The Best Place in the World to Drink Beer

One of the things about the last day of summer—it may turn out to be the next-to-last. You never know. There’s a compounding effect, as each one is more appreciated than the one before. I was back on the hill Sunday, enjoying perhaps the last warm day of the year for a second time.

The people I was with were well-traveled individuals, putting my wandrings to shame (although, not being players of the ex-pat game they never tried to put me to shame). I asked my drinking companions, “Have you ever, anywhere, ever seen a more beautiful place to sit and enjoy a beer?”


Beer drinkers enjoy a sunny afternoon in one of the world’s best places to sip a pivo.

Uker, who’s been around (he was traveling with the first person ever to be diagnosed with malaria in Mongolia), thought for a while and said, “Nope. There’s nothing like this.” Or something like that. I wasn’t taking notes. I have in the past asked this question of other folks who’ve been around and about. They will look out over the city, think about it for a while, and shake their heads. There are some nice places out there, but this place is a mystical convergence of beer, peace, beauty, and people who love beer, peace, and beauty.

I know some people who could make a case for their own back porches as the best place on the planet for sipping suds (I have had such a porch myself), and those people are fortunate indeed, but for the sake of this discussion I think it necessary that we limit the contenders to drinking and eating establishments that a traveler could visit without an invitation. Ultimately, compiling a list of the most beautiful places in the world to have a drink may be the greatest service this blog ever performs.

So now I throw down the gauntlet. Do you know a place that can compete with this? If I get any responses (especially with pictures), I’ll set up a special page to list the best the world has to offer. I may add a couple more myself. There are some damn fine places out there.

Beer Flies

I was in the Little Café Near Home, sipping tea, enjoying the midafternoon quiet. Eventually I finished what I was working on and decided to give myself a little pat on the back, pivo-style. I ordered the beer and turned to another project. Almost instantly there were tiny little flies buzzing around my drink, threatening to go swimming. Beer flies.

Edited to add: Hey, kids! Learn why in the comments!

There goes one excuse…

A study in a recent European medical journal compared the fitness of men against the amount of beer they drank. One conclusion: the beer belly is not a beer belly. The researchers found no relationship between beer consumption and weight.

I have to wonder, though, whether the researchers were entirely unbiased. It was a joint study between scientists from Britain and the Czech Republic. I bet they were all overweight beer drinkers.

Soup Boy’s Birthday Party

Walking home tonight I knew for a fact that the killer pup of autobazaar škoda is gone. I feel a wistful nostalgia when I walk past the place now, running my fingers along the links that in months past clearly defined the line between passer-by and victim. The business has changed, the angry dog is gone, and I feel cheated. I was wearing him down. We would have been friends eventually.

“I’d love to hear from you,” I said, for perhaps the thirty-fifth time, knowing as I did that I was probably killing any possibilty that I ever would. Even the most sincere sentiment wears out. But she was Scottish. You can’t blame me. The final time I said that tonight, we had just walked past the short edge of one of the world’s largest graveyards. I blathered on for a bit, older Scottish sister responded intelligently, it was all good. As we walked up the road, I realized that there were only smart people in our group of three. I also realized that I was doing a piss-poor job of proving I belonged.

“You’re not leaving. Here, have this beer.” I don’t even remember the dude’s name, but he was dead set on my presence in Bunkr. In this case he caught me pausing with a pair of Scottish sisters on my way out, so I wasn’t too upset about staying a little longer.

“A— –b– — –r–” she said. Between the loud music and my Rock-n-roll ears, more than once she said something I really wish I’d understood. It’s like riding the funicular up the side of the mountain, but when you’re close to the top the chain slips and you’re halfway down again. Still, halfway is better than nowhere. Time to make sure she understands that I’d like to hear from her again before she goes back to Scotland.

Even Jose gives up on dancing. The music is a wierd blend of techno and acid jazz. It’s interesting, but you’ve got to go emo to dance it. Every move has to have the suggestion of a fatalistic shrug.

“I’m shy,” she said. “You wouldn’t understand.” Wronger words were never spoken, but how to make her understand, after she had seen me and Jose putting on a dance lesson for the locals? That she was married made it possible for me to talk to her. Otherwise, forget about it.

[present tense… All Her Favorite Fruits by Camper van Beethoven is a heartbreakingly beautiful song. As I type it’s playing in my ears, and well, dang.]

There are a few reasons to dance. The best reason is for the music. If the sounds move you, move. You never know how much time you have before…

“We’re going to Bunkr,” Soup Boy said. “They have some Acid Jazz DJ’s from England there tonight.” Bunkr, it turns out, is well-named. It’s a long way down underground to get there. I understand the Nazis built it. Or someone else.

“This place is ours.” This is how the Boy throws a party. Big dinner at his favorite Greek place, then a short march to a five-star hotel where the entire spa section is exclusively ours. Swimming, sauna, and whatnot, all waiting for the Philistines. Pool girls took our bottles and served up the drinks, so we wouldn’t hurt outselves with the glass. Soup Boy should get older more often.

Now I must sleep…

The Morning After

It is a grey Sunday afternoon here in the Haunted City, a wind that can’t make up its mind which way to blow is shaking the trees and tossing a light rain this way and that. The weather fits my current condition, but this story begins about 48 hours ago, on a warm and sunny Friday afternoon, in the garden of a place I call the Pink Gambrinus Pub.

The Pink Gambrinus Pub has four things going for it: a very pleasant garden, low prices, and two very pretty waitresses. I settled in under the awning, opened up the ol’ laptop, and set to work. Before too long my phone rang. I decided to answer. “What’s up, big daddy?” came the cheerful voice. Angelo is many things, but quiet and subtle are not on the list. I had agreed to help him set up his Web site, so he agreed to come join me later. I turned back to the task at hand.

A text message came in. Another friend, wanting to get together for beers later. I sent messages of my own, trying to set up a meeting over beers to discuss a project. That didn’t work out, but Jose said he would come join me in a while. I turned back to my work, while the waitresses did their best to bring me beers faster than I could drink them. You have to admire that go-getter spirit.

Angelo arrived and was pleased when one of the waitresses remembered him (I was not surprised). I put away the laptop and we had a very pleasant conversation, his exuberant American loudness reverberating in the garden while he contemplated how to hit on the waitress that hadn’t met him before. We even talked about business briefly. Eventually it was time for him to go. As he was leaving I got a message from Jose that he was on the way. I pulled out the laptop and tried to get a little bit done, but by then it was not the interruptions holding me back, but the beers.

Jose and Adam showed up, taking Angelo’s spot, and more conversation ensued, along with the required beer. Fun was had by all.

Eventually we paid up and went our separate ways. I strolled back up the hill toward home, a route that takes me right past the Little Café Near Home. It was getting a little late, but I decided to pop in and see who might be there on a Friday night.

As it turns out, the joint was jumping (as much as a place that small can jump), and I decided to sit down and have a beer. I mean, why not? As I sipped my suds I was rewarded by the arrival of Iva (rhymes with feevah). I believe I’ve mentioned in these pages before a pretty girl who surprised the hell out of me by striking up a conversation with me a while back. It was good to see her again.

This time, however, she didn’t seem terribly interested in my presence. Oh, well, I thought. She paid and left, and I was lamenting to one of the Martins that she seemed to have written me off when she stuck her head back in the door and said, “Jerry, we’re going to another pub, you want to come?” In retrospect I expect it was another of the Martins who suggested she ask me along, but at the time I just knew that a pretty girl was inviting me for drinks. So four of us — Iva, her sister, Martin 2, and I — went to another place for a while. In this group I was very much the old man.

I’m rather proud of myself, actually. I realized that I was being pretty boring, but I also realized that I was drunk, and that anything I might do to not be boring was likely to be obnoxious instead. Somehow I retained the judgement to merely be boring.

Strašnice is a quiet town, and the pubs close early. Sometimes that’s a good thing. When the barman wouldn’t give us a second round I gave Iva the remainder of my beer. The chivalry! Then it was time to go, and I walked back to my pad, dropped my backpack, flopped onto the Curiously Uncomfortable Couch, and was instantly asleep.

That is part one of the story. The fun part. The experienced among you might recognize the crucial mistake I made. When drinking with friends, drink with them all at once, not one at a time. I had a big meal with the beers, and I’ve certainly had more alcohol than that on other occasions, but on this night I had definitely crossed over to the “too much” side of the line.

It was still dark when I first woke. I was still drunk, but the headache had already begun. Nothing too bad yet, but I could tell there was much worse to come. I went into the kitchen and filled my belly with as much water as it would hold and then a little more, but I knew I was closing the barn door after the horse had got out. I was going to have a hangover. I don’t like hangovers. It seems, however, that until Saturday morning I had no idea what a hangover was.

The next time I woke my headache was in full bloom. A full-bodied, multiphase headache, sharp in back, throbbing and explosive in front. On occasion there would be a feeling that can’t really be described as pain behind my eyeballs and I would throw open my eyelids and bug out the orbs just to make more space in there. That never worked, and so seconds later I would slam the lids shut again and use my hands to keep my head from exploding.

It was not just a headache, though, oh, no. This hangover was remarkable in its completeness. Everything hurt. All my muscles were stiff and sore, as if I had the flu. Then the stomach cramps set in, strong enough to double me over. I thought maybe throwing up might relieve them, but when that finally happened there was no reduction in the severity of the cramps. There was nothing in my stomach anyway; all the water I had drunk was now running down my skin in rivulets.

It was about then I got my first muscle cramp. My left calf knotted up like a baseball, flinging me out of bed to try to walk it off, all other discomforts temporarily eclipsed. I worked out that cramp and slid back between my sweat-soaked sheets when I felt the arch of my right foot getting ready to clinch as well. I managed to preempt that one.

I lay, breathing with care, hours dragging by while I tried to find a position, any position, that might take the pressure off my gut without increasing the chances of a muscle cramp. I needed electrolytes, I decided. I needed to eat, and by mid-afternoon I was ready to try. I knew that would be a dicey proposition, but in fact it was my first step on the road to recovery.

By evening I was repaired enough to manage a trip to the Little Café Near Home for a bottle of Coca-Cola (oh, sweet nectar — the girl there was the same one who had been working the night before; she gave me a knowing look) then back home to watch a bootleg baseball broadcast on the Internet. Then I went to sleep.

Now it is Sunday afternoon. I am still getting stomach cramps, though they are not as bad anymore. My head hurts, but it’s only meaningfully painful when I cough or try to think. I am generally sore all over, and my calf hurts in particular; I suspect the muscle was damaged when it cramped up. I’m still sweating more than is natural.

I wonder, in retrospect, whether a hangover is sufficient to explain the depths of my misery yesterday, and the lingering effects today. Food poisoning? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you this: I don’t want to go through that again.

The Hap-Happiest time of the year.

Ah, summer. It is Sunday, the quietest days Strašnice has to offer. I’m sitting on the patio at Café Vinice, the shade under the big awning sufficient to allow me to see the screen while the sun shines brightly on the purple-leaved trees in the little landscaped square.

I have only just settled in; my resolution: Get Serious. Before I do that, however, it is worth noting a couple of things — things I’ve said before and will certainly be saying again. I should probably give these principles a name, a shorthand to allow me to repeat myself without sounding repetitions. With the right code word the repetitions become a pleasure in themselves, a secret shared among the initiated.

First, beer is better when consumed outdoors. This principle extends to other beverages as well, but a chilly beer shares a special relationship with the sun and the breeze, a kinship that no other beverage can match. The lager I am drinking now was invented in the chilly caves around Plzn, and it is that residual chill and shadow that mixes so perfectly with a warm day.

Second, there is nothing a girl can wear (including nothing) that is sexier than a miniskirt. I get angry just imagining the day fickle fashion steals from me the simple pleasure of appreciating a graceful form shrouded in exactly the right amount of mystery. (That could also describe my favorite writers, and is the goal I set for myself.)

I’ve mentioned all of that before. One other thing — insignificant compared to those two — that is contributing to my current sanguinity: A nice, breathable wicker chair. Sometimes the things you barely notice at all (not because they are functioning poorly but because they are functioning especially well) are the ones that make the difference between a nice afternoon and an exceptional one. For instance, if I was wearaig sandals right now, I probably wouldn’t notice, but I’m not wearing sandals and I do know my feet are hot. Perhaps the imperfection (hot feet) makes the rest of the goodness graspable.

Shade, sun, trees, breeze, miniskirts, the arrival of my second beer (service oddly friendly today), finishing a thought-provoking book and settling in to see where those thoughts lead. I’ve been over all that stuff before. What’s the word, then, I can use as a shorthand, the sign I can use to wrap up all those feelings into a complete idea?

Maybe this one: Summer. Summer spoken in a reverent, Tom Sawyer voice, when the livin’ is easy — a time when it’s OK to be happy, to appreciate the good life and the wicker chair.

Worst Nightmare

For those of you who believe in karma, jinxes, and the like, you might find corroboration as you read about my trip from Dallas to Denver. Hours ago, while sitting at the terminal in Frankfurt, I wrote about how air travel is generally pretty routine these days. It took the Hand of Fate a little time to find me, but somewhere over Greenland the pilot made an announcement that at the time seemed completely irrelevant: Our plane would be arriving in Dallas early. Since I had a very long layover in Dallas anyway, getting there early just meant waiting in an airport rather than sitting on a plane.

By the time we got there, I was very enthusiastic about the prospect of getting off the plane. I was sitting next to a toothless old guy from Bombay, which could definitely have been a lot worse. (For the record, Lufthansa’s veggie meals smelled pretty good, and Hindus can drink beer.) The infant two seats over was crying during boarding, but then clammed up for the entire flight. Still, ten hours is a long time to spend in any chair. Off the plane and through immigration quickly and over to the next terminal (with the help of one security guy who went way out of his way to direct me to Frontier checkin), I was in time to hop on an earlier flight from Dallas to Denver. It meant a longer layover in Denver, but it’s always better to grab the earlier flight if you can. As the guy checking me in said, “You never know.”

No, you never do. I settled into 16F, and it looked like I’d have the row to myself. Excellent! Room to spread out!

Just before departure time, a happy-go-lucky guy came bumping down the aisle and asked the attendant, “where’s 16A?” The blonde in 16B looked up in disappointment; she was already spreading out in her row. I got the feeling she was an airline employee of some sort. Much to her relief, he did not sit in 16A, but chose 16D, on my side of the aisle instead. He sat heavily and I realized just how drunk he was. He looked over at me and said, “Dude, I’m just going to fuckin’ apologize right now. I’m fuckin’ wasted. Am I saying fuck too much? This is like your worst fuckiin’ nightmare, isn’t it?”

It wasn’t… yet.

He talked at me for a bit. It turns out he’s a rancher from Wyoming who supplies horses to rodeos. His problem these days, he says, is that his horses are too mean for the new generation of cowboys. He paused at one point to say, “Are we off the ground yet? Good. I can’t get arrested and thrown off the plane. I’m just this side of alcohol poisoning.” Throughout our discussion (he was just as interested in me as he was in telling me about himself), he said, “Just remember the code word. ‘shut the fuck up motherfucker.’ I can’t believe you haven’t used it yet.” The thing was, I was a bit curious about raising horses for rodeo. Eventually, however, I did invoke the code word and a he lapsed into silence. The attendant comped him free access to the directTV broadcast on the screen in front of him, and he lapsed into semi-consciousness.

We were on the ground here in Denver, taxiing to the gate, when he puked. He pulled out the air sick bag in front of him and filled it, and then some. Then he had trouble sealing it up. The blonde across the aisle and I offered supplemental barf bags at the same time. “Double-bag it,” the blonde said helpfully, but our cowboy just didn’t have the motor skills. He looked over at me.

“Almost made it,” I said, as the fasten seat belts sign turned off.

“Almost,” he agreed, then rose from his seat and fled in shame.

Shut Out, the Sequel

I typed the previous entry on Friday night at a little place called Gurmán, which does not cater to the kids and so is crowded and smoky at different times. I wandered in out of the soft rain and chose a small table. There were a few guys leaning on the bar, but only one table was taken; a guy in a blue windbreaker that identified him as a transit worker sat at the opposite end of a row of three small tables. With a glance I surmised that he had been there for a while.

Normally I start with tea, but Gurmán doesn’t really seem like a tea sort of place. When the girl finally decided to stop by my table I ordered a Mušketýr (rhymes with “Musketeer” and with “beer”), and after coming up dry for new words to write I set to work editing some older ones.

The guy two tables over asked me something in czech. I thought he wanted to know what time it was, but I was a bit tentative when I answered. I’m pretty sure what I said was correct, but he apologized and asked me the time again in broken English. I answered again, he thanked me, and turned back to his beer. For a few minutes, anyway. Before long he was back. In czech he told me his name, Petr, and I told him mine, Džerý. In english he asked if I could look at something on the Internet for him. “Promín, nemám Internet,” I said, or something like that. He returned to his beer.

A short time later, when we were both wondering if the beer girl was ever coming back, he called out my name. I don’t remember what he opened with, but it was obvious he just wanted to talk. Wait — I do remember. He called me a workaholic. I explained in a mixture of languages that I had been lazy all day, so now I needed to work. This time there was no avoiding that the guy wanted to converse. We began to chat, but my eye was on the dwindling battery meter on my computer. I really did want to wrap things up before I ran out of electrons. Finally I did something which is very difficult for me; I asked the guy to give me ten minutes while I finished my work. He was a little affronted, I think, but more apologetic. “Deset minute,” I promised.

The battery actually lasted longer than ten minutes, but in the meantime Petr joined the guys at the bar and some of them moved to a table. I kept working and a few more people came in, and the service went from “rare” to “almost never”. After perhaps twenty-five minutes the computer surrendered to entropy, just as I had managed to score a precious beer after intercepting the beer girl on her way from the bathroom. I felt the covetous eyes of those around me as I nursed my hard-won nectar. I let my eyes be dazzled by the flickering lights of the American action film playing on the plasma screen at the far end of the bar (not that far away), sipped my beer, and let my mind wander. This was my state when Petr passed my table on his return trip from the bathroom. “May we please buy you a drink with us?” he asked, very earnestly. Obviously I had no choice.

And so it was I found myself sharing a table with tram drivers, sharing almost no words between us. They were pleased that I identified the Becherovka by its smell. I tried to ask them if it was my fault that the tram barn doors were closed, but once they realized that I wanted to know more than just what the tram barn is called in Czech (I never found out), they thought I wanted to take a picture with the doors open. I never did explain that the doors to the barn had been closed ever since they chased me and my camera away a few months before. (It seems there was a terror alert at the time.)

It was getting late, and before long it was just Petr and me at the table. Petr was quite drunk, and the beer girl had implemented the “cut off through bad service” policy. It took me a while to realize that we had lost the “almost” in “almost never”, and not long after that I wished Petr a good night and made my way out into the cold and dark.

At that moment, I didn’t feel like going home. There’s nothing wrong with home, but I decided to continue my downward trend and turned left out the door and headed for the Herna by the Metro Station. I should look and see what the name of that place is someday. I don’t go into that place often. I’m received warmly there, but it’s difficult to work. Often when I go there, I stay too long. Friday night is a case in point.

I was happy to see that Pavel was there, and a couple of other faces I recognized. I had been drinking, but they were way ahead of me. There was a debate going on over which Irish whiskey was better, and there had been quite a bit of research. One guy, let’s call him Martín, has always been a cheery conversationalist, but this time his head was on the bar and he was not moving. “He’s fine. He just needs a little nap,” Pavel explained. I sat and while the debate continued to my left, the guy to my right struck up a conversation with me. His tone was oddly aggressive, however, and before long I let the action on the other side of me absorb my attention.

I began to feel a strangely hostile vibe in the place, but as long as I had friendly people to talk to, I was all right. Eventually, after I had reviewed the Jameson side of the whiskey argument myself, another guy on my right struck up a conversation. He was much friendlier, but I think I might have annoyed him by not being impressed enough when he told me that he worked for the big movie studio here in town. When he told me some of the movies he had worked on, I said, “You must know my brother!” and described fuego’s jobs on those same films. I think he took that as one-upsmanship, even though I really just wanted to find out if I had run into a mutual acquaintance. So that potentially friendly conversation died young.

Pavel slapped Martín’s back and his head popped up like a jack-in-the-box. “Džerý!” he said, and happy conversation resumed for a while.

I may have things out of sequence, because I suspect I was talking to the movie guy when the fight broke out. I was looking down the bar in that direction, at least, when the scuffle started behind me. I turned and Martín was in a hockey-style grab-jackets-and-swing-fists-without-aiming type of scuffle with another patron. Pavel moved to intervene and I backed him up, gently pushing the newcomer back while asking “Proč?” over and over. It didn’t really matter why, and I wouldn’t have understood if he told me. He seemed to be alright so I turned and put my hands on Martín’s shoulders and drove him back.

Before long Pavel had Martín in a taxi, the other combatant was back at his table (one of the few nestled between the slot machines in that place) with his friends, occasionally mouthing off to other people around him. Not long after that another guy started a conversation with me, this time making no attempt to disguise that he was trying to provoke me (a singularly pointless exercise in those circumstances), or trying to get me to say something he could use as a provocation. Eventually after about his third declaration of “I don’t speak English” (after he had initiated the conversation in that language) I tried to use as much Czech as possible, which was so slow that eventually he made one last gambit by accusing me of snubbing the German language, then went away partway through my tortured, multilingual explanation of why I chose French in school. After all, he could hardly use my attempts to speak Czech as a justification to be offended, and I simply wasn’t capable of putting together a sentence complicated enough for him to take the wrong way. Or much of any sentence, for that matter.

After that things mellowed, but the air of hostility was still there. I was just on the edge of it; I get the feeling that most of the anger was between groups or individual regulars, but they had enough left to throw some my way. I was even caught up in it a little bit toward the end, annoyed at those people for working so hard to be annoyed by me. As they say in Get Crazy, “Anger is a bummer, Neal.”

I don’t know what time it was when I got home. I puttered around for a bit and tried to pour as much water into my system as I could, but before long I flopped unceremoniously into bed, unscathed but not particularly looking forward to Saturday morning, which fortunately came along not long before Saturday afternoon.

Hitting the Road

Several people have asked me what my plans are for the holidays, which in itself is mildly humorous (plan?), and in response I would hedge and say something like, “I’ll probably just hole up and get some work done, or maybe I’ll go somewhere warm.”

Of course, when someone else does the planning, I’m happy to ride along. Thus when fuego asked if I was interested in Venice for New Year’s Eve, I was all over it. Later, when the plan changed to Ireland, I rolled right along with it. So it seems that I will be spending a couple of weeks on the Emerald Isle, and much of the time I will be in the corner of the island that the recent tech boom managed to avoid. It is also, from what I can make out, the stormiest part of Ireland, and me without a raincoat. (No major worries on that count, one of my favorite memories of that country is being caught in a downpour several miles from home while bicycling around with Jesse, hollering out blues riffs. That was the day we learned just what it means to be a “soggy bunny”. (Although, that was summer; it would be less of a good memory in winter, I suspect.) )

I’m Ireland bound, where the only point of etiquette is that you converse with the people around you. A culture like that is certainly worthy of admiration. It’s fortunate that some of them speak a language similar to mine.

I have no idea how often I’ll be able to get online, so posts here may be infrequent, or come in bursts. Any disruption of routine is likely to lead to new things to write about, so if history is any guide there will be pauses of several days followed by several long posts that prove to be too much to read, with the best one way at the bottom where everyone will miss it. It’s a system I’ve honed with care over the years.

Following my trip to reacquaint myself with top-fermented beers I will be invading the western hemisphere. After getting car, insurance, and renewed driver’s license sorted out I will be puttering around the western US for a week or three. I strongly suspect this three weeks will be much closer to actually being three weeks, since I will have a return ticket. (For those new to these pages, the last time I drove around for “about three weeks” it took 7 1/2 months, and established “Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas” as a way of life, and not just a writing style. What a great time that was…)

An Unlikely Injury

The plan at Saxkova Palačinkarna (Sax is a dog, by the way) tonight was simple: two cups of tea, two beers, and an evaluation of the effect on the first 150 pages of The Monster Within if I add two telling words in the fourth paragraph. The result: three teas, three beers, a rewrite of chapter three, and a bloody knuckle. The first results can be attributed to bad communication, bad counting, and good ideas. The last is a little more complicated. In fact, when I left Saxarna my knuckle was still intact. Indeed, as I emerged from the convenience store with a loaf of bread (the crumbs of which I am picking out of my keyboard as I compose this), I was still more or less in one piece. As I stepped out of the store and put the earphones in, however, I sowed the seeds of my own destruction.

In retrospect, perhaps it was not the act of putting phone to ear that did me in, it was my skipping over a tune in the shuffle because it was too mellow. Thus it was that “Electro” by Gwen Mars was crashing against my eardrums when I got home. I set aside my backpack, and there in the kitchen I proceeded to Rock Out. It was with a grand leaping air-guitar flourish that I cracked my hand into the ceiling lamp.

It wasn’t until after the number off the new(ish) Dickies album was over that I noticed the blood. Rest assured, by then the house was rocked.

The Little Café… is out of beer!

Three taps may not sound like a lot to those on the other side of the pond, but this is a land of specialization. Three taps is about the maximum, except in tourist places. You choose your pub based on the beer you want to drink. One thing you always know is that the beer you drink will be fresh, because everyone in the bar will be drinking the same beer. A bar with many taps is met with suspicion. How long has that keg of Olde Snake Bite been tapped?

Which is all well and good, as long as there’s another keg waiting when the first runs out.

I asked for a Stella, and Wendy shook her head. “We have no beer,” she said in English. It took me a moment to digest that. “All three,” she said. “None.”

“Are the taps broken?” I asked.

“No, they’ve all been… I don’t know how to say…”

“Drunk,” I said. It’s not surprising she had a hard time with that word, as she knows it as an adjective that is applied to people. “Drunk up,” I added, not helpfully.

Little Café Near Home has been popular, lately. It’s been filled with a younger crowd, so when school starts to exert its fearsome grip on the souls of the nation’s youth, things might quiet down a bit here. While I wish the owner of this place all the success in the world, I’m kind of hoping the chain-smoking children who are noisily drinking the place dry get distracted by other pursuits.

The bar is out of beer. This is the Czech Republic. This should, quite simply, not be possible. In this country I imagine there is a room with rows of people staring into glowing monitors. At the front of the room is the Big Board, which shows the flow of beer throughout the nation. Right now there should be a giant red X flashing over this neighborhood while a klaxon sounds. People are screaming into their phones, and the army is mobilizing. A pub without beer. This is a national crisis.

I will keep one ear cocked for the sound of the helicopters making the emergency delivery, but in the meantime I’ll go next door and have some Budvar.

Pit stop

I spent a long time at the Little Café Near Home today, and as I result I am more than just a little wired on caffeine. Even at one tea per hour, you stack up enough hours and things get a bit on the twitchy side. It seemed like a beer was called for, but I was done with that place. I bought some water and some wine to go and turned my toes toward home.

I didn’t get far. One street up from Little Café Near Home is the Budvar bar even closer to home. On Tuesdays all the staff wear shirts, so I figured conditions would be tolerable. (“Conditions”, in this case, meaning air, and “tolerable” meaning breathable.) I stopped in and grabbed myself a desitku.

It seems that Tuesday night is card night. There are a couple of games going, and fortunately for me people are too busy playing cards to smoke. There are however, several very, very drunk people here. Walking is a dicey proposition for some of these folks, which means the delay the stroll to the relief station as long as possible. I have now witnessed two distressed marches across the room, picking up speed as they go, the pilgrim leaning progressively farther forward and hoping his feet will somehow stay underneath. It is a terrible race, feet handicapped, bladder insistent, and there can be no true winner.

On the TV there is a documentary of some sort. It’s about a festival, and large women in peasant garb have formed a disassembly line to render chickens into chicken parts. Cleavers are flying and you do not want to reach for the wrong bird.

The chemicals, it’s the chemicals. I forgot to post this when I got home. Here it is, (marginally) better late than never.

Quite a day here at the bowling alley

I was instructed by the benefactor mentioned in the previous post to spend his largesse on beer. This is a mandate I take seriously, and, since if I spent the whole lump on beer I’d be besotted indeed, I decided that some of the lovely lucre could go for pizza and I’d still be within the spirit of his request. There’ll still be some left over, even so.

To Bowle & Bowling, then! It is quiet in my neighborhood, and the short walk was a pleasant one. I entered the bowling alley and the first thing I thought was, “wow! there are a lot of pretty women here today!” And there were. I made my way inside and the next thing I thought was, “wow! It’s loud in here today!” down below on the lanes there is a horde of kids, forty or more on the six lanes, roiling in noisy confusion, bowling occasionally. It is a party. One of the big tables up where I am has a spread of food and a birthday cake, and the women are chatting with one another, sipping cokes, and occasionally looking down to determine whose kid it is shouting this time.

This place is, I realize, ideally suited for this sort of party. There is bowling, there is pizza, and parents can watch the kids discretely while staying literally above the fray.

It’s not so good for writing, however. I could handle any two of the noise, the hivelike activity below, and the milling of the pretty women, but all three is just too much. And now, a beeper is beeping. An alarm of some sort, with that shrill icepick-in-the-brain tone. Nobody seems to notice. It is time, I think, for the Budvar bar. Most likely I’ll be the only one in there on a Sunday evening.

Be’er, now.

As I write this I am sitting under a large umbrella, listening to the rain patter against the fabric. We are in a park; from where I sit I see only trees and slightly dilapidated picnic tables. It’s not raining hard — at least not yet — and it’s nice out here. If the deluge comes, we will move into the big tent. There is a pretty girl whose job it is to bring me beers.

This is summer in Prague. It is the way life should be, they way it is in longing stories of exotic places. The palapa on the deserted beach in Baja California, the tree house bar in the jungle. Beer is always just a little more civilized when consumed outdoors. This is why I want a transequatorial lifestyle, so that wherever the beers are served with a side order of fresh air, borne to me by pretty girls in miniskirts, that’s where I’ll be.

True to a theme we’ve explored here recently, I am already shuddering as I think of the coming Prague winter. I just want to stay right here, just like this. But even if I stayed still, the world would continue to move, leaving me behind, floating in space on the Sirius side of the sun. Overall, not a good solution.

It’s not the heat, it’s… well actually it is the heat

There’s only one thing to do on a hot summer day in Prague. Yes, you guessed it; a day like today is made for sitting in a beer garden on an untrafficed street, well-situated to watch passers-by, ordering a tall, cool pivo, and opening up the ol’ laptop to get some work done. How much work I manage we shall have to wait and see; Prague on a warm day makes for some mighty fine people-wataching. Long women in short dresses; uptight businessmen refreshing their cologne; people with packs and guitar cases strapped to their backs; stroller pushers and shopping cart pullers; inept parallel parkers: guys with purses: a woman whose hair matches her magenta dress and makes it all look good; an old man with his glass of dark beer drifting past, his knobby white legs dangling out beneath his shorts — all these people and more have passed by in the time it took me to write that sentence.

I can see the Cheap Beer Place across the corner of the square from here, and the beer is definitely more expensive here, but the shade is better and there are far fewer cars on this street. It’s much more peaceful.

Until, as I wrote that, two things happened. The old electronic song from the seventies, “Popcorn with Butter” (I think it was called) came on the radio. This is a tune the ex had stuck in her head for the first two years I knew her. Dangerous stuff. Fortunately(?) the song has been completely drowned out by the arrival here on the patio of two more guests, one of whom is American and while not particularly loud is particularly annoying.

To be fair, most (but not all) of the things his is saying are not obnoxious at all, but my ability to turn off the conversations around me has atrophied in the time I’ve been here, since I can’t understand most of the things said around me anyway. Up to now I think most of the other patrons have been German. So now I have to dive in deep, maximum concentration, or put in the earphones. I really don’t want to lose the singing birds and snatches of czech conversation floating by, however.

And now, several minutes later, one of the other patrons has started whistling snatches of “Popcorn with Butter”. Učet, prosím!