||Gary Snyder's maxim "comparisons are odious"
has been coming up a lot lately, but here I go
comparing Prague with my other home, Seattle.
In some ways, this is not a very tolerant society.
Prague used to have three cultural groups: Czechs,
Germans, and Jews. Well, the Germans killed the
Jews in World War II, and when that was over
the Czechs ran the Germans out of the country.
After that was Soviet-imposed isolation until 1989,
so, many Czechs are slow to embrace increasing
cultural diffusion, greeting it with reluctance and
sometimes palpable suspicion. This will change,
especially thanks to the younger generation. But
one thing Czechs tolerate very well is alcohol.
Yesterday I saw a man drinking a can of beer on
the metro during the morning commute. While
this behavior isn't exactly celebrated (and I don't
think you're supposed to eat or drink on transit),
no one looked askance at him and there are no
laws prohibiting public consumption of booze.
Beer is, quite literally, in the blood here and it's
common to see workers with bottles close at hand
and there are plenty of nonstop bars open 24/7.
There's zero tolerance for drunk driving, but who
cares about that when the mass transit is perfect?
In general, the women are more
stylish here. (Men,
as in most places, don't really seem to care.) The
spot-bleached "skidmark" jeans that were every-
where last fall have all but disappeared, thankfully.
Now skirts and dresses rule the streets. Maybe
this is just a seasonal thing? Ahhh, Prague spring.
Today was the third Thursday of the month, which
meant critical mass, 1800 at Jiriho z Podebrad.
("Military" time and the metric system are the con-
ventions here because they just make good sense.)
I rode it last September and direly
police intervention; even wrote an editorial which
Carbusters #18. I
was right and wrong
about that. The police have become involved, but
only in the form of a single motorcycle cop for an
escort (discreetly bringing up the rear), whose pre-
sence is more to protect the cyclists from road rage
drivers than it is to "control" the ride, which pretty
much does as it pleases, meandering through the
streets with bike bells, horns and whistles going.
How different is that from Seattle, where the
thwart & intimidate more than they protect & serve.
Today's ride ended at one of Prague's many "soft
spots"--a little bit of incongruously undeveloped
real estate in otherwise dense urban environment.
In this case a patch of woods by the railroad tracks
in Dejvicka where the 30 or so remaining cyclists sat
around a fire until 4 am, talking, laughing, singing.
That much, at least, was the same. Let peace reign.