Welcome to Your New Addiction

As fortnight’s go, this one feels exceptionally long, useful and delightful. Last Monday I had an interview for a language school and was offered the job after explaining why it ran a little short and what I would do in the event this happens in a class; always have a reason in your back pocket, it’s second in importance only to always bring a banana to a party. If possible, keep a bunch nearby at all times, but avoid consuming them too much or people will think you’re always evacuating shit.

Moving swiftly on, Tuesday I had orientation and Friday I had six hours worth of mandatory training. From a previous job, I was expecting a lot of mandatory training and thought I was prepared, but six hours of anything is a little much.

A weekend happened, a bunch of good stuff, I believe I have danced, drunk, and turned a tram carriage into the swingingest karaoke joint in the city – to a mix of scorn and mirth from the Czech audience.

Yesterday was different though: I had my first classes. They were a joy. I walked in the room to find attentive students looking to learn something I love, the English language in all it’s dirty combinations, peculiar auxiliaries, and multiple accents. The trick was to resist the urge to seem like either the smartest guy in the room, or a bit of a rubbish standup act about learning. I have noticed however that I can be a generous conversationalist and ask the right questions, and the language just flows.

That evening I went out for sangria. I also ended up locked out. The two events are related, in a spatio-temporal perspective of time, but I will draw no causal link between them. The more interesting bit is what followed.

Ext – Doorway – Night

A rockstar in a black coat is pushing a button on the intercom. After each push he holds up his hands and counts to ten.

Fraser (int) – Fuck, fuck, fuck, duck, funk, fix, please respond.

After one more attempt, Fraser leaves

Ext – Street – Night

Fraser is walking along the street, he lights a cigarette.

Ext – Mexican Restaurant – Night

He stops walking after passing the door. He sees the lights on but the chairs are on the tables and a small group of people are standing at the bar. He pauses, then tries to pull the door open. It is a push door.

Int – Mexican Restaurant

Fraser – Dobre den, are you guys open?

Barman – No, we closed.

Fraser – Fair enough, can I use your wifi a minute.

Barman – It’s off.

Fraser scans iPad, it is finding a wifi link.

Fraser – Fair enough.

Ext – Street Corner – Night

Fraser has been walking. He stops.

Fraser – Whatever is wrong, I will handle it.

Fraser walks into the middle distance.

—-

And there is the beginning of a fabulous tale about friendship, brotherhood, a Norwegian with awesome cheekbones and an Italian with deep eyes, a Greek barman, and a discussion on the finer cliches of Taylor Swift.

Still, always best to leave the

 

 

 

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A Defense of Karaoke

Trying not to get hung up on things, go with the flow, and enjoy life, but some things need to be said and, to paraphrase Hemingway, writing is sitting at the iPad and bleeding. Or would Hemingway be more of a barebones Android type?

This post is about the feeling of being robbed, the best sex I’ve ever had – maybe not explicit detailed, simply an anonymous name drop, she knows who she is – and the paucity of karaoke in this city. The topics are only tangentially related and not linear.

Yesterday a man in the street asked for a lighter. It was on Soukenicka just opposite my hostel and outside the fancy restaurant. There were cameras, but I have not filed a police report as it appears more trouble than it’s worth. The phone is blocked however and my concerns now are primarily with having signed in to various apps. Oh well, there is no damaging information so it should be fine – I advise everyone to install a good tracking software so you can more easily recover your devices or at least get the guy caught.

It feels bad. Really bad. I mean, this is right outside the place I have decide to make my home in the city. From now on, I will have to be exceptionally careful about letting anybody get close or giving them anything if they ask, even something small as a fire. I was only lighting the guy’s cigarette and now life becomes a little harder. I will need to get a new SIM, try and get the contract transferred or something, plus find a new handset which is affordable yet can do a variety of tasks, and then there’s the contacts. Oh well. I can take solace in that it could have been far, far, worse. The guy did not seem physically violent and actually recoiled when I asked him where my phone was in my most profoundly Scottish tones. Glad I didn’t follow him to the “vodka bar” as he probably would have taken everything I had.

Stay safe,  everyone. This city is thoroughly mad. And that is occasionally a bad thing.

Anyway, the reason we are all here today – sex!

Details may be sparse to protect anonymity, but the bottom line is that I met someone and it was incredible. Though comparisons are hard and a little unfair as memory can become clouded, I think it’s the best I’ve ever had.

One key point of this is a difference in condom use. I have most always used condoms in my life, I got very stupid at one point, but have had persistent issues from the first to the last. The things are tight, uncomfortable, and not conducive to a good experience. Recently I switched to a brand called TheyFit, where you can download a measuring guide or simply describe your experience and they will get you a corresponding fit from out of a gigantic array.

My three pieces of advice for the best ever: good communication, lots of foreplay, condoms that actually feel good.

I wish I could write more of how it felt, and how impressive the experience just was, and how it has made me reevaluate the act in general – I get why people get so mad about chasing it now, though I don’t think I’ll start. Though I’m a Byronesque romantic; I am also reasonable.

There is a distinct karaoke problem in this city. Though there are several nights, Friends on a Tuesday starts at 7 appears to end at 10pm. Those of you that know karaoke will recognise this as an abomination of a timeframe. There are other places with karaoke but, having talked to a man named Yaroslavl yesterday, there is a distinct lack of audience at these nights. I will need to gather a proper troupe. Other than that, there are private karaoke rooms and I cannot express my disdain for the concept of private karaoke enough.

I will try however for though brevity is the mainstay of wit there is something to be said for getting deeply ingrained in a topic.

Private karaoke is an awful idea. The spirit of karaoke is of a room of anonymous and enthusiastic amateurs who own the stage for their brief 3 – 5 minute section, unless they decide to get silly and put on the long version of Bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf or Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. (It works occasionally for these long songs, however, and though cliched they are true expressions of karaoke. Everyone can get involved as they are so well known, and in the hands of someone who can move and dance half- well they can really make a night.) Song choice is important; it can both reveal or conceal character, and if a song is wrong for a person you can tell instantly. In private spaces, you will only be around people you know. You therefore will make less risky decisions and try and fit into whatever image you are trying to create amongst these people instead of being your authentic self in front of the at least partially anonymous audience. Performance is the perfect vehicle for self-expression but to express oneself it is important to open up fully and this is, ironically, easiest among those who know almost nothing about you. Who you will never see again. Everyone else has too much history.

Hence, it is my belief private karaoke is a mere zombie of karaoke. The flesh of it is animated, but the soul is gone, and it is not karaoke as it should be in its fullest expression of Truth and Beauty.

Maya’s the prettiest

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A few notes on my hostel, food, and Prague conventions of nonstop.

I have gravitated towards one hostel; the Art Hole Hostel, it is well -stocked, staffed, and a generally good place to be. Bit of a joke developed with one of the staff members. When I ring the door she asks me for the password, even though there’s a camera, and I say the title of this piece. I may have spelt her name wrong, she is Slovenian, and if you are reading this I will apologise later.

The place has good music. It is varied, occasionally it has acoustic cover of songs, some dance kind of tunes also, a bit of indie, earlier today Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” – which I am not this morning, a little rough from the Lambrusco of the previous night and tired as some guy was snoring all night long, Lionel Ritchie style (though I imagine Lionel does something else all night long, like sleep soundly). Still, the tunes right now are exactly what I need, kind of soft and cool, but with a bit of energy which fills the heart with that celestial fire that says “Live, fool” and imbues one with that indomitable spirit of “Carry on”.

It’s shame those Second World War signs were ruined by memes; they actually made a lot of sense and were a beautiful sentiment, in their own darkly poetic way. If you panic, if you stop, you will harm yourself and your neighbours. Keep calm: move forward. It’s like that key advice they give on aeroplanes. In the event of a sudden loss of pressure, oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling: please attend to your own mask before helping others. How we act as individuals impacts upon the collective – look after yourself, but don’t act so self-preservative that you harm others.

Rather astute for a rockstar at half capacity, yes? We continue.

Food in Prague can be a delight. The traditional food is very big on meats, rich sausages and hearty goulash are mainstays. The Czech Republic is deep in potato Europe.

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And there is a map which explains it better than I care to get into right now. In addition to the Czech traditional fare, the city has been host to various waves of immigration and cultural exchange. Italian is popular, I am yet to sample the quality other than Metro pizza slices which are a godsend, as is that glorious site for drinkers everywhere: the Turkish kebaberie. There’s a good takeaway called the Checkout, next to the Czech Inn on Francouska, near to my friend Teddy’s. We went there for chips, or fries as he barbarically calls them, as we were watching Steven Universe one night and the topic came up. It was a good, good night. My desire to taste the meat of life lead to me ordering a kebab for what was supposed to be a simple chips acquisition. Strong flavours are the best.

Despite my meaty desires, I have also sampled  vegetarian and vegan places with my friend Roisin – who is definitely the main reason I am here and so glad of that, she is dotted around previous posts in case you are unaware. The vegetarian places are fairly varied, but there is always delicious falafel. Falafel hits me as a bit of a superfood. It’s made of chickpeas or something so it must be healthy, right?

One advantage of travelling alone is the ability to eat by myself or with others depending how I’m feeling. A guy from my hostel, Joe, told me about this map online – “made by locals” on Google will find it for you. It came with a suggestion for a Vietnamese place that I was interested in one night, but it was closed for a party so I went to KFC instead. Another time it directed me towards a traditional Czech place just off Muzeum, but it was Sunday so they were closed for some reason – peculiar that Sunday is such a popular day off, the Czech Republic is majority atheist. I ended up that day getting Vietnamese in a place on Italska, the name escapes me but it was amazing. Vietnamese food is so damn flavourful and filling, while remaining affordable. I tried the one that the map recommended on a later night and it was incredible also. Definitely look up the map if you’re travelling, but find other options near to where you head because opening times are often strange and otherwise you just end up funding globalisation.

The Vietnamese connection is interesting. The story I’ve heard is that when Vietnam went Communist they had some cultural exchange with the USSR. I wonder if there are Czech eateries in Vietnam also or if it was more one-sided, answers on a postcard, please.

Yesterday night when I began this post Lambrusco-heavy with a post-night out bottle of Gambrinus in hand, I promised I would say a thing on Nonstops. These are theoretically 24 hour places with food, cigarettes and alcohol. However, I have seen a flower shop which claimed to nonstop as well as restaurants. I have also seen “nonstop” places closed. False advertising is evidently not against the law here, or else it is like a DFS “sale” exclusion – like one day a year they are open nonstop, just as DFS somewhere have sofas at full- price.

 

Anyway, a few more inane burblings for you to chew over. Now, excuse me, think I might go fetch some healing pho soup.

Life is strange

Life is a funny thing.

Currently I’m in a Mexican restaurant in Vinohrady, Prague and crowdsourcing for an errand that the friend I met at a punk show – Roisin, name-dropped, kind of pararhymes with ocean for if you don’t know Irish names, which nobody does, and which Apple wants to correct to raisin – has given me inspiration for, insomuch as I would not have looked had it not been suggested, due to a booking error that got me to Prague for 2 months instead of 5 days, following an interview for a language school which went so-so, and I’m asking a Facebook group where are the good places to buy shoelaces, and they tell me round about the spot I found on Google Maps but in more detail than was otherwise available, insofar as I had no appetite to read further into it than was absolute necessary as I have become a stickler for the details today.

Good afternoon, everybody.

Czeching in and Czeching out

I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers. Obligatory Streetcar Named Desire references to make quota for the decade or, in other words, yet another attempt to command thoughts into a decent narrative.

More accurately, I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers who become acquaintances and then fast friends.

The predominant feeling of the week is enervation: I am so damn tired every morning but so satisfied all the time with how the day has gone. This week I entered and left my third hostel. It seems preferable to traveling to keep up the movement and see as many parts of the city as possible through the lens of actually living there. So far I have lived in the south of the centre, in the west by the castle, and in the northern reach off Namesti Republicky. Of the three, I rate the Art Hole Hostel on Soukenicka off Namesti Republicky highest. The others lacked that capacity to meet and get to know new people – either that or I have just got better at it in a hostel context. The layout was good though and everyone agreed the place had something special about it. I may go back.

As I left the place I got a bit sad, nostalgic for the week I had just had, with it’s affordable Kozel dark and it’s international mix of travellers, all with different stories. For lack of seeking consent for publishing their names and no desire to upset anyone I will stick with details. There was the physiotherapist who had a week off work and booked the cheapest plane ticket he could find, surprisingly good dancer for an English man. The Italian who sounded like a Londoner so much that nobody could guess otherwise, she taught me a dance move but I can’t recall it’s name other than that it involved hip movements like the burlesque dancers from Gypsy. There was the girl who seemed to always wear pyjamas and brought me round after round of coffee while I lesson planned – though there is no acknowledgements section in the plan, I hope this post is sufficient. Then there was the New Yorker studying in Florence who, within our first actual conversation, was good at getting serious and discussing the big questions that make up reality – very big on finding the keys to success and with her drive she may well do it. The American guy on a tour of truly epic scale, Israel, Turkey, and nearly every capital in Europe. This is before even getting into the staff of the place who made the experience always comfortable and interesting, with their own stories, different languages, and, because I’m shallow I must recall, their pretty features. I have definitely forgotten people in this post, but to anyone I met who reads this, I will not forget you.

But we move on. No time for dwelling, the game is afoot!

This weekend I am couchsurfing with some English teachers. They are a wonderful support network for both travelling and for my future teaching designs, though I unfortunately was not able to take their feedback fully on board owing to time constraints. So this weekend I am moving twice, seeing more streets and living well, with improved sleep quality overall as dorm rooms are a little on the noisy side.

Onwards with the adventure.

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