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April 17, 2005


Arrived in Praha last night and headed straight for my apartment, a small furnished top floor studio in a 6-storey building in the residential Vrsovice neighborhood. At least, it was furnished when I left it last year around this time, but one or two mystery sublettors later and everything that had been there--chairs, bureau, medicine chest, shelves, curtains, and blinds--was gone. The place was completely bare but for desk, typewriter, a bunch of English language books (most of which I'd acquired at deep discount in 1994-95 when a friend of mine worked at the now-defunct Big Ben Bookshop), and a bare ratty mattress lying directly on the floor. This did not come as a complete surprise--Mirek had taken the stuff to furnish the house in Jakub, but due to miscommunication more had been removed than was necessary. It was 11:30 pm, or, as most Europeans would have it, 23:30, just enough time to catch one last drink at Shakespeare and Sons, the local English language bookstore and bar. The joint was jumping and stayed open after hours and one turned into three. Having no Czech crowns, I opened a tab. Because I no longer needed it, I tipped the bartender my last 5 Euro note. Victor refused vehemently at first, then accepted it with a hard-to-read expression. Had I offended him? Over-tipping is tacky, but I had nothing else appropriate on me and leaving nothing would have been worse. Still, I was concerned until he came over a bit later with "a present"--a post-lastcall freebie beer. From this I concluded that people like money. I went to bed around 2 am, expecting to rise around 9 and head for the country in time for lunch with Mirek. It was light when I woke. I guessed it was 10 or 11 in the morning. Actually, it was 4 pm; I'd slept 14 hours straight. Guess I'd been tireder than I thought. It was still light when I boarded the train. The countryside looked strangely warm and familiar to me. Genetic memory? My father's father had been a farmer here, my family had come from this soil and the soil was a part of me. Did it feel like home because I now own a part of it, or does it own me? The book I was reading (Hunting Mr. Heartbreak by Jonathan Raban) happpened to parallel my journey. I read about his travel from city to country and felt like I was slipping into a green dream.