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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Saturday Night Party

I was invited to a birthday party by this poet & singer, Lucien Zell. His friends hosted the party at their apartment near Namesti Miru. I didn’t know anyone, but lately in years that hasn’t held me back from getting into the middle of conversations and testing the waters of reasoned viewpoints. Kristin and Joseph’s apartment reminded me of NYC apartments with their high ceilings, hardwood flooring, spacious rooms and liveable layout.

Suddenly a truckload of people showed up, and we stood cocktail-party style (because this after all was a cocktail party of sorts) in two rooms and the foyer. Many bottles of red had been opened; a vegetarian spread sat colorful and welcoming on the kitchen table; and Czech music played through iTunes. The rooms were lit with red-tinted votive candles. Most people seemed not to know each other, and we introduced ourselves in the International City tradition: “Hi, what brings you to Prague?”

The answers to these questions floating around were varied, but mostly I stood among writers, journalists, poets, photographers, and one computer programer from Denver. The conversation revolved around no one topic, but flowed like water down a river. There were dips and rocks and whitewater and eddies that mirrored the sun — all metaphors to the level and speed and clashofideas that took place. I had not felt in such kindship company since my grad-school days at Columbia College.

Kristin & Joe are photographers and writers. They’ve just published a New Mexico photography book, a retrospective on the rich photographic history the state owns. I thumbed through the book and saw diorama photographs by Patrick Nagatani, who used cadavers to stage enticingly eerie and macabre scenes, photographed in deguerro print style. The photos gave me more to think about for my developing essay on The Beauty of the Grotesque.

The party displayed dramatics, when an old geezer poet named John or Peter read poems off his MAC computer screen to the accompaniment of ambient music. Good stuff. We had all donned white masks for this. Someone pointed out that we startlingly resembled people in the mansion-sexhouse scene from Eyes Wide Shut. These were veils; not to hide ourselves, as Kristin explained, but to show the movement from one threshold to the next. This was Nov 1st, after all, All Souls Day, the day after Halloween, THE one night in each year when the veil between the spirit world and the living is at its most thin. We are all on thresholds of movement, from one project to another, one level of love to another, from the living to the dead, from one city to the next. This was how Kristin characterized her purpose. “Prague means threshold,” she pointed out. So true.

After the poetry reading, we all went through another threshold — the curtained doorway between the living room and the bedroom – to where we heard Lucien sing a strange melodic song centuries old, using a sort of box-version-accordian. A very moving moment, especially looking for the reactions of all the others from behind my white mask (identical to those worn by everyone).

Back to the living room, where in the center of the room were laid out many unlit candles around a heart-shaped box. Lucien suggested that we all light a candle, as this was All Souls Day, and say a word to why we choose to light up: for a person, a new something, an old idea. I lit a candle to CHANGE, that most constant of all things in life. Many people did not light candles. One person lit a candle for “America’s chance to do something right for a change.” I took that as referring to tomorrow’s PresElection.

This party and its spirit games was a bit odd, and I noticed that some people went along just to go along. If you’re not used to all these spiritual ideas, you’ll be put off, or find it weird and very hippy-60s, Peace Mannnn kind of stuff. Maybe it is. But it’s also a subculture that works, and is inviting, and is accepting (I was only partially reprimanded for saying I loved a juicy steakburger amongst a group of vegetarians; “Sorry people, I’m a carnivore.”


  mlbeyer wrote @ November 4th, 2008 at 12:32 am

Uncle Mark, I confess that I am afraid anything I try to write as a comment upon this-and I am sitting here comparing what my friends and I did on Halloween weekend with what you experienced-will sound either self-pitying or just lacking in enough detail to adequately describe how I felt when I read this blog entry.

  mlbeyer wrote @ November 4th, 2008 at 11:25 pm

Man, I didn’t realize how depressing my first comment on this page sounded! I was just having a bad night.

  Mark wrote @ November 5th, 2008 at 11:09 am

We all have good and bad days, Mikee.

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