Two apologies to go out: The first goes out to my bosses/publishers for not writing what I was asked to write, and instead turning in something completely unrelated, and I'm sure, unwanted.
In a city practically bursting at the seams with mediocre writers, you would think me grateful to be plucked out of the lowing herd and dutifully set to the task laid before me, but apparently you (and I) have thought wrong.
If all truth be told, the task was slightly ambiguous to begin with:
"Write something interesting... something about bars..."
Recognizing these instructions to be mutually exclusive, I chose to take a stab at the former rather than slopping out another of the latter. I mean really, if you can't find a good bar in this town then you probably shouldn't be in one anyway. I hear Bohnice is taking applications.
The second apology goes to the reader, if he or she exists, for robbing him/her of an article that possibly could have contained some useful information, and perhaps even helped to perk up a dreary, winter-bogged existence. If this is the case, and whoever is confused enough to pick up this magazine oh so desperately wishes that he (do I really have to put "or she" every time?*) or she could just read about a cool bar in which to plop, please refer to every other issue of this magazine.
So here goes with my conclusions and observations, which I'm sure that thousands of others have already arrived at in half the time and with twice the eloquence, but as I've already righteously dug myself into a hole, I might as well spit them out.
I'm standing around at my friend Ray's party, a decidedly ex-patriot affair, with a few locals thrown in to keep the egotism down to a respectable level, and I'm about to hear Sublime for the fourth consecutive time.
It's not that I don't dig that Californy sound, it's just that after the third time, it's hard to get the '89 vision.
In the lull between the last song and the first, I half-willingly ensnared myself in an epic tale of DVD player purchasing, being told by a friend-acquaintance who had just that night upped his rank to friend. The reason for this I will disclose later. Anyway, this now fully recognized friend takes me on a whirling narrative journey; I feel his reluctance at the weighty purchase, I share in his exhilaration in slapping down the cash, and I wince at the sting of discovering it to be incompatible with the television.
It's only when he tells me that it was a stupid purchase anyway, because he's leaving in six months, that I am blasted out of my tale-spun reverie and reduced to inward chuckles.
"Of course," I get out between snorts, "six months."
Chuckling, because I realize that ever since I have been here, I've been leaving in six months. So far my six months has lasted a year-and-a-half, but this seems paltry compared to my companion, who has been here for over four years. I wonder how long his six months has lasted.
It occurs to me at this point that most of us ex-patriots - and here I am excluding permanent residents and business owners - are in a sense connected. I won't call it camaraderie, which would be laughable. The jealousies that abound in our little pool would make swimmers of bigger ponds blush: more private students, better language school, or the trump of all trumps, not working for a language school!
I will instead call it a mutual understanding. A mutual understanding that we are all buoyed by a life raft of falsehoods, and were one of us to stick the pin in someone else's "six months", we would all soon find ourselves at the bottom of the Laurentian Abyssal of reality.
We, however, understand this, and holding our tongues, remain afloat.
Furthermore, we, and apparently only we, know what questions not to ask. We no longer ask why anyone came here, each of us having learned what a potential Pandora's Box this question can be, and we don't ask how long anyone is planning to stay, realizing that the proverbial "six months" will be spat out at us as quickly and bald-facially as we ourselves would spit it out.
So why six months?
Probably because it's still just a little too far off to buy plane tickets, but close enough to provide us with the illusion that we are finally getting our sh*t together. Perhaps an even better question is why we feel the need to lie to ourselves and others at all?
Like all good questions, there is no simple answer, but like all pompous idiots, I will give one. Because the most powerful and dear illusion in all our lives is that this is essentially just practice. We all believe that we can skate in and out of near successes and complete failures with impunity, that all our relationships are not to be regarded with a serious or analytical eye, and whatever disgraces we heap upon our records, whether socially or artistically, will be wiped clean, because, what the hell, we're leaving in six months.
We sit in our dingy, low-rent apartments and watch the Czechs sail into success with disinterested eyes, because we came here to give all that up, and besides, what can be done in six months time? And if they better us at both our lifestyle and our artistic endeavors? Simple. Superior western disdain.
Our industrial strength derision sump-pump sucks them right out and keeps our pond the way we like it; small and safe. After all, if any of us wanted a truly healthy and competitive artistic environment, we'd be in Perugia or New York.
The funniest part is that none of us really needs this "six months", but if we are addicted to the magic feather, we can take it with us anywhere in the world.
All one has to do is realize that all the time she's imagined herself warming up in the batting cage, she's been at the plate. (*see how well that works?).
As long as we don't see ourselves as destined for some far-off greatness, and recognize that our beer-blurred poverty is a hell of a lot more real than these delusions, then all is peachy. Then again, I'm no one to preach, as my departure time hasn't changed.
As promised, I will now explain the elevation of my story-teller from acquaintance-friend to friend. It's because he told me that when he leaves in six months time (chuckle, chuckle), he won't e-mail me, and I responded that I wouldn't e-mail him either. He added that it wasn't anything personal, but I forgave him this postscript.
The "I'll e-mail you" promise has become just as much a pacifier to our breed as the "six months", but as any baby would tell you, a pacifier ain't no tit.
Anyone who has enough respect for me to forgo this dishonest formality, I definitely consider a friend. And lastly, if any of you out there find this article offensive, totally untrue, partially untrue, or just poorly written, please write in and tell me about it, but you better do it soon. I'm outta here in six months.
*The "or she" problem is solved! I have cured what has plagued politically correct rhetoricians for decades! (ok, two...) Simply use the feminine every time a personal or possessive pronoun is used! No self-respecting male would ever put down his beer or porno long enough to complain. Eureka!