Prague Dog Eat Blog

Tulip's powered up again. Last. Alchemy. Ever?

Oct 18, 11:21 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes, Prague events )

The situation at the Tulip Cafe remains unclear – at least amongst those of us chatting about it over beers at U Zpevacku. They got their power back yesterday, though somebody said something about the kitchen being closed. Losing Tulip would suck as much as losing Marquis. Hope things have been sorted out there.

Also got an odd sms from Bethany last night, asking me to come out to the Globe for what was supposedly the last Alchemy ever. I’ll post more when I know more. If it’s true, then the monthly Poezie a Provokace (Poetry and Provocation) readings will be the only game in town as far as expat poetry open mics go.

Please note that I said POETRY, not prose, not grocery lists, letters back home, letters to the editor, journal entries, or anything else that may be interesting on paper but glazed-eye-inducing when delivered orally. Once again, Poezie a Provokace is a POETRY open mic (btw, songs count as poetry).

Why the overkill? When I – no, wait, I just hosted and called a few people to cajole them into showing up, so Bethany deserves the props for it – put together the first PaP (no jokes, please) at NOD, despite the fact that we made it clear that it was to be poetry only, what did the first reader do? Abused the fact that a dearth of readers meant she could take the mic for as long as she wanted, and read intense stream-of-consciousness prose that diminished an already paltry crowd. Not cool.

Of course, I should have stepped up and nipped that in the bud, but I decided to be all Canadian about it and keep my mouth shut. Ah well…

Anyway. Tulip has power again, though apparently their kitchen is closed. I’m sure I’ll find out more today. If you’re in Prague, keep an eye out for flyers for the next PaP, which will take place later this month at Villa Incognito.

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MOFFOM, OT, The Tulip Mutiny(?)

Oct 17, 09:06 (Filed under: , Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes )

That’s MOFFOM, not MILF

Something tres cool is coming to town: from October 20 – 24 the Music on Film – Film on Music (MOFFOM) festival will feature a massive variety of documentaries, feature films, videos, concerts and much more. Judging by the posters for this year’s MOFFOM, as well as Coilin O’Connor’s article for Radio Praha, Prague’s music and film buffs are in for a real treat. Unfortunately MOFFOM’s official website doesn’t seem to allow visitors to pull up a list of all the films, shorts, etc. that will be screened.

The Oklahomo Trio revisited

So, le weekend. Friday was spent with Chris Parsons, aka Mr. Brindle. Mr. B and me went to see the Oklahomo Trio, who were performing at Shakespeare & Sons’ third anniversary party (pardon the bad grammar at the beginning of the sentence – the urge to rhyme struck hard).

I had only seen the Trio once before and was charmed immediately. Henrik’s cool simple guitar is a perfect companion for Ida’s heart-rending voice. The lyrics are still wonderful nonsense – not that Coldplay/lingua franca bullshit that I was complaining about recently, but pure poetry straight out of a beautiful soul.

In a way listening to the Trio has an element of drama – you feel like at any minute either Ida or Henrik is going to hit a bum note, as if they are right on the verge of stumbling out of tune. But they never do, they always deliver beautifully. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do should they decide to get electric. This band is way too good for Prague – they should try their luck in the UK. And come back to us for a visit from time to time, of course.

Strange things are afoot at the Tulip Cafe…

Having said all that, Mr. B and I left just before the end of the first set because we felt like talking, and that simply wasn’t doable in Shakes while the Trio was playing. Fair enough, but I also felt rude just standing up and going to the bar, which was an exercise in frustration because of the crowd. Speaking of the crowd, it felt terribly cliquey in Shakes on Friday, and it was kind of doing my head in. So, off we went to, surprise surprise, U Zpevacku.

On the way to UZ, we stopped by Tulip. The joint had been without power since Wednesday, but it was still pretty crowded with rather annoying people. The place was lit by a city of tea candles. On one table I noticed a small island of multi-coloured wax covered in ashes and studded with cigarette butts. I’m not really sure what’s going on there – something about unpaid bills, and it all has the air of some kind of staff mutiny. I’m not going to speculate further.

In conclusion, a public service announcement: Tonight’s Alchemy, featuring Paul Deblinger, will take place at the Globe Cafe. I may actually go to this one – at least if someone starts reading prose, in the Globe I can turn on my laptop and get some work done.

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Farewell, Marquis de Sade

Sep 20, 11:30 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes )

Oh, man… this is really really sad... I have nothing to say about this at the moment… I’m just too busted up.

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At The Dog

Sep 13, 11:21 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes, Personal )

I don’t know whether it’s because of the change of season, but I’ve been feeling rather exhausted lately and have been having a hard time dragging my ass out of bed. After staying in for three days painting walls, doing some light translating, watching DVDs and PC gaming, I headed into the city on Sunday night. First to U Zpevacku for a couple of beers and a chat with Mike and Lord Nelson.

On my way into Old Town, I ran into an ex-dealer who gave me a good deal on a small bag of herb. I reckoned I might as well make a night of it, so I walked to Marquis, only to find it closed at around one a.m. I went to Chateau for a beer and was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t the usual sausage fest – that is, there was actually a fair number of femmes in the place. I drank, smoked and scoped and after that got a bit boring, decided to go home.

I hate taking the night tram out to Blackbridge. Actually, I take it to Lehovec, a 30-minute ride, then have to wait five to ten minutes for a bus that takes me home. Whenever I catch the tram at Bila Labut it’s always packed full of fucked-up revelers and fetid tram-sleepers. I reckoned I might as well wait until regular service started up again at five, as I didn’t really have any work to do on Monday.

I headed to Letna to drink and kill time at The Dog. Lord Nelson and I had been chatting about the place while we were drinking at UZ. I said The Dog is a pretty cool place, though a little bit of a lad’s hangout, much like UZ – though I wouldn’t exactly call either place a sausage factory, as neither bar has any kind of meat market feel to it. Nelson pointed out that the place has an atmosphere that is a bit of a downer – everybody in there tends to be either passed out or on the verge of passing out.

Part of the reason for this is the lighting. It is far too dimly lit and by the time the after-Fraktal crowd gets there, most patrons are pretty damn wrecked. While the crowd is a nice one, conversations tend to be really silly and/or really slurred.

With that in mind, I hopped on a tram to Letenske namesti. When I entered the joint, I saw Mad Chris and Gez chatting at the bar. I was happy to see both of them – Chris always has something interesting to say, and he’s been encouraging me to get back to writing poetry (as has Lord Nelson). Gez was a great guitar player to work with (he’s now playing with the Blue Valentines, a Tom Waits cover band that’s proving to be quite a hit amongst the expat community), and it would be cool to start something with him again. He told me that he really wanted to do Still on Red Island again, a poem that Chris “Sir Drinks-a-Lot” Parsons, my first guitarist, couldn’t stand. Well, he couldn’t stand the way I delivered it anyway. But that’s another story.

Gez was trashed, Mad Chris was on his way there, and also in possession of some hash (yes, hash – something that one doesn’t come across all that often in this city). We decided to pool our resources and make a tossed salad. The only problem was that we had no papers. There was a group of people in the back who probably would have given us a paper, but Mad Chris said, “If they give us a paper, we’ll have to share.”

“No we won’t,” I said.

“Yes we will, it’s protocol.”

“Oh, come on. I’ve given people skins before without expecting them to smoke me out.”

“Yeah, and whenever they didn’t smoke you out, you got pissed off, didn’t you?”

He had a point.

So, Mad Chris emptied a cigarette and got to work. The result was alright, but I find cigarette tube spliffs burn too fast and simply are not as satisfying. To make things worse, the filter was a bit crap, so I ended up with tobacco shreds on my tongue with each hit.

However, it achieved the desired effect. Big Phil showed up, followed by Mike. Gez was passed out at the bar. Mad Chris and I freestyled a bit, talked some nonsense, listened to some bullshit at the bar (some dude kept talking about putting something “in the rear” while rabitting on to Big Phil – no idea what he was on about, he just kept using the word “rear” for some reason; in the state everyone was in, that seemed real funny, of course).

The lighting in The Dog is indeed too low. And it has a bit of a nonstop Herna bar feel to it, only with far cooler decor and no fruit machines. The Dog is predominantly an expat bar, but I’m sure that, like Fraktal, it gets its fair share of Czech clientele as well. It’s another one of those places, like UZ and Blind Eye, where you know you’re going to meet good people.

Five a.m. rolled around and I took my leave, heading home while most of my fellow passengers were rubbing their eyes and moaning their way off to work. Going home at this time with the commuters always makes me feel fortunate, perhaps even a little smug. It’s even better when Jitka’s with me, both of us knowing that while so many people are heading off to jobs they hate, we’re going home to screw and sleep and screw some more. There’s always work to do, but there’s never usually any rush. And when there is a rush, it’s nothing all that difficult.

Like I said, a little smug, but, yo, I got office cred. Acquiring it gave me grey hairs, nausea (Paranoid Android became my personal theme song: “the panic, the vomit, the panic, the vomit” pretty much summed everything up), a pot belly and love handles, high blood pressure, chest pains, and a neglected girlfriend. In so many ways freelancing was the best thing that ever happened to me. I suppose the smugness should stop here. Expect a poem on the topic in this space tomorrow.

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Chilling at the Pink Floyd Cafe; Three-way snogging at Batalion

Sep 1, 21:04 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes, Prague nightlife )

Why has Pink Floyd been featuring so heavily in my life over the last couple of weeks? It started when I borrowed a special edition of Q magazine devoted to the Floyd. That got me listening to them again for the first time in something like half a decade. I rediscovered the sheer perfection of Animals, but I still can’t dig on the post-Waters Floyd, and the post-Floyd Waters.

It continues – last night I hooked up with Chris and a couple of his friends at the Pink Floyd Cafe on the corner of Americka and Zahrebska. And right now I’m sitting in Villa Incognito, chilling after having finished Chapter 7 of the Russo-Chechen conflict book, listening to Floyd’s last live album.

The Pink Floyd Cafe is situated in a very attractive neighbourhood in Vinohrady, and is part of a hub of cool bars, cafes and restaurants. In the intersection that the cafe faces there is a gorgeous new fountain with three or four asymmetrically arranged fish-like sculptures that spout water into the fountain. I suppose it’s kind of Floydesque itself.

The cafe is a clean (almost too clean) place with plenty of framed shots of the Floyd in all its incarnations lining the walls, fast and friendly service, and good prices. It also has a very pleasant beer garden amid an ample amount of trees (nice alliteration, eh?). Though nearly full, the garden was very quiet, so quiet that I felt like I had to whisper when I got there. If the owners set up a proper surround sound system out there to play music by their namesake, the Pink Floyd Cafe would approach paradise status. As it is, it’s definitely a place I’d like to drink at again.

However, we were in the mood for something a little livelier, and we found what we wanted at the Popo Cafe Petl on Italska. Loud, jumping, stuffy, smoky, full of babes and offering free WiFi Internet access, PCP is my kind of place. We stuck around for a beer and a mojito (only CZK 85) then moved on to U Zpevacku.

Watching Mike the bartender and Mad Chris (not “my” Chris, but another UZ regular) riff off each other in an inspired bit of comedic nonsense (both are part-time actors and have had roles in a number of feature films shot in Prague) got me thinking about how much I dig UZ. You’ll always find good people there on both sides of the bar.

After Mike gave us the boot so that he could close up shop, we decided to go to Batalion to kill time before morning transport started up again. It’s odd that I’ve been going there so often lately – Batalion’s always been one of those bars I’ve gone to when there were no other options available at four or five in the morning.

Last night proved to be a good night to go. The music was great – very danceable alt-rock, some cool 80s stuff, along with some Czech rock hits. Chris and I sat in a corner by a dancefloor, caught a little flack from the ultra-pierced bartender for smoking a J in there, listened to the tunes, and watched the crowd. One beer after our arrival, Chris says to me, “Hey, check out those two girls.”

I looked in the direction he was pointing and saw two very young and attractive girls heavy petting in the basement’s middle room. If they were just doing it for show, they were doing a damn good job. One was on the heavy side but had a really sultry face. The second was good-looking in a jolie-laide way – big lips, gummy smile, bedroom eyes. I reckon they were from Italy or Spain or Croatia or somewhere south. They definitely weren’t Czech.

After the stopped, I noticed that it was my round, so I went to the bar to get a couple more beers. On the way back, I see the two kissing cuties, along with a really hot friend, this one a petite girl with brown dreadlocks. The girls started necking again as I passed by. I stopped and watched. Dreadlocks says to me, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Sure is,” I said, raising my glass to her and her friends.

The two kissers stopped, smiled at me, and then the three of them grinned mischievously at each other, then proceeded to engage in a three-way spit-swap. Though it was more amusing than hot, this was a real bonafide snog.

“Hey, Chris!” I shouted over my shoulder, “C’mere and check this out!”

Chris sauntered over, stood beside me and said, “Holy shit.”

“Cheers,” I said, passing him his beer.

A few sips later, the girls’ little show came to an end. “Thanks girls,” I said.

They giggled, bowed to our applause and went back to their table and we went back to ours. No follow-through for me, of course – I’m very happily engaged, remember.

A while later we decided to drink at the bar. After ordering another round, I noticed the jolie-laide girl and her plump friend standing beside me. The plump girl was pulling down her top and scooping one of her tits out, licking her finger and rubbing her nipple. Her friend was groping the other tit and the two girls stared intently at each other. All this was happening right in front of the bar, at the front of the room.

“Jesus‚??” said Chris.

“Christ‚??” I said.

Perhaps it was the booze, perhaps it was my lack of interest, or a combination of the two, but this nipple rubbing and groping got a bit silly after a few minutes, and I think the girls realised this and left us to our beers. Then they left with their crew.

As they walked up the stairs, I said to Chris, “Now why the hell weren’t there any girls like that when I was in high school and university? And if there were, why the hell didn’t I ever meet any of them?”

God, I love this city‚?? And now, Jana, Villa Incognito’s barmaid, has just put the Floyd’s Dogs (my all-time fave Floyd track) on the stereo. I feel blessed.

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More bar hopping

Aug 28, 22:43 (Filed under: , Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes )

After a couple of days of turning down good times downtown on Thursday and Friday, a strong impulse shoved me out of my Fortlet of Solitude last night. On hitting the centre I popped by Marquis de Sade. Spyder was playing to a lovely lively crowd. It seems like every time I go to Marquis when Spyder’s performing, he’s either playing And the Wind Cries Mary as I enter the place, or it’s the first or second tune he plays after I get settled. He plays it, as well as the rest of his set of rock and blues covers, well, so it’s always good for a drink or two.

Next I went to check out the end of Provokator’s Anti-Anti Fest, which took place at NoD. I missed all the films and videos, but caught up with a few people I hadn’t seen in a while. A couple of beers later and I was off to Zero, where a dude named Chris was having a going-away party.

Zero seems to have it going on: it looks good, the drinks are a bit on the pricey side, but not unreasonably so, the music (at least last night) was pretty danceable house, and there were a fair number of familiar faces there. As an added bonus, a hen party provided some really hot eye candy: all the girls were dolled up in naughty nurse uniforms. Unfortunately this was counterbalanced by the power-drinking frustrated closet homosexual rugby boys that were accompanying them. There weren’t any troubles, though the second largest of the louts was clearly looking to start something. What the hell were these girls thinking bringing these fuckwits along for the ride? And what was such a bevy of babes doing with such limp-witted lumps?

But I digress. Yeah, Zero’s cool, but I had a lousy time there in spite of that. In Ottawa, my mates and I called bars like Zero “ballcap and bimbo” bars because the only people who go to them are white baseball cap and beer logo t-shirt wearing jocks and, well, bimbos. Ok, so the crowd at Zero last night was more “beautiful” than ballcap and bimbo, but the atmosphere was the same: everyone’s on the hunt, everyone’s sooooo happy to see you, and everyone’s full of shit. When it comes to socializing, I consider myself a pretty flexible guy, but for some reason I feel really out of my element in these places.

A bit of chatting, a couple of beers, too many cigarettes and a cab ride later I was in the far more genuine atmosphere of Blind Eye. The contrast in vibe was kind of stunning in a pleasant way.

I pulled a bit of a whitey after a beer and a few hauls off a spliff and took off. It was around half past three in the morning at this point and I was in no mood to take a night tram back out to Blackbridge. So I hung out in Batalion for a few beers and a bit of people watching.

Batalion is somewhat of a ballcap and bimbo place, but it’s also very Czech and the crowd is far more amusing. I got the most kicks out of watching a group of brothers hitting on all the white chicks on the dance floor. These guys were as lousy at dancing as the white boys stutterstepping in front of me. Then there was the fucked-up hippy dude pulling Jesus Christ poses on the little stage by the DJ stand‚??.

Crusty junkies, Eastern European mafioso and their gold-digging bitches, booze hounds and hags‚?? Batalion gets a lot of dregs, but it never really feels all that hardcore downstairs. The crowd is as eclectic as the music played down there; the most notable sonic oddity of the morning occurred when the DJ followed Roxette’s Joyride with Smells Like Teen Spirit which shifted into some crap Lucie Bila song.

Speaking of Joyride, something I noticed yesterday: guys who dance to this song (or any other Roxette “rock” song for that matter) look really gay. Which, of course, isn’t a bad thing if they are really gay.

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Hanging with the G8 virgins; Outdoor open mic

Aug 24, 17:51 (Filed under: Prague events, Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes )

Man o man o man‚?? I thought I had it bad when it comes to gaming‚?? Once again I’m sitting in the G8 PC Arena, using the free WiFi because of a rush translation job. And once again I’m listening to a bunch of 20-something Czech dudes rabbitting on as they play their online games. One dude keeps going “BoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoom,” providing rhythm for his overexcited neighbour, whose vocabulary consists mainly of vole (pronounced “volay” and means “bull”, which is something like the Czech equivalent of the way a hippy overpeppers sentences with “man”, though vole is ruder) and pica (pronounced “peach-ah”, I’m not translating that here).

Anyway, it’s still not bad here. I can’t help but think it’s kind of sad that the amount of money these guys spend on playing here could easily add up to the price of their own gaming PCs. And do these guys ever get laid? Ah well, not my business.

I had to come to G8 because the Globe had shite connectivity. Yes, I was prepared to pay their outrageous CZK 1,50 per minute fee because it was for work purposes and I happened to be in there working on other things. The upside to working at the Globe is that since I don’t connect there, I’m not so easily distracted by my Internet addiction.

Wait, did I say that the Globe had shite connectivity? Actually, I couldn’t get a connection period after trying four LAN cables and two jacks. A fellow customer suggested that it was a problem with my hardware, but that’s definitely not the case as I have no troubles connecting through a cable over at Villa Incognito.

Switching gears‚?? if you’re in Prague and in a poetic state of mind and can’t make it to Divadlo Archa to see Patti Smith

this Friday, consider taking a trip out to Roztyly for Alchemy and Poezie a provokace’s outdoor open mic. Details and a map are at the Alchemy website. One thing that’s not mentioned there is that the Roztyly metro station is on the C-line (the red line – the line with the swish trains compared to the stinkybum transport we B-line/yellow line plebs have to take). If heading there from the centre, it’s the train that goes towards Haje.

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Prague.tv's Vegetarian Restaurant Guide

Aug 19, 16:27 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes, Web watch )

This is for anyone in (or passing through) Prague who doesn’t eat meat and feels very misunderstood, perhaps even neglected, when dining out. Despite the fact that the author uses that abhorrent abbreviation for the district South of Narodni trida*, prague.tv has an extensive guide to the Czech capital’s vegetarian restaurants.

*Reading that back, I already think I’m fighting a losing battle (see below)

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King Vitamin, Anti-SoNa, Clown and Bard

Aug 19, 12:19 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes, Out and About in Prague )


A couple of things before I post a little something that I wrote a couple of days ago:

First, Jeremiah Palecek (aka King Vitamin) has a fresh blog called 1 painting every day. He’s also making and selling T-shirts that sport cool designs like the one posted above (lifted from KV’s blog).

Second, newbies and fledgling journalists please, for the love of pistol-wielding Christ, stop referring to the quarter south of Narodni as “SoNa”, or, even worse, “Sonar”. Neither Prague’s natives nor its expats use the expression. It’s neither hip nor convenient, it’s just plain retarded.

Whew… now that I got that out of my system, here’s a little bit of scribbling from a couple of days ago:

BEFORE YOU
CAN BE OLD
AND WISE
YOU MUST
BE YOUNG AND
STUPID – KEN LEE

I’m about as familiar with the life and works of Ken Lee as you probably are – that is to say that I don’t know the guy, but his words live on one of the walls in the bar of the Clown and Bard Hostel.

Although the C&B is not in Prague Spot’s most excellent list of hostels, I can say that its bar is definitely worth a visit. I used to be a semi-regular at the place back when it was owned by a couple of Dutchies and the bar was open to the public.

I usually pop into C&B for a bit of a nostaligia trip once every few months. I’ve never had a problem getting in since admittance to the bar was restricted to hostel guests.

It’s been so long
since I’ve had sex
I don’t remember
who gets tied up.

The atmosphere is pretty much the same: young, hip and friendly, with what seems like a better sound system (and better music: they’ve got Jay-Z rocking the house as I write this at 6:30 pm on a Wednesday in the middle of August) and a whole lotta visitor graffiti gracing the walls.

Here is to Fire
Not the kind that ignites
And burns down chanties [sic]
But the kind that excites
And Pulls down Panties!

Places like this make me really miss living in Zizkov. I love kicking it old school when I’m in the one-three-oh (Snoop Dogg is tick-tocking the joint now), and the C&B is a good place to do that, especially in the summer, when the bar is lively. The drinks cost a little more than at your average Zizkov dive, but this place ain’t a dive, so the CZK 22 they charge for a half-litre of Budvar is justified – and reasonable.

MOVER FUCKER CRANK ME A MALBOUR
I’M CRASHING ON YOUR AS [sic]
LIKE PERL [sic] FUCKIN HARBOUR!!

SMILE
POINT CASUALLY
AND BLAME SOMEONE
ELSE FOR THE FARTING
ELEPHANTS PERFORMING AT
YOUR NEPHEW’S PARTY

Ah, you’re a wise man, Ken Lee, whoever you are. I hope you enjoyed your stay in the Mother of Cities.

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Popping The Question in Prague

Aug 15, 17:56 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes, Personal )

I’ve taken a little time off to celebrate my and Jitka’s engagement. Yes, finally after seven and a half years I popped The Question last Friday.

I started shopping for a ring a few months ago and ended up buying it at the first shop I walked into. La Vie a Sensation, in the Palac Flora mall, is a jewelers that specializes in diamonds. I liked their friendly staff right away, and it was then and there that I saw the Ring. The band was pretty and unique, and the stone was the right quality – all for the right price.

No other jewelers I went to after that was worthy of the cash I wanted to shell out for the Ring. In part because everything else I saw was overpriced (admittedly, most of the shops I checked out were in the centre), but mostly because the staff was either indifferent or downright rude. Having said that, my advice to anybody shopping for jewelry in Prague is this: avoid the places on Na Prikope. Hell, avoid the centre for jewelry altogether.

Ring in hand (or, rather, pocket) I reserved a table at La Perle de Prague, a very swish joint at the top of the love-it-or-hate-it Dancing Building. I asked for the best table in the place – one with an excellent view over the Vltava, and the girl handling the reservation was kind enough to grant me my wish.

However, both of us felt way out of place as soon as we walked into the ground floor bar a half hour before our reservation. The barmaid very rudely told us that the restaurant didn’t open until seven. Perhaps if she had asked us if we wanted something to drink we would have waited. Instead we took a walk and bitched about the barmaid’s attitude.

When seven o’clock rolled around, we went in to find a new, and more professional, barmaid working. She called up and when we got to the seventh floor, there were five waiters and the girl who took my reservation waiting for us.

Now this was really uncomfortable. It felt like something out of a lame fish-out-of-water-type comedy, especially when Jitka picked a gnat out of my bangs and flicked it on the white table linen.

Too much cutlery, too many waiters in penguin suits, the atmosphere too… too… too stiff. But, hey, this was supposed to be a high-class affair, so we tried to relax and dig the view.

Then came the real test. La Perle doesn’t have any vegetarian meals on its menu (Jitka still hasn’t gone omnivore yet), so we asked one of our waiters what we could arrange. “Well, you can have salad,” said the waiter.

Jitka and I stared at the guy for a few seconds. Then he said, “I’ll ask the chef what he can come up with for you.”

While he was gone, Jitka and I discussed our other options. We’d been through this before and Jitka expected the waiter to come back offering something lousy, like pasta in cream sauce (i.e. pasta in milk) or frozen vegetables in some kind of instant sauce.

Turns out she was right. Our waiter came back and said, verbatim, “We can offer you steamed vegetables in some kind of sauce over pasta.”

“Are the vegetables fresh or frozen?” asked Jitka.

The poor guy couldn’t hide his embarrassment when he said, “Um, well, frozen.”

It was a relief to get out of there. They would have undoubtedly charged us at least CZK 500 for a plate of frozen peas and carrot cubes in milk over pasta.

We decided to go to Lemon Leaf, which turned out to be an excellent decision. The meal was phenomenal (we had spring rolls and cream of carrot and ginger soup to start, then Jitka had pasta with creamy tomato and gorgonzola sauce, I had a sweet and spicy curried beef dish with sticky rice) and the price came out to the equivalent of what my main course at La Perle would have cost me. And of course, the service was phenomenal – friendly and fairly fast (though we had to wait something like 30 minutes for our entrees).

High on our great meals, I decided that this would be the right time to ask for Jitka’s hand. Through tears of happiness (I hope), she said, “Yes.” As an added bonus, the Ring fit perfectly, so there was no need for resizing, something that the kind folks at La Vie were prepared to do for free and within a day so that Jitka would have it before taking off to see her brother in Oakland.

Now we were up for really tying one on, so we went to nearby Cheers for cocktails.

So, Cheers‚?? the barman working that night may have made good cocktails, but he ignored us after we took our seats, and when it came time to pay, the following conversation took place:

Barman (handing me the handwritten bill): That will be 798 crowns, please.

Me (having added up the total already): That’s funny, when I added it up it was 720 crowns. Could you please give me the drink list?

Barman (startled): Where are you from?

Me: Doesn’t matter, I’ve been living here for the last nine years.

Barman: Well, it’s normal to charge a service charge in Prague.

Me: Bullshit. Radost is the only place that does that, and that’s for food. And they tell the customers about it in their menu and on the bill, so they’re not pulling a fast one.

The barman didn’t have much to say after that, and knocked off the so-called “service charge”. I tipped him for the quality of the drinks, but not without telling him not to pull this kind of shit on tourists on the way out.

And the look on his face when Jitka said, “Na shle” (Czech for “See ya”) was priceless.

The rest of the night is not blog material (well, not for this kind of blog, anyway). But I’ll cap things off with this public service announcement: if you’re new in town, or just passing through, and decide to imbibe in a place where the service staff seems a bit sketchy, be sure to keep track of what you’ve been drinking.

It’s best if you take a bit of time to write it down as you order – if the service staff sees you doing that, chances are they won’t tamper with your bill. If they try pulling the old “service charge” or “couvert” routine, tell them to piss off and that you’re not going to pay any more than what you ate or drank – but just make sure that the “service charge” or “couvert” isn’t mentioned on the drink list and/or menu.

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Roxy NoD Absinthe Bar

Aug 10, 07:00 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes )

During my first shift as a bartender at Jo’s Bar many years ago, I noticed that absinthe was missing from our drink list. When I asked Espen, the Norwegian barman who was training me, why this was, he said, “Usually when people order absinthe here they don’t know what they’re in for. They drink too much of it too fast. We got sick of cleaning up the results.”

I don’t know if the green fairy is still off Jo’s list, but those seeking to savour the spirit rather than power-drink it should check out NOD. While most bars carry one or two varieties of the spirit, NOD now offers eight speciality absinthes.

This is decidedly not for those looking for a quick buzz, as the prices range from CZK 89 for a 2 cl shot of Czech Delirium 35 (35 mg/l wormwood, 70% alcohol content) to CZK 199 for the same amount of France Verte de Fougerolles 72 (16 mg/l wormwood, 72% alcohol content). The Wormwood Society describes the “VdF” as follows (3/4 down the page):

The herbs in this absinthe are not shy; there is a distinct wormwood bitterness and a subtle tea-like flavor and astringency, no doubt from the Veronica herb which is used in the coloration. Verte de Fougerolles is a pleasantly different style of absinthe from most on the market.

That’s a pretty upscale write-up for a drink that many a Prague expat or tourist imbibes for the sole purpose of getting utterly cranked. But then again, absinthe, like tequila or slivovice (plum brandy), has always been a spirit that demands respect and moderation.

While I’m tempted to try some of these speciality absinthes, for the time being even a 90-koruna shot is a bit rich for my blood…

Also, if you can stand the noise from the experimental performance space, NOD’s main gallery is now furnished with chairs, tables, and couches. The entrance to Roxy is now a bar (haven’t ventured downstairs yet), and, of course, the WiFi is still free.

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Free WiFi in Prague at De Brug

Aug 9, 17:12 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes )

I’m listening to a terrible cover of The Smiths’ There is a Light That Never Goes Out. Some awful cheap Casio synth beats with a robot voice. It utterly destroys one of my all-time favourite lyrics:

And if a double-decker bus
Crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die
And if a ten-ton truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well, the pleasure – the privilege is mine

I’m at De Brug, a good-looking pub on Masna that tops an online Danish guide with the following description:

The joint is owned and run by a Dutch fellow [former Zone barman and fellow Tragically Hip fan Casper], and they know a thing or two about good beer over there, too. He opened his bar so that Prague, a city of beer lovers, could experience a typical Dutch tavern or “Brown Bar.”

On top of that De Brug’s now got free WiFi. That’s the only thing that got me in here, though. As much as I dig Casper I’ve been avoiding the place since the beer prices went way over the top (example: a half-litre of 12-degree Staropramen costs CZK 38; many a Pilsner Urquell – also a 12-degree beer – in town don’t go over CZK 30).

I recently discovered that De Brug has a happy hour – between 5 & 7 pm the Staropramen is a more reasonable CZK 25.

De Brug’s food prices are also sky-high (Goulash with bread dumplings for CZK 145?!), but the atmosphere is nice, and they don’t allow stag parties, so that counts for something, I guess.

Ah, and now the vicious-sweet trip-hop stylings of Portishead are seething out of the speakers. That more than makes up for the butchered Smiths I heard on starting this little entry.

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G8, stoned in the centre, and crusty dogs

Aug 4, 16:22 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes, Out and About in Prague )

G8

I’m typing this in a space that isn’t ideal for work but the WiFi’s free, the couch is comfy, and the aesthetics and atmosphere are not bad.

PC Herna G8 is situated at Narodni trida 25 (across the street from Tesco), down in the belly of the Laser Game complex. It boasts 15 PC stations that offer Internet for CZK 1 per minute, as well as 1 hour of gaming for CZK 69, with discounts for club members. They also have printing services.

G8 loses points on beer (CZK 30 for a can of Pilsner), and the kid working the bar has a terrible habit of saying “What!?” when spoken to in English. He’s friendly enough, and his English is quite good, but that “What?!” really gets my back up…

But hey, the connection’s free and it doesn’t stink of KFC down here. It’s more like being in the basement of a buddy who is way too into gaming, graffiti and survival. Blacklights pump up the dayglo tags and designs on the walls, with camouflage netting overhead.

If you don’t mind the shitty aerobics technopap thumping out of the speakers (at a thankfully reasonable level), and the constant rapidfire chatter, whoops and curses of young Czech gamers (all guys, though a few babes were gracing the space when I got here), and if you can get a space on the couch or one of the armchairs, it’s not a bad place to get some work done undisturbed – chances are you’re not going to run into anybody you know here, which always helps productivity.

Smokers take note – G8 is a smoke-free zone (though I swear I can smell somebody puffing away right now).

This city loves you

Had a good night on the town yesterday, starting at U Zpevacku, where I chatted with Mike and watched butch surfer-femmes and insane BMX trick riders on the tube. I then headed over to Tulip. Local Tom Waits’ cover band The Blue Valentines were playing the Tulip Lounge last night, so I reckoned I’d pop in to say hi to a few people I hadn’t seen in a while.

I said my hellos, had a nice chat with Bethany, then headed off – the show hadn’t started owing to technical difficulties (it was something like quarter to ten by this point), and the joint was just too goddamn packed. I wasn’t in the mood to wait in a Christ knows how long getting pinballed around the room, so, after watching a frantic Gez (the guitarist) try to sort out amp problems with a mobile in each hand (through no fault of his own, there always tended to be technical issues when he was part of Drift) I walked over to Marquis de Sade.

One of my favourite things to do in this city is stroll through the centre stoned and alone at night. Of course, the buildings look better, the lights are brighter and more starlike, the people are more interesting, and good ideas (well, they always seem good at the time, don’t they?) and inspiration come rushing in. Or it’s easier to keep your mind blank and just dig that “Goddamn, I live in PRAGUE, man!”

Marquis was also pretty stuffed, but I managed to grab a seat so I could sit back and watch the crowd. As an added bonus Prague’s Most Adorable Barmaid was working. One beer later and it was time to get back to the suburbs, my mind all fired up and telling me, “Dude, you have got to get out more often.”

duts-duts-woof!

This is my favourite CzechTek related item to date.

My sympathy for this summer’s biggest cause celebre is starting to wane – Prime Minister Paroubek and Interior Minister Bublan are willing to sit down and talk with the organisers. Former President Vaclav Havel is willing to mediate. So why aren’t the organisers behaving like adults and sitting down to work this out? What, is that not hip or underground enough? Would that be selling out?

The answers to those questions are: who gives a rat’s ass, and not necessarily.

The way they’re going about things now I can’t help but shake my head and say, “What a bunch of fucking babies.”

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Villa Incognito website; Suite: coyotes/Summer/DESTROY/coyotes

Aug 3, 08:45 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes, Other )

Yesterday I spent another very pleasant afternoon at Villa Incognito and found out that the cafe has a web site. There will also be weekly movie and baseball screenings. This place is quickly becoming one of my favourite Prague hangouts.

And now for something completely different – a sequence of poems I wrote years ago, back when the Czech house scene started getting banal in terms of music, people and drugs.

This is one of my favorite performance pieces; it’s also been the most challenging one to do with music. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with folks who have come up with really imaginative and groovy accompaniment. Jeff Stroud (of Fictioneering) and I worked on this a little; I’m looking forward to getting something fleshed out for this (and hopefully for some new stuff as well).

them coyotes

clinging to the creation
that slinks along our trade routes.
devoting their spirited sonics
to extensive night-time
ramblings. quiet. harmless. now,
desperate for success
they slap neutered coyote songs
onto crumbling walls.

Summer’s complaint

Summer came by, blame
the headlines, blame
the videos
scared up noises in
her box, caught fresh tunes
off the coast of her hips, her
teeth humming, Summer:
blues, reds, yellows, scenes
from a night-time lifetime
“Sure gets better than this,”
said Summer in a
slow drawl wrapped in codeine, and
it made my head ache
to see her sitting
too pretty to whine, like her
LA Daddy and her
NYC Mum
it happens every New Year’s
each holiday
a bit bluer
than the last
come down
to see her see me
groping through all the volume
of Summer’s complaint

DESTROY THEM WITH SOUND

The lines on her face read: DESTROY THEM WITH SOUND. The SOUND of boys’ skirts ruffling in the aggression of nonstop strobelights. The SOUND of smoky breath tasting and embracing all that smooth young girlflesh. Fresh SOUND. DESTROY the commonlaw rhythms. Fold up the pattern and fall out of the worship of all those gods we’ve constructed in the epileptic blue halflight of our union. Then DESTROY THEM WITH SOUND.

She was black-and-white, nameless and smiling. Smiling in a way that suggested she was well-fed and in touch with herself. Perhaps a little too frequently for her lover’s tastes. I found her beside a tobacconist’s, five minutes or so up the street from my current address.

The SOUND of deception. The SOUND of illusion. The SOUND of social penetration, of social permutation. DESTROY the clearest targets. It was such an obvious problem. Why hadn’t I seen it coming? I tore her off the space she was in and burned her up before the authorities realised she was gone. The silence was absolutely fantastic.

we coyotes

chewing on the wilderness
that blazes through our veins.
attention spanned/sprawled
across expansive superhighway
rage. still. calmer. now,
bored with excess,
we shove rabid coyote songs
into stiffening arms.

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