Let the Waters Rise Up- May 08
While renting a movie I realize that I've been in Prague long enough to see a full life cycle of Czech movies. The movie posters on billboards several weeks before they opened in theaters, the same poster plastered on the walls of DVD rental shops months later, and finally those posters taken down and replaced with newer releases. Realizing this is the first time I can fully grasp the amount of time I've spent here.
We see a group of kids with fair complexions, and different natural hair colors, get on the tram. I would guess Norwegian but when they start speaking it is unbelievable.
“Where do you think they’re from?” the girl asks.
“I have no idea.”
“Look at their noses,” she says, and I notice they all have the same small, thin, pointed nose, a dozen boys and girls with the exact same nose.
I continue to listen, and then ask the cute pop-puck red-head sitting next to me where they are from.
“We’re from Finland,” she says in perfect English. A look of realization comes over us. I talk with the red-headed Fin until the next stop, where the American girl and I have to leave them.
Outside the Chateau in Old Town, we are looking for a cab to my place. She stops to call one. The guys next to me are speaking English; they are from the States or Canada.
“I just finished the sixty day shoot,” one cheers, “I’m off to Romania next.”
Maybe they are actors? Neither is good-looking, but the one who said it looks likes he could be one, the other doesn’t. “Is that Erica’s puke?” the other asks, motioning at watery vomit on the corner.
“Yeah, she is down the street right now.”
I look down the street. A tall blonde chick is swaying dramatically, and walking with help of another girl. Someone comes out of the bar in a hurry and wipes out on the puke.
“You just slipped in barf,” the non-actor says. “Not mine, one of my friends. Yeah, better things have happened.”
Douche. It is funny but something about the way he says it, his voice, his face, bothers the hell out of me. Down the street someone is fiercely beaten and I see him collapse to the ground. He is punched in the face while he is on the ground. It’s a brutal fight.
In the cab I see the guy who hit the ground being held against the wall. He is skinny and has curly hair and his face is completely bloody, the area around his left eye is noticeably swollen even from where I am. He is out of it, and I can’t tell if he is drunk or punch-drunk. I’ve never seen someone so bad. It is right outside one of the bar’s exits, and I’m amazed that no bouncers have helped.
I bump into my ex-girlfriend on a narrow street in old town. After we exchange some pleasantries I walk far enough to be out of sight, and stop because I think I’m going to lose it against the wall.
The public transportation in Prague is extensive, well-developed, and timely. The metro and trams are relatively quick and run throughout the city, occasionally you have to take a bus. The buses suck dick.
On the bus I have the taste of vomit in the back of my throat. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s from the bumps in the road, maybe the fumes, although nothing is in my nostrils. The bus moves slowly through the suburbs, stopping at every light. When the doors open fresh air sweeps in for a few seconds. I sweat in my seat and spin my phone in my hand.
On Swedish girls:
To prevent disappointment I convinced myself before coming to Sweden that there wouldn’t actually be that many blonde girls. But the truth is there a lot of blondes in Sweden, more than I expected, of which how many are real I can’t say.
Swedish girls are very pretty girls, but I have the feeling that what you see is their realized potential. They wear a lot of makeup, which is like painting the Lily. In Prague you often see beautiful girls with bad style and poor haircuts, and as a result you can pick them up on the cheap. Swedish girls are beautiful, but they’re as beautiful as they’re going to get, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They’re the type of Europeans you can bring home to your parents without too much of a stir.
My family did become close to the only Czech girl I ever brought home.
On the culture:
In many ways Stockholm reminds me of Minnesota, a stoic attitude that can come off as a quiet cockiness. Friendly, but it takes time to make friends. There is however one obvious difference. I’m sure over time it will continue to erode, but in Minnesota there is an undercurrent of humility in regards to money, a feeling of guilt that comes from having more than others. Growing up I watched as my older relatives died in old, rundown farm houses, taking to the grave multi-million dollar estates.
I expected this type of hidden wealth in Stockholm. Of course it’s not as bad as say Italy, but still going out in Blasieholmen is alienating. So many over-dressed people, so many Porsches, the posh district is whack as shit. What happened to Scandinavian Socialism? In reality there is more hidden wealth in Prague. The older people who own several buildings of flats dress in flannel, and are difficult to distinguish from the homeless that carry plastic bags from Hypernova. The Russians and Germans drive the Beemers in Prague.
Notes from a cell phone (chronological order):
He was big and blonde and had a dumb look on his face like the farm kids I went to school with.
It would be easy and simple. I could work and make a good living and go out with the Swedish girls and just be happy and sit down by the ocean or in the parks. It’s beautiful and quiet.
The Swiss sing along to a song about a swan. The singer sounds like he is spitting out a lung.
As I’m walking back I realize I’m not going to get that much sleep. Where am I going to find sleep tomorrow? I was hoping to find a bed tonight.
When she says she doesn’t believe in evolution I know I’m in trouble.
Japan was expensive if you were stupid, or wanted to make it that way. Stockholm is just flat out expensive.
Older women invite me to follow them to Village in the center. It seems to be the most popular club in the city. I can tell because the bouncers are dicks and the girls go in without me. It doesn’t bother me though, that’s the way these things work.
I hear an Elliot smith song that I play again as soon as it finishes and ignore the girl as she continues talking.
On Saturday I wake and take a collection of Hemmingway short stories to the waterfront in Gamla Stan – Old Town. The smell of the air reminds me of my hometown. It gets on everything, and stays in the air, but is never stale like the lakes can be. I meet the girl around two; she looks like an American, blue eyes and dirty blonde hair. We buy alcohol at a Systembolaget, one of the State run liquor-stores. We go back to her place, she showers and with the towel on we make-out on the bed before Anton and Victor come over.
The bars are full of people watching Eurovision, and I try to maintain my buzz on wine that is too expensive for me. Her and I leave the bar and drink cocktails that she buys for me, she leaves me when a friend calls. I’m pissed off and I wait until Anton and Victor meet me and take me to a heavy metal bar. The music sucks, people have long hair, and I’m out of place, but we meet up with three girls. One is attractive but older, and another has a cute face and blonde hair but a body like an elephant. I step outside and eat hotdogs from a street-vendor, they meet me at the curb and we decide to go back to the older one’s flat. The cute girl with big legs tries to convince Victor to leave with her.
We take two separate cabs to her place. I get stuck paying a fifty dollar taxi ride. I have no cash and it’s just my luck the taxis take credit cards in Sweden. At her apartment the older girl makes blueberry smoothies with a strong vodka taste, I’m worked after half, and we talk alone in the kitchen. Everyone takes turns playing CDs and showing YouTube videos. By four people are falling asleep and I follow the big-boned blonde into a loft bed above the stereo. We talk and she has me climb down and change the music several times. She won’t let me kiss her but sleeps close to me with her head on my chest and her leg wrapped around me. In the morning I tell her she is a ‘good girl’, as a compliment, and playfully and lightly slap her ass. She is too tired to understand what I’m saying and falls back asleep. I get a nose bleed waiting for the metro and swallow a lot of blood.
My twelve year old, single-malt, Scottish whiskey, gets thrown out at the security checkpoint in the airport. I’m tired and fall asleep in a chair, which is good, but like a drunk Swedish teenager, told me on my first night, ‘The Swedish girls aren’t sluts, but if you come to Sweden and don’t get laid you’ve failed.’ And as I’m leaving I feel that’s true.