Saturday, October 29, 2005

Suburban Czech pub

I used to curse the suburbs. ALL suburbs, 'Merican, European, any suburb; they symbolized some sort of slow complacent death to the creative soul. But I've changed my mind. Today.

I woke up on a post-Friday-in-Prague-karaoke-drunken-Elvis-impersonator Saturday around noon (he will sleep til noon BUT before it's dark, he'll have every picnic basket that's in Jellystone Park) thinking: 'I am bored.' If you spend any time wearing a large white jumpsuit entertaining drunk tourists in central Prague for a night, you might wonder what you can do to top that.

It started off as simple boredom. Granted, I am almost never bored. It's a weird thing about me; even if I am unemployed for months, I'll find some odd sidebar to fill my time between squeezing out the soul juice to maintain the rent money.

Recently, it's been working as a volunteer in a special fx make up studio. I'll tell you all about that as soon as the threat of Hollywood mafia hitmen is off my back.

Meanwhile, back in the suburban Czech pub.

I was sitting there as usual, just thinking I would have my usual 2 or 3 beers, listen to bad pop music blaring over speakers too good to carry such swill, then head home to watch a movie on the ole pc. I was sitting there marvelling at how such a wonderfully loud and crystal clear stereo could be misused to play such crap, when suddenly a middle aged Czech man across the bar shouted something at me. I tried to answer in my bad Czech, but he couldn't understand. The barmaid was more than helpful in asking 'Do you speak English?' I replied, 'yeah.' I remember hearing the word 'zachrane' which means something like 'ambulance.' She translated 'he wants to know if you work for the emergency service.' Hmmm. Oh, yeah. I was wearing one of those popular pseudo-white-trash-gas-station-attendant work shirts. The ones with 'abcd moving co' on one pocket and 'Bub' on the other. I tried to explain how this was one of those weird American creative music wannabe statement-on-the-proletariat fashion statments. That didn't work.

So, several shots of scotch later (bought by the shouting middle aged Czech man), I suddenly had an epiphany: Czechs don't suck. No, really. I have been experiencing my usual Czechophobia when I meet friends in the city center, wondering if the barman will rip us off for being foreigners, wondering if I will be robbed while passed out on the night tram home. Having done that 'Elvis karaoke' thing that I do (which will be addressed in future posts) in the center for so long, I was starting to get these cynical hourly thoughts about living in a den of thieves and such.

But what followed was magic. I've always considered myself a free thinker, open to new ideas and cultures, but as everyone who lives as a foreigner in a strange (albeit beautiful) land can attest: you can resent the locals.

But then I moved to the Prague suburbs. Where you are not a 'stupid tourist.' Where they want to know about you. Where you have to try out your rusty Czech to make friends. Where they insist on buying you shots. I thought they were going to offer me one of their wives. I really had a good time in that godawful suburban Czech panelak herna afterhours pub. And I think I may have even made a few friends.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Prague cemetary in Autumn

I did in fact roam through Prague's Olsanska Cemetary as planned. The lighting was perfect for this type of photography; I wanted a subtle autumn light filtering through the canopy of trees to illuminate the weathered old stones. There was a magic quality to the light. It's common photographer knowledge that the best light is just after dawn or before sunset. But I've found that autumn tends to extend that period by a few hours--if it's not cloudy--to produce an almost constant 'dusky' light. I've always been a fan of black and white film, especially when photographing the textures of old stone. And Europe certainly has no shortage of old castles and cemetaries to troll rough. But this time I wanted to play with color digital and see what would come of it. Please let me know what you think.

Another great thing about photography is the surprises. You can have a preconceived notion in your head about what you set out to photograph--and return with something else. It could be completely different, sometimes
even better than what you had originally planned. In this case I was seeking to contrast brightly colored autumn leaves with old gray stone. I feel that I accomplished that.

But what struck me most on that day in the cemetary was the sad state of disrepair the place was in. The cemetary is huge and I must have walked around in it for two hours. Elderly people were laying flowers on graves and tending the plots in the newer sections. But as I passed through the centuries
backward, 1900s, 1800s, etc. I noticed the damage and disrepair.
In the oldest part of the cemetary, stones were knocked down and open graves could be seen. Either a bad zombie film became reality or somebody moved the former occupants. Massive ornate tombs lay in ruin. Huge statues were limbless.

It's ironic that the largest and most ornately decorated tombs and plots were the most destroyed. It's as if the wealthy families of the deceased spent a fortune on something no more permanent than the last yellow leaves in autumn's branches.

* I couldn't quite work out the formatting of photos and text on this blog, even after many attempts. Apologies for the skewed layout.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Itchy trigger finger

It's a brilliant autumn day in Zlata Praha (golden Prague) and the leaves are just hitting their final burst of reds and yellows before they plunge earthward.

I'm tempted to crawl out of my praguelodyte lair and take my camera through the city. Now, I'm not a landscape photographer. People and monuments are my thing. So I suppose that I'll troll through the old city cemetary and catch the contrast between brightly colored leaf and cold stoney gravestone. Those are the monuments. I'll have to think of the leaves as people if I'm gonna pull this off. Will post some pix if it works.

I'm also working in a special fx studio part time, but I'm not supposed to talk about that as it is a Hollywood film shooting in Prague and the studio Men in Black could probably have me killed :0

They would just bury me in that same cemetary that I want to photograph. Hell, this is the former Eastern Bloc, who would miss another photographer/writer? Or they could just dress me as a Russian mafia dude (80s track suit and gold chain) and float my body down the river.

(shudder) See what happens when you combine strong Turkish coffee and cemetary imagery?

1st post @ Midnight

1) troglodyte:

- A member of a fabulous or prehistoric race of people that lived in caves, dens, or holes.
- A person considered to be reclusive, reactionary, out of date, or brutish.

2) Prague:

- A golden city of 1000 spires in central Europe
- Tourist destination especially popular with drunken limey hooligan groups