About Last Thursday…

I was interrupted as I began to chronicle the day, and as a consequence there is now much more story to tell. As days pass the immediacy of the events is lost, which may be a good thing — the details swiftly forgotten are probably the ones that would only have cluttered the narrative anyway. When last we broke off in this narrative, the Cute Little Red-Haired Girl was smiling at me, and bringing me tea. That in itself is enough to make for a fine day, but this day things were just getting rolling. Sitting in Café Fuzzy I had no idea about the twists and turns awaiting me that day.

As I had my American Breakfast (bagel with bacon and egg, hold the ketchup), I struggled with my NaNoWroMo offering for the year until blood was seeping from the corners of my eyes. As I was writing Yet Another Political Discussion rather than action or characterization, my phone chimed. I checked and it was a message from Graybeard. “Casting today, US commercial, period piece.” Just which period was not specified. The message included a very large number for the compensation. Literally a year’s rent. Certainly worth checking out. Graybeard and I worked out that we would get there at the beginning of the casting period and hang out in the bar attached to the casting agency.

My condition at that moment could charitably be called ‘scruffy’. Some work was going to be required before I presented myself for the camera. (You can leave your sarcastic comments below. Jerks.) Thus, a mere couple of hours later, I was scraped clean and gussied up, heading out on the town. Not wanting to waste the effort on a casting that would almost certainly prove to be a waste of time, I dropped a line to Don Diego, telling him that I would be out and about. Things happen around Don Diego.

I got to Jam Café a bit early, and sat and had the official One Too Many. Tea, that is. I was a little twitchy from the steady stream of Earl Gray provided by the Cute Little Red-Haired Girl, and as I sat at the café I told myself, “No caffeine. Whatever you do, no caffeine. You’re twitchy enough already. It’ll show on the tape. No caffeine. No caffeine.” “What are you having?” the waitress asked. “Black tea,” I answered.

I was, it turns out, making two big mistakes at the same time. (Generally I’m not that good at multitasking, but sometimes I manage.) I was making myself unnaturally twitchy before going into an inherently nervous situation, and I was doing so while not signing in and getting a place early in the afternoon. I dropped Graybeard a line to discover that he had decided not to come out until later. When the official start time of the casting rolled round I signed in and was assigned number 70. Dang. I sent a message to Don Diego saying I would be a little later than expected.

Time and memory are a peculiar couple — when memorable events are happening quickly the experience of the moment seems to flash by, but in retrospect memory, which is partitioned by events rather than by the ticks of a clock, will represent that whirlwind of experience as a longer period. On the other hand, when nothing is happening at all, the subjective time is endless, but the memory is just a blink. My next hour is now just a forgettable moment. I had a book, but it was boring. I put it away and put my brain in neutral.

Time crawled by. I was going to be even even later. I sent Don Diego another message. “Wanna be in a commercial?” “Why not?” was the reply. I was happy that I would at least have someone to stand around with. He arrived and signed in, and was given number 140. As we waited, a tall blonde girl arrived. For convenience we’ll call her 147.

Not too long after the arrival of Don Diego (recognizing the time-accelerating effect of having an interesting person around), it was my turn. With a whole bunch of people I was herded into the studio. We were lined up by number and were photographed in turn (I concentrated on my face and let my posture go slack, which is not good – modeling is actually pretty complicated). Then it was time to talk to the video camera, and in my group I was easily the best. Hands down, far and away the best. Only one other person in the group spoke English well. Then he asked for a couple more facial expressions, including “a little smile.” My little smile was about the most forced and unnatural expression imaginable, stiff and strained, and while I was working on that I lost my focus on the camera. (Note to self – it’s video – you can move!)

“How’d you do?” asked Don Diego. “I’m not changing my travel plans,” I answered. Now it was time to wait for his turn. “I’m going to flirt with her,” he said, referring to 147. He did. Across the space of five meters he focussed on her. She smiled, blushed, looked away, and was beautifully charming. Don Diego decided to escalate. “Do you think I should sing to her? I’m going to sing to her.” he walked over and sang to her. Not just any song, but “Some Velvet Morning”, which is a really odd song to start with. For a moment (though 147 later denied this) she had a look of abject fear in her eyes, which quickly gave way to a mighty blush.

I won’t go into all the details, but later as the three of us conversed, she asked him, “aren’t you going to ask for my phone number?”

They never auditioned. She was minutes away from going in but had to catch a bus home to Brno.

*****

This seems to be the episode that will never be written. Another day has passed since I wrote the above, a period in which more beers were sacrificed to the gods of conviviality, a night in which I was mocked by a pretty girl for the way I said Záplatím (I said it more like Záplatim) only moments after she has chastised me for not using my Czech enough, and a night in which the Little Café Near Home did not close at the posted hour.

My only hope now is to finish the description of the first part of my day, and leave the second part alluded to in my previous post to your imaginations. Perhaps it will show up in some fiction some day.

*****

They never auditioned. She was minutes away from going in but had to catch a bus home to Brno. She left to catch her bus back home, Don Diego followed. I got a text from him later thanking me for my excellent wing-man support, though I don’t think I did much.

Meanwhile, Graybeard had arrived with two other folks; one was student of his, and the other was the daughter of another student. I joined them in the café section of the casting agency and ordered a beer. Graybeard had tipped them off about the audition as well, and the more the merrier. They were numbered in the 240’s, so they still had quite a wait in front of them. We chatted, I had another beer. I coached the two rookies about what to expect inside, and about the mistakes I made, so perhaps some good would have come of the adventure. It turns out that Miss 241 lives near where I do; she likes to go bowling at B&B. Maybe I’ll run into her there sometime.

Finally Graybeard and 241 were called in for their moment before the camera. 248 and I chatted for a bit, and then another face I recognized came in. Prague is definitely a small town. The new arrival was Lucien, a good guy and a poet to boot. (Lucien is his real name; and he has written some poems I like very much. If you run into him, be sure to buy his latest effort.) He joined us, the others left, and the two of us hung out chatting about writing and stuff until his number came up. I could have waited for him, but by then I was feeling the effects of my hang-out-a-thon and made excuses.

I decided to walk home, but spontaneously dropped into a place called fuego to write about my day. As long as I was at fuego:the bar, I decided to drop a line to fuego:the brother and see if he wanted to join me. He did, and his arrival at fuego:the bar is what interrupted my previous episode. We had a beer or two and discussed the writer’s strike and how to best exploit it.

To abbreviate the night, more people I knew arrived, completely by coincidence. Eventually I was with a boisterous group of Americans, a loud bunch made all the louder by the hot acoustics of the room we were in. This is why I prefer my Americans in small groups. The female of the species was underrepresented, but there was Delilah. fuego:the brother was about the only guy there not to hit on her. She was worried about getting home, so I promised that I would walk her to the train station before it was too late.

Suddenly it was time for her to go. I tossed fuego:the brother some cash so he could pay the tab (which was going to be complicated with all the table-shifting going on — sorry about that, bro, but trains wait for no one, not even pretty girls). At last I was going to be in a setting where we could talk quietly, and I cold be myself (whatever that means). Only… one of my own buddies, I guy I’ve known for some time, pulled the complete anti-wingman move of tagging along, bringing his large, energetic (and rather loud) personality into the mix. Bird-dogged by a buddy!

In fairness, he was probably unaware that I was interested in Delilah, as my main goal while in fuego:the bar was to not be an asshole like everyone else there hitting on her. The thing was, it was working. In all likelihood nothing would have come of the walk to the train station, but chances like that are, for me, ridiculously rare. When we reached the metro station I decided to walk home rather than stick with them. I was rather annoyed by then, and that’s not the way to be around people.

So, guys, when you’re hanging out having a few brews and the quiet, unassuming guy manages to get some quiet time with the belle of the ball, let him have his moment. In Top Gun terms, when the wing man has a target, the lead plane should get out of the way or planes will crash and lives will be lost.

The brisk walk home was pleasant, and calmed my nerves a bit. (It is not the walk through Prague of the previous episode; that happened the next night.)

Delilah doesn’t know it yet, but since then she has saved my life. That, however, is another story.

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