As most of that ilk similarly does, I have likened myself to Jesus on more than one occasion. So when I turned 33 I figured I would follow in his footsteps (remember* Jesus was crucified on his 33rd year of life (okay, maybe not on his birthday but it may as well have been) – well mine would be a funky version of his footsteps).
The only thing I was lacking was an audience. “What about getting crucified at the Think Karaoke Night Party?”
You see, somewhere in the twisted recesses of my selective hearing head, I had heard that this crucifixion thing is a tradition of sorts. At least I think I heard that. Hmmm… Karaoke night crucifixion.
Sounds like a really kinky concept, basis for grade “B” films, and an all around damn good idea! A growing experience! Especially in retrospect.
I am not especially fond of Karaoke. In fact, when I had a job as den mother for a group of traveling professional dancers (don’t call me Madam, call me Madamski), I had quite a heated battle with a deeply religious sect of Karaoke devotees (it seems no one told them we were coming. A troupe of exotic dancers coming all the way from the big city to tiny ol’ Citrus County just can’t compete with the lure of country bumpkins singing Travis Tritt and Whitney Houston. “I’m sorry,” I said to them, “I understand that you changed out of your house slippers for this.” As I grab the microphone and unplug it in the face of a portly lady that was about to go ‘Jerry Springer’ on my ass…but that’s another story).
I have never found the need to prove myself on a poorly miked PA and sing whilst reading off lyrics I’m not sure of. Never. I couldn’t imagine being dragged kicking and screaming to a Karaoke night…but you tell me that I can get crucified there, I’m there with bells on! Flowers, ketchup, what have you.
Traveling to a rathskeller, complete with a small stage and garish lights, that shall remain nameless (sometimes things are just best that way) I begin to feel a bit weightless.
My hair was sprouting flowers like Titania’s in A Midsummer’s Nights Dream and I stuck out like Katherine Ross as the bride in the back of the bus from the movie The Graduate. I was amazed, no one even blinked twice at me. Or if they did, they did it in that Czech way that I haven’t caught onto…yet.
I arrive a little later than expected after going quickly in the wrong direction from Namesti Republicky. (Advice: If you are lost, walk very fast and look like you know where you are going until you do actually know where you are going. You’ll get there quicker and probably with all your appendages and possessions intact.)
“Oh, thank god! I thought my Jesus wasn’t going to show up!”
“I need a drink.” I hear the karaoke, “I need two drinks.”
I’m nervous. I mean the whole idea behind this karaoke thing is to suck and hear other people suck, right? I need back up.
“Ann, we have to wait until one of my boys gets here.”
“Right…the witching hour.”
24:00 hr-The music plays; it’s a recent Broadway version of Jesus Christ Superstar. I, with my crown of flowery thorns (I couldn’t locate the proper barbed wire, and just try asking a florist for just thorns in sign language and broken German), a six foot cross, complete with “INRI” spelled out in a small sign on top. (I wonder how many looks Ann wasn’t getting on the tram, transporting a six foot cross.)
I walk the length of the basement bar, with two black-hooded ‘Romans’ whipping me with knotted ropes. I move too fast for this part and because I kind of like it… I back up and walk again (more slowly this time…*ahem), get tied to the cross, squirt ketchup from Mickey D’s packs in my fists, spit it out my mouth, writhe, twist and turn in ‘klamny bloesti’ (false pain…yes, this is supposed to be Czech). Then I sing: “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.
Pushing out the notes from a rusty sore throat, I realize I am quickly descending into the depths of horrible.
Hindsight dictates; sing a song that you know, especially after being crucified publicly. I don’t think anyone truly knew what I was doing. Not until I explained that it was my 33rd birthday and that I was re-enacting Jesus’ crucifixion – he was 33 when he was sacrificed in a celebratory fashion (well, at least the Romans were celebrating). The ‘aha!’ illumination was almost insufferable. I thought everyone got crucified on their 33rd. Oh, well; live, learn, get strapped to a cross, learn again… rise from the cave like Lazarus, and continue to live.
I shall call it now: it was something that shouldn’t have been missed. People are beating themselves up as they read this because they hear about it second or third hand. Should you hear of anyone being crucified, go to it. Trust me.
“Gimme danger little stranger.” – Iggy Pop
1:30 am: The bar was getting surly. It was time to go. Where to? Ujezd, of course. The English equivalent of “exit.” All drunken messiahs and martyrs end up there. The decor lending itself to a industrial decay and alien-esque ennui. If you haven’t lived vicariously before, you can now.
I didn’t hear, when I crossed the border from Germany to The Czech Republic, the warning: “If you have any self respect, please hand it over now.” So I naturally held onto it, and even if it were “not allowed” I would have shoved my self respect up my ass in order to maintain it. Bass-ackwards, no? Welcome to The Czech Republic, the world of the beautiful yet morally askew and home to twenty different brands of mustard, horseradish and ketchup.
I am beautiful.
I walk into a place named “exit,” and I could have anyone… I mean anyone or two even. But nooooo. I am a chemically influenced wild animal, an un-steady, steadfast, social dissident from the States with a birthday to celebrate! I kiss the cutest thing closest to me; who, as almost always, turned out to be an exceptionally cute Czech girl.
I think (like a stupid self-respecting, birthday-celebrating American) the guy I’m “sleeping next to” will at the very least, not make out with a chick (that I tongued first!) in front of me. Boy, was I wrong. It turns out this is the second biggest bar game next to nothing.
We all sit around the big round table in the front (not a wise place for certain people who might be chilly to sit next to… way close to the door and all, too drafty…*ahem). It’s all cool, everyone’s involved in one conversation or another… I hear from across the table, “yeah, she is really cool.”
My interest is piqued easily, as I am being bombarded with a discussion about the numerological proportions of my birthday (which ain’t April Fool’s Day). Soon anything else will capture my attention; I am getting less and less interested as the moments wear on, fast and slow like a movie.
I chance to glimpse a fraction of a kiss, across the table, and though the receiver of the kiss isn’t me, the purveyor of the kiss is the guy I “sleep next to.” Well, that ain’t sitting right with me. It feels like indigestion of the Arby’s kind (really bad roast-beef fast food, in which the farts are so bad they can make a happily married couple contemplate divorce).
I reach for my glass of whiskey and accidentally knock it over. Everyone present thinks I am angry. So not wanting to let the masses down, I pick up the glass and hurl it at the wall directly behind the head of the guy I “sleep next to.” Then I walk out.
Waiting at the tram stop across the street from the bar, I begin to burn. I mean like from the inside out. “Who the hell does he think he is? No one treats me like that!” Then I begin thinking, “Is there a tram coming and what stop do I live at?”
I go back into the bar to ask. They are kissing again. I am all about love and freedom, but I ain’t no hippie and this punk-rock bar ain’t no “love-in.” I pick up a full beer and douse him with it. Then I throw it just up above the left of his head and shower him with glass splinters. I leave for the second time.
Crying as I jump into a taxi, I realize I have no money and still no clue as to what the name of the streets I live at are. The driver quickly realizes this as well and deposits me…where? Why in front of the Ujezd (the word for ‘EXIT” in Czech)! Of-f*ckin-course. I bite the inside of my cheek as hard as I possibly can, definitely wounding myself, and go back in, sucking my own salty blood. This momentarily calms me.
I need to know where the f*ck I live and “borrow” money to get there. Earlier, I had given all my money to my good friend Big Rock to take home for me. Never again will I be caught without at least a hundred crowns on me. Upon entering the bar I am greeted with laughter, fear, and the object of my frustration’s taunts, “That’s three times! You came back three times!!!”
Laughter all around, which naturally only heightens my anger and consternation. I am as confounded as the bricks are old.
“Where do I live!!?!!”
“Three times!” guffaw, guffaw.
“Please, may I borrow some cash!” I have a hard time asking politely at this point.
“Three times! No! I don’t have your money!” I’m not sure if that was a difficulty in translation or just a straight up insult. All I see are the eyes of innocent animals in front of a trucker’s headlights and the whites of laughing teeth and eyes.
In my mind, I am left no other recourse: I see myself from a bird’s eye view, saying “You want to see three times?!” whilst flipping over a heavy wooden table complete with no less than fifteen full drinks on it. Knowing full well that I can’t go back after such an incident, I realize must find a way forward.
‘Yes, the third time is the charm’, I think to myself as I leave yet again. This time for better or worse, the last time. (At least until days later, in which, had the bar staff not agreed with me and thought the dude had it coming, I would have happily reimbursed them for the trouble. Either way, you all should go there and spend lots of money, especially on tips.)
I hop into another taxi, crying “Angeliscky? Deutsche? Ja? Fahren Sie jetzt, bitte!”
He proceeds to take me on “the city tour,” as I had expected. I am racking my brain trying to replay that tram voice in my head “Namesti Miru, something something, Ruska, Vroce Vcoce? Damn!” Dude is piling up the mileage, my head is spinning around every Czech word I might have heard and absorbed – that, and the fact that I have no cash to pay this increasingly expensive fare.
“Moskevska!” It dawns on me like a bolt of Czech lightning, in the back of the head and with a guaranteed hangover. I begin to recognize the streets as I direct him up to the doorstep of the flat. What’s also going through my head is how do I get rid of the taxi without paying? Get out and run? No, I’m drunk. This dude will definitely chase me. I don’t know where to hide.
I get out. Will Big Rock wake up to the sound of the door bell? Never. I start throwing my body against the foyer doors. Nothing. It’s a flimsy lock but I don’t really want to put all the tenants of the building out of it. Even for one night. (I begin to get mad at myself for being thoughtful of others whilst I am mad, which only makes me madder. This is a viscous cycle.)
The cabbie thinks I’m crazy but would obviously take head in lieu of the fact that I can obviously not pay… I am beside myself, wondering what my next move should be. I hear a whistle in the distance. Looking up, I see Big Rock coming down the street like Santa with five pizzas and my purse hanging from around his neck.
“There is a God!!! Thank you! Thank you!” I throw my arms up to the heavens heralding Big Rock’s arrival.
“Hey, what’s up?” He asks while fishing for his keys. “You’ll never guess what happened to me.”
“Me either.” I reply, unhooking my purse from his neck. “Just another night in Praha …ha, ha,… ha, …*ahem.” I begin to laugh, wiping the tears from my eyes.
Edited by Miluska Martinez. Previously published Think Again Magazine, Prague (Czech) May 2003, Copyright Lost & Found Inc 2003, 612 NW 26th Ave, Gainesville, Florida USA 32609