Ostrava to Prague, Valentines Day, 2006

I am on the train from Ostrava to Prague. It is 6:30 at night, damp and rainy. The project in Ostrava did not go as well as usual. It was frankly disappointing. The client had to keep running the equipment that we needed to test. It reminded me of the Canadian woodcutter who wanted to sharpen his ax. His boss wouldn’t let him. He had 200 more trees to cut. I know I need to relax to sharpen my own ax, more often than I do. I keep working instead. I find myself on this train in a hurry to get nowhere. The house will be empty. When I get “home,” it won’t be. I am not sure when my next day of work will be. I went to the restaurant in the hotel last night. There were no tables; all booked. And there were no parties of one, no pairs of businessmen. All lovers. The piano player and the woman singing caught my eye, and my ear. She was a beautiful tall Czech, with auburn hair draped over one shoulder, singing old love songs in English, but sounded like Marlene Dietrich. For once, the cigarette smoke looked just right. An old man stood, walked around the table, handed his wife, his lover, a single tulip, put his hand on the back of her chair and bent to kiss her. She looked up, her eyes met his, and I knew she loved him. Even the singer, with her black low cut dress and bright red belt watched. It was Valentines day. And I’m not in love. I went outside, turned up my collar and pulled down my hat. It was my old Boston red sox hat sweat stained with salt. A woman in Thailand told me the hat made me look like an old man trying to look like a boy I stopped wearing it for a day or so. It’s my favorite hat. Sam gave it to me. As usual walked until I found a place to eat. It looked like a nice old place, with lots of wood. It was late. I had to beg with the receptionist to seat me. She wanted to close in 45 minutes. “Impossible!” She cried. They all say that. Everything is “impossible!” Those who have been out of here blame it on the Russians. “I hate the Russians,” they say. It seems as if everyone hates somebody. The ones that remember the invasion of 1968 are easy to get excited. (It’s hard for me to accept that they all can’t remember). I sat down and ordered salmon, no appetizer. Impossible! Gimme the salmon, I wanted to say. I eat alone almost all the time. I read the paper. Look out the window. Read a little blue book I carry in my pocket. Last night, alone was no fun. Tonite, I will arrive at a hotel at around midnight, hungry. I will get up at 5 am then go to the airport, grab a flight to Amsterdam, then wait there for 6 hours, enough time take the train to town to smoke some dope in one of those legal Ganja bars. But I won’t. I was in Amsterdam years ago. You don’t find those places; they attack you. Just like a foundry in an old Midwestern town, you can’t miss them, smoky and noisy. There were so many of these joints it looked like Indian smoke signals, smoke billowing out every time a door opened. The plane leaves Amsterdam, then to Boston at 5 PM. I will get the 6 Pm bus to Portsmouth if I don’t get pulled by the Homeland security for being undesirable. I know them by name in Boston and they still pick me.

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