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A Smoky Surprise

prague street by night

Prague is known for being a laid-back city, full of history, monuments, and drop-dead gorgeous architecture. It is a city, famous the world over, for its beauty, spirit, and class, consistently earning a spot in every top must-see list ever published anywhere. The city is bursting with bars and clubs, an eclectic music scene, and thriving artistic community.

Slowly, over the past couple of months, I’ve had increasing opportunities to go out in Prague. The more I go out, the more I want to see.

Yesterday’s adventure, however, actually inspired me to start writing again.

I went out with a couple of friends to a little tea and shisha bar in Holosevice. As many other bars, clubs, and pubs in Prague, this place is situated underground. We strolled in and down the stairs straight into a decked-out college living room, stuffed with multicolored sofas, pillows, and chairs perfectly designed for lounging around.

My friends beelined for the back room. “It’s like walking into Narnia,” my friend excitedly told me. Oh, really? I thought. That kind of statement begged to be explored. I followed her down a twisty little hallway to another room full of eye-popping artwork and, of course, the requisite couches and pillows. To our left were two tiny doors, made of cheap fiberboard, painted over with abstract art, and clearly designed to look like a wardrobe. Sure enough. We ducked into the last room, Narnia style, and entered a small smoker’s paradise.

The room was, naturally, full of couches, pillows, tapestries, and lounging stoners.

We squeezed in and made a place for ourselves. Within minutes, I was feeling a contact buzz, both from the smoke and the ongoing, clearly marijuana-inspired conversations languidly drifting around me.

Assorted art and fabric decorated the walls and a large standing drum sat in one corner. On one coffee table stood a massive hookah, although no one seemed interested in smoking. Not from it at any rate.

The other patrons were an eclectic mix of young, middle-aged, and flat-out old, with the oldest, a woman with a wretched COPD-inspired hacking cough. At least three or four different conversations could be heard and I immediately felt welcome, like I had known these people for years.

On my recommendation, my friend and I ordered some of the most revoltingly strong jasmine tea that I’ve ever had. Holy shit that tea was strong! I can still taste it, just a little, at the back of my throat.

From there followed one of the most entertaining evenings that I’ve had in a while.

At one point, my friend, who is Slovakian, leaned over and whispered, “It’s all Americans in here,” with an eye roll. It certainly seemed like it at first, but as I listened in on the conversations, I was able to point out a couple of Brits. I glanced at the two guys in the corner next to her who were huddled together quietly talking to each other and watching a video on their tablet.

“What about them?” I asked her softly.

“Czechs,” she replied.

“That’s random,” I answered and we both snickered. Predictably, the only Czechs in the room weren’t talking to anyone but each other. I’m not sure what they were doing there, in a bar so desperately overrun by foreigners. Maybe they got lost.

The evening flowed past in a hazy drift of random conversation and general feeling of well-being. Eventually, one guy pulled out a guitar and began strumming and some young kid hauled out the drum and starting beating out a rhythm. So, naturally, one girl felt inspired to start singing and we all listened to her for the rest of the night. I felt like I had been transported into hippy-high land; a world I hadn’t visited in years but one that was immediately as comforting and familiar as home.

From start to finish, the evening was pure classic entertainment.

It’s times like these that truly make me appreciate this amazing city that I now call home.

As a brief announcement, I’ve decided to move back to Europe; thus, any further posts (which I fully intend to write) will be not about Taiwan. But that doesn’t matter anyway, right? Europe is cooler. I think so, at least. Can’t wait to start blogging all about my new life in Prague.

Lasting Manila Impression

This is quick post but I must share.

Of all the things that happened in the Philippeans, and for a four day weekend there were tons, perhaps the one most shocking moment went as follows.

As soon as we got there, my friends told me to make sure I always locked the cab doors and not make eye contact with people outside when I road around. 

Naturally, I had to ask. 

Just trust me, she says. People will try to sell you anything from brooms to flowers to shoes. Make sure your door is locked. And don’t make eye contact!!!

So of course the first thing I forgot to do was not make eye contact. And sure enough. Some people approached the cab and tried to sell us stuff. Pretty much anytime we went anywhere.

The worst incident though happened when I wasn’t making eye contact at all.

I heard a banging outside my door and glanced out the window. 

Didn’t see anything for a moment. Then I looked down.

And there was a little boy, not more than two and half or three years old banging away on the door begging for money. He didn’t even look up, just kept banging and banging the entire time we were stopped in traffic.

It bought to mind an old Dave Chappelle stand up story that he used to tell about getting taken to the ghetto by surprise at three in the morning and seeing a baby on the corner selling crack. And the story is funny of course and naturally an exaggeration. How could it not be?

But, I guess some things aren’t such an exaggeration after all. 

Recently I received a stern lecture on the poor quality of my blog posts and my inertia toward a hobby I’ve claimed I want a future career in. I needed to hear it because my blog posts have been either non-existent or full of suck, and I my urge to write is at an all time low.

I met with a couple of friends for dinner (in keeping with the theme of this post, I’ll call them Ms. Thang and Ms. Bomb Diggity), and one of the points Ms. Bomb Diggity brought up was how I should write about my passions, my impressions, and my experiences, and why they are memorable.

She suggested I write about all the  highlights of my trip to  Hong Kong. I can’t, I told her. I don’t want to spew all my personal anecdotes and feelings to the world.

She reminded me that for readers to identify with a writer, an author must be open about their innermost reactions. This is what draws people in. She’s right. No one cares about how I climbed the escalator in Hong Kong, or how I couldn’t exchange my coins back to Taiwanese dollars, or even how the ten-dollar bills in Macau are made from plastic (it’s true!). An engaging story worth reading must include my personal introspections, cogitations, and reflections on why a situation is significant.

When I think about some of the books I’ve read, I confess that David Sedaris is one of my favorite authors because he spills his guts about the most humiliating, touching, grossly touchy-feely, ugly, and unattractive parts of himself, his life, and his adventures. These are the stories that resonate. These are the ones I remember.

He jokes in one of his books how his family begs him to not write certain stories or quote things they’ve said. He always promises that he won’t, and then writes about it anyway.

How can I do that? I asked Ms. Bomb Diggity. I have friends and family that read my blog. My mom reads my blog for Christ’s sake. Do you think she wants to read about the nitty-gritty details of my life or my sexual exploits (mom, I’m still a virgin. I swear), my worst moments of sheer meanness, cattiness, and lack of humanity? How can I put that on display to  my friends and my family? Conversely, how can I tell a story that involved the people I know intimately without revealing their less than sterling qualities and snarcastic remarks?

This is a problem that every writer must face, Ms. Bomb Diggity pointed out. Would the novel, Eat, Pray, Love have been so successful if Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t take that ultimate leap and write about the shittiest parts of herself and her divorce? Probably not. I just finished her follow-up book, Committed. Although I enjoyed it, the parts that I enjoyed the most were the shitty fights she had with her man, which she avoided mentioning until nearly the end, and only mentioned after repeatedly providing reasons why people shouldn’t think the worst.

No doubt, she felt her rationalizations were necessary, but reading them was annoying.

I decided to explore my feelings on this topic by hitting up my old pal, Google. Numerous articles have been written on the legalities of writing about people we know. In less than a minute, I found this article, this article, and this one, which offers advice on how to avoid problems.

And these articles mostly pertain to fiction! This article is helpful for bloggers, but it begs the question. If I have to worry this much about what I write or where I write it, then why the hell write at all, let alone blog?

Based on the Internet’s expert advice, here’s what I’ve decided to do: I’m going to give everyone the one-fingered salute and write what I want anyway. But until I hit the jackpot, and I’m making millions of dollars telling stories about how somebody I used to know had the sickest most disgusting toenails of all time, it looks like these stories will to have to go up on my ultra-secret, super sneaky, deeply undercover, hidden-better-than-the-X-Files blog that will be published from an anonymous and untraceable IP address that only aliens will be able to hack.

Sorry guys, but you’re not invited.

Obviously I’ve been horribly remiss in writing last month. If I have to be honest, these last few months I’ve been increasingly tapering off. I haven’t given up on it yet, though.

Just to give everyone a brief update, I’ve been settling in and spending more time on my new job because it’s something I’m developing a strong affinity for and a skill I wish to develop to the best of my abilities. It has been taking up a growing amount of my time.

Second, I went on vacation for a weekend, so I spent a few a weeks obsessing over that. It was awesome by the way. I’ve already written a post or two about it, but neither of them are at a stage that are worth publishing and are in desperate need of editing.

Third, I had  back surgery  last week.  I had high hopes of being back in the blogger wagon as of last week, but I didn’t consider the profound amount of sleep I’d be doing, or my sheer lack of concentration.

Although I continue to exist in a foggy haze, I’ve a few topics I’d like to share with you, beginning with my experiences in Hong Kong and Macau, to dog sitting, to spending four nights in a Taiwanese hospital. I’m hoping you’re waiting with bated breath to read about them too.

Rather than reading about grammar and writing style, and writing extensively, which is how I imagined I’d be spending my recovery, I have instead been reading trash novels and watching copious amounts of Youtube videos (something I rarely do). In addition, I’ve managed to catch up on a few old movies.

I can’t believe I’ve been avoiding watching Ted for so long! My God, that movie is hilarious.

My time hasn’t all been wasted though. I’ve learned about TED talks and the TED organization as a whole, and discovered a v-blogger called illdoctrine, whom I highly recommend. In the course of a day or two I watched numerous videos by him and other bloggers, activists, and various hip hop interviews. I recommend these as worth watching: Machine Guns and Stupid Choiceswhich eventually led me to watching Ted talks by way of this video.

I’ve watched a bunch of crap about hip hop, and got somewhat caught up on the latest hip hop and dance music from the States.  I’m vaguely shocked by how much I’ve missed reading about popular culture in the States, and more shocked with how little I generally know about current events in the world. For the first time in months, I’ve read articles from my home page (the BBC) instead of immediately switching to FB as is my norm.

In the end, I am forced to admit that the only real thing I learned was that I’m lazier than I ever thought it was possible to be, and that I’m not done with writing yet. I’m just taking a little break.

But in the meantime, please enjoy some of the links I posted. And I promise I will do by best to post something up again next week.

I really hope this conversation didn't happen in my operating room....

I really hope this conversation didn’t happen in my operating room….


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