Sunday, February 19, 2006

Prague Wildlife, or Nightlife

Peg, one of the incoming Fulbrighters, invited us all to dinner at her gigantic renovated flat in Josefov. Now, my apartment here is pretty enviable, but I wouldn’t call it quite in the luxury category. When I rented a room around the corner from Peg in the summer of 2004, it was not in one of the elegant buildings typical of Josefov, and thus each day I wondered what the apartments in the neighboring buildings were actually like. And I still don’t really know, because seeing Peg’s place reminds me that the frenzy of Prague apartment renovation means that one has no clue what could be inside any individual person’s door. In this case it was simply enormous rooms (ceilings that made my high ones look positively low and cottage-like) painted white and furnished with small pieces of modernist furniture.
Well, it was a great place to throw a party, and I am in deep envy of the sumptuous coppery curtains, which must have been about 15 feet tall. More to the point, Peg is a good hostess and made everyone feel right at home, and her spaghetti sauce hit the spot. Furthermore, there was a nice mix of old and new grantees, with several people bringing their mates or visiting friends. Conversation was very pleasant all around.
Of course, it would not have done to keep Peg up all night just before the new semester starts. Eventually everyone said their goodbyes and promised to return soon. But it was not all that late yet, so certain troublemaking characters (Alex is always in this category) were anxious to go out on the town.
It’s my impression that in Prague, as in other cosmopolitan cities, there is always someplace open at any hour, any day of the year. On the other hand, one has to ask “What am I looking for?” and “Where on earth might it exist?” Josefov is in a sufficiently tourist-ridden part of town that one can expect to find something open in easy walking distance, but it may not suit one’s fancy.
My recollection, from my days in Josefov, was that the neighborhood was simply filled with the kind of little night spots that would be no fun to go to by myself. Of course, some of them are not as exciting inside as they appear from the street. Jesse and I once investigated La Casa Blů, which bills itself as “tvoje spanělská vesnice” (!) and was a hive of activity when I lived in the area, and we concluded that it had tolerable Mexican-like food but could not be described as a Spanish village (and if it is a Spanish village, why does it picture what appears to be a Peruvian native?). But La Casa Blů was right in front of us and looked open, so we attempted to go in. No, the door was locked and the person who responded to our knock informed us that it was closed. On to the next place.
It was only about eleven o’clock, but relatively little seemed to be open. This does seem to be about the time the average pub closes. Those that we found seemed to strike Alex as tame. She seemed to think we ought to go to a club. From time to time she gets this mysterious urge, and, clubs being what they are, it is pretty hard to know whether they will be worth bothering with. However, we were all still wide awake, so there was general agreement that we could see if the Roxy was at all worthwhile. After all, it was right in front of us, and Hubert and Alex had gone to a contemporary music event there that they had enjoyed.
I was not optimistic as I stood in the foyer paying my cover charge. The music did not sound especially appealing, and the place had that typical dingy appearance I associate with clubs everywhere, which is to say that no one in their right mind would care to see it in daylight. Still, what is life without adventure?
We headed downstairs, and I had a curious sensation of dejà vu. I felt quite certain that this was the same club that Jesse and I had once wandered into with our friends Ross and Griša at about 2 a.m while celebrating the end of our language class. It had been pretty dead that night, however, so we had mainly taken some bad photos of ourselves standing there looking as dissolute as we could manage, and had then gone off in search of food.
Fortunately, things were somewhat livelier this time. For one thing, there were more than four people dancing, and more than fifteen people in the room. We got drinks and settled ourselves on a bench to observe the scene.
The Roxy, at least on this occasion, had a DJ playing some sort of endless remix of largely unrecognizable songs (generally with the lyrics removed), done to a monotonous thumping beat. In other words, utterly uninspiring, but quite danceable. This was accompanied by random and equally uninspiring images on a video screen behind the DJ and various flashing and rotating lights upon the dancers. As a former lighting designer, I found the latter aspect the most interesting; while it didn’t seem in any way new or remarkable, I thought it was effective as regards atmosphere.
One cannot really easily hold a conversation in this sort of situation, although people always try. As there were six of us, we were well able to converse in pairs. I am sure I missed some entertaining remarks. I was able to hear most of what Megan and Nathan said to me, although Nathan seemed baffled that I found his account of avian courtship displays humorous. I’m afraid that there just seemed something inutterably comic about sitting in a dark Prague nightclub hearing Nathan recount how some sort of woodland sparrow arranges its found objects by color and expects mates to be attracted to its piles of red and blue buttons, spoons, pipecleaners, and whatnot. I think that he was in some way relating these bits of natural history to an unfortunate recent experience he had had with his scarf, but perhaps I am confusing two separate anecdotes. He will have to accept my apologies for my laughing uncontrollably through the peacock, the woodland bird, and any other species mentioned. After all, it looks like we will be spending a lot of time at the archive together digging through Jiří Karásek’s vast literary and artistic collection.
Of course, some of us feel that the main reason one would go to a club is, in fact, not simply to have the same conversations one might have anywhere, or even to observe the fauna, but to dance.
I may be wrong, but I think that this was the first time I have ever been to a club in a group that was actually half male and half female. It seems that my previous forays have been in all or largely female groups, or as the only female in the lot. Initially, I think that some members of the group imagined that this boded well for our dancing. For that matter, the Roxy proved to be a venue that does not favor male-female pairs over any other combination, so it was not as though we had gone to a ball. We were free to dance in any manner we saw fit.
I am afraid, however, that Kelly and I were the only ones who managed to fling ourselves into the action. While we were not much impressed with most of the dancing around us, we had a fine time. We attempted to drag the others in as well, but for some reason they proved highly resistant. Apparently they preferred to watch us, as they seemed to find this most fascinating.
Eventually, some people (not dancers) grew tired of the club, and we removed ourselves to the Middle Eastern restaurant next door, which always seems rather deserted in the daytime. We lamented Jesse’s absence. Alex and her friend Michael departed, and the remaining four of us devoured our snacks and roamed the streets for awhile, since it is pleasant to see the Jan Hus statue when it is not encircled with throngs of people, but is a sort of dark shadow under the moon. With the help of Prague’s benevolent night tram service, by 4:30 Megan and I were sitting at my kitchen table having a last drink of water before falling into bed. And, judging by my perusal of the Nezval diaries, it was an evening that would have met with the approval of the Prague surrealists of 1935.

The Roxy when it is in a more formal mood.

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Anonymous Dirk said...

I’ve just bought an iPod, not to listen to songs, but mostly to listen to literary works as I do things like garden and exercise. (I’m 70 by the way so this has some obscure relevance to your discussion of adulthood, but I can’t quite pint it own). Anyway I was just now listening to Pride and Prejudice as I walked fast, for those who know Berkeley, form the corner of Solano and San Pablo to my house, about half way up the north Berkeley hills. When I read your report on this party, particularly the second paragraph, now don’t let this go to your head, the style rang a bell as being like Austin’s. It is something like the quality of dependence on lucidity and cool reason with a hint of disdain.

February 19, 2006 8:40 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Startling how our ages keep advancing. I keep thinking you are only 64, although I also thought you told me you were that age much longer ago than is apparently the case. (Memory failures! am I growing senile?)

I appreciate the Austen compliment (although--disdain? but you know I have a peculiar sense of humor), especially as earlier this evening I happened upon a blog that referred to visiting "Bathe" and not being sure who Jane Austen was. That, I might add, reminded me of another I saw wherein the blogger mentioned being about to see Don Giovanni here, stating that it "is pretty famous here, though I have no idea what it's about" and that it was written by "a Czech guy" (i.e. Mozart). Er... no comment. Back to the lucidity and cool reason.

Fortunately, we know that Jane Austen liked to dance. (We do know that, don't we? or do I hallucinate?)

February 19, 2006 9:15 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

I think Jane Austen wrote about how much she enjoyed dancing in her letters, and her main characters really seem to enjoy a ball too! Isn't there a dance in every book except Persuasion?

February 20, 2006 7:01 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

I am sure you're right--certainly she included plenty of dancing in the novels. I'll have to reread them one of these days!

February 20, 2006 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

I have no doubt that there are many balls happening in Austin. Wasn't he from Texas? Wait, I don't know, but pretty famous for writing a lot of movies, yes?

But really, I have a hard time imagining an Austen-esque ball at the Roxy. In fact, I'm surprised that you all went in there. That is definitely where we stopped with Grisha (and Ross?) and I concluded it was not worth another visit. Certainly, if it had not been for my abscence, I would have prevented such an excursion.

February 28, 2006 5:23 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Well, the dancing at the Roxy was not at all Austen-esque, but it was fun.

The visit to the Roxy with Ross and Grisha was clearly on an off night. It seems to be a popular spot at least some of the time. Also, judging by their web site, they have an extremely varied lineup. I would go back. (Note that I refrained from posting any of the photos we took on the original visit, although partly because my camera was misbehaving that night.)

March 01, 2006 9:33 AM  

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