"European Russia 2006" story # 14

Rymarov, Czech Republic           September 14, 2006

Hey. Let me take advantage of my second trip to Slovakia to point out that "LOCALS IN TOURISTY PLACES" should've been included in the Top 5 Worst Things About Slovakia! list, which I wrote last time. (Those locals had been snobbish and unwelcoming.) Please see to it that you record that in your notes, young readers.
     During this second trip to Slovakia, I visited Jana Macikova in the capital once again. The capital-dwellers also didn't make eye contact as they walked - which came as a change, following Ukraine and Russia.
     Jana and I went to Bratislava's "old town", with its buttermilk-yellow and thick squatty concrete; and we toured the history museum. One room showed cartoonish paintings-on-glass depicting village life, all made by an old woman artist. Villagers in the depicted scenes wore traditional dress: white with colorful sashes. In front of wooden homes, they shucked corn, killed pigs, killed ducks, sang Christmas carols, plowed the wheat, danced, etc. Twenty-four-year-old, long-brown-haired Jana said (of the villagers), "Their lives were so much more real than ours. They did things because they had to do them. Their lives revolved around the time of the year."
     My message to Jana was that she should hurry and carelessly finish her drawn-out college diploma work, so she could forget about it and do the things she loved: writing haiku's for the photographs she takes, hiking in the Tatra Mountains, and sitting in the branches of her family's cherry tree eating cherries. She headed to a Rolling Stones' concert on July 14th, I said I'd try to find her the Jim Morisson book she wanted when I got back to the States, and I hitchhiked to nearby Czech Republic.

I was happy when I got back to small-town Rymarov. My blond Czech friend, short but feisty Klara Sigmundova, wholeheartedly welcomed me. She and her family and the town of 10,000 had always treated me in a way almost like how I dream of people treating each other: like a friend; like family. This was going to be my first time in Rymarov during summer. There were a lot of fun activities to do, and many were good, clean fun.
     There was an outdoor hip-hop festival one Saturday. While locals on-stage break-danced or free-style rapped, my first ballroom-dance-lessons partner nad I reunited. It was the time (if not the right place) for us to waltz. This elegant, dashing, circular dance is more beautiful than a walk on the moon. And young Verta's dark features, talking right into my face in the night, were beautiful like a moon wanting to eat me. She wavered with a delicateness that could crush me. What a great dance.
     Football, or soccer, was played often. I loved to kick balls being passed to me and try to redirect them into the goal, but this was somehow twenty times harder to do than my brain told me it would be. I wished I played like Drahosh, one of our quieter bar friends, who tap-danced on the ball and shot stingers.
     A deep, sand-bottomed lake called "Naklo" called to us from near Rymarov. It made for great swimming, and Klara's and my male friends like to smear the wet sand onto their chests and pretend they were wearing bras. We walked away from the lake, past the tall reeds and cat-tails, to a river that was oozing mud. Our fun group rolled, slid, and bathed in the filthy mud until our white faces seemed to stick out of chocolate space-suits. Eww, ha ha.
     The fun-loving forty- and fifty-year-old guys who I used to play basketball with were taking the hot summer off from playing, but we met several times for laughs. These guys had been leading antagonizers trying to convince me not to go to wild Russia, so I told how rough Russia had been. I said Russians play basketball all year OUTSIDE, even in the snow when the ball doesn't bounce. They asked why I now wore a grizzled beard, and I said you have to have a grizzled beard to survive wild Russia!
     And, lastly, Klara, herself, was fun and silly. In addition to being the best cook I've ever met (she'd baked peaches, apples, and cottage cheese beneath wafery bread for my arrival), she's a fun photograph-taker and a creative wonder around kids. Her photograph albums show a huge black lady showing a boob; Klara's head sticking out the arm-hole of a t-shirt someone else was wearing; kids leaping through the air; and many other entertaining photo's. When little blond Klara is with kids, she gives them war paint and prepares them for army missions into foreign lands, or she writes them letters from her made-up "Christmas pumpkin" who'll eat misbehaving children.
     So, there were a lot of good, clean, fun activities to do in Rymarov. But, there was also an awful lot of drinking. I drank many days, as friends and I were in the smoky bar almost every night - and, it was usually fun to drink.
     The small town also smokes a lot of cigarettes. Many of the bar-goers also smoke a lot of marijuana. And, the young people - especially girls - seem to grow up quickly, and then desire to settle down at an early age.
     While there this time, I decided I might want to give up drinking alcohol for good. Although beer and the smoky bars were fun, and though I rarely got hangovers, I still woke up with a cloudy feeling on my face and the sense that a part of me had died. And, being drunk seemed to make me more selfish.
     I even began to feel negative effects from single glasses of wine, and Klara made sangria at her birthday party which made my head hurt. So, I ordered a Fanta in the bar, but it and all its sugar weren't much better.
     My newest belief was that the "Seven Deadly Sins", and things like alcohol and cigarettes, actually make us age while slowly killing us. It seems reasonable, for example, that if sex can give life, it may also take it away. It also seems reasonable that if we smoke or drink or overeat because life, as is, is empty or unsatisfying, then maybe these acts take our life. And, as we become less young, we become less happy?
     The two vows which I'd taken months earlier - one of which was the temporary cessation of masturbation - were still unbroken and intact. I can't say emphatically that this vowed cessation had improved my life; in fact, I seemed to have less energy than from before taking the vow, and I seemed more inclined to succumb to the sin called "sloth". But, I still believed in this experiment, and it will continue. I somehow sense that it's causing some good.
     Years ago, when I'd been in Colombia, I met a Colombian Indian who told me his people, in the mountains, live to be 180 years old. (Of course, it that was true, it could also be the result of a healthier diet and more natural living.)
     No cigarettes, no drugs, no riches, no sex, no masturbation, no drinking. Where was all this getting me?
     I spoke to eighteen-year-old Krist'yna, my former student, and said I was interested in getting people to make positive changes in their lives.
     Trusting-duckling-eyed Krist'yna - who had educated me in the past with her bluntness - said, "Why? Aren't people in the U.S. happy?"
     She said people in Rymarov were already happy. She's happy going to the bar when she has free time, and she's glad she smokes cigarettes.
     Maybe she's right. Rymarov and its bars had always seemed like a happy place to me.
     But ... I do catch people aging quickly there from time to time. I wish Klara didn't smoke. And I still think it'd be possible for people to treat people even better than they treat each other in Rymarov - possibly, even, good enough so there is no need for drinking.
     I don't know? A few of my friends there, including mountain-loving, twenty-six-year-old Radim, never drink.
     And, I should mention that there's one reason why I've felt infinitely young recently. And that's my "no-monogamy" realization. Before, I had thought that I was going to need or want to get married one day. But, now, I was free.
     Klara and her Russian-doll-faced friend, adrenalin-loving Andreka, kissed me in the train, as I said good-bye, for now, after a three-week visit to dear Rymarov.

Modern Oddyseus

Thanks to Daniel; Dusha; the fast-talking trucker; and Hanza for rides!
Much thanks to Jana, Helena, Jano, Brano, & "Ricky"; and Klara for hosting me!

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