REPORT A PROBLEM
I'm back, yes. I'm back. With a healing heart and a healing life, living in Prague, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Or so I am told, and so I imagine. I haven't seen too many cities in the world, only a handful, but Prague must certainly rank up there, tiny though it is. I'll see them all for myself, eventually, and will report back.
I spent the afternoon sitting on a hill with some new friends drinking cheap red wine and looking out over the tiny, beautiful city. Not the worst way to pass the time.
Bright night sky, it seems a dawn, but it's really just a movie being shot on the river. It's only midnight, and I sit on a bench on a hill with patches of tulips before me. I have found an incredible strength in me which I did not know was there, and I've no one but the tulips to share it with. I've always been a solitary person, but this experience has put that to the test. This is a whole different game. Profound loneliness is like nothing you've ever felt, and you'll only know it when you feel it.
I'm as much scared to death as I am excited about the future. I see limitless fields all around and within me. I'm on my way to have a drink with Micah and Alex. I hope I can put my head into these moments, for these moments are the best part of life. I accept the ache in my heart, though I wish it would go away. We do not grow stronger riding the bike downhill, but I am anxious to coast a bit again, to let the pedals spin on their own, to feel the wind in my hair.
Dear christ. Living through hangovers is the worst. Pray for sleep, pray for death. Neither will come. Favorite moments from last night: interviewing people at 6am on the bridge, the ninja-kid rolling that joint, the stripper's inverted nipples. Not a sliver of remorse here, except maybe those last few drinks. I've learned my lesson: when partaking in any sort of amphetamine, go easy on the liquor. My most recent ecstasy night turned into a similar hangover due to too much drink. It's a tricky situation, as your judgment is fucked and the drugs fool you into drinking one after another.
It's Sunday evening. I've been awake for seventy hours and have peaked and crashed too many times to count. I had thought I would sleep after the bus ride back, but my body had other plans. Complete immersion, no way out, quite a time it was. I saw things more clearly and more purely and without the desperate grasping of loneliness and self-doubt and doubt in love. Let the doubts come in daylight when the brain is allowed to start talking shit. When it's tamed and made calm, it speaks truth. If "in vino veritas," then "in crystal meth, revelation."
My own room. Finally. Alena is so nice, offering me clean sheets and apologizing for a mess which didn't exist. She's rented me her spare bedroom for a few months, and it's perfect. Small bed, a couch, a desk, small wardrobe. Great windows which open onto a busy street (the noise from which elicited another apology, which I dismissed by citing the car noise as a comfort from home). I can now settle into a solid routine or writing and researching and socializing and living. Just a few months though. This place is not life--it's a big college town.
Walk the city, idle. I have things to do, but have trouble putting my head into them. My stomach is a mess. I ate some bad eggs or something equally rotten, and now pay the price. Or maybe it was the water in the water park in Liberec. Or maybe the drugs were cut with rat poison. Something, though, something is definitely wrong. My first intestinal problems ever as a traveler, due partly to diligence, partly to an iron stomach and mostly to luck. How will I fare in southeast Asia where I can't go near the water at all?
My willpower is not what it once was. I have trouble pushing distractions away, and instead allow them to become crutches. Reasons to not get work done. They're excuses, and I hate myself for making excuses. That was a big turning point several weeks back: When I decided to make no more excuses and do everything I should be doing. No more lies to myself. No more broken promises. And no more delusions. No more fantasies. Faith is one thing, self-imposed emotional hallucination is another. One can give strength, the other encourages weakness. Sit at the cafe and get writing.
The dogs wear muzzles when they're out. It's the law around here. They're as aloof as their owners--they don't turn when you whistle, and they barely acknowledge you if you pat their heads or scratch their ears (the dogs, that is). Czechs are similar: they talk at you, never listening to you very much. I'm Socratic, they're pedantic. You may have something of interest to offer along the lines of whatever it is they're saying, but they don't give a shit. They're always waiting for their turns to talk, and I swear it's not just me being a jerk.
Woke up profoundly sad. Forced myself up and to the gym. There's nothing for me in my empty room. I cried the entire way there, down along the river, hanging my head so no one would notice. I stopped and looked at the water, begged for mercy, begged that this pain would end. I screamed at the river, as if it could help me. I got no answers. I got no reprieve. So I exercised and went home and ate and showered and shaved and now sit on a hill overlooking that river. The tears have stopped, on the outside.
I think of Thailand, maybe Japan. I'll earn my TEFL then hit the road to teach and live. Six months, save some money, re-enter the States in the spring. Take two months to hitchhike home, maybe buy a cheap motorcycle in Portland and ride back. Visit everyone I can along the way. I want to be back for R and E's wedding, that's about all pulling me in. By then, she will be a teasing whisper of memory, the love of my life preserved in amber of my heart. Or not? Maybe it will prove to be true after all?
I fill my time up with many projects yet little true purpose. I have articles to write, people to interview, possible job opportunities to develop. I've made friends and have had some defining moments, even a mere five weeks into this new chapter. By the time I leave this place, I will have several large items checked off my list. I won't write about them here, because I'm tired of talking. I will just do them, and move on. They are anchors holding me in place, keeping me steady in choppy waters. Soon, it will be time to set sail.
I'm working with the local alternative newspaper, a wonderful rag produced by two guys from the states who've lived in Prague for seven years between them. They knew my work, which was odd but invigorating. They've also become friends. I sat in the office as they closed the issue, helping out with some editing, feeling strong again, smart again, useful again. Then, to the Golden Tree with Alex for drinks and an hour watching the topless girls swing around to insufferable dance music. My head's finally in these moments, for these moments are fun and make up a good life.
My heart goes back into hibernation. Hopefully not for ten years this time. Love is a queer thing. You may not know it when you have it, but you'll definitely know when it's going away. When you see walls go up around it, a fortress of protection. When it rushes you through a phone call, when you want to say so much, yet are speaking to deaf ears. Ears that were once open to the gossamer whispers of your soul, now cannot bear to hear the conviction of your love. The love is still there, only now it's under guard.
Innocence. Supreme success.
If someone is not as he should be,
He has misfortune,
And it does not further him
To undertake anything.
Hexagram #25: "Heaven above. Thunder below." With those four words (and the twenty-five above it), I saw clearly my place in this world. I am innocence, I have always been innocence. I am naive, and I am a voice of purity. I have always been. That's why the hexagram is now on my leg, ten inches tall, having absorbed another mark I made when my life was not being lived right.
Wake early. Crisp day. Clear sky. Lazy afternoon. Into the city. Full tram. Old Czechs. Young Czechs. Girls who smell like girls. Pretty eyes. Pretty city. Tourist trap. Quicksand. It's fucking quicksand. An open world. What to do first? A mid-week hitch to Amsterdam? Motorbike to Istanbul? Wander to India? Teach in Asia? What's at home? Where's my home? Who really loves me? Who will care if I return? Bucktooth girls with pretty eyes, kind but not friendly. I'm afraid to touch anyone. I am exposed and immersed, but am only giving. I'll take slowly, balm on a broken heart.
Fuck outlining plot. Fuck counting rhythm. Slap it down, on the table. Right words follow a right heart. I want drugs all weekend. Untether me. A kite up to heaven. Get my feet off the ground. She was right, and I made her cry. And now I fly. Along cobblestones and riverbanks. Under dim lights. In the shadows of spires. I feel the wind picking up. My sails are filling. Anchor is raising. Old Skodas. New streets laid by hand. Beer garden in the evening. We're all friends, we're all strangers. A few drinks, a shared cigarette, life lived right.
Up all night again, kicking through clubs and other joints with Alex. Herna bars where whores bring boys into the bathroom for blowjobs, then hit the slots right away to spend the dough. Dance clubs where pale teenage girls slither in the dark room, hips moving to the eurotrash beats. Wind through the streets, the sun is up at 5am, the birds have been chirping for an hour. To the next place, moving until we fall. 8am, back home, I will sleep like a baby just as soon as I'm done with this. A good night, a damn good night.
Lunch at Centro with Micah. Espresso, beer--a conscious effort to put the edge back into me whiling taking last night's edge off. My hands rattle a bit, my nervous system is taking a beating. Off to a bar called "Shot Out Eye" to meet Alex and Jeremy, then to Hostel Elf to meet Carolina, Micah's pal. Walk through the woods a bit, then leave them to meet Patrick. Wait for a delivery, then off to Wakata, a bar conveniently located near my home. Sit there until 6am, talking laughing enjoying the ska. Ready to fall, back home, sleep again.
The sky is overcast, my heart and head clear. I have energy, but don't want to work. I'm tired of working, even though I've barely been working this past week. It was a big week, entire soul-shifting. I had to settle into this new skin, come to understand this new perspective. This solitude I'd fought against. This chunk of amber inside me preserves the love and has made it an object of beauty, something to be seen and admired. It's a trophy, something to be proud of, but not to be taken down from the mantle. I'm still very sad.
A night of mediocrity. Bored at the Jeru concert, we skipped out to look for something more exciting to do. We grabbed the last three slices of pizza at the only place nearby that sells slices, had some drinks, played bad foosball (national sport of Czech Repub), smoked some pot in a beautiful courtyard. Went looking for kicks at Jaguar Bar, decided against joining the throng of drunken British businessmen, and instead went to another joint--another disappointment in a long string of disappointments. We should've cut our losses after Jeru and smoked dope in the beautiful courtyard all night.
I've figured it out: I'm running on ten percent. Ninety percent of my potential is sitting dormant, unused, hoping to be put in the game. Ninety percent of my capability is standing anxiously at the sidelines of my life, waiting its turn. I'm running on ten. We're all running on ten. What else can this brain and heart and soul and spirit do? So, so much. There is endless love and art and inspiration and compassion and sympathy inside me, yet it rests, biding time until the ten percent that runs my life will wake up to the incredible possibilities.
When I'm done with this, I will go jogging through a beautiful park near to my apartment. Then back, some more exercise in my room, have a yogurt, shower, shave (finally) and out to Ouky Douky, a nearby coffeeshop. I have several articles to write, but refuse to get anxious. They will get written, one at a time. Today, something funny for the Pill. Yesterday, two funny pieces for the Pill. Tomorrow, maybe the rewritten conspiracy column for Big Issue Scotland. It feels good, this demand. How good will it feel when I get the other 90% up and running?
Always accept invitations. Tonight, I hung out with Manu Chao and his band at a small bar owned by my friend John. The band cleared a space and played for the small crowd, some friends, some strangers. Shared a bottle of tequila with Manu, was invited to the concert as his guest. (Thank god--the tickets are an outrageous $21 and I couldn't afford to buy one.) Then off to the new Zone with Balint, Harold and Todd, where we smoked and drank and talked for hours. To think: I almost declined Micah's invitation because I felt a little tired.
Outdoors, dancing, singing, hands in the air. Bottles of wine passing around outside under the overcast sky. Castle behind us, its twin spires inspiring. After, backstage, hang around, chat about. Took my leave with Micah and Barbara, some coffee and vodka at their place, then out alone to a bar where I had a few quiet drinks. New images come into my head all the time, visions, new marks for my body, new thoughts, renewed inspiration and my old brand of determination. All the time. I am overwhelmed by everything inside me. My soul is pregnant, my life is birthing.
Something's inside, waking up, stretching its limbs. In my bones, in my muscles when I walk. Knowledge, purpose, clarity breaking through the clouds. How did I let myself become so weak, so misguided and afraid? I've so much to do, and I know that I can do it all. In my manner, using my head and my heart, not depending on someone else for strength, which weakens both of us. What made me fear this solitude? What made me cling so desperately? Let your love walk in the world without you, watch it become stronger, pray you'll see it again.
I woke up early to catch a screening with Alex, got turned away. Back home, read through my novel in progress, napped. I feel good about it. Fifty thousand words, only I'm not sure where to go with it now, as I've gotten to a point that I'd thought would be closer to the end than it actually is. I'm tempted to go back to the interior and pad it out, but I'm worried about pacing as it is. No. I must push through, find the rest of the story, dig it out of me. Feeling good, though. Feeling good.
Went to a movie with Balint, the crazy young Hungarian guy who's given me dozens of CDs as mp3s, my music source since my internet connection is too slow for piracy. He's promised me contacts in the deep underground music scene if I go to Budapest, and I'm certain he's the right person to provide them. After, we drove to a flat where his friends were kicking back, smoking, talking, juggling, sharing some bread, smoking, talking, listening to crazy French music. He dropped me at a bridge near my neighborhood, then got busted for making an illegal turn. Sorry Balint.
Playing pool with Micah. A drunk guy started hanging around the table. He was leaning in, pointing at shots, being annoying. Both of us suspicious, we warily accepted a game with him. No betting, I whispered to Micah, who agreed, fearing the same scam as I was. But our fears were unfounded. The guy wasn't a shark, just someone who wanted to play pool. He was broke, possibly vagrant, so when his beer got tacked onto our bill, we didn't dispute it. We ate some sausage--a dried, cured thing like hard salami--and had a real nice time there.
Smoking a joint, drinking a beer at the platform in Kutna Hora. I came to interview someone about the Alchemy Museum. It went well.
I kept a journal my first month in Prague, then threw it into the river when it was full. I was a cripple discarding his crutches after being cured in a faith healer's tent. I was so insane those four weeks, there was no need to have the documentation. I've absorbed it into my heart.
When I get back to town, I will splurge on an authentic gyro at the one place in Prague that makes them.
I see her eyes here, her smile there. Her stride here, her hair there. Her named tucked into other words. I'm a foolish man to not avert my eyes. So many envy me with this ridiculous life of leisure and freedom and nothing but an open road before me. I'm walking on it, yes, and my creativity feels stronger each day. My work is solid, my ambitions clear. I was put on this earth to help others realize their potential. By example, by provocation, by suggestion. However it happens. It's what I'm meant to do.
I still see her everywhere.
The Tip Jar