Prague Summer

Jul. 30 - At six o'clock Friday evening the DMB and I boarded a bus for Prague in Israels Plads. It was a charter trip organized around the Rolling Stones concert Sunday night.

Mick Jagger would be turning 60 on Saturday, so this would be his first concert as a sextuagenarian.

I'd guess that half the crowd on our bus had already forgotten their own sixtieth birthdays, but that's not saying much: I doubt many of them had much memory of Thursday.

I'd been expecting a lot of beer and booze on the bus and I wasn't disappointed. What surprised me was the the number of walkers, canes, and hearing aids. It was almost impossible to get to the bathroom without tripping over someone's IV-line.

It was a long ride to Prague—fifteen hours—made all the longer by the frequent smoking stops demanded by our fellow travelers. It wasn't just that they lingered over their cigarettes; it was more the languid, leisurely pace with which they climbed in and out of their oxygen tents.

It was about 6:30 a.m. by the time we reached the Czech border with Germany. After our bus had cleared German passport control, but before it had been greenlighted through Czech customs, one of the younger members of our group staggered back onto the German side of the border and pissed all over a German sign. It was just the sort of youthful prank you'd expect from a spirited young man in his early fifties—with bladder problems—but the Czech inspectors didn't consider his age a mitigating circumstance. We were held up at the border for nearly an hour while he and all of his belongings were thoroughly searched, and he was eventually levied a fine of 2000 Czech crowns (about forty-five cents) before being allowed back on the bus.

I suppose our group might have forgiven the lad for his foolish and probably unsanitary act if only he hadn't delayed our breakfast. That was a mistake. Hardly any one spoke to him for the rest of the trip.

Unfortunately, our breakfast was better in anticipation than in hindsight.

In the middle of some crumbling Czech village in the hills, we were shepherded into what must once have been a theatre but was now "Dan Viking," a restaurant set up by a Dane specifically catering to Scandinavian tourists on their way into Prague. The box-office and lobby had been converted into currency exchange and cigarette sales offices, and the theatre itself—with a proscenium stage at one end and a row of projection booths set above the other—was lined with long cafeteria tables at which hundreds of haggard and supperannuated Danish Stones fans were wolfing down their rolls with sausage and cheese.

After breakfast we meandered another half hour through the winding hills of the west before descending into long, flat plains that brought us the rest of the way to Prague. Every little town or village we drove by looked somehow wounded—bruised, neglected, or worn down by sheer attrition. But everywhere were signs of rebuilding.

Most notable to my own metaphorically-inclined eyes were the endless fields of sunflowers—still young, no more than a foot or two tall, millions of them blanketing thousands of acres.

Even now, with the entire weekend behind me, that's the enduring image. Whenever I hear the phrase "Prague Spring," I'm going to end up visualizing all those sunflowers—like a sea of hopeful, upturned faces.

And on that positive note, I'm going to knock off blogging for today. I'll pick up where I felt off tomorrow. Your regular daily briefing follows...

For Emily, Wherever...

It's Emily Brontė's birthday.

The Brontės were three hideous sisters who dwelt in a cave and had to share a single eyeball between them. They were eventually outwitted and slain by wily Odysseus. (Unless that was the Gorgons, in which case the Brontės were three Englishwomen who wrote poetry and novels in the middle nineteenth century.)

Women were not allowed to write books at the time because novels were still being written in the formal style, and it was feared that women would corrupt that classic form with their penchant for multiple climaxes. The Brontės therefore wrote under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte got to be Currer and this made the other girls jealous: Currer was the handsome and swarthy sailor, while Ellis was the stuttering librarian and Acton was the simpleminded shepherd.

As authors, the Brontės were heavily influenced by the Romantics ("That's What I Like About You"), but most scholars contend that Emily's Wuthering Heights owes more to the Meteorologists.

She is perhaps best known for her invention of Heathcliff, most recently popularized by American cartoonist Jim Davis.

She shares her birthday with Lisa Kudrow (1963), Arnold Schwarzenegger (1947), Paul Anka (1941), Peter Bogdanovich (1939), Casey Stengel (1891), and Henry Ford (1863).

It's Independence Day in Vanuatu. Give yourself ten points if you knew Vanuatu was independent to begin with.

Happy Wednesday!

© 2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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