i just finished reading Thomas Mann's "the Will to Happiness" from his collected tales with "Death in Venice"
the story of a sickly man
who defies death for years
desperately seeking happiness
and as soon as he gets the woman he's pined for all that time
he dies the night of their Wedding.
Like the story of my friend Tapestry
who was sick with HIV for 12 years or so
the last time i saw him
he had finally found a boy he could love
and be loved by
who could accept him totally
push him in the ways he needed to be pushed
rush him in the ways he needed to be rushed
-- He'd gotten very ill since he had this love
thin, "full blown AIDS" he said...
they had excellent love
all the places he had been wanting to go
joy of joys
his new love took him to live in Ireland
finally outside of the US
in an old castle somewhere by the sea:
He died a month later.
& i feel like i've seen and heard this story so many times before
i've often wondered
is it always happiness? fulfillment?
is that satisfaction?
to stay alive is a constant struggle
more obvious for some...
what keeps me alive?
what am i yearning for?
and do i really want off this planet?
in the last years
i've seen myself just become a crotchety old man
wise and weary and constant
nothing overly important
but present to those who need that.
will my life ebb on like that?
is there a great desire that can find that will release me?
will there be a battle against a blasé existence?
or some passion that needs completing?
my life, perhaps more than the world as a whole, is a mystery to me.
we had a reservation on an early train to prague
so we could spend a few hours in Dresden on the way down
... so Dieter woke us at about 7:30
but we got to have breakfast with Dieter and Friedel
though neither Leo nor i are really into eating breakfast early in the morning
it was nice to see both of them to see us off..
we walked to the U-bahn
ahh, good-bye Berlin
took the U2 one stop up to Zoo Station
navigated our way up to our platform..
and waited: The train was ten minutes late
i walked around
realized how close Dieter's was to the Bahnhof
i snapped a few faces from the crowd
then it was time for the train to come
i looked at our ticket to know which car we should get on, which seat
then stuffed it back in my pocket
and got in line to get on the train with Leo
tons of people getting on
a woman came up to us and handed me our tickets
"are these yours?"
they had dropped out of my pocket without me noticing
' thank you '
always zip up.
we had to buy tickets to go to Prague
because our Eurail pass doesn't cover the czech republic..
so off we went
through more snow covered fields
we were riding second class
backwards in small seats stuck among other seats
we just vegged.
it was about a three hour ride to Dresden
when we got there
we got off
put our luggage in a locker
and walked out into the city
the people at the train station gave us a simple xeroxed map
the town didn't look too big
we walked over the capricious ice
through the communist looking town square
tall bland apartment buildings
on a Monday
we walked through one square to another
though things looked older there
there was still a spaciousness that was unnatural with the architecture
Leo finally found a wool scarf that he liked
he's been looking this whole trip
we walked through old snow, old city
rebuilt for tourism
what are they now?
into some churches
we stopped and got a sausage
and cup of hot wine
not understanding that there was a refund on the mug the wine was served in
i made a bit of scene because i thought she mis understood me and charged me for two when i asked for one
so i asked the guy to give me two...
it all got cleared up
but left a sour experience feeling in me
i didn't like dresden
i found the whole place depressing.
the one thing i was really interested in
was an old palace that had been destoyed
but not bulldozed
they wanted to restore it
but didn't have the money
we could see the skeleton of the building
with bits of plaster and paint still stuck on them
history in layers
from there we went into another church
but this one was restored in the communist days
instead of trying to make it look like it used to
they used the undamaged fundaments
and then sprayed stucco on the rest of the brick work
it was all grey and blank looking
like the static on a TV screen
it suggested the shape of the church
gave it a space for us to be inside
there wasn't really anything there
yet at the bases
were the ruins of the original church
.. it was beautiful
an organ concert was going on
so we sat and listened..
Leo couldn't get over the lighting fixtures:
"Sputnik" balls with golden flares coming of them
and i felt thoroughly depressed at this point
ready to leave Dresden
though i got a bit brighter when we walked by a fountain fixed in a wall
with a krononus head spouting water
and a big mouth with a tongue pushing out on the bottom as the drain
i took a picture.
the lady taking our reservations in Berlin said "two hours in Dresden?"
we thought we needed three
but she was right
... we headed back to the train station to see if we could make the train an hour earlier
but we missed it
in leu of getting some good german bread
so we sat and read
more Thomas Mann for me...
the train was, again, ten minutes late
and a platform change
so we had to move all our stuff
i was tired!
when we got on the train
our reservations, again, had us facing backwards
but i noticed most of the car was empty
so i moved to the other end of the car
Leo was reticent
but eventually came over to sit next to me.
the scenery changed dramatically
now we were traveling through a valley alongside a river
it was ... again .. beautiful
small towns crushed into the flood valley floor
against the cliffs, high mountains backing them
everything contrasted with snow
... as the sun set
we headed in to Prague
no real trouble with our passports
but the novelty of getting border control
everything in unified Europe now..
we got into Prague at 18:37 or so
night had fallen
there was a nice lady
looked kinda like my mom
standing outside the doors of the train
asking any of us if we needed accommodation
... just trying to make a living
but we already had reservations
a guy down stairs from the platform from that hotel asked us if we needed a room..
but we took the brochure he had
coz it had the address and a map on it
the better for the Taxi drivers...
i changed some money
4680 Czech Krouns
out to the Taxi stand
there... weren't taxis...
there were "train station transport service" cars
we loaded our stuff in
and asked how much it would cost
the guy showed us a printed leaflet that said
which is €30
the distance to the hotel was about a Mile
we couldn't talk him out of it
he said it was a fixed price
we got out of the car
the guy behind him said
and he gave it to us
we got stuck in traffic when we got into town
the words on the signs...
never have i seen a language that looked more like someone just randomly hitting a keyboard..
we sat in traffic for about 10 minutes
about 2 minutes from the hotel...
one of the things i love about Europe
is i can hear songs on the radio that i know and actually like
which very rarely happens in the states
in eastern europe...
as i've also experienced in Peru and Brazil
i get to hear songs i've almost forgotten about
... and wished i had.
while stuck in traffic
was an extended remix of Milli Vanilli's "Blame it on the Rain"
... though that song pops into my head occasionally over the years
: as my child hood was inundated with it
i haven't heard it since i was an early teenager
and never had i heard this incredibly tedious remix
well... welcome to prague
it ended just before we got to our hotel.
when we checked in
our room was just what we wanted
through the lobby
to the back
a little house thrown in under the hotel
two small rooms to the right
ours was the first, 51
back by the toilet was 52
the toilet was shared
our room had three nice big windows... that opened onto the back of the hotel
two firm beds, like in germany
and a table.
we put our stuff down
and then went out for something to eat.
right next to our hotel was a Chinese restaurant
dishes for about €3
but we wanted Czech food
but which to choose?
the old city (which we were very central in)
was filled with tourist traps
and tourist food is generally overpriced and Shit
nothing was too expensive here
a .5 liter of beer was 28Kcs (€1)
Pilsner Urquell was on the door of almost every restaurant
and i don't generally drink mass produced shit beer
but Pilsner Urquell was the first beer i ever enjoyed...
i looked at our small map
compared against the gay map Leo had torn out of an old 2002 Spartacus guide
and we tried to find the generic gay bar called "Friends"
... to check out the scene and get a better gay map of the city
... but it was no where to be found...
so we wandered around a bit
crunching through the ice and snow
looking at menus in windows
a woman came out and said we could come in and eat
a place with a simple tourist menu
... it was a cellar restaurant
old brick vaulted basement
the Pilsner Urquell was still very tasty
and i had goulash with dumplings
which was wonderful
though the dumplings were a bit heavy...
it was very nice
though we were very tired
so we walked home from there
and quickly went to sleep.