I don’t remember the street: not exactly. It might have been Opatovická. It might have been Kremenckova. It wasn’t far from Lazarska; I know that much, and I remember that I could still hear the trams. I remember thinking that if I breathed deeply enough, I might smell the river.
As was my habit, I wandered through the labyrinths of Prague, thrilled by the prospect of finding new things, or discovering random accordion players in shadowy door stoops. I wandered, looking for things to photograph, moods to enhance stories I had yet to write.
As I looked through photographs I’d emailed to friends, I discovered this picture: a dark and murky thing that perfectly captured night in Prague. It was on this street—Opatovická? Kremenckova?—not far from Lazarska (and I could still hear the trams) that I first thought of Agara. I didn’t know the name of that phantasm of a country yet. I didn’t know that Pekkur was its capital city. But I felt it expanding in my mind like some strange balloon. I meandered along cobblestone streets, hearing tram-noise and music in strange distances, and I wondered what stories the night might tell me. I’d been in the mood to create something: a story, a feeling described in the manner of a lucid dream. I’d just read novels by Ladislav Klima, Pavel Brycz, and by Lukas Tomin—tales of madmen and chatty, self-aware cities, and I wanted to write something unlike anything I’d written before.
I didn’t know of Agara yet, not by name. I didn’t know that Pekkur is its capital city. I was far from discovering Atalik and Éoslav, but I knew that they (or someone like them) would emerge from the convolutions of my mind. I knew—and hoped—that other characters would spring into the unnamed literary world slowly percolating through my brain. I suspected that Victor would have something to do with that place and those people. I suspected that Pavl and Štepán, Kača and Tomás would make their rakish cameo appearances. And now, as I look at this picture, I think that I can email it to Pavl or Štepán, Kača or Tomás, and learn the name of this street. Ah, I actually know the name. I know two names and I don’t know which to apply. Štepán would know. He led me through its cobbled convolutions one day, in search of a Communist-throwback cafeteria one intersection away: on Myslikova. I remember the place; the boring fish, the tepid potatoes, and cola flavored with citrus: Koffola…Communist Cola…the Czechoslovakian answer to Coke. Czechoslovakia is gone now, was gone when I arrived in Prague, but its carbonated anti-Capitalist beverage remained, and contemporary Czechs (and their English-speaking expatriate friends) harbor a particular fondness for Koffola. When I look at this image, and recall the street (but not its name) I know that Koffola and room-temperature potatoes aren’t far away, I know that Pavl is in Brno (drinking Koffola) and that Tomás finds it impossible to walk quietly in those garish, yellow flip-flops he loves so much. I know that Victor is in Moscow, waiting with the patience of a Church-Slavonic saint…and that I am in Chicago, far from a street I cannot name (though two names spark through my mind) but close to people a world away. Friends. My beloved. And so the forgotten name of a street does not matter.
Perhaps I should just call this Agaraskova Street, as Agara was conceived there; and perhaps in later tales of Agara, Éoslav might wear garish yellow sandals, while a friend—or a neighbor—waits with Church-Slavonic patience, for the arrival of his beloved.
**Note: Opatovická is pronounced O-pat-o-veet-skaaa and Kremenckova is pronounced Krem-en-sko-va. In Czech, the "C" is commonly pronounced as a sort of "ts" sound, and accented vowels are commonly elongated.
As always, thank you for viewing, reading, and commenting, and I hope you're all having a fantastic week and a great weekend.
Jun 25, 2010 10:27:31 pmby beachzz Homepage »
A wonderful, moody foto you have here as you wander those streets, hearing trains and thinking about stories to write. The sound of those streets is full of life and love, maybe sadness or dark thoughts as well. And that is what a story is--the telling of the people who feel them, wait for lovers far away--mourn the passing of others.
Jun 25, 2010 10:46:52 pmby KatesFriend Homepage »
Nothing like the sound of a tram or streetcar to inspire. There is something mysterious in the whine of an electric motor. So quiet but so potent. Perhaps it is the fundamental force itself, electromagnetism - as old as the universe, that stirs the mind. Clean transfer of power from one for to another through magnetic inductance. Power applied as nature intended it.
And speaking of mysterious forces, if only this tiny ancient street could speak in some human tongue. I think of how many different people of different era must have wandered through here down through the ages.
Beautiful photo, a wonderful mix of light and dark.
Jun 26, 2010 2:21:48 amby myrrhluz Homepage »
An empty street, save for two dark shadowy figures at the far end, full of ghosts of the past. Memories are ghosts and your words are filled with them just as this street is full of the memories of those that have traveled down it. Your words made me think of some lines from the Carole King song "So Far Away"
"Doesn't help to know that you're just time away
Long ago I reached for you and there you stood"
There will be a time when this separation from your friends and loved ones will be time away, a ghostly memory.
Your image is very haunting. the long narrow street, that ends in a bright light that fails to illuminate the facing windows or the large black square below them. It is an image that captures the magic of your evening walk. I can almost hear the tram, footsteps on the cobblestones, music. Your words are haunting. Filled with memories, of creative beginnings, of place, of loved ones far away.
The past and present is movingly captured in your image and words. Beautifully descriptive and evocative of mood.
Jun 26, 2010 7:04:49 amby minos_6 Homepage »
In your photography, you always manage to capture the undercurrent of a place. This picture is no exception, and your words add lots of atmosphere as I've come to expect.
I like your use of repetition in this piece of writing, and the photograph is exceptional for its depth of field, textures, and the contrast between the overall soft light, punctured by the glare of the street lamp.