“A note from the middle of a bender in Prague” was started, titled, but nowhere near finished a few days ago…
Now, we’ve left the Boho capital and landed in Ceske Krumlov, in the depths of South Bohemia, a region that I never knew actually existed until two days ago. We’d wandered over to an unnamed club downtown where the windows extended ninety degrees open, letting the sweet blue notes of a Rolling Stones song catch my attention. We hadn’t planned on going in but we did.
Two doors down was a gay club that had been a blast two nights before. It had been the first Prague night that melted into morning. The sun had begun to rise as we gathered our wits and each other, to catch an uber across town. It had risen completely before I’d put out my last rollie, trading in for drool on my pillow.
That night, Fati and Charley and I danced to the blues, exchanging each others’ hands with those of a very drunk, very tall, very handsome German man who’d found us outside Friends. When the band was done playing, they walked through the crowd, exchanging words and gathering tips. Charley and I sat on the couch, sipping the last of our beers, as a couple of folks walked up to the stage, where the instruments still lay, plugged in and powered, and began to strum open notes and bang on the drums.
“They can’t do that, man,” I told Charley. ” That’s not cool,” wondering when someone would stop them, and then, having second thoughts about the cultural difference. I couldn’t stop watching them goof around, not making any real music, but just making noise.
Fati and Charley had made friends now and were engaged in a heated game of foosball, while I danced with the drunk German. He got a little handsy for the last time, so I ditched him. After a few minutes back and forth, I walked over to the piano and starting playing along to the tunes on the PA system. Between rounds the bass player came up to me and told me that they can turn the PA music off. He pointed over his shoulder between us, at the lead singer, saying, “He is the master of the cables, just ask,” repeating himself, “Just ask.”
I shook my head, declining, but still playing along, and after a little while longer, the music was off, and he started grooving on the piano, playing octave bass lines with his spread left hand and accompaniment on top. I walked back over, reaching my right hand to the highest keys. Every once and a while he caught me in a bad key, and I couldn’t keep up. He’d realize it and change grooves or slow down and let me catch him.
He started on a blues riff and I stopped playing. I listened for a minute, humming to myself, and found a melody. Then I sang the best blues I knew.
“Wandering Prague all night long/Looking for my women where has she gone/I drink my beer cause she’s done gone/And left me”
…or something similar. My voice filled up the space of the big empty room with couches tucked in slanted ceilings along the perimeter, floating just about the piano my partner is banging on. I ad lib a couple more verses, come back around to the chorus, and we finish together.
It’s the end of the night, and the three of us are outside now, and he comes out to get me, and to have a cigarette, and he’s giving me compliments in broken, but not terrible English, and his smile is genuine. I tell him we have to go, and we are all nodding our heads in agreement about that, because we’ve already lost three days to the nightlife. Fati goes in to find the bathroom, and I take the opportunity to run back inside for one last song.
This time he plays in a major key, walking through a progression, but only after he tries me with the most basic and I call him out for it. This one’s a bit more creative, so I play a little melody, and then stop and hum a melody, which ends with a big, full-voiced chorus, “Praaaaaaaaaaague/You’re good to me/Be good to me/You’re good to meeeeee” and he hits a solid ii – V – I, and together we end again.
He’d told me outside, when he’d asked if I performed and where I was from, that he’s from South Bohemia. Now I know what that means.