Sunday, April 3, 2011

Prague Pints pt. 4: l'enter rouge

Days Remaining to Next Beer: 350

As Bad Romance sings “Love Hurts” into my ear buds and Betty Dodson’s website asks me to set a new password from my Gmail inbox, I can’t help but think of the next bar on the list of best bars I’ve swilled inside of willingly within the city limits of Prague, a place that makes me again think of Electric Six and the “Gay Bar’ song, a magical well ventilated place wherein a mother might wheel her stroller full of baby right up to the bar and huff back half a pack while she sips a pilsner and maybe contemplates landing a husband from abroad, or simply basks in the overwhelming truth of being a Mother now, of what sort of love that really is. 

The Bug once mix-mashed a song called “Stampin’ (poison rhythm)” largely speaking to a place where people couldn’t be bothered to care where you are, what you do, what you feel or think you’re all about. Song landed upon the point that life might be so intolerable, people so intolerant, that time had come for folks to stamp down, demand respect, claim their right to space, beliefs, dispositions, earthly possessions, surrogate families, skylark fantasies, bread breath, and brethren. This cutting track sidesteps to mind as I recollect the place where love of my life told me we had hope before us and a life to build together when a moment of weakness, of fear, held court inside my gullet and mad proclamations about cold feet and compromised commitment. 

“I know it isn’t true, I know it is a lie...” and here we are years later looking back on a red rich interior decorative detailing and a round table flanking a plate glass window overlooking a side street of international passerby and an alcove window ledge where a Lionel scale merry go round made rounds despite ample added adornments likely compromising its original intent. 

We’d seen the Jewish cemetery, seen the piles of grave stones brought to a centralized location with stubborn determination, hundreds of chest high stones detailed with names, dates, details, hopes and familial mission statements.
We’d seen the baby mountain, the piled up psychically shrieking head height pill box of buried babies, the final stadium show of infantile magnitude, Who show in Cinci has nothing on this. Without knowing what we’d approached something went sideways that too easily springs to mind, too quickly comes up in conversation, a wrong I’m witnessing so far after the fact, so atrocious even I can’t just walk by like at most I’d scuffed a heel. I’m not Jewish, I’m not a lot of anything in particular, yet even my vacuous form knows an inconsolable grief when standing before one, a mound of rage and sadness, of quivering tears and knee buckling what the... and why demanding answer that will meet with silence because everyone accountable is gone though their children take tours though the same graveyard decades later, distracted by technology and hormones, gabbing loudly while I’m standing by this pile of babies and wanting, needing, some one to blame, like a Smiths song, "How Soon Is Now?"

I simply cried instead and got out. I churned and lurched as though looking for Barbara (caution, Night of the Living Dead reference) to the exit gate and waited for my wife to find me. Once she did we went outside and procured a clay Golem to bring home with us. His predecessors might have failed to protect everyone, yet we believed this incarnation could defend our home, and our fledgling family, because we believed in him. We had too, the alternative would never be acceptable.

This isn’t about religious ideologies, controversial history, or oblivious young adults. This is about the sheer audacity our species has to destroy its own, and do so at such a primal level, like rodents eating their young, like a gutted shark feeding on its own entrails. What is wrong with us? Bau Haus howls "Dark Entries" and I demand to know. Why have we now brought a child into this? Do we need to share this, or beget something better, fucking better?

Because of hope, because we can try to bring up a child to care, a child that won’t stand in the middle of a tour group in the Jewish cemetery of Prague and spend his time messaging one girl while trying to work his jocular charismatic magic on another. Won’t break from date wrangling to point and stare at statuesque details of grave markers to observe loudly with broken English how grossly disproportionate the carved genitalia is, assuming the locals don’t speak the dialect that seems so exotic to them selves. Won’t scoff at names with too many syllables, riddled with accent marks, or ending with vowels. Someone who won't point to a burial mound full of babies with anything less that abject horror.

This is my open and revolving axle of angst, my pumping pistons of passionate discontent. This is a Spor 'The Eyes Have It" soundtrack tramping fist prints in the snow crash of my security blanket. This is a need for answers, or a least solace, or failing that, for a shelter to suffer a storm of sudden self-doubt, of worry, of uncertainty with my true love's hand held fast, the sight of a mass burial new to me, and something I pray I never become accustomed to or accepting of. I needed Pricilla, Queen of the Desert. Failing that, we found l'enter rouge, and the welcoming warm womb of the place took, like Peaches sang, "...the pain away."

“All Angels Gone” by Stephen H would be a fitting soundtrack, or the end credits “Lonely Man” piece for the Bill Bixby era of the Incredible Hulk television show. “After the Flesh” once looped me through a 5k mini-marathon and sprang to mind then as a potential soundtrack for a speedy surrender, the sort that requires sprinting full tilt towards the nearest border. Julian Cope once sang “Sell my soul for a piece of pie...” and after seeing an utterly avoidable, unnecessary graveyard, avoidable had a holocaust not happened, unnecessary had no one needed to protect these markers and bodies because they were getting the restful respect they inherently warranted and deserved.

I've read the Jewish families of Prague already layered their dead into the alloted chunk of land before WW2, before USSR. I've also read that after the formation of the USSR distant Jewish cemeteries were closed and all their grave markers were moved to this centralized location. Not necessarily the bodies, just the markers.Something about all of this seems wrong, seems like far more than the ghosts in Poltergeist were pissed about.

Johann Johannsson’s “The sun’s gone dim and the sky’s gone black” emerges from the depths of my iPod, my empathetic and often eerily poignant device, and I try to bring this back to task, to describe why we ended up sitting in a place where we felt safe, why we so much needed too, a place with fellow people that might not meet with social acceptance, people who might not fit in, who might when skirts yank down evade easy blame for being different, unpopular, awkward, without clear Hallmark definition, outside MTV demographic.

Like looking for lost lovers, as though windswept by the sheer import of James Joyce’s The Dead  read aloud by a child over an interpretive dance adaptation of Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia with hammer dulcimer soundtrack and a haunting background chorus by Lisa Gerrard and Beth Gibbons, we were drawn to the place by the carousel in the window display, so simple and yet sublime. Once inside we found ourselves strangely warmed and immediately at home, citizens of the world yet members of this happenstance family. Perhaps they knew with their proximity to the cemetery they were creating an oasis, a safe haven from the storms of consequence that assailed wide eyed witnesses as they stumbled out from affront of the sheer magnitude of the dead baby mound. 

Maybe they just took advantage of the cheap lease for a venue no one else wanted to let since the Soviets relocated all the graveyards to layer on top of the centuries of graves the Jewish locals had already planted, centralized so many bodies to this one sole location, a screaming maw of existential insecurity, so much wracked energy feeling not unlike the outsider paradigm aspects of the song, ”The Last Martian” that the Pack A.D. sang about, or the “Love Lives” by Dave Stewart, whereupon the full magnitude of the fragility inherent to human existence manifests and leaves a mortal to do little but shake crow’s feet hands with broken wrists towards heaven and scream.

We thankfully found this rest stop for the soul and enjoyed some breathing room before heading back to our hotel. Should you end up in Prague and anyone sentient should, you’d be well served to find yourself here. If you’re distraught, overwhelmed, feel abandoned, an outsider, or alone in need of equally oblong company, then head to this place. Life is short, treat it with respect, and remember that you’re never really any more alone than you chose to be.


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