In 1990 I spent a couple of months of the summer traveling Europe with my girlfriend Stacey and our friend Kathy. We started in Scotland, moved down to England, and then over to the Continent, where it was youth hostels and Eurail all over. We visited many countries and had a great time. One place we didn’t get to, however, was Prague. It was on my list for sure, but when we got the Eurail passes in NYC, we were told they were no good in Czechoslovakia. Since our budget was already quite tight ($20 a day for hostel, food, and fun), we decided to save the expense of an extra train ticket and skip Prague.
Towards the end of the trip, we were in Munich and went to visit Dachau. Perhaps the most bizarre incident of the whole trip occurred when I ran into my friend Cecil (Castellucci, author of the awesome The Plain Janes graphic novels; you should buy her new book Rose Sees Red next month) in the middle of Dachau. The Nazi death camp. We had met at NYU but she had left (for Montreal IIRC) the year before and I hadn’t seen her since. To run into each other there of all places was pretty weird. She and her friend had just come from Prague and they said they had gone there on Eurail passes. So we had been lied to in NYC and now it was too late to work Prague into our schedule. Lame.
In 1994 I was back in Europe for another two month trip, this time as a roadie for a French punk band called Scraps. That’s a long story for another day, but the pertinent bit is that we were scheduled to do a gig in Prague. I had been robbed in 1990 and here at last was a chance to make good. After various misadventures in France, Basque country, Spain, and Italy, we moved into Germany to do the biggest shows of the tour, many of them with a shitty straight edge band from California.
We were driving down the autobahn one day when I smelled something funny. Well, funnier than a van with 8-10 punks in it at any rate. Suddenly the driver swerved to the side of the road and yelled that we should all bail out. The reason was obvious when I jumped out: the engine was on fire! I and several others moved to the back of the van and started tossing out our bags and the equipment. Meanwhile, others tried to get the fire out. The bass player succeeded when he dumped soy milk on the blaze. The good news was that the van had not blown up or burned out. The bad news was that we were stranded in an East German town know for its Nazi skinheads. Awesome.
We got the van to a shop and they said it was going to take several days to fix. In the meantime, we had to rent a couple of cars and continue on to Berlin, where we had our next gig. We were supposed to go to Prague after that but guess what? The cars we rented could not be taken across the border. Apparently too many people were renting cars, driving to Eastern Europe to sell them, and then reporting them stolen. Once again I was denied a chance to see Prague. To make matters worse, when we next played with the band from Callie they said the Prague show was great and they had had an awesome time there.
I thought of all this tonight because I was watching the Prague episode of No Reservations. Seeing Bourdain gallivanting around the city and eating an endless array of pork and sausage made me think about how I still hadn’t gotten there in all these years. The game business has taken me back to Germany and England, and even to Finland, but not to goddamn Prague. Someday I will cross that city off my list.
Originally published on LiveJournal on July 6, 2010.