p r a g u e

[The Castle] Today was the first time I actually jumped onto a departing train. Carrying my heavy pack and squishing in jeans I didn't have time to dry in the hostel laundry room earlier, I almost felt like I was going to collapse, running the final five blocks to the train station and seeing the conductor take away the loading steps. Luckily he saw me, and waved me to run the final 100 feet, grabbing my pack just as the train started to move. I grabbed onto the rail and hoisted myself into the door compartment as the conductor doubled over with laughter. I didn't quite understand what he thought was so amusing -- my timing or my wet pants.

The train full, I found a spot on the floor with David, who turned out to be a philosophy major in college, and made an actual living as a poet. A Canadian, he voted for the radical Green Party during the last election, but says he tends to be more quiet and reserved. His recent letter home was about the zeal of a Puerto Rican guy in the Hutteldorf hostel who got everyone in the dining hall to sing "La Bamba" during morning breakfast. He said he sat quietly, too shy to take part. Afterwards, he felt like a grumbling nobody, always observing events, but never taking part.

[The Cemetery] He told me he surveyed Northern Canada for oil fields one summer, out in the bush for two weeks at a time with nothing but a gun in case of a grizzly bear attack. He told me the only way to survive a grizzly bear attack is to curl up into a ball -- to lessen the chance the bear will damage any vital organs. When we reached the Czech border, we were told to sit on the floor of the nearest compartment and take out our papers. David was terrified of Eastern Europe efficiency, but for some reason, I'm quite blase about it. We had to register at the tourist office because we were staying in an "unofficial accommodation." When we got to the station, there was a long line. When we got to the front, we sat down in front of a middle aged Czech woman who enjoyed stamping the hell out of our visas.

Back to the Grand Tour. . . .

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june 1996