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We all need a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Today’s reason, I’m tired of feeling tired. I get so lost sometimes, I don’t know how… but it happens like a bad habit. Assessing and reassessing my situation, planning for the unknown.
What should I be doing? Am I standing still? I think the solution is to do what feels right but when day light creeps in through the window it’s a reminder that work needs to be done, money has to be made, and a stomach needs its feeding. As I pour through empty thoughts from last night I’m wondering… do I get enough sleep? do I sleep too much? what happened to time? I think back to a time when I didn’t need to ask these questions… the flight towards Amsterdam, just before dawn with a buzz from Krakow. I’ve got a small bag, some clothing, a notebook, camera, iPod, savings and no responsibilities. Destiny pulls me in any and every direction.
From a bird’s eye view, Amsterdam looks like a plaid sweater sewn into the earth. The kind of sweater no one buys, an ugly blue/green/grey that ends up forgotten in a thrift store. As the plane touches down I feel an overflowing sense of time from my pockets, I’m twelve hours early for my meeting and I can splurge on a good meal, a cheap Heineken, and a long nap.
I exit central station and march through the caverns of a commercial district. The shopping center is littered with souvenir stores and coffee shops. Every so often, you hit a square that is surrounded by a big clock-tower, a church, and a crowd of tourists aiming their lenses at these massive architectures. I follow the canals to the next point of interest. The canals are unique to the city like the imperfections of ladies leg with varicose veins, scars, and cellulite. The air is damp, with the occasional gust of grease or hypnotizing scent of sweets. The energy of the people feels familiar with faces from all across the globe; a small scale manhattan wearing a european fashion brand. You could call it “a touch of dutch”.
It rained everyday but the rain was ok. There were many times of wet rain, the rain that really gets you wet, but that was ok too. The only exception to my high tolerance of discomfort was when moisture had soaked through my socks and into my skin. With each step, I began to think like I might be able walk on water. The seriousness of the situation had escalated to code red when I could not absorb any more water. Just one more pint and osmosis would beset me. So, I had to seek sanctuary from the showers. By good luck, I had an audience with an old high school mate. We got to know each other riding the F train and sharing the occasional lunch during our adolescence. Years had passed us but nothing much had changed. Having secured a roof over my head I’m not looking to spend money, just looking for a good time. It’s a nice way to live in the big city as a small timer. I’ve experienced new tastes, spread good nature, and made sense of myself.
When I met my friend, I foresaw adventure and light hearted trouble. If you could imagine two old pals riding a shotty bike through town, swerving in and out of traffic making animal noises and heavy metal screams than you can imagine the joy of letting loose in a strange land. I could’ve cared less if a police man reprimanded us for driving recklessly and the heckling at no one in particular. We were wild and very much alive… like birds in the rain, circling around, close to the ground. When we weren’t chowing down over-priced burgers in de Pijps or socializing at the pubs and clubs we stayed home and relaxed with cable televisions all-day Simpsons marathon.
Riding 2nd class on a bike is just another way to get around the city. Or you could walk… because it’s free. So I walked everywhere, in times of rain and shine. Well, what to do in Amsterdam. Do drugs and fuck a hooker. I couldn’t afford to spend money on the museums or the hookers so I spoiled myself with a joint. At 3 euros, it seemed like the most fun I could have. I thought I would smoke a joint, walk around, observe and write. If and when I got the munchies, I would eat something nice.
“Walking through the streets of Amsterdam where no one gives a damn. My senses are shocked as far as the eye can see, but it goes further. It gets darker, over here you can get away with murder. The kind of place, like living in a day dream. I’m not busy with anything, I’m not occupied. Just thinking presently. I’m a cowboy in the streets seeing everything as it seems. Walking through the fire, the gateways into new senses. A city inspiring the dark sides. Resisting temptations, challenging morals. Where do you stand? Here and there, where is your line and how far will you push it? In this moment I do not see. But only feel, a sense that is not real. Here I am, writing away and what do i have to say. Is there anything I want to say? Just writing and writing away. I think about it. But I don’t. What do I say, what do I say? I can say anything, everything, whatever I want. So I write and write.. it’s alright, then I read again. This voice in my head. Writing whatever I have to say. It says anything. It says whatever it wants to say. It does anything, anything it wants to say. Noise, sounds, and visions. How the hell is this happening. I’m whatever I want to be!”
The most vivid experience is seeing women sold as commerce. Red-light women market themselves like chops of meat at a butcher. You got filet mignon, porter-house, ground-beef. There’s a disconnection when snake eyes tempt you to the dark side. The whole scene is curious, empty, and a bit uncomfortable. For those frequenting, flirting back and forth, they haven’t a problem doing business with the stutes. I cannot take it all so seriously. It all seems so unreal, a false sense of reality. Some of these women are gorgeous, others are trash… I’m intrigued by the scene and walk around. I think what the hell is going on here. I observe the sex machine. Prostitution is a career choice that revolves around the beauty and mystery of women. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard the phrase “sex sells”. Pleasure is big business here and I imagine all around the world. Since the beginning of all desires, men are drawn to the nature of women. It has inspired so much passion, action, and creation. Is there any shame in buying a prostitute? I had to ask this question and agreed that you would have to live with that dehumanizing feeling. These women are human people, mothers, sisters, and others. Primordial pleasures should be treated with a bit of sanctity. When you eat, eat presently with appreciation for the many flavors in every bite. When you make love, be present, respect, and appreciate your woman. You could say “well, fuck that”. And well… that’s just like… your opinion.
It all seemed so chaotic, all the people, the tourists, the locals. The city center is really on a hustle. I think about what do most people want? All those people on the street, at the supermarkets and at the cafes? I think everyone just wants peace, some kind of shelter, food on the table, and to feel loved. My crush of love came while eating french fries with mayonnaise, some lady had the gall of telling me I’d die of a heart attack. Well… I guess. Consuming two weeks of fat in two minutes might cause mild traffic in the arteries but this is a one and done deal. She also babbled that I’d better watch out for thieves. Well.. I guess. I was more preoccupied with trying decadent dutch pastries from the one and only dutch oven. I recommend everyone grabbing a piece of dutch honesty.
A demonstration in Copenhagen took place today where about a thousand or more citizens showed up in the blistering cold to voice their opposition against the danish government selling a percentage of energy stocks to Goldman Sachs. I’m pleading ignorance because I don’t know what impact this deal would have on the danish people. In simple terms, I think that having a piece of the pie gives you say on the value of the pie and the ability to choose how you want to distribute your piece. So, energy prices could go up at will. I assume it’s a money thing because as with most corporations, the main agenda of these power brokers is to make the most profitable deal even if it undermines public opinion. These corporations and governments are wealthy beyond our understanding and do not need to concern themselves with pleasing the ordinary person. This is a conversation of money and power beyond god. If you really want to change things than it’s going to take more than hand-written signs and political conversations. The wind chill could make bare hands numb in seconds but fortunately I brought my gloves and took advantage of the hot coffee some political groups were handing out. I thought that was nice. Walking among politically active people sharing their agendas was nice too. I felt a bit of nostalgia towards the Occupy movement. But, this isn’t my fight. I’m just an observer in solidarity with humanity, dignity, and having a voice.
Heading up north at a steady pace while fleeting greens and yellows fade along the way. We pass cement block houses, old iron works, and unknown industrial factories. Just a few hours later and we’re at the border of Czech Republic and Poland. Crossing the border, a thought enters my mind that I should probably explore Poland more. When I step off the train I recognize everything known and unknown, the buildings are familiar and memories all too vivid, particularly being able to enjoy restaurant food and get a taste for the night-life. I’ve had some delicious food and drink here with my family. Getting back on track, I grab a Prince Polo and meet a devoted friend at the Adam Mickiewicz statue, we sit and watch people pass with the hero of romantics. “Hey”, “Hey again”. After a long journey, proper food is in demand so we visit a shawarma guy and grab the most disappointing Zapiekanka I’ve had in my whole life. All bread, no substance, it deserves the name “Crapiekanka”. Along with our foolish food impulse, drinking beers on a full stomach had us stumbling and bumbling around town in style and grace We meet more friends, drink more beer, and the reunion has transformed me into one big bourgie mofo. At home my wallet simply wants to be left alone and live a reclusive life but in eastern europe the leather wants to be seen on the scene. I guess it’s about enjoying how far your hard earned money will take you.
Walking out the door what do you expect. I just want to walk around, see things, maybe eat something good, look at the people, share a joke. Maybe meet someone interesting… like those 3 construction workers, the Italian guy, the American guy, and the Polish guy. So, they’re working on a high-rise building and during lunch break the Italian guy says “I’ve been eating pasta every single day, if my wife packs pasta for lunch tomorrow, I’m gonna jump off this building”. The American guy says “Yeah, my wife, she brings me hot dogs everyday, If I get hot-dogs tomorrow I’m going down”. Polish guy says “Yeah, if I get kielbasa tomorrow, I’m jumping”. The next day, the Italian guy goes “Thank you God, a meat-ball sandwich” the American guy goes “Ah finally! A cheeseburger” And the Polish guy? He jumped. Why? Well, I don’t know why, he packed his own lunch. Almost all Polish jokes end up with a punch-line that implies Poles are dumb. And if stereotypes don’t provide enough evidence than I guess the screen-door on a submarine is just Polish ingenuity. That was a joke and there’s much more to every culture then at first glance. Almost immediately we make assumptions and comparisons which most people will accept as “that was my first thought, so it must be true.” But I think we need to take one step forward and two steps back, detach a bit, get new angles and perspectives then make a judgment call.
We stay in a penthouse outside the city and whenever there’s an event to attend the tram is always there to give us a ride. Looking out the window, what do you see. Walking down the streets, who are you hoping to meet? At the supermarket, on top of a mountain. Making eye contact and looking away. Smiling or scowling. Every single day. What to do. What to do. It’s a cliche and makes me sound like a puff but how about sharing a beautiful view and depositing a smile in to your memory bank. Nature has that effect, I wouldn’t want to half-ass the description of this area but it’s some kind development 10 minutes outside of central that has turned into a natural lake. Elevated cliffs offer a long view into the vista for many kilometers. A location fit for a lakeside king. The nature of this area is hilly terrain with wide valleys that carry fresh water from the mountains. Southern Poland sees lots of evergreens cozying up together surrounding townships scattered about the planes. You’ll see the occasional castle, spot a McDonalds somewhere along the road, and even see a couple grandmas walking to church.
Krakow maintains a history of higher education and serves as a cultural collision point between artists, musicians, and poets of all ages and all backgrounds. For centuries it had been a cultural mecca centrally situated to Prague, Budapest and Warsaw. The city is well-preserved in its history which permeates a tradition of resilience and self-improvement. Krakow continues to grow and the ingredients for a rich city are seen on the streets. Many young students, artists, and musicians attend higher education in the city and create a vivid city life amongst professionals, craftsmen, and seniors whose integration into the local fabric maintains the cities character and feel. The expression of the local people shows a deep understanding of artistic traditions and a desire to push ideas further. The National Musuem highlights 17th, 18th and 19th century works by polish painters and sculptors.
A night out with the king of krakow couldn’t have been scripted. At first glance their suits reeked of zloty but when the bill had arrived we were all equal. We talked business, life, wives and children while each round of vodka came swinging like a boxer, fortunately for me, the Danish system had conditioned me to walk toe to toe with the heavyweights. Poland’s citizens are known to be heavily favored when it comes to last man standing. In drinking wars, they’re the special forces unit in general alcohol’s army. And so we hopped from an art-deco bar to an exclusive night club with long lines and beautiful people. A rare treat for the underemployed adventurer intent on maximizing his enjoyment. My alcohol soaked thoughts and observation of local social interactions tempted me to push the envelope a bit. There’s a genius at work when punches are being thrown in another direction while I’m directing the mockery of the entire social scene. There’s genius in all the truths and all the lies when you’re dancing with the wolves. Knowing what is acceptable and what is not acceptable takes a wise guy wherever he wants. From the first handshake to the final farewell, we ran with the wolves and it was fun as hell. It was fun to be exclusive for a while at least for the duration of our engagement, afterwards, I’m ordinary like the rest of em.
Where do you go when you don’t know where to go. I guess Kazimierz it is. With freedom from friends, some money in my pocket, and the force of gravity moving me towards this or that. I might like to write a bit, drink a delicious drink and have a conversation. Talking nonsense can satisfy me more than the whole let’s go through the facts. “Yes, I’m from New York, yes, I’m traveling, yes I’m also Polish” and “Yeah, it’s cold, yes, it’s night” After answering the same questions, my character development needs to keep things interesting for myself. “Why yes, I’m from outer space, I’m an inter-galatic alien traveling the seven wonders of the world and Poland happens to be number two on the list and yes these nipples are pepperoni and they could cut ice but hey who turned off the lights!” The script only gets better or worse depending how far down the weirdo chain you’ve fallen. Based on social experiments, those of us at the bottom produce favorable results in shared gratification among the jiving community, an experienced jiver can hang with the plebeians and mingle with the chiefs. And there’s nothing better than drunk jiving. Under the influence, I’m following my instincts and I find myself pursuing the sound of the city. I’m at a music club called Mezcal and it’s really happening. There’s about a dozen in the crowd and the music is alive. Its an improv with a interesting cast of players. A mix of mustache, gray beards, and peach fuzz. Before the 2nd number ends, Police interrupt the good vibrations and kill the sound. Tensions between artists and authority are hot but after some “it’s we’re making good music here” and “every polish person is one familly” and , the officers leave and another jam starts up. I volunteer for some soft drumming as not to disturb the local authorities and I find myself in the middle of an exciting spontaneity. Led by a blues vocal that saws through a funky bass line with sloppy southern licks getting people wet. I chop beats with hip hop feet and we take a walk in each others shoes. A beer is shared off stage and smiles exchanged. I love it. One more Zapiekanka for the road and a four am cab right to the airport.
I’m tired, sleeping at the terminal with only 3 regrets… drinking screwdrivers at the house of beer, eating a crapiekanka from a kebab shop, and being too humble… like not spending enough money and painting everything red, white, and blue. Ah wait that’s not true, I did tip the cab driver more than you would.
Here’s a piece of free writing from Alchemia a cool spot to grab a beer and write.
In the city of today
No one knows your name
Having a pint on my own
With belief in another day
All the people around me
Touching and talking
In different tongues
Im stuck inside my head
Thinking too much now
Screaming politely, how?
This overdose on thoughts
Is pushing me deeper in
But I can see the way out
Through a scream or shout
With a pint and pen
I bleed, I write
Thinking, how’s it gonna be?
Krakow, I must leave
Well I thought I might write something before the year ends and these happen to be my thoughts as the western calender year is ending.
I’m sitting here together with my mac book and thinking what will I write, the night time has come too quick and I’m awaiting my call of duty in delivery service. What have I delivered this year and will I continue to deliver in the next year?
At this point in time, almost exactly one year ago I was exploring the streets of Paris thinking the same thoughts. What have I done and what will I do?
There is so much stuff that fills the everyday… some days are intense, others are relaxed, but how do you gauge the productiveness or wastefulness of these days. The goal is to maximize efficiency and eliminate distractions. What helps me sleep at night is realizing that I’m strengthening that which truly matters and de-prioritizing stresses that don’t. At the end of the night you want to rest with peace in mind and that’s tough when you’re not sure or secure about anything. My biggest enemy is that I feel like a total ignoramus because I’m failing to support myself and that feeling of being a failure in society causes me anxiety. I’m following my intuitions but are they wrong? Ultimately, they leave me happy but in debt. Is it my fault or the systems fault? If I did not have my parents than I might be working more hours, playing less guitar and creating less things. But perhaps the role of an aspiring artist/musician hasn’t changed in the last few centuries. Maybe I will always need to rely on other people and sacrifice my precious time at low-wage places for these deep pleasures. These pleasures of mine that I hope one day will bear sweet fruits for everyone.
I recently received a post card from my mother aka my biggest supporter which had a touching paragraph written inside titled “the joy of everyday”. It serves as a reminder about the joys of being alive and is certainly something I don’t take for granted anymore. I think about all the days of agony that have filled my soul and they all dissipate in the face of joy. I’ve found joy, I know it and want to share it. Here’s the following text…
“Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy, and celebration. Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved one and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”
I don’t know where it’s from or who wrote it but the last line “laughter is life’s sweetest creation” is a nice sentiment. We all enjoy making others laugh. It has always felt like that was one of the best gifts one can share with another person. Make people laugh. I think that’ll be the goal this year as it has been since the beginning of my time.
Lastly, if I cease to exist on this planet in 2014, my wish would be for people to really love each other more. By love, I mean try to take care of one another so we can create a better reality for everyone. The homeless guy on the street, the handicapped person at the market, the unemployed immigrant, the socially challenged, these are all reflections of our present human condition and we should recognize them and take an action. It starts with “me” and taking an action that could potentially start a chain reaction. It’s better to roll the dice than not roll at all. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be totally selfish and give 100% of yourself to others.
On a more personal note… if we can get more personal than a blog/journal… I don’t know why I write.. I just do it because it feels good. I hope that if someone reads it that maybe a sentence or two will permeate a new idea in this world. In retrospect, maybe that’s the mission I’ve been following all along these 26 years. Create things that will create other things. Why it’s important? I don’t know. Maybe this is an attempt at justifying that I still have a soul to give. Or it’s just me rambling on in this crazy world wide web.
Things ain’t shitty these days, I got Prague legs from walking this city. That’s the way to do it. Walk around, reconnect, and feel at home in another city. The choirs are singing, people are thinking. Everyone, smoking away, everyday. The history is overwhelming my mind, I think through the ages, from the beginning of this city till now, every single face experiencing the same place at distinct moments. When you see that, you think crazy, how’s it gonna be? twenty years from now, two hundred years from now, twenty thousand years, two billion years. Destiny takes hold of me and I meet the right people at the right time. I meet a devoted friend on Karluv Most, it has been 5 months since we’ve seen each other face to face and we pick up right where we left off, “how you doing”, “good”,”good”. We begin walking and talking, heading towards the location of our host for the next two nights. When we arrive at Holečkova, we are greeted by Layla, a free-spirited young girl living in a flat with artists and musicians who are living for now with no interest in dirty dishes. We’re offered a mattress, fresh tea, and strike up conversation about life in Prague, the job opportunities and rich music communities. We’re given suggestions on what to do and where to go so begins our Old City journey. We take the tram to Narodni and make a pit stop at 5 Star Pizza Kebab, an ordinary looking joint where the kebab is unquestionably the best in Prague. We are in good spirits and energy levels rise to excitement, and as those scientologists say, excitement attracts excitement . We hop through countless themes, traditional czech bars, trendy crap, student cafes, a russian vodka club, until we get to Sherlock’s and things start happening. There’s a jam session going down and the big guns are out. The players are ferocious, armed with weapons of mass intensity. The beat hops around with a bounce accompanied by a funked up bass, each soloist gets the reaction they deserve, ranging from a golf claps to a whistle, holler, and a hoot. The night is young and already a plethora of moments take my breath away. Drink up more absinthe and down more czech beer. By now, the music is red hot when flat-mate Tomas appears out of the blue. Everything is “fucking brilliant” with him and many laughs are had. The tone is set. We grab another kebab at Five Star, a beer for the road, and march uphill to Holečkova.
Waking up in a new city, feeling like a million bucks, I’m ready to explore every dirty nook and cranny. To supplement the good vibration, summer greets us in late October, the weather saturates the mood of the place and life is good. With a bread n’ cheese breakfast on the bridge we take off to the National Gallery on foot and pass dozens of faces, among the flock are; young students on school trip, asians on invasion, seniors checking off their bucket lists, couples on a romantic getaway, and me, a man without a plan just coming and going. Carrying on to the Slav Epic, I cannot handle how one man could produce a series of work of such magnitude. The paintings delve into slavic history and folklore with a dream-like interpretation that communicates truths beyond space and time. The exhibition touches on deep rooted emotions and it’s epicness is unparallel to any other historical paintings I’ve ever seen. You are consumed into Mucha’s world. A world that lasts eternally. The only escape was the force of hunger, a call we were reluctant to answer but did so out of necessity and curiosity for local cuisine. That’s when we found Lokal, slav food on Dlouha, where you can get your meat n potatoes with a fresh, cold pint. It’s tough to fuck up meat and potatoes but, to master it with simplicity is another level of enjoyment on either side of the kitchen. After having our fill we set out to find the Metronome. We were told that it’s the best view of the city and it lived up to the hype. It is the burial ground for the largest Stalin monument with a damned good view. Today, Uncle Joe is long gone… now, it is a chill zone and the site of a huge fucking metronome where you can measure how long you can stay high on life. Slowly but surely, day turns into night and we catch wind about what is happening tonight. It’s happening at Cross, a multi-level music venue with different themes on each floor. What was once an underground basement club had now turned into an art installation fun house. There’s heavy metal music coming from random corners, ska night happening in a basement turned steam-punk bar, and the junkies are bottom floor in a dodgy drum n bass room keeping danger alive. The word of the bird is Skandaal, we meet people, enjoy the music, and live vicariously through ourselves.
The next day, my friend and I take different paths, he travels to Poland and I stay in Prague. Physically speaking I am alone but it’s ok. Where to go, what to do, who to talk to, what to say. Today is my brothers birthday and I’m gonna do whatever we’d do, so, I write a letter to the united states and treat myself to McDonalds coffee and a blueberry cupcake. After a while, I have chinese food. And after that, beers with the beautiful soul, Dasa. A day of walking, thinking, and talking through Old City and a night of relaxation, fun, and laughs around Bubny and Žižkov. When you meet a stranger, you can say anything so you gotta watch your words. Words are dangerous and sometimes difficult but there’s a feel to meeting people and you can smell the bull. You can feel people out with a blend of honesty and humor. You can be sincere or talk jive, you can give em both ears or tell em to shove it. You can be a passive puss or an opinionated ass. These encounters prove to be enjoyable because you end up learning about yourself. What would you say or do.
The following morning I take a walk through Parukářka, a park on top of a hill with the finest view of Prague. It made me feel massive and Prague has that effect on you because your perspectives are always changing when you’re walking up and down hills. It’s a bit like urban hiking. Being a walking enthusiast, it really soothes the head being on these journeys. To stick to the zen, I walk through aisles of an old cemetery and find myself among good company. The dead are relaxed and in a deep rest. We enjoy a calm, quiet companionship however my reservation isn’t booked yet so I return to land of the living. A cab driver once said “you can’t enjoy a nice day six feet below” so I make plans with a guide for Prague castle where my guide provides me with anecdotes and pieces of history to help me understand her and the culture she’s in. I am just listening, observing, and engaging. From my point of view, Prague Castle and the Cathedral are assertive, the only way to escape their grip is leaving the city. They tower over the land and remind you who’s the boss with the cash to build and rebuild. Because money ain’t a thing to these institutions, it’s an illusion, just a tool to control you and me. Think about living without money. What would you do? It’s tough to imagine. To change our dependancy on the current system would mean to destroy everything. To throw people into chaos and start from scratch. I think I might love that but it feels impossible so when I get money I enjoy it. Money pays for a roof over head, puts food in the fridge, and builds a huge fucking horse statue in Vitkov.
The road less traveled involves choices with an allure to take more risks. Not knowing what happens in the next moment keeps it interesting. You’re allowed to slow down the hands of time and dive into the present. Going against the grain seems insane but, the lust for now is overwhelming and I don’t feel any pain while growing old like the city. Prague has become a part of me. Some honorable mentions from the trip, taking coffee in a cafe, drinking czech beers, listening to strangers, and moments of shared happiness. I think Prague is probably the most beautiful city I’ve seen in my life. The architecture is most obvious and the first impression is lasting. It feels like a magic kingdom, a real life disney world. The city is crowded during the day and lively at night. Music fills up space and your immersed in the life of the area. The personality of artists and musicians cast a reflection of the city and from what I’ve encountered they are both easy-going and intense about work. I think that is attractive. Food and beer is especially cheap and that allows one to indulge in merry traveling.