I wrote the following on the train yesterday, and things are turning out pretty much how I anticipated. So far, I haven't been robbed, but it's early days. Prague is so pretty that I can only look at it for short periods before my brain starts to hurt and I have to look at my shoes for a while.
Ouch, brain hurts. Shoe time:
Here I am on a train in the Republic of the Czechs, and I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've come here. Ordinarily when I get around the place playing music, I hitch my wagon to one of the bands I play with and trail around without having to think very much. So Bond Street Bridge will support the Broken Heartbreakers or the Reb Fountain band or whatever, and I basically get to sit in the back of the van and crack wise while somebody else makes the decisions. Sometimes I drive; sometimes I even navigate, but very rarely do I sign off on calls like 'where shall we stay?' 'what time do we need to leave town in order to not be soundchecking at the next place while the audience are filing in?' or 'what was the name of the venue again?' Last summer I did a little solo Bond Street Bridge tour round New Zealand, but Ms. Millicent Crow came too on that one. That was great fun, and we even had a car crash in Christchurch, back when that town was still more or less a going concern. When I went to Amsterdam and Belgium recently I travelled alone for a while, but I had bands to meet up with when I got there, and schedules to work around. What I'm getting at is that this trip here, to Prague, is maybe the first time I've actually travelled alone to somewhere to do a solo show all by my very own self.
This is probably not a very big deal to many people, but consider this: until quite recently I thought that Prague was in Hungary. Now I think about that, it still seems very plausible, although I can't remember very much at all about Hungary. We just went past a massive gorge sort of thing with mighty castles on either side rearing up out of the bare cliffs, and villages clustered on the banks of the river around churches topped with onion domes. All of my photos will be blurry and full of train window smudges, but all you need to do is imagine any fairytale castle, but about thirty per cent more grim. As it happens, we just passed another one. I suppose this river has been much fought over, but you'll have to be content with my suppositions because this train is about the first place I've been in Europe that doesn't have wi-fi, so I can't confirm my hunches with fifteen seconds of desultory Googling. Update: yep, they've certainly had a bunch of wars in these parts, don't worry about that.
Told you, blurry as all hell. Still, the guy who decided to put a bridge over that massive chasm must have been stoked when it ended up looking as awesome in real life as it did in his head.
One of the things people have been telling me when I tell them I'm going to Prague is that it's a very pretty place. The next thing they tell me is that they or their friend got robbed there. To date, that is the sum total of my knowledge about Prague: Handsome sort of town, you get robbed. I understand also that they have a river, and tomorrow night I will play a show at some bar and no doubt they will give me some delicious food and some money, which I think will be Kroners. Or Dinars. Anyway, it's something hyper-inflated so they don't want it the European Monetary Union. That's fine with me, because it means that I will get to change my money, which I like doing, and I will get a fee that will be expressed in thousands of whatever unit it is that they use here, so i will feel rich very briefly. Regular readers of this blog will realise that I'm getting my familiar 'forgot to google the town I'm playing in next' feeling around now. Actually I'm not even sure whether it's in the same time zone. I mean, I think it is, but I'm not sure, you know?
The other thing that is likely to happen is that I will probably wake up tomorrow without a voice. A week of R&R in the Beartown seems to have left me with a slight cold, which seems to be turning into a slightly more serious cold. Fortunately for me, this is one of the parts of the world where people with well-developed drug habits have access to real drugs. That means there is very little demand for methamphetamine, which is widely regarded as one of the least pleasant drugs in the world, and is really only consumed in places like New Zealand where the tyranny of distance inflates the price of the alternatives. A low demand for methamphetamine means that they're a lot more relaxed about whacking a whole lot of pseudoephedrine into their over-the-counter cold medication around here, because nobody's going to bother blowing up their apartment and frying their sinuses cooking meth from flu meds when they can stroll down to the corner and buy a gram of Colombian cocaine. The upshot of this set of circumstances is that there's a pretty good chance that I can get some cold medication that actually works, and put this thing on hold until after the Black Mountain shows next week.*
Thinking about walking into a pharmacy in Prague and trying to buy cold medication without looking like a P addict has made me realise that I don't even know what language they speak here. The train stations seem to have a lot modifiers over a lot of the letters, so I think we can say that it's very likely that not only will I not know what any of the words mean, I won't even be able to pronounce them in any identifiable fashion. It's not German, which is fine, because I can't speak German. It's not French, which I also can't speak, although slightly less badly than I can't speak German. It's not English, and after that we might as well just go back to the old hand signals and the horrible rictus people use to mean 'I'm trying really hard, but it seems that our communications systems are incompatible. Have you checked your warranty card?' I think this is going to be a good weekend.
*Yep, that whole paragraph was an excuse to mention the Black Mountain shows. Also I wanted to see how many people would get lost in my chain of reasoning and think that I was the one with the well-developed cocaine habit, and what they would think about that. For the record: I’m not. I can’t afford a cocaine habit, even in Europe.