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I'm now an editor at
The Prague Pill
. Full-time. I decided to postpone my departure from the fall until the spring in order to accept this job. And here I am, exactly what I feared: a writer who "came to Prague to work on his novel" and "ended up staying". No, it's not the same, I swear. I would've killed for this job in NYC but it wasn't out there. Am I to refuse just because I set an arbitrary timeline in my head? Fuck no. Gimme this chance, see what I can do. Then, springtime, off to wherever next.
Time to learn Czech. As soon as I find my rhythm with the job, I'll take classes. I'm also planning to learn French at the French Institute--I'll need to keep busy during the fall and winter when the darkness falls around this city like a huge, smothering blanket. I'm also considering kung-fu, since I've found a center which is English- language friendly, and maybe even glass-blowing. Ok, I'm kidding about that last one, but I'm serious about the others. I'll also do some teaching, so that I can get better and feel more confident. Self-improvement, always. Progress, always. Perseverence, always.
Two more hours finishing the tattoo. Fourteen hours total, but you wouldn't know it from looking at the damn thing. It's not like I have a tiger climbing up my arm or a rattlesnake wrapping around my leg or a yakuza-style dragon covering my back. We thought it would be a simple job, six hours tops. It's done in black--all but two of my tattoos are black, and the exceptions are tiny little things--but the linework is complex. Curving, swirling lines reaching around my… Well, you'll just have to track me down to find out where it is.
Breakfast at Ouky Douky, trying to figure out my work schedule, which is completely and fully flexible. Right now, there isn't much of an office for the newspaper, so I'm free to work at places like Ouky Douky (which is in the original Globe space, for any Prague veterans out there). It's a nice place, friendly, open and casual, and it's only a few blocks from my apartment. I'm at a table with the laptop, a coffee and a surprisingly light meal of toast, eggs, a slice of ham and a bit of cheese with a vegetable salad and juice.
When the demons popped up, when the beautiful, peaceful Buddha rushing through me mutated into aborted fetuses, razor blades and bleeding assholes, when I felt alone and lost in the pounding field with 500 strangers far from Prague, I'd look to my right at the whirling dervishes, smiling and spinning, two nameless ballerinas dancing on clouds, and I'd fall back into the crowd's love. I was completely out of my mind on acid, a full-tab trip, completely untethered. I danced for five hours nonstop and emerged from the twelve-hour experience exhausted yet content. The demons were exorcised, not just suppressed.
We were just coming on. I couldn't focus my eyes and barely knew my name. Just then, a real-life demon approached: some dipshit kid from L.A. who's representing one of the DJs. All handshakes and guest lists and press passes and Heya-why-donchya-come-to-Budapest… I'll hook ya up…
knows me… His head was a dirigible, his mouth issued shards of glass. I recoiled, screaming, "Arrrggghhhh! Stop it! You're killing me!! FOR FUCK'S SAKE STOP TALKING TO ME!" I was only half joking. My twelve hours were just beginning, and I didn't need him to set the tone. I went dancing instead.
While I had been looking forward to packing my bag in September, I'm no longer apprehensive about taking this job. I miss being mobile, I miss hitting new towns. I haven't done it much on this trip, obviously, but I remember clearly my time spent wandering through Greece. I remember bouncing through Spain, finding new towns, securing a place to put our heads and then exploring. I can't wait to do that again, come springtime, but until then I will further myself in wise fashion. My experience on Friday night gave me the peace I've been lacking for many months.
I'd just emailed Balint some photos for an illustration he's working on, but he obviously didn't want to work. "Come, let us go for a walk in the park and roll a joint." Thirty minutes later, we met at I. P. Pavlova metro station and walked to one of the many parks in town. Along the way, he showed me a 1968 Simca he wants to buy. It's a snappy old car, in decent shape. 2400kc: about $80US. Then, the joint and two hours of talking about film and philosophy. Thank you, Balint, for getting me out of my bunker.
It'll be a long day and I have a nasty cold so I'm writing my entry this morning. One less thing to worry come bedtime. First, to a restaurant which I must review. Then to the office to write that review plus a movie review plus whatever else is missing. Then, to teach a class of four beginner students--my first real class after graduation. It's a paid gig: 400kc, $12US. Not bad money, actually: $12 for 1.5 hours of work (well, not counting 2 hours of preparation). Then back to the office, I suspect, to continue with the issue.
The to-do list is growing in length. I have so many stupid fucking things to do--oh, please, no offense: answering your email is not one of them, honest--and no desire to do them. There's a website to finish, two articles to write for
and now classes to teach. That's still not the whole list. I am happy to be busy, right? Remind me of that. Remind me that the idle time almost killed me. Remind me that I am working because it's healthy.
Why am I not getting on a motorcycle in September and rambling away?
On schedule, even with my teaching. It's really great this time, even better than the last, which I was happy about. With both editors gone, I did just about everything and I demonstrated that it could work. Filip the Production Director knows what he's doing; I gave him plenty of space. To good effect, I think. He had fun putting it together, and I'm happy with his work. I want to bring what I know to this project, and I want to learn along the way. I've never before woken up, gone to an office and written all day long.
I got bored tonight, through no fault of my company. They're all nice people. Friends. Something wasn't right, though. I shouldn't have just been sitting in the bar, drinking to get drunk, drinking to shut my brain down. That's old-school bullshit. I should've excused myself earlier, gone for a walk through town, soaked in the humanity (which, even in its throng of tourism and joyriding loud-mouthing, rarely bothers me). I should've soaked up the energy of this city. I should've walked up the hill, smoked a joint of borrowed weed and felt more alive. Instead, I felt dead inside. Idle.
I told them I won't be a hit-man. Yes, I'm aggressive. Yes, I'm known for being an unapologetic asshole. But I won't be the guy who's sent out to destroy out the weak arbitrarily. I'm tired of being a contrarian fucker (even though I'm good at it). They must get their shit together, because I won't work with them for the wrong reasons. I will not be stuck in the middle of mom and dad, I will not be the bullets for two snipers.
I will walk in this world in those squishy shoes you get when you're on ecstasy.
I woke up from a nap with a dream of my parents in my head. We were in the kitchen where I grew up, but I was the age I am now. In fact, I had this shirt on. One of my sisters was there, too. We were talking about me getting a job. Strange. I'm planning to visit them when I travel across the states in a year or two, but we definitely won't be sitting in the old kitchen, as that house was sold several years ago. Was this a vision, a wishful thought or a bungled-up memory?
Today is my half-birthday, which has passed thirty-two times without fanfare. I notice it this year for only one reason: I'm halfway through what is shaping up to be one of the most significant years of my life. Have I accomplished anything? No, not really. Yes, I've thrown off many shackles. Yes, I've called my bluff and stepped into an unknown world, unknowing, alone, without anchor. But have I grown to be the man I know to be inside me? The shell is cracked, my beak is sticking through. I'm not out yet, though. My wings are not yet spread.
Alena has gone away to Norway. Alex will crash here while she's gone. She'll return in August, but then leaves again in September for nine months. Alex will move in. This should be a good arrangement. He needs a place to live; I don't want an unknown roommate. We're good for each other: mutually motivational. We're also both very easy-going and shouldn't have many--if any--conflicts. I haven't had a roommate in eight years. I was wrong (Thanksgiving, 2001) when I said I was too old to live with a roommate. On the contrary, I think it'll be good.
We talk of the apartment in September: What will we do? My bedroom will become the living room. The living room will become his bedroom. I'll take Alena's room because I want the small balcony. (Ahhh, a balcony off my bedroom.) We talk of being good hosts, of having a lot of people over all the time. Through the newspaper, we have a deal with a great video store, and so we hope to host double-feature nights in the new living room. We're both prone to isolation and introspection, and have (unspoken) agreed to fight those tendencies in each other.
Life is settling into something of a routine. I must fight it. I wake up, exercise a bit, bring the laptop to a coffeeshop. I write for three hours, go to the office, charge the battery, check email, do whatever research I need to do online. Then I hit another coffeeshop (the current office is too small for unnecessary extended visits). The afternoon is generally for non-writing newspaper tasks: developing the website, planning the redesign, et cetera. Then off to teach. I enjoy every component of the day, I just don't like having them roll along in such predictable fashion.
Lost and running is how I felt. Lost and standing is how I feel. Like still water, I will eventually become undrinkable. To become stagnant is my worst fear, worse than growing old alone, worse than never again feeling the lips of a true love. I wasn't lost so much as looking at the world as a giant treasure map and not knowing where to begin. I began where I am: wherever I go is where I'm meant to be. Now: I'm still. And so soon into the trip! I can't shake the feeling that I'm meant to be moving.
Banner day. Despite yesterday's entry, I know that I'm sticking around at least for a couple more months. I bought two new pairs of pants. I've been wearing the same two since the end of March--it was time to invest a little. I also bought a new hoodie to replace the one I lost at Radost two weeks ago. Then I went to see a movie, came home, took a nap, made dinner, went out to a bar for a couple drinks. It was a simple Saturday, no self- destruction, no self-loathing. No sadness, yet no particular elation either. Fine.
This town will be my rocket fuel. I will suck in its energy and launch myself into space. I will use Prague, tear through it, consume it, and leave. I'm not speaking from a colonialist's viewpoint. Prague is not a playground, nor is it a fertile land to be strip-mined. My time here is opportunity, not idle exile. I will tear through and consume because I will work my ass off. I will not waste my time. I'll leave stronger and smarter than when I arrived. Many people have placed faith in me, and I will not let them down.
Two great gifts came to me from NYC. A picture of my friend Lisa along with a check for some articles I've written. The picture is on my wall. The checks are waiting to be mailed back to a friend who will deposit them for me. As soon as they clear, I will send a check to another friend who was very generous to me in the past. Soon, my financial debt to her will be repaid. I feel bad for taking so long on the payback, but she knows better than most that I'm a man of my word.
Holy fuck. I woke up bawling, the most painful, wrenching dream still in my eyes and heart. Where did that come from? Why was that dream allowed to manifest? What the FUCK am I trying to do to myself? I couldn't shake it all day. I went about my tasks like a robot, an aching weight of loss and desire covering me like a mountain of wet rags. Got things done, kept moving, tried not to think. Tried to keep my head in today and tomorrow and the days and years to come, but yesterday wouldn't loosen its grip.
Thank you, Kaycee, for the phone. She's a new friend, a fellow TEFL student, who bought a mobile phone two months ago, but now finds herself returning to the states where she either doesn't need it, or it won't work. I'm not sure which. So she sold it to me for 1000kc ($33). I'd been using a loaner that Zdenek borrowed from his job, but he needed it back. Perfect timing. I'll also change my phone number at this time because I need to change my carrier to the same one that most of my friends use.
Christ, I'm boring.
Three hours working on my new website. Off to the coffeeshop for some lunch and two more hours working on a customer site. It's been dragging along, my fault this time. They're bad at getting material to me, but I can't blame them for this lag. Been dragging, is all. Got to get to work on it and wrap it up. There's $700 waiting for me at its completion, which will square me with the friend mentioned a couple days ago. My debt is almost gone, with only a bit to the IRS still waiting.
Christ, I really am boring.
To hear her energy and happiness over the phone put a smile on my face a mile wide. She promised a letter; I'm anxious to see her handwriting again. I wonder... I wonder... How is everything shaping up for her? How have her projects progressed? What are her plans? She told me that she's been reading these words, which surprised me. Should it have? I've kept her in my heart and mind so I really shouldn't be surprised that her thoughts still turn to me every once in a while. I hope she's proud of the time we had together.
I was shamefully drunk. Okay, not
but I was drunk. I didn't see it coming; I'd been standing in place for two hours, my mind buzzing around like a fly trapped in a bottle. When my body was called into action--for the challenging task of
--I found that it just wasn't gonna make it. There were no straight lines to be found in my path. My feet fell like an infant's first steps. I was walking with some new friends--all of us similarly drunk, hopefully--and had to simply say goodnight and turn away toward home.
It'll rain soon, I conclude without bothering to look at the sky. It rains all the time. I leave my apartment under sunny morning skies but always try to remember to close my window because, without fail, by midday, thunderclouds dark as my rotten tooth have rolled in. And because I walk so much and find myself walking across bridges offering no shelter, I'm often caught in these downpours. All I can do is make sure the laptop is protected in its orange bag (thanks again for the bag, Nick) and walk as quickly as possible to the nearest bar.
A parade of people past my window. Street noise makes me happy. The rumble of cars fills my head like stuffing in a pillow, giving me shape and making me comfortable. We're at Karmelitska 18 in Mala strana, Prague, at the bottom of Petrin hill which is to the left of the infamous castle as seen from the center. Ours is a major street, a popular walking route for meandering around town. The church of the Infant of Prague is a stone's throw away, and Bohemia Bagle is several blocks down, so we get respectable tourists and dirty backpackers alike.
Sitting at the new office, perched in the windowsill, street level, watching people walk past. I've got the laptop before me, a pint of Staropramen, my shoes are off. Anyone who knows me could rightly assume that I'm in heaven. Despite the blown deadlines--for fuck's sake, we should've been out of here hours ago--I'm in a good mood. I'm so proud of the work we're doing here, that we're actually working artists, it blows me away. I thought I felt like this at my previous full-time newspaper job, but that was a fraction of how I feel now.
I always hit it off with Australians, in whatever part of the world I'm in. Why is that? It's not that I'm talking exclusively to Australians, no. Think of it the other way around: every time I meet an Australian, it's always a fun time. Liz Flynn who lives in Dublin: Where are you? Gordon my secret agent friend: How are you doing in whatever hellhole part of the world you've been sent to? And now, Nicole from Melbourne: I hope we can all hang out again, but if not, have a good trip across Spain in your rented Peugot.
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