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Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Thanks Ken!
Those that came here via Ken's site will understand why I haven't gotten much up on this thing in a while. The wedding went off well and lots of old friends happened by. Tony Ozuna was there spinning records with the irrepressible Doug Arellanes, his wife Anna and their darling daughter Joey. Simon Gray came along for the fun, as did one of the best photographers on this planet, Jeffrey Young. (His work from the wedding should be up on my album in a matter of days. It's awesome, and I'm not kidding.) Heck, we even had juggling. Anyway, thanks for the kind words, Ken. We're looking forward to the rest of our lives.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Spidla's in

So Spidla's taken over from Zeman here in Czecho. It's a relief to see Klaus out of the front pages in what we can only hope is a slow slide into irrelevancy. But that's wishful thinking and some people think he might do more damage in true opposition. The big bet with Spidla is whether he can keep a handle on public spending. So far, people aren't giving much of a chance.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

A reader from Poznan writes to say he feels left out of the great Eastern capital race, but it's not really a sympathy play. He knows them all and gives Warsaw the lowest ranks. I have to agree. The fact that he actually stumbled onto the page is real shocker, actually. That boy is _really_ lost, was my first reaction and I'm not even going to touch the fact that he's in Poznan (it's in Poland all you non-geography heads). So Mike: Is Poznan or is it not the Cleveland of America. Or if you're from NYC, is it Trenton? Just curious, having never been there.
Someone writing like that out of the blue is sort of the opposite of what happened to me at about 2 a.m. in the Katowice train station in 1991 or so. Taking the night train from Prague to Krakow, you get spat out at the most ungodly hour into one of the grimmest scenes in all of Europe. And you have to hang out there for a couple of hours with the drunks. I was half dozing off with the background music blaring out of a little radio one of them had when the Rob McLean show was announced, and a guy calling himself me came on the air. It was a crappy pop music show in English. I sort of cowered in my seat, hoping no one would notice me. Luckily, no one did.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

Fourth o' July

Nice piece by Lileks. My only beef is that I don't see what orange juice has to do with a great country. He's taken the easy way out and said we're great because we have immigrants and 40 kinds of orange juice. Been to Germany lately? Maybe there's only five different kinds, but chances are the person who serves you will have ancestors from Turkey, the East Bloc or Africa. Same with France. And even Czecho has its warehouse shopping these days, as the Central European countries by-pass the analogue era of retail and are jumping straight into digital. It's great that shopping is so convenient and accessible for so many Americans, but it's not what makes it a great country. Which begs a question that I too will take the easy way out on...

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Kute kids
We've had the sexy blogger contests. How about the cute kids contest? I think it's time to realize that there _is_ more than just Gnat in this virtual world. Here's my entry.
Female foreigners fail to father
Welch's response to Bruner is telling. Not telling all, that is.
I would take issue with your melt-into-the-culture observation, though -- a far higher percentage of American expats I knew learned pretty good Czech than Hungarian (easier language, after all), more of them inter-married, and far less fathered surprise children.

Matt makes it sound like he never met any female expats in Prague, or that he didn't bother hanging out with them. To put it diplomatically, that's not entirely true. But it's true that he didn't strike it big until he hit Budapest. Hey Em!!

Prague vs. Budapest

Bruner gives a link, after some urgning from Matt. Bruner was apparently a guy living and working in Budapest some time ago. He's now upset by some book called Prague that I haven't heard of, and apparently it's just as well, since it's about people in Budapest. Especially since he seems quite sensitive about the fact that Prague was apparently a cooler place to live than Budapest.
Either way, it remains painfully clear to me that Prague has captured the public imagination as the cooler place to have been during Generation Expat, erroneous as I'd like to believe that may be.

Painfully clear? I always was a bit behind on fashion trends, but I don't have painful memories about having chosen the wrong brand of jeans back in high school. For a lot of people over here, which of the cities they ended up living in was just where they happened to land in. For whatever and any reason. Certainly not because we were concerned about how cool it would look 10 years later. Dude, get over it. There are things in life that will be painfully clear. This is not one of them.
One thing that really stuck with me on my first trip up there was seeing American expats busking with guitars for donations on the Charles Bridge. What was up with that? There weren't enough talented starving Chech singers to go around that they needed competition from a bunch of American backpackers? But this epitomized a kind of outsider arogance among expats in Prague I observed. For one thing, there were so many American expats in Prague, they really stood out as a social force.

Outside of the word being Czech, we weren't hungry. We were thirsty. The boys had gone through the founding money for Prognosis on a series of binges, so we had to get more money for beer. And sometimes it was enough. Seriously though. I think I understand what he means about cultural arrogance. That is, I understand that it can look that way from the outside, to a tourist from elsewhere. Say, to an American living in Budapest. When you're on tour, you want to see the local color, buy locally made trinkets on middle age bridges. You DON'T want to see Americans singing Hotel California, which by the way we never sang. Most of our stuff was home grown. It was this Argentinian guy named Ice who sang that one. And had the biggest crowd. The starving Czechs were not going to go out on the bridge to busk, unless they liked starving. It's no way to make a living. And I have to say that Americans never did manage to dominate the culture here. Again, perhaps in the tourist areas you saw a lot of them. But if you came out to some of the bars we went to in the depths of Prague 4, I guarantee you no one was even thinking about Americans, to say nothing of being dominated by them. These comments seem like those of a disgruntled tourist more than anything. May I suggest a safari?

When it comes down to it, I don't see a big difference between busking and putting out an English language newspaper, (and Bruner did time at the Budapest Week). Which is to say, I don't see anything wrong with it. When you're living in a place, you just do what you do, and it's that collection of people doing what they do that makes a city. Fine, so there's an English weekly. And various nationalities playing music on a bridge. I don't talk loud American English in the metro, as I prefer to keep a lower profile. But busking in the early 1990s in Prague was more about being young and singing and playing than anything else. Wherever you go at that age, no matter who you are, you think the world is your oyster. Americans perhaps more than others, but we found a lot of Czechs who were well into mixing and melding. But especially at that point, it was all just part of this initial cultural confrontation.

I don't buy his beef with the author of Prague either.
One more thought: who the hell is this guy, anyway? Despite the novel featuring the fictitious newspaper called BudapestToday, no one in my Budapest Week circle seems to remember him. Anyone else recognize him?

Apparently, if Bruner didn't know him, he was a nobody. Which by inference means that Bruner was definitely somebody. As someone who has yet to get pen to paper for any sort of fiction, I appreciate his honesty and coming right out and saying he's got a case of sour grapes. I remember when a guy in Prague wrote a memoir of his time here that I found at Borders. Ooh, did that get me going. But I wouldn't admit to it on-line, because I'd probably go way off track with arguments that weren't exactly air tight. And look a bit silly.
That being said, thanks for the link. Good to know ya'. Feel free to argue.