March 15th, 2006

tending fire

letter to a friend

we rode the train all day
not too early
but it was a 6 hour ride
from Amsterdam to Berlin

long flat plains
covered in snow
falling sideways
through the birch forests

i was shocked
that we were pulling into Zoo Station
the view from the platform: a bombed out church
left in a monumental state of disrepair.

we went out of Zoo Station
to the U-Bahn right next door
took the line U2 to the Wittenburgplatz


so i put on Achtung Baby the first night i had to walk around
and laughed at U2
and laughed at my childhood
and wondered what experience those guys had here in Berlin
... and why i never knew they were singing about Berlin?

somewhere in berlin with you
everything covered in snow
i laughed about you too
about you and me
about "who's gonna ride your wild horses"
and all the other songs.

i don't remember ever watching "Wings of Desire" with you
but i found myself on Potsdamerplatz
and marveled at how everything had changed from when that movie was filmed ( a few years before the wall fell )

art and culture
and money

and space
holes left over
waiting for the change
where commerce hadn't found it yet
and communism or war had amputated parts of it

some small side street
lost in twenty years ago
a watch tower
where... i guess... they'd shoot you if you tried to go across. . .
still, a little tiny sad box of a café underneath it
under it's watchful eye
filled with silent faces drinking their coffee

many miss it
that way of life
it's all they knew
all this "freedom" is utterly confusing to them.

we took the u-bahn back to zoo station
and left out of there early sunday morning
so we could see Dresden
a Jewel of Old Germany
destroyed out of spite in the war
-- attempted restorations
but a bulk of communist-era buildings
... the emptiness
something left me feeling so sad
so "depressed"
we had scheduled three hours to see the town
by one and a half
i wanted out of there

... we spent the last hour sitting at the train station waiting 
being cold (snow still falling)
reading Thomas Mann (ugh, i really don't like his writing style, but want to read Death in Venice before i get there )

did i ever share eastern european authors with you?

the big ones like Kafka and Kundera
we didn't really talk about them so much, did we?
the smaller ones like
Schultz, Grombrowitcz and Walsser

Prague IS a midaevil city
and Leo has never read any of that stuff
so i recount the stories i remember ( i read the bulk of that stuff at 15 through 19 )

all about feeling out of place
wondering who the fuck you are
giving yourself over to paranoia and self consciousness
and getting lost somewhere in there
or exulting it.

i sat in a bath house last night (it's 5:30 am now, i woke from the heat of the radiator, and the dramatic dream i was having)

sauna, whirlpool
i sat in the tepid water
bubbles everywhere
having just had sex with some finnish guy
after the rush of it
why i'd done it...?
why i'd done any of it

remembering in my youth 
after i'd left Oscar Wilde and Morrissey and found Fags in Indiana
i believed that being a part of gay culture = AIDS = Death
so fearing and avoiding sex with queens, bath houses, bars, discos

but as i aged
lost somewhere in america
i felt i had to accept gay culture

not like you did it
where you embraced a personality of it
piercing your eyebrow, dying your hair
being a beautiful young thing
but i made myself an old man who had just left his wife and stumbled into my generation's outlets...
(except i wasn't an old man who had just left his wife... i had just left the midwest and all the repression entailed)
not knowing what to do
i would sit in bars and talk with the Cat Men
the going home
the hopeful love
based in nothing

eventually succumbing to bath houses
after working in one
to try and understand the culture
to try and get past my fears
.. i just made it so i couldn't hear the screaming of my paranoia anymore
but i blotted out the voice of reasonable fear as well

but that's how i moved, that's how i lived
and found it ok,
somewhere in my life
to retire
and spend my days chasing tail
caught in the hungry rush
and wondering Why when the sweat had cooled

i was right about everything
or half of everything
or a quarter of everything
-- just enough to seal my fate
and wondering if it could have been different if i'd chosen writing imaginary paranoias 
(though, at the breaking point, i didn't want to create more fear and pain for the world
even at the expense of my catharsis
my fear of proliferating pain to any audience
kept me doing it in my friends and lovers)

so i sat with the bubbles around me
wondering what it was i WAS doing
and wondering what you were doing...
being gay in your way
much safer, much more nourishing than mine
and cultivating your life
even if out of stuff i can't understand or enjoy
doing your best to sculpt a person of  . . . famous movie making
and even if you possibly failed that
you would have a satisfying domestic life
and an acceptable job doing certain affects for TV and films
dreams to reach for
and something to fall back on

where i'm at a crucial moment
and have no idea where i want my story to go
how to make it believable
how to even keep it going...
how to pull a magic trick again
to keep it from becoming a horrorshow

but i guess i've got some talent for magic tricks like that
(the bunny will set you free -- i saw it on my ipod a few days ago)
some sort of faith in myself i'll be alright

thanks for being a person
i can share a story and thought with
even if i'm not being able to communicate with you
lost in Lyon
or somewhere in Europe with you

woke up at the wrong time

our room has a radiator in it
a little knob on the side
i turned it on
just slightly, i thought
but i woke about 5 am
sweating, feeling strangled by the sheet/duvet
too much heat

i reached up and turned the radiator off
and lay back down in my dream

i had been dreaming that i was a married man
and had another really good man friend
we would get together sometimes
and drink
and talk
and have sex

i rarely had sex with anyone besides my wife and him
but he was out all the time
picking up guys at road-side rest stops and parks
i remember
in the dream
being really concerned for him
trying to explain to him how these men had no scruples
had no integrity when it came to protecting themselves, their families, and the guys they had sex with
that he was putting himself, his family and me at danger by having sex with them

but he didn't want to hear it

my life went on with a quiet un-easyness that i couldn't do anything about
because he was my friend...

somewhere in this vague stressful life my dream was giving me
i woke

layed in that feeling
i was very thirsty
i went to the toilet
sat down
and emptied myself
drank many glasses of water

came back to bed
got out the computer
and wrote a letter to Eli.

i went to sleep around 6:30 or so
and woke again around 10 something
this time
from a dream of my sister and mother coming to visit me where i was living with my Friend in Germany
i had to explain everything to them in a pedantic way
it was really tiring
my Friend disappeared
in fact
everyone in Germany seemed to disappear
to the extent that i had to make all the food for them
i had to get the tickets for the train
i had to, somehow, figure out how to drive the train and make it go where we wanted to go
my mother and sister were continually confused and asking me to do more and more things

i woke up tired.
another alien

walking tour through prauge, another day in the sauna

i woke up tired
layed around in bed
once again
my body felt sore
i undulated my spine
meditated a bit
then had breakfast with Leo

i noticed my sinuses were starting to hurt
and i sneezed a few times
so i took the homeopathic Kali Bich again
and went into the toilet and washed my sinuses out with my urine

Leo was out of Cash
so we went off to get some Money changed
the place right next to our hotel gave me
2347Kcs for $100
Leo had traveler's checks
so we had to look for a bank.

we decided to go on a walking tour today.
in english.
we walked down to Wenceslaw Square
the main commercial/tourist area
we'd not been there yet
but that's where we were to meet the tour guide

on the way
we found a bank
and i saw a liquor store that had many different bottles of Absinth in the window
some of them the right color...
but i didn't want to carry any of it around the city all day

we went from there to an internet cafe
cheapest we'd found so far
1Kc per minute
so he answered his messages
and i answered mine
and did my best to cull some interesting profiles from Prague
sent out a few messages
maybe i could get someone to go to the movie with me tomorrow?
Leo got a message from a guy who had been wanting to meet me back in NY
and had seen Leo's link in my profile
so messaged him as well
ok ok
we wrote down his number so we could call him
but he gave us both different numbers
so i just messaged him back
maybe we could meet up tomorrow?

we walked to the square...
we were supposed to meet the guide at the Statue of Wenceslaws on his horse..
there he was, with the yellow umbrella
a cute blond czech boy
Leo had a big smile on his face

but when we paid him for the tour
(the equivalent of ~€18 each)
he told us our tour guide would be here soon, a girl named Simona


so we looked around the square
enjoying all the tourists taking pictures of the statue
as the crowd of our group gathered..

this was just a random day
well, the ides of march, yeah
a wednesday
in the winter..
we had over 20 people for the tour!

she told us a lot of history
had a great sense of humor
and aligned pretty well with my political beliefs.

i'll spare the details of the tour
if you want to know all about it
go to prague and do it yourself
but it was pretty good

we'd basically done the second half of it already
it was nice to get more info from our guide

up at the Palace, where the tour ended
the day was much hazier than when we'd been there the day before
which made me sad the view wasn't as nice
but glad i'd taken pictures when it was

Leo and i walked back down into the city
to meet my friend Jerry at Old Town Square.

Jerry was a guy i met working at the Bath House in Portland
back in '99
we'd kept in touch all those years
meeting up when he moved back to San Francisco
he's a sweet guy
a Legal Assistant
which says a bit about his personality
i was a bit saddened to see that he was clean shaven now
because of the firm he's working for here in Prague
it was great to see him
he took us to the Tyn cathedral: the guy who watches over it hates tourists
so mostly keeps the church locked up but for special occasions
and Jerry had heard the organ playing when he walked by
so he knew it would be open
we got to walk around maybe 10 minutes
then he took us to an Irish bar

at that point
i exited
while they waited for the Guinness
i ran around looking for an international calling place
put on my glasses so i could see farther
and found one not too far away

tried to call Arthur for his birthday..
called and called
but he wasn't there
and the number was reaching a different voicemail than he used to have
i was worried he'd changed his number again
and sad i missed talking with him

so i went back to the Irish bar
and sat down to drink my beer..

i hadn't had a Guinness since they changed the recipe..
it's much lighter
i like the rich thick dark beers...
so i went through it pretty quick
and U2's "Joshua Tree" was playing
of course!

we left there
and Jerry took us to a back-alley Czech place
pretty cheap
pretty good food

i ordered a different aperitif
but this time it was just a czech version of "grappe"
which isn't my favourite

pork with mushrooms and onions and ginger was pretty damn good.
Beer was good.

good good good.

we took Jerry back to our hotel
to see if he would recommend it to friends
he was impressed with our find
(he had been trying to find us a good place to stay weeks ago)

from there
he took us to that gay bar, Friends, that we couldn't find a few nights ago
: it had moved

it was a generic gay bar
i had a dark beer that was too sweet
off we went
down past the Tesco to Narodni Trida
to take the tram out to Zisko, the area he lives in; the gay area
he took us to a place called Alcatraz
a cellar sex-bar
we sat and had a beer upstairs
taking pictures of pigs

Jerry had to be at work early in the morning
working boy!

the bar was a late night bar
he left us shortly after 11
and we went down stairs...

it was an interesting space
huge vaulted catacombs
which was really the most interesting aspect of the night

though there were posters on the wall about all the kinks
and video porn of fisting and many other sports
... no one was having sex.

near no one

we were there til about 2
each of us only played once
and it was with the same person.

i spent most of my time sitting in the dark in one of the dark room
but the one with a dim red light on
i sat on the bench
let my eyes adjust
and watched the people coming in and out
drinking my beer
feeling the swell of my tiredness
what i was doing here

the guy i played with
he was hot
muscle/beefy boy
but thick enough to be interesting
only wanted to masturbate and pull on nipples
but that's cool
it was fun
more for him than for me
i like experiencing other people than my usuals sometimes
but when it was over
i went to find Leo
and we got out of there
in good time to catch the night tram back to Narodni Trida
which was just a few minutes from our Hotel

when we got off the tram
i was starving
and there was a Gyros stand open right there
so i ran in to get one
it will still cheap
but more expensive than out in Kreuzberg
about 50Kcs
i ended up buying one for a homeless guy too
poor old drunk confuses guy
... it wasn't much..

and it was chicken
when i really love lamb
i devoured it as we walked back to the hotel
gone quickly

but totally exhausted
we got back to the room
once again
we crashed hard.