Friday, September 25, 2009

The Letter

In Prague, maps and guidebooks are useless—you’ll either look for something and not find it OR find something you weren’t looking for OR come across something you were once looking for when you no longer want to find it.

Very soon after I arrived, I gave up on trying to make sense of the city and settled for discoveries through happenstance.

I found this car parked on a square near the Hotel Pyramida,

though it didn’t quite compare with the white van of Slovenia (or the yellow van).

One day, walking through Prague 1 after a rain shower, I saw a rainbow near the Malostranska tram stop.

I was a little dazed, haunted by the film “Little Otik” I’d seen that afternoon about a couple who adopts a tree stump as a baby and it comes alive and eats everything in sight, including the postman and the parents.

I felt saturated by the week of workshops, readings, films, and the Survival Czech class. I’d expected empty hours for writing alone in my hotel room, but instead I’d arrived at Writing-Palooza. Much inspiration, but little time to apply it. Also, in the back of my mind, I’d been planning to contact Premysl in the hopes of being transported out of the American bubble.

That night, home late from the Lott/Eversz reading, I stopped at the front desk at the Pyramida for a new wireless internet password and one of the grim clerks handed me an envelope as if it contained a death sentence.

“To: Heather” the envelope said in slanted block letters. I wondered if a friend from the program had stopped by and left me a note. I rode up in the rattling death-trap elevator and when I got to my room, I opened the envelope.

“Dear Heather,

We met in the train (Joze Plecnik – Salzburg – Prague) on 4 July. I hope that your arrival at the hotel on that day was OK.

I wish you a pleasant stay in Prague and fresh inspiration for your writing.

I am sure you will enjoy the courses under the Prague Summer Program.

Perhaps , if you would feel like sharing your impressions of Prague, I will be happy to receive a message from you at:


Thank you,
With best regards,

Here, for the first time in Prague, something had worked. Premysl came to the hotel and left me a note, and it hadn’t gotten lost or mistaken for a tourist map by another hotel guest.

Wait…Premysl came to the hotel? I hadn’t given him my contact information or even the address for the hotel, though he seemed to recognize the name when I mentioned it. He remembered that I was staying at the Pyramida and went out of his way (the Ministry of the Environment was across the city and he lived on the outskirts) to stop in and make sure I was still alive and well. Premysl! My diaper rash ointment, my one friend in Prague.

I wanted to respond by carrier pigeon, but instead I used email. The certainty that the message would reach him took a little away from the excitement, but at the same time I was happy to know that a random meeting on the train could turn into something else.

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