So, it was a beautiful early-spring Sunday morning. I was curled on the couch, fretting over a stack of articles for my paper on Jazz elements in Finnegans Wake, and The Husband-Type Man was reading the paper and flirting his toes with mine. “Are we going to take a trip or anything this summer?” he asked me.
“I dunno,” I said. “I don’t think I can handle a summer semester on top of everything else. I think I need a break.” Especially considering I’d just eschewed a couple Duran shows ‘cos I had to write my freaking end-of-term papers instead. I’m really a Grown-Up now, ain’t I?
“Want to try to see Duran someplace, like Birmingham?”
Articles went flying. “YOU’RE KIDDING!?”
“Well, why not?” And it made sense. Our house is being remodeled this summer, and we’d’ve had to camp out on a hide-a-bed in the living room for who knew how long anyway. Why not spend a week someplace else? Why not go play and decompress after three intense semesters of graduate work for me, and wrapping up his job and retiring for THTM? “I’ll look into their tour schedule,” he promised.
So he did.
And emailed me a few days later with a plan… something he called The Chocolate Duran Tour, on which we would be spending A MONTH wandering around most of Western Europe, checking out places we’re might live when I’m done with school, and hitting various Duran shows and chocolate shops.
HOLY SHIT! Talk about two great tastes that taste great together!
So my “learn to speak French in the car” lessons I’ve been doing all semester will be put to good use. Dwanollah and THTM, sans fanny packs and big white sneakers and logo’d Disney t-shirts, are gonna be tearin’ around The Continent, stalking Durans, stalking Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, stalking Van Gogh and Byzantine architecture, and stalking chocolate. And yes, Readers, I’ll letcha know all about it!
Enjoy, and je vous parlerai bientôt!
June 11, 2005
Dear Readers –
Dobrý den, and greetings from Prague. As in the Czech Republic.
It’s Day Three of the Chocolate Duran Tour, and I’m cozied up in a pub with wi-fi while The Husband-Type Man explores some more for an hour before we have a Hott Dinner Date.
Prague is a beautiful city, but admittedly, I had no idea what to expect. Maybe it’s a Stupid ‘Merkin thing, but I guess it’s because Prague, unlike the Parises and Londons, isn’t considered the usual European Destination, so I didn’t really have any preconceived notions about it, other than “old” and “formerly communist.” Luckily, though, my friend Colette, who works all over Europe, gave us some pointers and stuff to look for, so tomorrow, we’re going to explore the Prague Castle and Royal Gardens.
But I’m getting ahead of myself already.
After flights from LA to Minneapolis to Amsterdam, we finally arrived in Prague late in the afternoon on Wednesday… just perfect, timing-wise, to shower the stench of 24 hours of airports and airplanes off, scare up some dinner, and collapse into jet-lagged oblivion. The next morning, we were somewhat ready, if hesitantly, to plunge into exploration.
The scariest thing about being in Prague is that neither of us can even begin to approximate speaking or understanding the language, and I’ll admit to several anxiety-prickles because of it. Luckily, we’re polite and the people who we’ve talked with are friendly and understanding as well. With the help of a phrasebook, we’ve mastered some of the important things: Prosim. Dekuju. Voda. Nemluvím česky. Kde je zachod? Most people here speak at least a little English, so with lots of “prosim” and “dekuju” and nodding and smiling, we can figure things out.
The streets here are narrow, cobbled, and very windy, but the city itself is pretty small, so meandering around this street and that square is easy, even for a sloth like me. The buildings are the kind of Germanic, stolid stone that I associate with Milwaukee and Chicago, but here they have much more ornamentation and flourishes and niches and architectural elements… which is to be expected when you consider that many of these buildings are 300-500 years old! One of the nicest things is, every day at noon, all the churchbells ring for several minutes, so we’ve tried to make sure that we’re out in a square someplace at the appointed time to enjoy it. I’ve also noticed that most of the local women here have hair dyed/rinsed/streaked in unnatural Miss Clairolish shades of purple, red, orange or pink.
So we’ve been poking about, watching people, and trying to solve important mysteries, like what, exactly, is a "barvy laky"? (A paint/hardware type of store.) How do you pronounce “restaurace”? (“R” in česky is nearly impossible for foreigners to pronounce, so I can’t even begin to approximate it yet!) And why are tourists usually so freakin’ pork stupid? (Americans especially, ourselves included, but let’s have an honorable, if racist, mention of our friends from Britain and Germany, too!)
Yes, that’s one of the big revelations thus far: most tourists are as dumb as a box of hair. Of course, it seems like most of the American and British tourists we see are the groups of old, retired farts, dowdily dressed (with those fucking big, white sneakers if they’re ‘Merkins), fanny packs strapped ‘round their portly guts, cameras slung ‘round their necks, bumbling along with identical expressions of gape-mouthed confusion and befuddlement. They’re also usually talking way too loud, too. “Frank! What does this say? What? Barb, are we stopping here? Huh? What? Where should we go? What IS this? This isn’t like at home! Why can’t they put these signs in English? What? Huh?” The exceptions are the groups of students, who, although there’s a sameness to their counter-culture “I’m radically different… just like the rest of you” gear, are still interested in absorbing themselves in other cultures and doing more than just hitting the touristy hot-spots for a couple more pictures that’ll impress everyone at home when you whip out the Vacation Photos come Christmas.
But the insufferable attitude that Americans exude is that they usually seem to think that the globe is centered on us/US.
And sometimes, it’s frightening to see that, on occasion, it… kinda is in some weird ways.
Take dinner on Thursday night. Me and The Husband-Type Man wandered around, checking out the bridges andVltava River by sunset and reading restaurace menus before deciding on a quiet, lovely restaurant tucked back on a still street. We were the only customers, and our waiter was delighted to practice his English on us. We were served delicious steaks with mushrooms and crème fraîche, baskets of rye bread, and finally, a heavy, sweet iced wine from the Moravian region. As he poured our wine and brought THTM a blueberry-clotted cream-doughnut concoction, our waiter asked us where in America we were from. And the second he heard “ Los Angeles… Hollywood,” he lit up, and launched into animated discussion about two of his favorite things… the Lakers, Kobe in particular, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers! “Tell Anthony hello for me,” he said when we were on our way out. Awww!
Yesterday, we rambled around Old and New Towns and admired various churches.
And last night? From one religious experience to another: We went to see Duran Duran, naturally!
They played the T* Mobile Arena here (how wrong does that sound?), a smallish venue, about ¼-1/3 the size of Staples Center in LA… and not even ¾ sold out, either. We got decent seats, up one section on John’s side of the stage, easily. Didn’t have the big lights or the two arms out from the stage, and only one small video screen. Sound was mediocre – a couple songs had badly-mixed vocals – and the crowd was pretty low-key, except for the folks in the front on the floor.
And… someone tried to start The Wave. Poor soul.
Lots of piercing whistling, which took some getting used to. And most everyone stayed seated during the duration of the show, except for an ovation during the encore. Not us, though! We were in the last row of our section, so, with no one behind us to annoy, we doinged and danced about. Because our Durans? Were rockin’! Andy seemed particularly lively (although his “I’m sensitive to light” glasses were still firmly intact). “Andy musta got some good shit before the show!” I whispered to THTM. “Yeah. A paycheck,” he whispered back. Bug’s gotten slightly better at “Ordinary World,” although I miss Warren’s emotional wash of notes. He still fucks up “Come Undone,” natch. I mean, why play ALL those notes when you could play half of them…?
Johnny? Adorable. Nick? Campy. Roger? Kick ass.
My Boyfriend was somewhat subdued for the first part of the show, but soon was tooling and doinging around like usual. He looked like a tasty morsel, especially when he changed into a red shirt. His performance was par for the El Nob course… aerobics, flailings, almost falling on his ass, interpretive dance…. And hey, we have a new Interpretive Dance move for “Ordinary World,” too, guys… Add to “window,” “rooftop” and “run away”… “vacuum.” To do “vacuum,” hold hands, palms out, in front of you, and push out and to the sides. Very dramatic. Go Charlie.
And speaking of “Go Charlie,” here’s the set list:
- Reach Up for the Sunrise
- Hungry Like the Wolf
- Planet Earth
- Union of the Snake
- What Happens Tomorrow
- Come Undone
- The Reflex
- Tiger Tiger
- The Chauffeur
- Ordinary World
- Save a Prayer
- Taste the Summer
- Notorious/Take You Higher!
- Careless Memories
- Wild Boys
- Girls on Film/Groove is in the Heart
Yes! “Take You Higher!” Complete with “boom shaka laka laka”s! That almost made up for having to sit through freakin’ “Taste the Summer.” Damn, if they were going to add another song from Astronaut, why not “Still Breathing”?! Anyway, instead of hitting the whole September 11 th allusions with “What Happens Tomorrow,” like he did in the States, here Simon mentioned only that “it seemed like one half of the world was trying to blow up the other half.” Because I don’t think the Czechs would be as impressed with The George and Tony Show, really, considering the country’s history. Ahem. No trenchcoat during “The Chauffeur,” although Nomis did don the cap. *dreamy sigh* “Wild Boys,” in all its “play that fuckin’ bass, John” spanky glory brought the crowd to its feet, and there was a huge ovation at the end.
Notably, we didn’t see any fans… not even anyone wearing Duran t-shirts (hell, the venue didn’t even sell merchandise!)! There weren’t even any of the SkankyDurannies milling around in their ten-pounds-of-flour-stuffed-into-a-five-pound-sack’d glory. Just lots of… middle-aged folks in sweatshirts and windbreakers.
Next stop? Munich!
‘Sides, I think it’s time for me to pack it in here at the Wi-Fi Pub; a group of drunk Brits have taken over one of the back rooms and are singing along loudly with… um… Cher’s “Believe.” A lad in a stripped jumper keeps trying to get my attention to introduce his warbling buddy. “Hey. That’s Marty. That’s Marty.” Dude? No one cares. ‘Specially not me, because I got Prague to explore!