a two-week holiday stay back in Sweden. For Christmas, she had given me a pair of ice skates, which I was both very excited and very nervous about. I've never been able to rollerskate, skateboard, or really do anything that requires much balance, so I was expecting to walk away from the experience with a broken coccyx. We went to this free open-air rink in the middle of town. It was tiny and crowded and at first I almost had a panic attack trying to drag myself around the side of the rink, holding desperately onto the railing. But after about an hour of baby steps and saying "oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit" over and over again I pretty much got the hang of it without falling even once. My method of stopping is still of the "run straight into the wall" school but I'd say I'm on my way to fulfilling my dream of Curling championships.

This weekend we're going to attempt round two so I'll let you know if I catch the eye of any figure-skating talent scouts that I just know are lurking around the streets of Old Town looking for the next Kristie Yamaguchi.