Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Karaoke Machine Song List for the Bishop, 9/1/10

Below is the song list for Wednesday, 9/1. Sorry it's not alphabetical. You can sign up now but staking your claim via comment on Facebook. I will also be emailing all of those invited (assuming Andy gives me admin privileges) to offer the pre-Wednesday sign-up offer. We will also be starting a Facebook page to ask for suggestions and we'll take them at the show, too. NOTE: We retain the right to add to or take away from the list below:

The Cure - Just Like Heaven
Kelly Clarkson - Since You've Been Gone
Prince - Kiss
Talking heads - Psycho Killer
Stooges - Search & Destroy
ELO - Mr Blue Sky
The Guess Who - American woman
Fleetwood Mac - Say You Love Me
The Runaways - Cherry Bomb
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Bon Jovi - Living on a Prayer
Tom Petty - Mary Jane's last Dance
Human League - Don't You Want Me
Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U
Prince - Purple Rain
Outfield - Need Your Love
Simple minds - Don't You (Forget About Me)
Young MC - Bust a Move
Them - Gloria
Madonna - Material Girl
Lady GaGa - Bad Romance
311 - Down
Pat Benatar - Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Toadies - Possum Kingdom
CCR - Fortunate Son
Modern English - Melt With You
Stone Temple Pilots - Plush
Blur - Song 2
Radiohead - Creep
Tom Petty - American Girl
June and Johnny - Jackson
Janis Joplin - Me and Bobby McGee
Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline
Eddie Money - Two Tickets to Paradise
4 Non Blondes - What's Up
Beastie Boys - Sabotage
Pixies - Where is My Mind
Garth Brooks - Friends in Low Places
Bryan Adams - Summer of '69
Rick Springfield - Jessie's Girl
Bad Company - Feel Like Making Love
Modern English - Melt with you
Miley Cyrus - Party In The USA
Pearl Jam - Jeremy
Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow - Picture
Ramones - I Wanna Be Sedated
Weezer - Undone (The Sweater Song)
Pavement - Cut Your Hair
Pavement - Summer Babe
Live - Lightning Crashes
John Cougar Mellencamp - Pink Houses

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Party at the Bread Factory": Magnolia Electric Co. Fall Tour Diary Chapter 8: Frankfurt, Germany


The word of the day today was the word that means “fear of the number 13.” If there was anything to be feared today it was the 700 km drive between Vienna and Frankfurt. I’m going to go on record again and say that I would rather do 700 km in a van during the day than 700 km in a bus overnight unable to sleep and covered in filth. I’ll probably say this a lot in my yet-to-be-written account of our last tour, but touring on a bus for a band our size without a crew is the equivalent (in my opinion) of spending hundreds of more dollars per day to be less comfortable, less clean, and more cramped all the time. Of course, the ideal is that sleep comes easy and you wake up and enjoy the city. For me this was impossible. I’m sure some of the other guys loved it. Not only was it annoying to me, but all that money we could have saved by traveling the way we are this tour would have been nice to come home with. And it’s a lot of money. A lot. This may not be true in America. My friends Cryptacize are currently on a bus with Sufjan Stevens and the band – that makes sense. Why use three vans and a trailer when you can use one bus? But what we did was a waste. All that said, I was looking forward to the drive, however long. I don’t think Jan was, since he had to do the driving and because we had to leave at 8:00 a.m. after going to sleep around 1:00 a.m.

The Furstenhof breakfast was in full swing when I made it downstairs at 7:20. I put together two hard-boiled egg, butter, and cheese sandwiches, wrapped them tightly in napkins, shoved them in my coat, and proceeded to drink glass after glass of juice, glass after glass of water, and coffee. When one tours on a bus one does not get free hotel breakfast. One can clear the dressing room the night before of the meat, cheese, and food that has been sitting around for hours and touched by multiple, grimy hands, and then put it in the bus fridge and hope that at no point does the bus power turn off. And then, in the morning, when it’s all you’ve been eating, you want nothing to do with it. As many have said, this is very much a first-world problem. But the point, again, is that for far less money we could have been afforded these luxurious comforts that come along with touring in a van. One just has to put up with sitting/sleeping/hanging out in a van for a few hours a day. I think the trade-off is an obvious one.

We got in the van and started a little after 8:00 a.m. I rode shotgun. The van’s a big white Mercedes sprinter, a nine-seater with a full sized loft. It has a DVD player in it. It’s straightforward and just fine, more comfortable, for sure, than our (my) van in the States. Problems, though – it has a weird transmission noise; it ran out of oil when Jan drove it from the rental place; it looks like a band trashed it before. Luckily those Germans know how to deep clean, so it’s absolutely fine.

Jan said we would have to wait and only take, maybe, one half hour break down the road. An hour in I felt like I was in high school again; ie, my stomach began cramping terribly and I realized that maybe the pizza right before bed, all that juice, and all that coffee was the wrong cocktail to take before a van ride that was not supposed to stop. But when I explained the urgency of the situation, Jan reluctantly stopped. The prison toilet was welcoming – stainless steel, with paper towel like toilet paper. No toilet seat. It didn’t matter. And then I was a new man and we were back on the road.

Castles? Check. Medieval bridges? Well, I don’t know, but they looked like it. Nuclear power plants? I think. Also, wonderful Austrian radio. We listened to the station Jason was supposed to have been interviewed on the day before and it was awesome. So much for that. At least we got to listen to it on the way out of the country. The playlist went from Jay-Z to Nina to Flaming Lips to Austrian and German acts we’ll never hear of in the States.

I spent most of the day filling out postcards, playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, hearing weird Eddie Rabbitt songs on German radio, eating those sandwiches, eating peanut butter flavored puffy snacks, and chocolate. I drank water and sour cherry nectar. The drive took a long time and we started to feel the “winter blast” the Weather Channel had been telling me about in Prague. All of the magazines at our rest stop had naked people in them. All of the strudel looked good. I could not find pre-mixed Campari and soda. We drove and drove and then we arrived at Brotfabrik almost two hours late.

In 2007, at an undisclosed German club, the promoter thought that our request for black socks was actually a request for hashish, and so that’s what was waiting for us at the club. When we told him we actually wanted socks he went out and got those, too. The socks and the hashish were split amongst some of the band members. I forgot about mine and, on the trip from wherever we were to Frankfurt, I realized I still had it and should probably get rid of it. In Spain a few years earlier a friend of mine told me he ate it to help with his stomach problems. I know that marijuana is used for such medicinal purposes, and, having been experiencing similar problems on that particular tour, I decided to injest the tiny bit that I had, thinking the most that would happen would be a slight euphoria not unlike that experienced with far-worse-for-you pharmaceuticals. For a couple of hours everything was fine. I played cards, I read, I listened to music… and then, all at once, it happened. I felt like I had entered that ride at old fashioned amusement parks where you’re in a cylinder against the wall which turns into a gyroscope and the floor drops out and you’re pressed against the wall and, fuck, you wish you hadn’t ridden that ride (and, in my case, your parents laugh at you for screaming bloody murder – fun!). Mark noticed the change and may have even caught some pictures of it. I was so out of my mind that I thought it was over for me, I was going to die, and I was going to die in a van, in traffic, in Germany. Of course I didn’t, but I have a very hard time remembering anything about that particular show. I do know we got yelled at for not playing long enough, which was probably valid. As we approached Brotfabrik my missing memory was filled in a little.

Brotfabrik means “bread factory,” so I assume that’s what it used to be. It’s a complex in a Frankfurt suburb which is far nicer than the weird, steel dance clubs we have played in Frankfurt in the past. The pre-show was somewhat unremarkable. We were late so we had to rush through soundcheck. Chris Brokaw played. We played. We played an encore. We ate a delicious creamy pasta dish after dinner that, somehow, tasted like Thai food. It must have had a little bit of chili sauce in it and it was full of basil. Mikey and I worked on booking a hotel room for a day off in Italy. Unremarkable, really. The show was pretty good, though.

Because of the “world’s largest book fair” or some shit there were no affordable hotel rooms in Frankfurt, so, despite already having driven all day, we had another hour and a half to drive to Wurzburg to an Etap. Etap, an Accor hotel (the owners of Motel 6 up through Sofitel), is a fully-automated, very plastic, and cheap place. They’re usually clean and the parking’s easy because they exist, it seems, only in and around car dealerships, Burger Kings, industrial parks, or nothing at all. We arrived around 1:30 a.m., found our rooms, and were pleasantly surprised that the Etap chain now features free wifi. A bunch of German music videos tucked us in and we slept.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Which way is North?": Magnolia Electric Co. Fall Tour Diary Chapter 7: Vienna, Austria


I woke up later than I wanted to but still before breakfast had ended. The plan was as follows: Light breakfast, quick jog down to the historical/museum area of Vienna, back for a shower, two hours of work, and then meet with the band to head to WUK, the club we were playing in Vienna that night, for soundcheck/gear check/etc.

Breakfast consisted of a roll with butter, hard-boiled egg, and cheese – a breakfast sandwich! Also, glasses of juice, water, and coffee. I made another sandwich and saved it for later. I got up to the room, changed into my running clothes, strapped on my iPod touch, enabled my Nike+iPod thing, set my goal as the burning of 400 calories, stepped outside, and started to run.

And I ran. When I reached the halfway point I had not even seen any of the museums – bonus! I would burn more calories this way. Ah, there they were – beautiful old buildings lining the streets, full of art, and natural history, and books. I might as well follow this line and see it all, right? I reached 400 calories and knew that I would at least double my goal. Ooh, parliamentary gardens! Parliament! Beautiful gothic cathedral! I might as well, go back on the parallel street. 800 calories! But where am I? And why have I already run five miles? Does that mean I have five miles to run to get back? Better keep running. Oh shit, it’s already been an hour, and where am I? There’s an animal-rights protest. And there’s the Corso Palace. Maybe this biker can tell me where I am, but if I stop running I’ll never make it back, and, oh shit, I don’t have any money with me. "Excuse me, sir, do you speak English? Can you tell me where I am? And which way North is?" Better keep running. Ah! There’s the National Library… and there’s the street I need! And here I am at the hotel. And here’s the iPod Touch telling me that I just ran 9.16 miles and burned 1,700 calories. I really didn’t mean to do that.

I gave myself time to stop sweating, told Mikey about my running error, started to feel the ache, and took a long shower – a shower I could have only dreamt about on the bus tour. It involved shampoo, conditioner, soap. It involved a full-size towel. It wasn’t in a bar or a truck stop. It involved shaving, moisturizing, taking time. It was excellent. Now it was time to work.

I went downstairs and attempted to connect to the internet. Success! I employed Microsoft Excel to help sort out some 2010 OAH Annual Meeting scheduling issues. Yes! Oh, it’s time to gather my suit and pedals and guitar because it’s time to go to the club! Awesome. This is going well today, surprise after surprise. Who is this gorgeous woman asking me if I’m Jason? Oh, she’s looking for Molina, and she’s from Vienna’s coolest radio station, Radio 4. He has an interview and live performance at 3:30 p.m. Great! She and I converse, tell jokes, talk about the weather in detail, and Jan arrives. He starts working out the details. Wait a minute, there’s something wrong – he seems concerned that she’s going to just put Jason in a cab and send him to the club. She explains that Vienna is small and cab drivers know everywhere. His concern, however, is something beyond the cab driver knowing. She explains that she will, well, explain very clearly the situation to the cab driver. No, he says, it’s more complicated than that.

I’ve already mentioned that one terrible show in Vienna. Well, once you’ve had one terrible show in the town, you never forget, and, surprisingly, it repeats. Athens, GA. Berlin. Montreal. These places scare me. Oh, here’s Jason! Oh shit. Yes, I see why they’re concerned. Traveling has gotten the best of him. I know that he’s been sick but I also know that he (and I) have, more than once, drank ourselves silly on international flights because of nervousness. And this poor, beautiful woman has to shuttle him to the radio station where he will do a live performance on the coolest radio station in Vienna. Uh oh. After minutes of trying to explain what’s happening Jan finally gets us all to move out and we leave Jason in the hands of Nina. He mumbles “I’m sad” while we walk out. I say, “don’t be sad, we’ll see you soon!” and we’re out of there. Poor, poor Nina.

Jan explains that Jason was in that state when he got off the plane. Visions of a ruined show dancing in my head, all I could do was laugh. Then he gets a call that Jason has canceled the interview (it really would not have been much of one, or, perhaps, it would have been the funniest YouTube moment ever for Magnolia). Poor, poor Nina. She wasn’t even supposed to do the interview, but her colleague got sick. Poor, poor Nina. But what about us? What were we going to do? An incapacitated singer was just left at the hotel. We hoped that he would sleep it off and that, in four hours, we could put on a good show. The odds, and the history of shows in Vienna, were against us.

We got to the club; we unloaded; we unpacked; we found out that multiple things were fucked up. The keyboard amp was without castors; my power transformer was outfitted with a tile case around the plugs, disallowing my pedals to be plugged into it, completely eradicating it’s necessity or usefulness; and, the worst, Sal’s bass cab, an Ampeg, which has fuses built into it, had burned out fuses. No problem. Wait, the fuses are siliconed in there. Oh shit. All this on top of the fact that, if we had to play right now, it would have to be all instrumental and would feature our singer laying on stage, asleep. Ok, time for some catering.

The catering was nice, and fairly standard, but definitely fresh and delicious. The water was there. Everything we needed except for equipment that works and a full band. Things started to work out; I discovered a duct tape solution; Sal would go direct and monitor through the sidefill; Mikey’s amp wasn’t a big deal, really, but it was still fucked up.

We went through merchandise, of which we have a ton… except for Josephine LPs, which keep getting lost by UPS and redirected improperly. No biggie. Now Jan leaves to pick up Jason. All of us are worried, I think, although none says anything. He shows up. He’s coherent, albeit still a little ... incapacitated. I don’t see him for twenty minutes and then, when I do again, he’s even more coherent and says his “medicine is wearing off.” He explains what he’s on and it sounds like nothing you should be taking along with alcohol, which he also smells like. Either way, the show is in a state of save.

Chris Brokaw, on tour with us, plays, and he’s great. We play and it’s clear that we haven’t practiced, but we cover it up by jamming wildly and taking chances. The show turns out well. People like it. And then we sell a lot of shit.

We pack up, clear the catering, clear the stage, load, meet people, drink an open bottle of wine in the van. Then, on the way to the hotel, we get stopped by police as a drunk driving checkpoint. Luckily, Jan has not been drinking. I still freak out about the open bottle of wine but he assures me that they only care about him. He passes and we get home. We take the guitars. I get some train station pizza and slather it with garlic oil and hot pepper flakes that are actually hot and it’s delicious. I call Nicole and she’s busy administering an exam so it’s off to bed… but not before I meet Dominic from Kilians, a band from near Cologne in Germany. We trade names and promise to check out each other’s bands on YouTube.

In the hotel room Mikey and I debrief and then I beat Bald Bull 2 in Mike Tyson’s punch out, then being leveled by Don Flamenco 2. Fuck Don Flamenco. The bed feels strangely like that horrible bus bed and I have trouble falling asleep. But, as always, it happens eventually.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Come on along with the Black Rider": Magnolia Electric Co Fall Tour Diary Chapter 6: Prague Departure = Vienna Arrival


Jim and Vivian were out of bread, so Jim and I ran to the non-stop to buy some. I decided to stock up on food for my train trip to Vienna. Cheese, bread, some sort of salami, garlic chips. Candy bars to send home. Big bottle of water. See ya later, Non-Stop. It was a pleasure to meet you.

We had eggs and toast. Jim took me to the Old Town Square to exchange my remaining crowns for Euros so I could get from the train station in Vienna to the hotel in Vienna. I saw the Franz Kafka hostel again. We went to a vintage store called Laly that was full of good stuff, including a graphic sweater of a golfer and his female admirers. They didn’t take credit cards so I couldn’t complete the transaction. We then met Vivian under the Astronomical Clock. We watched it do its thing. As a final reminder of what the Czechs hold dear, a skeleton rings the bell of the clock while the apostles and various other things do their weird dance at the top of the hour. I was told by an American that the builder of the clock had his eyes gouged out so that he couldn’t create such a magical instrument of time-keeping for any other city. It has multiple dials – some that show star signs, others that resemble what, I imagine, the guy who wrote the Golden Compass used as inspiration for his magical instruments. And for good reason; that thing is awesome.

Back on a tram, but not before a big, huge, snappy street sausage. Then on to Ufleka, a tourist trap beer hall that had delicious beer and a ton of German, Japanese, French, and Italian tourists in it. Two four-times-more-expensive-than-anywhere-else-but-still-cheap beers and it was back to the apartment to grab my stuff. I “black armed” it on the tram to their apartment – ie, I did not renew my tram pass, I just went for it and hoped no one checked. I got away with it. Thanks, Prague!

Par for the course, I started to panic that I had forgotten something on my way out of the apartment. I spent a ridiculous amount of time taking stuff out of my bag, losing my train ticket, and, ultimately, forgetting my phone, before we got it all together and headed to the station again. I wanted to take the 4:30 train to Vienna, partially because I was worried something like my panic attack would make me late and, if it did, I could still get the 5:30 train to Vienna. We made it to the platform to see the 4:30 leave. It was almost a relief, as I had a full suitcase, a computer bag, a canvas bag full of my guitar effects and cords, and a guitar; I probably needed to be one of the first ones on to accommodate all of my crap. Plus, it gave me one more hour with my friends. We talked, we reminisced, and then the Johannes Brahms arrived and they helped me on. Vivian, with her tenacious take-no-shit attitude found a cabin for me and I got all of my stuff in before anyone realized all of that stuff belonged to me. We all hugged, twice, and I waved to them from the train window. It was a good trip and I will miss my friends.

My cabin was a six-seater and, at the beginning of the trip, four of us were in it. I, with my iPod and excitement about inter-country travel by train, the Czech woman across from me, with her laptop and iPod and Tupperware full of yogurts and sweets, the German woman to my left who was really short and quiet, and the German man to the front and left of me with his red socks, his Fortune magazine, and his way-too-short long pants. It was a smooth ride until we got to somewhere two or three stops down the line and the place filled up with a ton of college kids with obnoxious backpacks. Two filled up the rest of the cabin and they were boyfriend/girlfriend. She read her Cosmo-style magazine while he, seated next to me, watched some action film that featured a lot of nudity and a guy that looked like Vin Diesel but wasn’t. She touched his leg a lot; he touched her leg back. After an hour and, finally, arrival in Brno, they and the rest of the obnoxious backpack carriers, left the train. It resumed its quiet.

Two hours later and we arrived in Vienna, the end of the line. It was 10:00 p.m. and, despite my panicked information gathering about how to get to the hotel where the band was, I still didn’t understand, and confusedly walked around the train station not asking questions. As soon as I did, it was made clear, and I worriedly stood by the tram outside, hoping there would be room for me and my entourage of shit. There was, but the damn tram ticket dispenser refused, over and over, my one-Euro piece. It liked my two Euro piece and my 50 Euro Cent piece, so finally I got a ticket, and sat, and waited. Then I arrived at Westbanhof, directly across from Hotel Furstenhof, the place I have stayed every time I’ve stayed in Vienna.

Jan, our tour manager and driver, and Sal were seated in the lobby, enjoying mini-bar beers and talking. They gave me a warm welcome and directed me to my room which I was to share with Mikey. Mikey opened the door, and I felt such tremendous relief that this tour will feature hotels, showers, and free breakfasts. I dropped my stuff and went back downstairs, armed with the internet password. Pete showed up in the lobby while I was gone, and Pete, Sal, Jan, and I nerded out with our iPhones and iPod touches, talking apps, talking convenience. I regaled them with stories of the Bone Church, of cheap food, and of the wonders of a four-day weekend in Prague. They had just gotten off of a plane from the States earlier, so all they told me about was, well, how tired they were.

After two hours of phone calls and light internetting I retired to my (thank Jesus!) hotel room with a sleeping Mikey. I, after days of drinking and talking, fell asleep immediately.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Roll the Bones is Not a Very Good Album" Magnolia Electric Co Tour Diary, Chapter 5: Prague, Day Four


Oh fuck. This hurts. A lot. And that fucking Black Eyed Peas song is in my head again. What time is it? 7:30? 8:00? Yeah, it’s 8:00. Now it’s 8:30. I gotta take a shower. First I’ll knock on Jim and Vivian’s door because, based on recent history, we’ll definitely stick to this 9:55 plan. No problem. Ok, they’re not answering, so I’ll just get in there and shower.

So I did; I took a shower. Europe is smart. Europe is efficient. Europe had front-loading washers years before the U.S. did. In fact, they’ve always had them. Europeans don’t have dryers because why do they need them? Let the clothes dry on their own. And Europe uses on-demand water heaters. Jim and Vivian referred to theirs as the Eye of Sauron or whatever bullshit Lord of the Rings shit that shit is. And it did look like it. Every time you opened the hot water you watched, through a tiny hole, all of the blue flame heat up that water, and rapidly. The Eye of Sauron, however, must have known that I sometimes call Tolkien shit “shit,” and, right as I was rinsing everything on my pained, poisoned body, it stopped working, and that was how I sobered up. At the very least, it drove the nausea out of me. I got out, dressed, and Jim was in a robe, smelling like liquor, reading the back of my Southgate House t-shirt and singing “Tommy Gun, Birthplace of the Tommy Gun” to the tune of my favorite Clash song. He informed me that we would take another train later and that we should go back to sleep. Black Eyed Peas in my head, I laid down and, a minute later, it was two hours later.

Vivian, despite having been ditched by us the night before, however “unintentionally,” made us fried eggs and biscuits and gravy and that soaked up the rest of the alcohol in my system. I watched Jim, though, struggle through the morning. Despite biscuits, gravy, eggs, more biscuits, and even some beet apple juice I bought, he looked gray. He found the train info, and we somehow procrastinated enough that we almost missed it. But we didn’t. In fact, we didn’t almost miss it, but the fear was there. We were on our way to Kutna Hora, where I was soon to discover the best tourist destination in the world; or, rather, the most creepy; or, perhaps, the most bizarre. Jim put it this way: “It borders on inappropriate.”

Jim bought some water at the station, as his gray had turned into a slight green. We found the train, got on and sat across from a pretty girl who looked a little disappointed that we had taken her space; doubly disappointed when Jim mentioned that he might throw up; then, flat out disgusted when he announced that “belching made him feel better.” But belch he did, and feel better he must have, because he never threw up on the girl, or me, or Vivian. And, on the train, I described the horrors of touring on a tour bus (as Magnolia had just done a month earlier). And then we got off of the train, headed to a destination about which I had only heard from a coworker, and I was excited.

On the way Vivian pointed out a meat-purveyor’s logo that is all over the Czech Republic that features a made-up man either inserting or withdrawing a foot-long sausage from his mouth. We saw some really dusty displays in the windows of electronics stores; lots of lavender and orange haired old women; a wedding happening in a beautiful old church; and, finally the graveyard surrounding the Kostnice Ossuary, also called the Bone Church. You can read a more "official" version here, but this is what I remember from the trip: This graveyard was sprinkled with some dirt from Golgotha back in the 13th Century, starting the rumor that, if buried there, your body would decompose in three days and all that would be left behind would be sanitary bones. Then, after the Black Plague, the graveyard became overcrowded, and the piled bodies decomposed to bones, and the bones were stacked outside of the church on the lip of the graveyard. Then some half-blind monk moved the bones to the basement of the church and began to pile them – 30,000 bodies worth of them. Then, in the 19th Century a crazy man took it one step further and made art, including chandeliers, garlands, and a coat-of-arms out of the bones. I didn’t know any of this going in, and had I known it I still would not have been able to believe what I was seeing.

There had been moments in Prague where it was hard for me to appreciate the beauty and gravity of what was around me – the Charles Bridge, the Prague skyline from the castle, the cathedral in the castle, the Old Town Square, and on and on – but this trumped them all. There was no reason to say anything else besides “unbelievable,” because, first of all, when else in history would such a collection of bones have been available? Wars spread them out over miles and miles. It would be grave robbery to just pull them out of caskets. But when there’s no place to put the thousands of bodies ravaged by the Black Plague, and you have a pile of bones, why not commemorate that terrible event in this unbelievable way?

The place has four corners, and in each corner there are huge, tightly arranged, pyramids of every kind of bone, skulls being featured around the edge and in the middle. The centerpiece, literally and figuratively, is a chandelier made of bones, vertebrae making the arms, skulls with candles, femurs, finger bones, toe bones, jawbones, all of the bones – and the garland of skulls that criss-crosses the ceiling is beautifully arranged, chilling and amazing at the same time. Two of the four pillars below the chandelier, candle-stick like with ascending skulls, are topped with those evil cherubs, one with a skull on his knee and blowing a trumpet. A coat of arms, meticulously made, featuring an Ottoman Turk getting his eye eaten out by a raven, all made out of real, human bones. The obligatory crucifixion scene with a plaster Christ, surrounded by what look like guards made of bones, is flanked on both sides by the giant pyramids, and, if you look closely, you can see stores of more bones that, apparently, insane guy had no use for. Or maybe he died. Unbelievable. The most fantastic tourist spot I have ever seen. Maybe not the oldest, the most important, the most inspiring, or anything like that, but I would go out of the way to look at it again.

Some American woman who was clearly an academic and, probably, from the Midwest as her entire outfit of sort of dressy sports clothes matched, said, out loud: “I find it disturbing that someone would do this with human bones.” I say “fuck you” to this woman silently. Jim says “There’s really no reason to say that out loud.” But, come on folks – when our mind is gone there is no reason to hold on to the rest. If I were one of the thousands of victims of the Plague, and my family survived, I would hope that they would be happy that I had turned into eternal art and that my remains weren’t taking up precious space for the rest of the living. So, fuck you lady; I hope your grave is comfortable and lavish and that all of your relatives are dead when they make the rule that all graveyards need to be destroyed to make room for more housing because everybody is still having babies. I bet the Bone Church will still be around. But, then again, who knows. I could be wrong. Either way, she was obnoxious.

As I was buying postcards a man showed up wearing a shirt that said “Bone.”

We visited the upstairs of the church and found more hilariously utilitarian translations.

Then we got in the “tourist bus” and rode over to another huge, beautiful church that featured the most ornate organ I’ve ever seen.

St. Barbara's has been around since the 14th Century, yet it doesn't have that typical "1700 years of mold" smell.

It was generally relaxing and overwhelming, and behind the church Autumn had begun. We took some pictures of the beauty, a lot of them.

We then avoided droves of tourists and headed toward downtown Kutna Hora. It was completely dead. We saw nine people, maybe, and two dogs. Our destination was Dačický, a famous pub that would win a place in my heart shortly.

Having been around since the 16th Century, the staff of Dačický have a lot to live up to, and they do. Fried cheese started our dinner, as well as the Dačický beer.

I had the roasted root vegetable and garlic soup. I also had a weird pretzel thing that hangs in front of you, tempting you to eat it even though it’ll cost you the equivalent of $.50. I dipped it in the soup. It was worth it.

For dinner? Wild game meatloaf with gingerbread dumplings and a side of sautéed cabbage. All (except the cabbage) covered in the thickest, most delicious brown gravy I had had on the trip thus far. Dessert was a five-year-old slivovitza. Jim got a roast duck with cabbage and lard dumplings. Vivian got the wild boar goulash with gingerbread dumplings. All of this plus eight beers cost us $60.00. Unbelievable. It had been a day full of that world.

We took a really fast taxi to the train station, got back to Prague, and spent the rest of the night in the apartment drinking, talking, and lamenting that it was my last evening of the trip. I had not seen these people since 2006. Jim and I have been friends since high school. He turned me on to music that became some of the most inspiring in my life (Wire, Gang of Four, Replacements, Buzzcocks). And, despite all the time I’ve spent in Europe, I’ve never spent it simply as a tourist. Unbelievable.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Glory Days: Magnolia Electric Co Tour Diary, Chapter 4: Prague, Day 3


I felt obligated to wake up early so I could finally have a run around the neighborhood and still get some work done before Jim and I headed to the Prague Castle (the number one tourist attraction in the Czech Republic – not just Prague!). So, four hours after laying down, I was woken up. And that fucking Black Eyed Peas song was in my head. I bought a Nike + iPod sensor to work with my iPod Touch, knowing that a new toy might motivate me to get running in Europe. I spent a long time figuring it out, figured it out, and started my run. Jim and Vivian live across the street from two high schools, and the students were just getting in when I got out to run. They, no doubt, made fun of me. I mean,
I was wearing white socks and all. They’re neighborhood is cobblestone and four star hotels and beautiful, unexpected views. At one point I came across a roundabout and then, like a vision, it appeared – The Pink Floyd café. This, I thought, must be what Jim had let on to the previous day. This, I thought, is what I had dreamed about as an eighth grader – a place devoted to my then-favorite band, a band which I still know too much about, and a band which I, much to the chagrin of my wife, will talk about endlessly with anyone willing to talk about them with me – and now I can drink beer and think about all these things with my friends, especially Jim, who, as part of Cadmium Orange, was involved with covers of “The Nile Song,” “Apples and Oranges,” and “Fearless,” and maybe even “Echoes,” although I can’t remember. But, of course, it was 8:00 a.m. and it wasn’t open. I continued on.

“Plush” by Stone Temple Pilots, on my iPod primarily because it’s part of the Deep Tan and the Frosted Tips setlist, but also because I like the song, finally erased the fucking Black Eyed Peas from my mind. I got home, showered, headed to the organic coffee shop, and had dawdled enough that I had only been there a few minutes when Jim showed up to take me to the castle. I told him I needed some work time, ate some of my croissant, and then went home to wait for me to finish. Work “done” an hour later, Jim and I headed to the castle.

I had never been to a castle, and this one did not disappoint. Lots of statues of people beating other people up, spectacular views of the city, motes (dried up now, but still, motes) and a very expensive audio guide. WARNING: If you go to Prague Castle do NOT let them talk you into the audio guide if you don’t want it. They lied to us – they told us we would wait for two hours to get into the cathedral in the middle of the castle without it. It did not. In fact, there was no line. There probably are lines, but unless you want the (admittedly helpful) audio guide weighing you down, you DON’T NEED IT TO SKIP THE LINE.

We saw the picture gallery, which featured a beautiful Rubens and work by the guy named Flamenngo(Can someone help me here? I can't remember, and the Frog People painting was amazing) that sort of blew my mind. We listened to the audio guide tell us that the Queen of Sweden really wanted the art that was in the castle but, when they sacked the castle, weren’t interested in any of it. She was right about some of it but terribly, terribly wrong about the rest of it.

We headed towards the Cathedral, found out there was no line, got angry, and then enjoyed the cathedral. It’s overwhelming. It’s really big. It has the remains of Good King Wenceslaus in it. It has a huge statue of St. John of Nepamook. It also has painting that must depict St. John of Nepamuk time traveling. If he knew his fate you’d think he would have avoided it. Oh well. It seems like the Czechs in the past did terrible things in order to sanctify people. John of Nepamuk, for example, and Good King Wenceslaus were both victims – or were they the perpetrators? – of this.

We were both starving, and it was stupid, because we’re adults and we can eat whenever we want. Also, we’re smarter than to get caught in a castle in a country that’s famous for cheap food and have to buy the castle priced food. We beat the system by buying one ciabatta sandwich and two desserts and no beer. The sandwich was chicken and blue cheese. It was delicious, except for the chicken part. And that part was covered in cheese, so I put it out of my mind. I could go the rest of my life never eating chicken again. Chicken is disgusting. I will even forego Gus’s Fried Chicken in Memphis, despite it being the only chicken anyone should eat. Gross. This, of course, on the heels of wild boar and cow and pig entering my body in rotted, then cooked, states. Life is confusing sometimes, people. Like right now. But, anyway…

We saw the Window of Defenestration.
Defenestration is the act of throwing someone out of a window. That particular window saw two Germans thrown from it. That action started the Thirty Years' War. That’s an important window, responsible for the deaths of 7,500,000 people in the 17th Century. That must be one of the top five most famous windows in the world. Good for you, Window of Defenestration! We saw the great hall and images of Grendel destroying Beowulf’s men filled my mind (I being a fan of the monster more than the men). We ascended spiral staircases and looked at things we didn’t necessarily care about, but which made us go “oooh, that’s cool.”

We saw the basilica, which may be the oldest built thing I’ve ever been in. This is when I noticed that there are statues and images of cherubs all over Prague, and all of them are terrifying. Particularly in the 10th century basilica, where they hover above nicely arranged bones in a box in a shrine and prove, once again, children, even angelic ones, are actually quite evil. They are, perhaps the most pure form of evil, aside from certain Republicans. Good for them.

We traveled down the Golden Lane, a former real lane that features no gold. It was full of tourist shops and had a sign that showed where Franz Kafka’s sister was born. In that house, Kafka wrote A Country Doctor. I took a pictures of all the signs I could that illustrated these facts. There were two of them. I bought a bunch of old sheet music and avoided buying Kafka books that I could get, easily, from anywhere else, and cheaper. You see, food and drink and other staples of life are really, really cheap in the Czech Republic. Souvenirs, however, are not. Nor are electronics or other consumer goodies like that. Jim thinks it’s tradition, a holdover, maybe, from Communism. Or maybe these people just know what’s really important in life – those things being food and drink. Have I mentioned Becherovka yet? I think I have, but I couldn’t remember what that Czech herbal drink was called. That’s important, that stuff.

Out of the Golden Lane, into the dungeon; various torture devices delighted us and we, probably as a subconscious “fuck you” to our ultimate fate, and as a subliminal resistance to the idea that humans could treat other humans so badly, took pictures next to and in front of and around terrifying and inhumane torture devices. We laughed, even, said things like “I could live inside this body cage,” or “this cell of solitude looks pretty cozy!” I think the most apt comment, though, was from Jim, who said something like, “I love how this dungeon and these torture devices are the last thing you see after five hours of touring this beautiful castle.” It certainly left a good taste in my mouth.

We traversed the gardens, saw the Window of Defenestration from below, and stood next to a bunch of Americans while a British guy gave a nice, concise history of the window, the castle, and sarcasm (sort of). He, at least, was sarcastic. He invited us all to a pub crawl later, which would start underneath the Astronomical Clock at 9:15 p.m. We weren’t invited, though, because we didn’t pay for the tour. Sorry, Nick.

After six hours of castle-looking, we headed home where Vivian was making stuffed pork tenderloin. And, damn, that rotted and then cured pig was tender. Jim and I stopped at their Non-Stop to pick up wine for the evening. We picked up two tall boys of Czech something or other beer and chugged most of it before we got to the apartment. Vivian had bought two bottles of dark beer, which she poured. I opened the wine. We finished our other beers. It would be one of those nights.

Because there’s no Halloween to get in the way of it, Christmas is being sold right now in Prague. The real Christmas tradition can be read here: . However, here’s what I was told. St. Nicholas travels with an angel and the devil on December 5th to every house in the Czech Republic. There, he judges the children – have they been good or bad this year? If it’s up in the air, the children have a chance to prove themselves. In the modern world they need to learn a little song or dance routine. The angel is there to encourage the children to do well, and also as the angel on the left shoulder, devil on the right thing for Nicholas. If the children are deemed to have been bad or don’t do their little performance, they are stuffed in the devil’s bag and taken to hell. Yet, if they’re good, all they get is a little piece of candy. Seems somewhat unbalanced to me, but who am I to judge?

Jim and Vivian told me that their students have stories of being told “Just wait until December when the devil TAKES YOU TO HELL,” while they were growing up. Apparently, just like we have multiple Santa Clauses roaming around near Christmas time, Nicholas, the devil, and the angel all appear as real-live beings (ie, adults who like to scare children dressing up as these characters), and they can be hired to come to your house and SCARE THE SHIT OUT OF YOUR KIDS. Apparently, one of Vivian’s students was actually stuffed in the devil’s bag and, on the way to hell, was rescued by his father. But it didn’t happen right away. Take that, children. We should have more shit like that in the United States.

Anyway, Vivian bought me the chocolate versions of these characters. We ate the angel. She tasted salty and milky, but it definitely wasn’t chocolate worthy of an angel. Good, though… damn good. We finished our three-drinks-apiece and suited up to go to… the Pink Floyd Café.

What can I say about the Pink Floyd Café other than, well, if I had owned a café when I was fourteen, I would have decorated it the exact same way. My adult dream of a black-lit, Quadrophonic-version-of-Dark-Side-of-the-Moon blasting, menu-featuring-an-array-of-Pink-Floyd-inspired-drinks having café did not come true. It was brightly lit, full of good and rare pictures of the Floyd at various stages, but all hung on the wall somewhat randomly. It featured a banner that informed me that the Czech Republic’s Pink Floyd fan club was headquartered there. And it had a color painting of the famous, 1968 four-piece-picture (or maybe 1969) of which I neglected to take a picture. And, to complete the disappointment, they were blasting Steve Miller. Perhaps “Classic Rock Place That Features Pink Floyd Pictures Café” would have been a more appropriate title, but, nevertheless, I was overwhelmed by the mere idea of the place, and I had a great (too great?) of a time drinking beer after beer with Jim and Vivian. And cheaply!

The smoke in the place began to bother Vivian, as she is allergic. Oh, and everyone smokes everywhere in the Czech Republic. I felt like I was five years old again. Anyway, the plan was to walk towards home and Jim and I would stop at Meduza, a bar on the way. We would have one drink and then meet Vivian at home to drink more with her. It was a solid plan that could only fail if more alcohol was involved. And it was. Jim and I got two big beers and two slivovitzas. The particular slivovitsa we chose was, apparently, homemade Moravian. Moonshine. We sat and, much like the characters in the second verse of “Glory Days,” “we just [sat] around talkin’ about the old times.” How we admired one another’s musical ability; how the rhythm section of our band was the best part and really differentiated us from other bands; how, if we had had our shit together, we could have been part of the first wave of popular garage rock bands. I’m not sure about the validity of the third point, but that came about after we had finished our beers and slivovitsa.

At this point, I was unclear about the plan – even before we got as drunk as we got after round one at Meduza I just assumed Vivian was going to bed, I guess… or did I? Did I forget? Was I caught in the moment? Yes… and no. I was drunk. Either way, at this point I had forgotten and I ordered another round of both of the poisons that got us into this situation. To my credit, Jim didn’t try to stop me. He had, evidently, forgotten as well. Sorry, Vivian! After round two we were quickly becoming blind, and luckily not because of the moonshine, which the Czechs warn will make you blind if you drink the wrong stuff (I suppose it’s true). At one point I was in the bathroom which had tall walls but was open on the top so you could hear, clearly, what was happening in the women’s room. And what was happening sounded like a big, drunk man, taking a very, very loud piss. I returned to the table and said, loudly, “There must have been a man in the women’s room, because if it was a woman, she either had a penis or one huge urethra.” I then noticed that a table to our right which featured two German women was missing one of them. Making such claims about urethras and such stereotypes about the sexes proved one thing – time to go!

We made it back to the apartment. Jim, who needed to make nice with Vivian, did. I wolfed down the end of the angel chocolate, I think. I opened the “trail mix” I bought at Target before the trip (peanuts, raisins, M&Ms, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips – healthy!), had some water, an Emergen-C, etc. We wound up running up and down the stairs, pressing all of the buttons on the lift, jumping flights of stairs, laughing for no reason, etc. We were, once again, 21 and 22, respectively, and living in a big, shitty college house in Bloomington, IN. The only thing missing was the filth. We ended the night by watching a live performance of “I Really Want to See You Tonight” by England Dan and John Ford Coley, and then a weird, karaoke version of “Whenever I Call You Friend” by Kenny Loggins (featuring Stevie Nicks). But there was one thing we had forgotten, on top of the rest – we were to get on a train at 9:55 a.m. in order to make it to the thing that I only knew of as the “Bone Church” tomorrow – and I really didn’t want to miss that. Jim and I agreed to see one another in three, four, or five hours… I can’t remember.