The Journey Begins

I’m sitting in the Prague Airport right now, waiting to be allowed wait in line to go through security. Oh, yeah, modern travel. The idea that wireless Internet connectivity is a basic human right, right up there with clean drinking water and oxygen, has been slow to take hold in this country (though some parts of Prague are embracing the idea), but I do have access to electricity, so I feel an obligation of sorts to open up the ol’ blog and type something.

Not that there’s much to say, yet. Metro, bus, terminal, check in, get passport stamped, sit. My layover may yield more stories, depending on the policy of the airport concerning overnight stays in the terminals. It’s a long layover.

Well, the travel part of the day (starting in the evening) hasn’t amassed any significant events, but it was a pretty good day doing some shopping with Delilah. No big deal, but a nice break in the frantic cleaning/packing cycle.

I’m sitting right now at the start of one of those moving walkway conveyor belt things to help folks traverse the long corridors that typify modern airports. This particular moving walkway is not moving, however. I would say that roughly half the people who approach it stop on the threshold, pause, and when the conveyor doesn’t come to life they back up and go around, preferring to walk next to the conveyor at exactly the same speed they would travel had they just kept going. Too much thinking. It’s a malady I know only too well, myself.

+++

A soulless hotel bar in Dublin. A well-poured pint of Guinness. A lighter wallet. Free WiFi. A really annoying television program on the flat screen. Won’t be getting much done here.

But I am here, and that’s not such a bad thing.

May as well post this, because I can.

+++

Only I couldn’t. The journey continued in an uneventful fashion, and now I’m in Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Café. A whim, really; I was heading for Flying star but overshot and the rest is history. I ordered a green chile cheesburger, but they were out of cow. I got the Lebanese Wrap instead, and while it doesn’t have any real Lebanese in it, it is very tasty anyway. The Chinese tea with rose petals is remarkably good as well.

I just got my official NaNoWriMo winner badge. Woo Hoo! I’m still allowed to work on the story for the rest of the day, though. It’s starting to get good.

Late Night, Last Minute Thoughts

I’m tired.

How the hell am I going to be ready to get on a plane tomorrow?

I really should respond to the emails from B, S, Iv, D, J, H, SB, Is, E, L, A, and M.

Maybe I should set an alarm for the morning.

Only 1100 words to go. I could nail that down tonight. Er, this morning.

I’m tired.

Logorrhea Monday

This morning I woke up with a head full of ideas, scenes and interactions, motivations and conflict. I couldn’t wait to get to work. When I woke up this morning, I was a writer.

To be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve felt that way. It’s been a while since I’ve thrown off the heavy blanket and jumped out into my cold apartment because the story beckoned. This morning I was so wrapped up with writing that it wasn’t until later that I thought, ‘wow! I remember this!’

What happened yesterday that would make today so exciting? Ten thousand words. NaNoWriMo is drawing to a close, and I was way behind. It was either punt or prodigy. Sunday evening I clocked four thousand words. Not a bad day’s work. Then there was Monday. I still had momentum coming off Sunday, but it was almost noon when I started. By midnight I had 10,000 new words, plus change. At that rate it would take a week to produce a draft of a typically sized novel. The best part of days like that are that when the paragraphs start piling onto the page one after another, they’re usually pretty good. Today I woke up and all I wanted to do was keep going. Man, that feels good.

I didn’t really get any lift from last year’s NaNoWriMo, and this year I was almost at the end before it happened, but here I am, less than twenty-four hours from a transatlantic flight, I haven’t packed, I haven’t cleaned my place, I haven’t bought locally unique Christmas Crap, and all I want to do is keep writing. Just like old times.

1

Why I Like This Place

After a productive morning, I was forced by thermodynamics to go find some food. I am exothermic. There’s just no getting around the fact. I don’t eat, I stop. I am fortunate that there are millions upon millions of people working to make sure my little furnace is stoked.

When I went in search of people-chow, the sky was a clear, deep blue. The midday sun hung low in the south and the wind was mild. The temperature was just above freezing. I walked down the long stairs through the the little park near home, really enjoying the scenery. Perfect weather for a miniskirt and tall, fur-lined boots. Dang.

A few hours later I was sitting with fuego:the brother at Sax’s, and a tall woman with a short dress and a long jacket came in. “I can’t believe you’re leaving this place,” f:bro said.

Tonight’s Game

11:30 As I tune in to the game between the San Diego Chargers (the good guys) and the Baltimore Ravens (the bad guys), the Chargers are winning. The announcers are talking about what a nice guy Ray Lewis is (Lewis narrowly dodged a murder rap). San Diego has the rather unusual score of twelve points. Four field goals? It seems early in the game for that, but we’ll see.

11:33 Baltimore challenges a call, doesn’t win. Dang, this whole replay review things makes for boring sports. Hockey also had video review, but it seems to work a lot better. Baseball is going to be introducing video review of some calls. Just what baseball doesn’t need,

11:42 Chargers are marching down the field, but not really looking good doing it.

11:44 I’m not sure what Baltimore was thinking, but the Bolts just got an easy touchdown. Somebody wasn’t doing his job. Tomlinson crossed the backfield to make a key block. It won’t show on his stats, but dang. It just adds to my admiration of the guy.

11:46 Dang! I can’t type fast enough! Chargers get the ball back on a muffed kickoff reception.

11:49 Field Goal by San Diego with time running out in the half. I have to think, however, that there was a missed extra point earlier. That would be the second in three games.

11:50 Halftime. Back to work on NaNoWriMo.

11:55 Wait a minute — who were those guys in the “best quarterbacks ever discussion” commercial promoting a game next week? Some of them looked like… some of the best quarterbacks ever.

11:56 I’ve had a hankering for some good sushi for several days now, this minute included.

12:04 Bolts take the kickoff, go to work. They made almost no yards rushing in the first half, now they start the second half with three consecutive run plays that all work.

12:08 Chargers pick up the blitz, Ray Lewis is burned for a touchdown. I’m starting to think to myself, “No curse tonight.” I have seen San Diego score 17 points, and I have yet to see Baltimore’s offense on the field.

12:12 Hey! That’s Peyton Manning in a TV commercial! Who woulda thunk?

12:13 The third ad I’ve seen suggesting that I buy a car for someone I love. A car. Diamonds aren’t enough anymore; but the car is probably an easier sell because the gift-giver benefits as much as the receiver.

12:17 The Ravens are moving down the field pretty well, no sign of panic.

12:21 Nice play action pass fools the Chargers completely, and Baltimore shows that they know what to do to make a comeback — just play solid ball.

12:27 Chargers barely manage to burn a minute off the clock before giving the ball back. And now back to the commercials.

12:31 Bad-luck call against the Chargers gives the Ravens a break…

12:33 … and the Ravens are moving again.

12:36 the San Diego Crowd forces the Ravens to burn a time out on 4th and 1. Nice work, fans!

12:37 The Bad Guys are called for illegal use of cheating, and the drive is over. Barring catastrophe, the good guys will get the ball back. Let’s watch some commercials! Cars! Beer! Mobile Phones! Peyton Manning!

12:42 My video stream has frozen on a view of Peyton Manning’s butt. Priceless.

12:52 Chargers score again, a field goal, but really, it’s the nail in the coffin. I believe that despite my watching, the good guys are going to win this game.

12:54 I feel like having a Budweiser. The only thing is, I don’t feel like having one of the Budweisers they’re showing on TV.

12:56 If you have the urge to buy me a car for Christmas, I’d rather have the cash.

1:01 I think, if you could pin down two things that are different this game than the previous few, it’s that the Chargers have their excellent center back, and that the Ravens suck. Hard.

1:03 “What a great race the AFC West is going to be,” the announcer said. This is because the top two teams, Sand Diego and Denver, are equally bad, and the other teams, although truly awful, aren’t too far behind. Woo Hoo!

1:05 OK, I understand tactically why Baltimore is challenging the call on 4th and 3, since they have nothing to lose, but still, it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

1:11 The Chargers aren’t pretending to be trying to score anymore, they’re just running the clock. Go Clock! Go Clock!

1:13 The stream has switched to Denver/Chicago. I can no longer watch, therefore San Diego’s victory is assured. There was no sign of my curse throughout the contest. A good day. Denver is ahead, but even though they are San Diego’s rivals in the division, I can’t help but pull for them. It’s a geographical thing. First play I saw: Chicago scored a touchdown.

Well! How about that? The Good Guys won, right before my eyes. This is really going to throw them for a loop in Las Vegas.

Typo of the Day

Obviously I was trying to type “biology” but the above is a great word in need of a definition. Suggestions?

Travel Plans

I put off buying plane tickets for my holiday travels because I was hoping for clarification of some rule changes for immigration in the European Union. Rather, I was hoping for some clarification of rules enforcement here in the Czech Republic. Word on the street is that if I leave I’ll have to stay away for a while.

I never got that clarification, but it was time to take some action. The plan: buy a ticket one way and figure out the rest later. This morning I went online to do just that. And…

Holy Cow! The first set of tickets that came up were ridiculously expensive. I tried the next day and there at the top of the list was a ticket that cost about 60% as much as the second-cheapest. It got me to Albuquerque via Los Angeles. I cut out the Albuquerque part of the itinerary and the price went down even more. A bargain, plain and simple (well, relatively…). I bought it.

The catch is that I planned to arrive in California with a car. There is one waiting for me in Albuquerque, although there are complications there, too. So, for me, the ideal plan is for someone to meet me at the airport, take me to the DMV to renew the registration and then drop me off in Albuquerque. Any takers?

Alternately, I could spend my California time carless, which is the environmentally responsible thing to do (and doesn’t make Shrub’s friends yet richer – even the sagging dollar puts money in his buddies’ pockets), but with all the different places I want to go, that could be a real Pain in the Patoot. I suppose I could look into Greyhound package deals or whatever. That would certainly be an adventure.

Jose Drew a Duck

Yep, Jose was learning Flash and at one point was doodling while resting his brain. He drew this duck. Then I made the duck’s wings flap and beak move. What fun!

Of course, once one has a duck with flapping wings, one must make the duck fly around. Thus clouds and other accessories were required. But once things get longer, you really start to need some music. I poked around and there was the Polkacide version of the duck dance.

Once there was music, then the animation needed to be much longer to match, more ducks were required, and the whole effort had to tell a story of sorts. Far too much of my life later, this is the result. I may still tweak it a bit — there are some dead spots that would be good to fill in — but on the other hand I’ve wasted far too much of my life on this dang thing already.

I haven’t been able to test the loading screen on a slow connection, so I really don’t know if it works or not. It’s supposed to give you the button to start the animation when it estimates the download will finish in time. If anyone out there can tell me if it works, that would be cool.

Um… that’s all there is to it, I guess. Hey, John! Can you give me permission to use this music?

1

A Personal Ad

A Personal Ad

Patient man, quiet, scruffy
Sees things, sometimes, that may not be there
Leaves dishes in the sink

Upstairs a mountain meadow
Grass, trees, and flowers, under a high blue sky
And bulldozers, yellow, belching diesel smoke,
Too loud for thought
Too slow to stop
Wandering, ponderous, stupid
metal cows of the apocalypse
But in their muddy wakes the flowers creep
raising heads over rut and ruin
to turn their faces to the sun.

Likes dogs, enjoys cats,
Believes in the dignity of man.

Danté’s Equation

A friend of my loaned me Danté’s Equation, by Jane Jensen, with very high praise. It’s a big book, and perhaps I should have saved it for my upcoming (but still ill-defined) transatlantic adventures, but after the genteel, well-mannered, and rather slow prose of my last read (not reviewed here yet), I was ready for someone to let loose and just tell a good story. I was not disappointed.

The book centers around a group of five people, each of whom represents life out of balance in different ways, along the different axes defined in the Jewish mysticism of kabbalah. Superficially it’s a science fiction story, enough so that the characters are each uprooted and transplanted to a universe that matches their own imbalances – essentially they are plunged into a world every bit as messed up as they are. With such a mirror to look into, the characters are given the opportunity to change — or not. Behind it all is a genius physicist and mystic who disappeared while in Auschwitz. It seems he came up with a pretty dang amazing theory, and now, sixty years later, rumors are starting to get around that there exists a manuscript that could hold the key to a new sort of super-weapon.

The “scientific” idea that underpins the whole thing (and is echoed in the mysticism) is elegant and nicely described, but when it needs to interact with modern physics, that interface is a bit shaky, and sometimes just incorrect. It’s fiction, so that’s all right, but don’t take any science morsels you pick up here and try to apply them elsewhere. Remember, kids — stay away from mini black holes!

It took me a while to get started with the story; the first few chapters suffer from similitis (inflamation of the simile gland) and some rather lengthy As-You-Know-Bobs (discussions between people who really should both know this stuff already, staged so the writer can explain them to us). Early on I was tripped up by chunks like “He always left home before the crack of dawn so he could watch the sunlight warm the stones. There was a cold bite in the air this morning. His black wool coat and hat absorbed it like a sponge.” I’m not sure I want my coat to absorb the cold like a sponge, but if (as is likely, grammar aside) the author meant that it was the sunlight that is being absorbed, then sponge really isn’t a very useful image. There were many places in the early going I hesitated, tripping up on phrases where the author was just trying too hard.

The story never completely gets over the similitis, but after a while one gets the feeling that the author is no longer trying to come up with particularly choice similes, and is content to let her natural language tell the story. Once she reaches this stage, her easy voice does quite well, and I spent two very late nights watching the intertwined lives of the characters… um… intertwine. The narration is in third person, but Jensen does a good job changing the voice of the narration to match character who’s point of view we are sharing at that moment. It’s really quite fun to understand the characters through their vocabulary and the way they interpret the world.

In the framework of the “People ending up in the place they are (literally) most in tune with” rule, there is a monster coincidence – two people ending up in the same place out of an infinite continuum of possibilities. “Ah Ha!” I thought when Coincidence Guy A was explaining the rule to Coincidence Guy B, “That they are having this conversation at all is a refutation of that rule! When they work that out, it’s going to be cool!” They never worked it out; no one ever blinked an eye at the staggering impossibility of it. I even came up with a good explanation that would have made a very interesting plot point.

You know, when I write these reviews, I spend a lot more time on the problems of a story than what was good. Maybe this is because that’s how I treat my own writing now, always looking for things to improve. So, I’ll just leave you with this: This story has interesting people who grow and change, people who find balance and maybe (just maybe) a little peace. In the end you are rooting for these people, even the jerks, and when they do change it is believable (well, mostly…) and rewarding. And that’s what makes a good story, no?

Note: if you use the above link to buy this book (or a Kindle, or a new car), I get a kickback.

Maybe I’m missing something.

I’m at the Budvar Bar Near Home, and the TV news is on. We’ve had a storm coming through, and with it inconvenience. I was just watching footage of a crew wading through snow to clear a rather small fallen tree off the tracks while a train waited. They cut the tree into bite-sized morsels and tossed them to the side.

If only there had been something nearby with the ability to pull with great force. They could have cleared the tree in a fraction of the time.

Baby-Therm

It’s been downright chilly here the past couple of days. I know when I hear the heater going in the morning despite the thermostat being set on the lower nighttime temperature, that winter is here. I was out and about yesterday and I saw a woman carrying an infant. Is that baby warm enough? I asked myself. It didn’t seem to me that the kid was bundled up enough.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? The amount the baby is bundled up is more based on how cold the mother is, not the comfort of the baby itself. The kid has no way of saying, “Geeze, mom, I’m boiling in here!” If the baby cries, it’s just as likely — perhaps more likely — to be rewarded with a bundleage adjustment in the wrong direction.

Fortunately, I’m here with a solution. You don’t have to thank me; it’s what I do.

What is needed is a way to know what the skin temperature of the baby is. A little research should easily yield a comfort zone for healthy, happy babies. Then all that’s needed is a way for the parent to know what the skin temperature of their kid is. Introducing Baby-Therm clothing for infants. Each shirt has a small temperature sensor over the belly button and perhaps at the back of the neck, and each pair of pants measures temperatures at the thigh. The socks and little mittens each have sensors as well, although for extremities the range of allowable temperatures would be much broader.

The flagship article is of course the Baby-Therm hat, which not only measures scalp temperature, but also has a set of LED’s showing the temperature status of the baby’s various parts. Green, all is well. Red, too hot. Blue, too cold. With no guesswork at all, the baby is cozy and warm, without being overbaked. Plus, you can use the kid as a Christmas ornament!

There are a couple of details to work out, like how best to connect the sensors to the hat, but nothing insurmountable. And think of the market: nervous first-time parents would flock to the Baby-Therm store, ready to plunk down some serious cash if at least one bit of parental guesswork is reduced. I don’t have to tell most of you that people now expect baby products to be very expensive.

Then, of course, there’s Baby-Therm deluxe, which uses little heater elements to automatically keep the kid at the ideal temperature. Oh, yeah.

2

The Curse

At about 2:30 a.m., I thought to myself, “Wow! My San Diego Sports curse is over!” Sure, the good guys had blown one of the most routine scoring opportunities in sports, but it was only one point, and they were winning twenty-three to nothing.

By 4:00, I knew I was wrong. The Bad Guys had pulled to within two points, and were in range to take a one-point lead as time expired. Tired, disappointed, I saw the handwriting on the wall and turned off the TV at the 2-minute warning. The game was in the hands of two of the most reliable players in the league, and there was no way they were going to blow that chance. “I should go on the record right now, and post that I turned off the game,” I thought, but there really didn’t seem to be any reason to bother. My curse may have only been enough to swing the game by a single point, but it was going to be the difference.

[As a side note, if you watched the game, you probably saw ads for the movie No Country for Old Men, the Cohen Brothers’ latest. It was filmed in New Mexico with the able assistance of fuego:the brother, and the sharp-eyed will recognize his car in some of the shots. I’ve heard the film is excellent.]

This morning I slept in. When hunger finally drove me from the warm embrace of my bed, I showered and checked email. I almost didn’t bother to check the final outcome of the game. Just heading out for Café Fuzzy I decided to confirm the inevitable.

Well, it seems the Chargers won after all. Apparently I missed a couple of pretty crazy plays, and the Colts choked, letting San Diego escape with a win.

I take full credit.

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.

My Walk Home.

It is late, I am tired; I don’t know how far I’ll get with this tonight. I suspect that this account of my last hour will be somewhat disjointed and lacking the rich atmospheric descriptions which it deserves, but that’s the way it goes, sometimes. And yes, yes, I know I promised to tell you about yesterday, but that will have to wait. Tonight all I have the energy for is a small tale about the end of today.

I don’t get down to The Globe much, maybe once a year. It’s down near the center of town, where beers tend to get pricey, and I find myself venturing into the center less and less. The Globe is also a favorite among Americans, and while I appreciate talking to people now and then, it’s not the sort of vibe I look for on a general basis. Tonight, however, I was at the Globe, and I had a damn good time. There was music, conviviality, and a generally friendly feeling in the air. This story is not about that.

The café was closing, and there were still quite a few people there, some of whom I knew, others I had just met. “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here,” the saying goes, and the group seemed to be trapped by the option. I knew, however, that I was going home. “Where are you going to catch the tram?” Don Diego asked me. “I’m walking,” I replied. “Walking to… the tram?” he asked. “No. Home.” I could have told him exactly how the walk would go. Instead I am telling you.

I said goodbye to the group, and started up the street. There was some agreement that most of the rest of them were going the same direction, so I paused and looked back. There was no action. Don’t say goodbye twice, I decided, and left the group to mill about. I set off. The wind had died down but it was still chilly, but when I got into stride I unbuttoned my coat to let the cold air in. By the time I was passing through the drunken brit section of town, I was moving. The pickpockets and pimps did not even glance my way; I passed through them with point A firmly behind and point B directly ahead, and all their games require slowing the target down.

At the top of Václavské NámÄ›sti I popped into the McDonald’s for my long-overdue supper. I purchased my McRoyal(tm) (rhymes with Quarter Pounder(tm)) from a guy who quite obviously hated his job selling deadly food to drunks, then I was back out on the street, throwing back the 26 glorious grams of shimmering fat which will form a gelatinous layer in my already-abused stomach, somehow making things better. By the time I was past the museum the burger was just a happy memory. It was Friday night, so there was still a fair amount of foot traffic as I passed though Žižkov. I considered some of the all-night places I passed, thinking perhaps that one last beer might compliment the burger nicely, but the temptation was only slight. I was in motion.

Between the long skinny park and Flora I heard a small crash and looked ahead to see a very drunk person struggling to stand back up. I crossed to the other side of the street, reflecting that I was not going to compare well with any Samaritans who might be out and about. Hopefully the door the drunk was trying to open was his own.

Past Flora are the graveyards, predictably dark and quiet, and the skeletal remains of Autobazar Å koda, a car dealership, now defunct. The signs are still out, and streamers rattle metallically in the night wind, but there are no cars anymore, and no guard dog to dutifully bark at me, reminding me once again that I should just keep walking. I miss that dog; we were starting to get along. Past the ghost dealership is the empty lot that only weeks ago hosted a circus; the ruts made by the big trucks as they carried the show away still visible. I am almost home.

I consider once more stopping in somewhere for a final beer. What I really want is to bring something home with me, to keep me company while I write about my walk, but this is Strašnice. I turn left at the final graveyard and find my way home, roughly an hour after I set out. Perhaps there were other hours today that were more significant — hours of accomplishment and interaction, connections made and ideas shared — but looking back, my hour alone on the streets of Prague late at night was my favorite.