05 December 2012

Blue Skies and Bread Birds

The golden coin was shiny once. It is tarnished now; worn down and dirtied up by thousands of fingers rolling it around in thousands of pockets. On one side is the great King Wenceslas astride his horse. On the opposite side a dragon roaring into battle. The coin is worth 20 koruna, less than one-dollar, but it looks like an old thing worth so much more.

With a flick I send the coin spinning in a golden spherical blur. I flicked it harder than I intended. It is moving faster than I wanted. My eyes grow huge and my breath grows short as the coin careens toward the edge of the table. Then, impossibly, it halts its forward charge and spins in place. The spins become wobbles—lazy arcs gaining in clarity until Wenceslas and the dragon are once again visible. It falls and settles with a tambourine rattle—a rapid expenditure of dying energy that shifts the coin a click too far. It tumbles from view, over the edge. My head sinks and my roommates roar. “Mr. Jilek,” they shout with trailing laughter. This is the name of our game. The game I just lost.  

I down my beer. It is full. This is not the first beer I’ve downed tonight. I am having an amazing time, but I curse myself just the same because I am convinced that this is the drink that will carry over. This is the one that will that whisper in my ear come morning, telling me to eat everything and do nothing.

Then again…

I wake up with cautious optimism. I feel fine. Great actually. I wonder if it’s a gift from the gods or a sign that alcohol is still lurking in my system, waiting to sucker punch me before it burns away. My roommate Chris knocks on my door and asks if I want to get breakfast at Bohemia Bagel. “Absolutely,” I say.

If it is alcohol creeping around I will wrap his smug face in bacon. I will drown him in hot black coffee. I will suffocate him beneath maple syrup drenched pancakes. Because, even Czech beer is powerless against the might of American pancakes.

The breakfast is all that I had hoped it would be; two fried eggs, sausage, bacon (cooked to perfection), two massive pancakes lathered in butter and syrup and a bottomless mug of fresh brewed coffee. I add jalapenos to my eggs. I have always liked spicy food, but after living in Thailand it has become a necessary element, like a table without cutlery I don’t know how to begin without it.

Satiated and feeling triumphant about the caloric Shock & Awe campaign we ran against our hangovers, my roommates and I decide to walk around Old Town Square which has recently been transformed into a winter wonderland. Little wooden booths with red metal roofs and white Christmas lights fill the square. At the front of the square, near the Tyn Church stands a fully decorated tree fifty feet high. It is cold out, technically freezing. The square is packed with people and everyone is bundled-up in winter gear; little kids in trendy snowboarding outfits, adults in fashionable jackets and the older generation still wearing throwback furs and Russian style winter caps. The smell of food and warm drinks wafts from the vendor booths. There is no plastic to be found among the trinkets and gifts, everything is handmade, Bohemian, wonderful. Best of all the skies are blue—a bright creamy reach into forever blue. It is the first time we have seen anything but low gray murk for weeks. The height and curve of the sky makes us happy.
Stupidly I did not bring my camera. So, imagine this scene
with really, really blue sky behind.
Prague in winter. Wow. Maybe a person can get used to this kind of thing, but I just don’t see how. It’s magic. I don’t care if they use the same booths every year or if the Trdelnik (Czech dessert) is overpriced. I don’t care if it is more about tourism than it is about the Christmas spirit. Consider me fooled. Call me a fool. I love it. I told you before that Prague has her rhythm. And when Christmas comes and she gets all dolled-up and sets to tuning, my god…

Hot spiced wine. This delicious mixture is everywhere in winter. It warms the hands and warms the belly. Despite the fact we only recently vanquished our hangovers via pancake no one balks when the first salvo of, “Hot wine?” is thrown into the chilly air. We walk around Old Town Square sipping wine and occasionally stopping in patches of sun. Our conversations are simple. Each of us is overwhelmed by the perfection of the day. With each move-and-stop we repeat our own sentiments of, happy, beautiful, we live in Europe! There is nothing more important to say.

We leave Old Town and walk to the Charles Bridge. There are so many people it is difficult to see the painters and musicians lining the sides, shilling for change. The cold is starting to sink in. I rub my hands together despite the fact that I am wearing gloves. 

At the far end of the bridge, just before the fairytale climb to St. Nicolas church and Prague Castle we descend a set of stairs and weave through narrow cobble stone streets until we reach the Lennon Wall. Although images of the Beatles icon can be found on the wall it is not a tribute to the band, it is a lasting memory of peace. During the communist era family members would leave secret messages for each other on the wall. The Beatles never played the Czech Republic, but from what little information they had of the West, the Czech people knew that Lennon was a man who stood for peace and for that reason alone they nicknamed their wall full of secrets in his honor.

We stop at a stall near the love-locks bridge to order more hot wine. The girl working behind the counter is cute and she speaks English so we linger asking her silly questions. My favorite bookstore Shakespeare and Sons is just around the corner so we pop in to warm up and browse the shelves. I make an off-handed comment about how everyone seems to love “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, but I think it sucks. From behind me a woman chimes in “Who loves that book?” We get to talking about the book’s shortcomings which leads to other things. She is American. She is married to the owner of the bookstore and has lived in Prague for years. She seems really happy. Living in Prague and working in a great bookstore at the foot of the Charles Bridge…I suppose she would be.

My roommate Sarah tells us about a pear concoction she tried when her sister was in town. She swears by it so we cross the river in search of it. We find the place and it’s great. It is an outdoor bar on the banks of the Vltava River. There is no inside, just a set of stairs that descend to a dirty bathroom. We order pear brandy mixed with hot pear juice served in white Styrofoam cups. We lean against the railing looking across the river at Prague Castle and the red tiled roofs of Mala Strana. There is a small park with a dirt path behind us. Couples, friends and tourists brave the coldness of standing still to appreciate the view. Frank Sinatra is playing softly from the speakers atop the bar. Beside us a man and his son are throwing chunks of bread out over the river. Dozens of seagulls swoop and hover hungry for the bread. They are uncharacteristically silent and unusually beautiful. They speed and slow to catch the bread mid-flight. We watch with wonder, we listen to Frank, we sip warm pear brandy and we know that this is yet another flickering moment that can only be understood by living it.

We leave to buy groceries for dinner. We will end our day the way we started—with a meal. We will return to Zizkov and the place we call home, as roommates, as friends, as people from different parts of the world lucky enough to live in Prague on a day full of blue skies and bread birds.

Photo Credits: f-eats.blogspot.com, tripadvisor.com, blog.hdrshooter.net

26 November 2012

The Rhythm of Prague

It’s Friday night. I am home alone and I am bored. Sitting still is not easy for me. I have to work at it. Even a good book requires stops and starts before I can slow myself down. I stop to check email or to go to the potraviny (convenience store) downstairs to buy a bottle of the Mattoni water I’m mildly obsessed with. Eventually the turning of pages becomes all the motion I need and I settle into the comfort of stillness. But, it ain’t easy. My plans to stay in on Friday nights never work out. The second I set my bag down signaling the end of the work week I start to ping off of things. This weekend my roommates are away having adventures so the pinging is worse than usual. I’m like a monkey in a cage being taunted by a kid—a kid who will grow up to be a jerk. I need to get out of here before I start flinging poo at the imaginary little bastard.

I’ve decided to walk to a pub a few blocks from my flat. It’s chilly out tonight, but not cold. I don’t know the name of the pub. It has a green awning and a Pilsner Urquell sign out front. The word “spirits” is painted several times on the old chipping away walls. All the gastro pubs in Prague look like this—indistinguishable, warm and inviting. 

The pub is at the bottom of steep cobble stone streets. There is a small park beside it. Street dogs are chasing (or maybe playing with) a groomed dog that escaped from its owner. The owner is calling for it in Czech. I don’t understand the words but worried translates.

The brick walls surrounding the park are covered in graffiti. Graffiti is everywhere out here in the neighborhoods—away from the preserved and untouchable city center. I step into the street. The dim lights above cast a faint mustard glow off of the stones beneath my feet. It feels romantic. I cross and turn back. I let the image ripple over me.

Prague is old. She has known war and struggle. She has known occupation. None of these hard things affected her love. She is too beautiful and too grand to be marred by smudges. Everywhere you look couples are kissing in the streets. Romance is elemental here. It is breathing. It is Prague. She is golden and beautiful and she knows how to tune people to her heart rushing rhythm.  

The pub has a wooden door with a brass handle. I pull it open and warm air pours over me. There is a large table near the door littered with beer mugs and people—laughter and conversation. Several people turn to look at me. They look away. The man in the khaki colored jacket is of no importance to them.

The waitress spots me from across the pub and approaches with a green menu etched in gold.

“Dobry Den,” I say in greeting.

She responds in a stream of Czech I don’t understand. I smile faintly and ask if they have an English menu. I ask in my slow clear teacher voice.

“Of course,” she responds in perfect English. “Please take a seat.”

I drape my jacket over the back of the chair and remove a book and the hard-case containing my glasses from the jacket pocket. This turns out to be a blessing because there are only low lights in the pub and I can’t read a word on the menu without my spectacles. This scenario happens often. Usually I’m stuck with the point-and-hope method of ordering.

I have been to this pub before. The food is excellent. I am tempted to order the baked pork knee. It is a Czech specialty; delicious, but served in obese portions. I decide instead on the turkey breast with sundried tomatoes and gravy. Not wanting the gravy to go to waste I order a side of steak fries as well. I also order a Kozel Cerny (dark beer). As I hand the menu back to the waitress I realize that calorie-to-calorie, gluttony-to-gluttony I’ve managed to equal the output of the pork knee anyway.

The book I’m reading is called “The War with the Newts.” It was written by Karel Capek a famous Czech writer of dystopian and sci-fi fiction. He famously coined the term “Robot.” The book is good, but I’m not giving it the attention it deserves. I am holding it up so that I can peer over it and observe the people around me. Everyone always wonders about the guy eating alone. Why is he alone? Is he sad? Is he lonely? Poor sap can’t get a girl. They don’t realize that he is wondering right back. He is reading their clothes and their mannerisms and he is writing a story, a history with them in the lead.

The couple across from me has just finished their meal. He had beer and she had wine. Neither of them had the pork knee. This isn’t their first date, they are too comfortable for that, but they aren’t settled either. There is a newness and a hint of nervousness to their interaction. She calls the waitress to their table and orders a round of shots. The drinks arrive and they smile at each other in a private way that suggests that this will be the last drink of the evening. The last public drink anyway.

  I look away, embarrassed by my intrusion. I turn my attention back to my book. My thoughts drift again. I imagine the couple leaving the pub and stepping onto the stone streets— into the dim mustard glow. I imagine the streets vibrating beneath their feet. They feel it but they do not recognize it. They think that it is anticipation and alcohol and the night air. They will go to his place or maybe hers. They will never know that their romance came from the streets. The sweet rush, warmth emanating, caresses and clutching, the smell of soap and sex; the physical belongs to them. But the inspiration belongs to Prague. Beautiful Prague. Golden Prague. She is the vibrations beneath their feet. She tuned them to her own indomitable rhythm of love.

I lap up the last of my gravy with the last of my fries. I down the last of my beer. I pay the waitress.

“Dekuji” I say.

“Prosim!” she replies sweetly.

I step into the cool night and the warm glow. I exhale and watch my frozen breath fade. I put my hands in my pockets. I walk listening to the clack of boot heel against stone. Prague is with me. I can feel her.


18 November 2012

Prague in Pictures

When a friend comes to visit you show them the city. And when that friend proves to be a better photographer than you, you steal their photos and post them as your own.
St. Vitus Cathedral

Wenceslas Square

Old Town Square

Skull from a pub that opened in 1475. Early patron?

Church of Our Lady Before Tyn

20 October 2012

Portrait of an Imitation Artist as a Sort of Young Man

I stayed in last night. Young Kevin and I both agreed that we wanted to save money. Having settled on a mellow night we promptly went to the store and spent a king’s wage on all the fixings for an epic burger session. I mixed barbeque sauce, fresh chilies, garlic and red onions into the meat. Kevin fried them up. I lathered stone ground mustard and guacamole on a freshly toasted roll, placed the burger on the mustard side and topped it with Edam cheese, tomato and arugula. Kevin did the same. We each ate two of these beasts along with a mountain of chips and salsa. Adding to the gluttony I washed it all down with Cabernet. We don’t have a corkscrew so I tried to pull the cork with a steak knife. It didn’t work. I pushed the cork straight into the bottle spraying my face and the cabinets with purple nectar. Under the circumstances I had no choice but to drink the whole bottle. Oops.

I went to bed before midnight, a rarity for a Friday. The weeks have been flying by and I haven’t been spending enough time on creative things so I wanted Saturday to be a good day. I woke up feeling great. Well mostly great. The aforementioned burgers created a gaseous cloud around me that required not only getting out of bed but also a lengthy shower.

I took all of my school folders out of my sexually ambiguous euro-man-bag and replaced them with my computer, reading glasses and a novel, “Ham on Rye” by Charles Bukowski. I knew I would feel pent-up if I stayed in my room all morning so I decided to check out the Globe Café, a bookstore/coffee shop that according to the internets is popular among artsy expats. Yes, I am aware that seeking out a place that fancies itself an artist haven is painfully cliché and in all likelihood not the least bit artistic. Something like going to Applebee’s for a home cooked meal. But, it looked like a comfortable place to sit and that is all I wanted for what I hoped would be a successful Saturday writing session.

It was cold when I left the apartment; colder than I expected it to be. I walked up Seifertova to the Husinecka tram stop. The Black Keys “El Camino” album was blasting through the headphones. I boarded the Number 9 tram. It was crowded with people bundled up in scarves and heavy jackets. I stood near the front of the tram holding onto a yellow support pole while the tram rolled over the tracks into the heart of the city.

 I exited the tram at a stop near the river and walked across cobble stone streets toward the café. In the center of town every street has character, every street is beautiful. Prague was meant to be cold. In the middle of summer when you find yourself ducking into shaded overhangs to escape the sun you can sense that something is off. The images of the city seem overexposed--blurred out by a flash that isn’t needed and doesn’t belong. In the fall the city is perfect. Detail down to the finest grain shows on the ancient buildings and the spires dissect the sky in clear reaching lines. Cold brings the city into focus. It makes it a place you can feel on your skin and in your heart.

I got to Globe Café minutes after it opened. It’s a great space; high vaulted ceilings, maroon walls framed in white, comfortable well-worn chairs. The front of the shop is a bookstore and the back is a café. I ordered a coffee and courting my inner fat man (as I often do) ordered a stack of blueberry pancakes as well. I devoured my pancakes and slurped my coffee while catching up on important current events. According to Yahoo today’s most important global happenings include; Harry Potter breaking up with his girlfriend, Sesame Street suing the manufacturer of a sexy Big Bird costume and Tom Hanks dropping the F-bomb on live TV.

 I pushed aside the white plate streaked with sticky blue and purple leavings and opened the notes I’d written for a novel I hope to write. It is tentatively titled “Wanderous.” I promise to reveal more when I have the details worked out.

The café was quiet in the beginning. And then all of the “artists” started pouring in. By artists I mean American girls with valley girl accents. I have learned to hate that accent since moving abroad. As a guy who considers Los Angeles home you would think I would be immune to it. Not anymore. Occasionally I crave the sound of English; not just a conversation held in English but the sound of English as white noise. But, then I come to a place like this and quickly remember that English can no longer be white noise. I hear every syllable. I eavesdrop on every conversation. And when the majority of those conversations are spoken in screeching Valley Girl OMG, Totally, Whatever, it makes me want to run to the nearest local cafe and surround myself with the blissful sounds of unintelligible Czech.

I was having trouble thinking over the Americanese so I closed my notes for “Wanderous” and started writing this blog instead. MB Abroad has been a creative lifesaver. I use it as calestecics, a mental stretch and warm-up before the difficult work begins.

The Globe Café has now officially given up on its artistic intentions and caved to the OMG girls. At this very moment the only thing louder than the Americanese is the American hip-hop thumping at club volume. I have headphones in. I am blasting Mozart and Beethoven. Rock and Roll. This is of course exactly what I should have expected when I sought out cliché.

Here I sit; an imitation of an artist; stately library chair, coffee, Beethoven’s “Mass in D major", the written word, a copycat down to the last detail. And to remind me of my folly I am surrounded by slang and chat speak and a sick beat that even Ludwig Von cannot keep at bay.

I need to get out of here. Number 9 take me home.

Photo Credit: Source Imagekind.com (Tram painting)
Photo Credit: Source bundleofbooks.org
Video Credit: Source Youtube via Globalmusic5 

29 September 2012

A Glorious Day-trip

Travel is more than a destination, it's stepping outside of routine to discover the world around you. And you don't have to go far to find your next adventure. Sometimes a day of travel is all you need.

Here are a few photos from my day-trip to Hrensko, Czech Republic:

27 September 2012

Traveler's Dust

The world stretches away. Chase it! Run it down! Cross the horizon into places unseen. Let far-flung wonders stick like a fine layer of dust and when the horizon shimmers at the edge of your vision chase it yet again. Go! Specks of what you’ve seen and what you’ve learned will blaze behind you. People will marvel at your bright burning traveler's dust.

But, beware! You will grow weary. You will slow down. And when you do a single speck of dust will come crashing forward. It will tumble through you unnameable and unreachable. And when it's ready it will reveal itself in the strangest of ways. You will be on a subway train whirring beneath castles. A phone will ring and the song on that phone will be Left my Heart in San Francisco. A woman will reach into her purse to answer and you will think, “No, Ma’am please. Just let it ring.”

15 September 2012

Published: South to Bicol

A story I wrote called "South to Bicol" has been published by Intellectual Refuge. It is currently the featured story on the site and later it will be accessible as part of the Vol. 3 archives. Click on the link below to visit the site and read the story. As always thanks for your support.


South to Bicol

12 September 2012

Sorry, Kevin's Mom

I have been in Prague for two-months. I was pragmatic in the beginning. I wanted to build a foundation for my life here; job, apartment, basic knowledge of public transportation and where to find food and supplies. I did all of that. I handled business.

So, now what? I'm single and living in the heart of Europe. What shall I do?

That's right, ladies and gentlemen: Party Time!!

A couple of blog entries ago I was wandering through Prague alone waiting for the world to Flash and Burn. Since then my friend count has gone from zero to fifty. This has nothing to do with my winning personality. When you teach English abroad new friends are part of the package. The school I work for employs over a hundred teachers. I would have to be some kind of dick to not make friends.

Friday evening I went across the street to Yes Burger for a Mexican burger and dollar beers. My roommates Chris and Sara joined me. They are still getting to know me so they didn't realize that when I said, "I'm only having a couple" it was the same as a slut saying, "I'm not that kind of girl."

A few beers into our burger session I got a call from our landlord saying that our new (and final) roommate would be arriving shortly from France. His PARENTS were dropping him off. Parents we all said aloud. How old is this Kevin person? 

After dinner we put on our best sober faces and made a pit stop at the apartment. Kevin's mom was cooking  dinner in the kitchen. Kevin's dad was helping him set up his room. Kevin himself was a kind young man finishing his University degree abroad in Prague. It was a lovely family setting. We said hello in awful bumbling French and got the hell out of there before we made it weird.

We went into the city center and bar hopped around. We found a couple of places we liked and a couple we didn't. I'm not sure which was responsible because they came in close succession, but either a shot of Tequila or a beer called Demon put me over the edge.  

How far over the edge? Chris and Sarah wanted to end the night at a strip club. I couldn't possibly say no to such inspired thinking so we found one off of Wenceslas Square where there are many. Once inside I couldn't keep my eyes open. I was surrounded by lace and frills and flesh and yet a fried cheese sandwich and sleep sounded a lot more appealing than glorious Czech boobies. That far over the edge.

I got home around 4:30 in morning. An hour or so later I stumbled out of my room wearing only my boxers. I needed to pee. In the hallway I found a woman sitting in the window box. She had one leg on the ledge and one on the floor. She was holding a cigarette the way women hold cigarettes in magazine ads. She took a drag, tilted her head back and exhaled through the open window. "Bonjour," she said nervously. I blinked in surprise. The words "Kevin's mom" banged their way into my thick head. I didn't respond to her greeting or apologize for my near nudeness. I spun around and went back into my room. I hastily put on jeans and a t-shirt. I reemerged and mumbled, "Bonjour." I slinked by, went to the bathroom and went back to sleep. IDIOT.

I've been in Prague for two months but the city is still new to me. It's a big playground. Like a child I charge when I see a playground. I swing and I slide. I hide and I seek. Unlike a child I understand that the playground isn't going anywhere. The last couple weeks (my first post responsibility weeks) have been great. I've stayed out late and slept-in later. I have new friends and great roommates. Socially speaking I'm poised for a helluva run here in the city of a hundred spires. 

But, it's time to find balance. I have leaned toward responsibility and I have leaned toward gluttony. The way to the sweet spot is simple: I have to refocus on writing. I have written, but not written enough. I need to make writing a daily or near daily routine. Because, regardless of whether it bares fruit or not writing is the thing keeping me centered as I swing and slide around the world. I want to write another novel. I have barely begun to promote Neverland, and part of me feels like I should devote time to that so that it doesn't become forgotten. But, I can't look at it that way. Writing is an art. Promoting and selling are business. I need to find time for both, but art has to take precedence because art is the balance point.

So anyway, I got up on Saturday morning and Kevin was eating a bowl of cereal in the kitchen. I was dressed this time. "Good morning," I said. "I think I scared your mom." 

"Yes," he said. "I think so, a little bit."

21 August 2012

Parks in Prague

I grew-up on the West Coast, which means that I grew-up with access to wide open spaces. Be it ocean, desert or mountains escape into nature was always easy. That didn't change during my first adventure abroad. In Thailand the jungle was at my doorstep and the beaches were too. Coming to Prague I expected escape to mean a bus or a train ride into the countryside, but I was wrong. There are beautiful parks all over the city, most of which have a beer garden in case you get thirsty.

Stromkova Park - Prague 7

View from Letenske Sady

White water rapids course

A2 path along the Vltava River

Wyld Stallyns!!

My new courts

My new beach

11 August 2012

Flash and Burn

I am out of the suburbs and into the city—at the center of what I wanted. Staying with my host family forty-minutes from town was a gift. It allowed me to ease in and find a job in a protected place. But, I didn’t leave Asia for the outskirts or to be protected. I left to be exposed to the thriving madness of Europe. The flat I am renting is in the art district of Prague, three metro stops from the city center. The Vltava River is a two-minute walk as are countless restaurants, pubs and galleries. Red retro tram cars pass by my window at regular intervals. Outside the city hums. Inside it is quiet. I live alone.

The writer and reader in me loves living alone. The solitude is a perfect and necessary conduit for creativity. The social animal in me paws at the door needing to get out. Hearing and telling stories, using the words bouncing around in my head is a big part of who I am. I don’t have any friends here. I will, but these things take time. As a new man in the city finding friends means going out alone. That may sound lonely and I suppose it can be. But, I’ve chosen to live an adventurous life; unsettled—without debit or commitment. A world of flash and burn with blips of darkness between.

Prague is a tourist mecca, there is no such thing as a down night. Thursday evening I made a simple dinner at home and washed it down with a good Czech beer. Outside my window the streets and the tram cars were packed with people going places. I decided that I should go some place too. Using my formidable research powers I Googled “best bars in Prague” and wrote down the addresses of my desired destinations.
 I took the metro into the city center. Prague is gorgeous at night. The city seems to have a million Gothic structures with high reaching spires and at night they are all perfectly lit. It is fairytale made real down every street and every alley. I stopped in Old Town Square and ordered a beer. I stood at an outside table watching the passing show. Tourists from around the world shuffled by. Street musicians jammed. Groups of early drinkers stumbled and yelled.

A beautiful girl, clearly a local pushed by looking unhappy with the crowds. There were hundreds of beautiful girls out that night, but she stood out and for a moment I imagined what we would be like together. She wouldn’t think much of me at first, but one night at a mutual friend’s house we would get to talking and people would leave us alone because we were in a different place. At the end of the night I would ask her to have dinner with me and she would say yes. She would sound reluctant doing it but I would see that she was secretly pleased. Our first date would last for three days and at its end we would belong to each other. I would be intimidated by her sophisticated friends and do my best not to show it. I would be surprised by her willingness to compromise when I was in the mood for cheap eats and dirty bars. She would love my writing and be my harshest critic too and that juxtaposition would push me to be better. I would fight falling in love and despite my best efforts I would fall anyway. In the end she would break my heart. There would be tears but no reason, simply the end of an affair destined to end. Another flash and burn in a series of.  

The first bar I went to was bright and loud and totally empty. I had walked down two flights of stairs to reach it and my buzz was fading so I ordered a beer anyway. By the time I finished that beer the bar was still empty so I left. The second place I went was packed. It was a decidedly tourist crowd and everyone was stoked to be partying in Prague. If I was with friends I would have stayed. If I was drunker I would have stayed. I was on my way up and they were already there so I moved on. I walked along narrow streets aiming for the general direction of the Charles Bridge. A light rain started to fall so I stopped at a pub on the river’s edge. I ordered a dark beer and sat at an outside table under an umbrella.

The rain made the cobble stone streets glisten and the red trams shine. Across the river Prague Castle loomed over the horizon and the dome of St. Nicolas church peeked above the trees. A flock of white geese swam lazily by. And not far down 300 rowdy travelers jostled and pushed waiting to be let into a place billing itself as the “biggest club in Central Europe.” The madness of the continent all around.

I took a tram through scenic streets back to my neighborhood. I was planning to call it a night, but decided to stop at the club directly across the street from my flat. I walked in and realized instantly that I had been there before. Five years ago I visited Prague following a business trip. My last night in the city we went to a club; a locals only place that at the time seemed to be in a sketchy neighborhood. It was a wild night spent with friends I’d made at the hostel—great friends. Walking back into that club and realizing that it was across the street from the place I now lived hit me with a wave of happiness and nostalgia. A band was playing and they were great. At the end of their set I had one more drink and went home.

I didn’t make any friends that night. But, I experienced new things and I ended with an unexpected dose of nostalgia that made the adventure worthwhile. Today is Saturday. I am going to read. I am going to write. I am going to ride a bike along the banks of the Vltava River. And when night falls I am going to go out again. Maybe I’ll make friends and maybe I won’t. For the world to flash and burn I have to try.  

The club across the street - five year ago

18 July 2012

Dale and the Golden Nugget

I wrote a short story called Dale and the Golden Nugget that I think is funny and worth reading. Since it isn't the kind of story that literary magazine editors salivate over, I thought I would give Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing a shot. You can download the story for $0.99 at:

Love it or hate it let me know what you think--either on the Amazon page or in the comments section  below.

Thanks for reading,

MB Abroad


Dale is sure that his plan is fool proof; steal the 3rd gold nugget discovered in the California gold rush, pour his heart out to Darla the love of his life and leave their small mountain town in the dust. The heist is the first big idea Dale has ever had and the first big move he has ever made. Despite his careful planning the heist goes hysterically haywire putting the happy ending to his townie fairytale in peril.  

First Page Teaser:
The showroom of the Twain Harte Historical Preservation Society was empty save for a crumpled 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper, a folding metal chair and a few shards of glass. Hours earlier the room had showcased the 3rd gold nugget discovered in the California gold rush—the Preservation Society’s pride and joy. Dale Dilbert took it. He took it in the name of love. 
Dale’s dad was fond of saying, “Dale you are about as bright as a firefly with its butt put out.”  Dale muttered these very words to himself as he cowered behind the bar at the Wild Coyote. He had just poured his heart out to Darla, the love of his life. He told her all the things he always wanted to say and never could. He offered her the nugget. She held his cheeks in her hands and pinched them hard. She wobbled and shook his face. She opened her mouth to speak, but before her sweet words of love and acceptance could pour out (as Dale was sure they would) sirens pierced the moment—killed it good. And Darla ran away.
Dale slumped back dumbfounded. He stared into the wall-length mirror above the bar and watched the reflected image of the sheriff wiping his feet on the evidence. The sheriff removed his sunglasses and finger-tapped his holster like a gunslinger of old. Dale’s head was in a noose and he had nowhere to go but down. And yet, his only thoughts were of Darla. She ran away. He poured his heart out and she ran away...