International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Prague
John M. Edwards
Bohemian Rhapsody or Bozo Nightmare?
Alchemy and Apparatchik Chic in Prague
In a possessed city Kafka called a mother with claws,
John M. Edwards discovers the unbearable lightness of being a tourist
in overcrowded Prague. Here a cost comparison of Communist and Capitalist
Prague reveals a long dark history of alchemy and occupation, sorcery
and intrigue, plus an uneasy redemption. Welcome to the New Bohemia.
the 1989 Velvet Revolution, Westerners in Prague may have felt as if
they were following in the ghostly footsteps of long-dead alchemists,
astronomers, heretics, and martyrseven if possibly their own footsteps
were being trailed by the Czech secret police. Today with the onslaught
of mass tourism I find that footloose foreigners are more likely to
tread on the corporeal toes of transplanted tourists, teachers, and
entrepreneurs, all flocking to Prague not so much to make money out
of base metals as to witness the transmutation of a new nations
capital from Communism to Capitalism.
As a time traveler to this ancient architectural
wonderland both Before and After the changes, I experience
the unbearable lightness of being in Prague yet again, to do a kind
of cost comparison: this time to explore the fantastical physical and
psychological terrain of Pragues peculiarly long dark history,
perhaps exorcizing a few demons of my own along the way. Although an
Eastern European Easter sounds great--Milan Kundera is quick
to scold us that Prague is actually in Central EuropeI
decide to go in the Fall and eat bunnies rather than worship them (wild
hare is a Bohemian specialty). A nostalgia worthy of a Nostradamus sets
in as I set off to reexplore The Golden City.
No fixed foci on the map remains stationary
in time and space, even if on the surface places might look the same.
Still the magnetic center of Europe, the New Bohemia, has an almost
supernatural appeal. Eyes are drawn to the points of a compass by the
macabre Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque statuary, towers, and turrets
of the Golden Citys unique centuries-old architecture, never more
omnipresent than when I was standing on the Karluv Most (Charles Bridge),
under the shadow of Hradcany (Prague Castle) and above the majestic
Vltava (Moldau River), the polluted brown waterway frozen in motion
by Czech nationalist composer Smetana in his masterpiece Ma Vlast (My
Against this fairytale backdrop, conjured
up out of some Grimm nightmare, a novel political play was staged: the
collapse of an oppressive hardline Communist regime in a bloodless coup
led by a ragtag army of peacefully protesting students, artists, and
intellectuals. Unlike most revolutions, the Czech Velvet Revolution
cant be traced back to an ideological man or manifesto but to
public outrage over repression of a rock group with the unlikely sobriquet
of The Plastic People of the Universe.
This 1970s movement to liberate rock music
snowballed into a broader call for social and political reform. Charter
77a non-revolutionary milktoast declaration of independence
urging only respect of civil and human rightsfirst
served Big Brother as a Most Wanted List before ironically becoming
a Playbill for the 1989 Civic Forum that ousted the Communist government.
Czechmate! To the popular strains of Havel na Hrad (Havel
to the Castle), outlaw Velvet Czar Vaclav Havelprominent
dissident playwright, political alchemist, and Frank Zappa fanwas
thus cast in the role of the New Wizard of Prague.
Prague really is a city for all seasons,
yet the Velvet Revolutionary fall of 1989 is best illumined by the light
of a past springtimeone that first reawakened the Czech Spirit.
The 1968 Prague Spring, promising socialism with a human face,
represented a virtual renaissance, featuring a flowering of freedoms
nipped in the bud by the Soviets, only to reemerge years later under
Gorbachev in the revivified forms of glasnost and perestroika.
Maybe the fall of Communism itself was first drafted in the former Czechoslovakia?
Certainly Czech contributions to world culture are strange and surprising
considering that the country has been ruled for most of its history
by outside powersall of whom have come and gone but left it smudged
with spectral fingerprints.
In the Starometske Namesti (Old Town Square)
all the tourists and I ogle the Astronomical Clock and its mechanical
procession of Christ and Apostles, Death, Greed, Vanity, even a Turk,
before a puppet cockerel pops out and flaps its malevolent wings. The
clockmaker responsible was blinded so that he couldnt recreate
his masterpiece for another citya reward typical of Pragues
bizarre and violent past. Then our heads turn like weather vanes toward
the twin towers of the Tyn Church, poised in the air like black thunderbolts,
wherein rests the remains of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who arrived
in Prague noseless from a duel and died of a burst bladder (some say
syphilis) in the middle of one of the citys then notorious orgies.
Continuing counterclockwise there lies the colossal flaming sea of bodies
from which rises the statue of Jan Hus, who preached reform long before
Luther and was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1415.
It feels so familiar as Im wandering
the winding cobblestone streets of a possessed witchcrafty city Kafka
called a mother with claws, trying to dig deeper into the
Czech national character by revisiting the old stomping grounds of the
Stare Mesto (Old Town), Josefov (Jewish Quarter), and 18th-century Mala
Strana (Little Quarter)the haunts of alchemists and artists like
Mozart and even now the center of serious beer drinking. Czechoslovakia
was, after all, the birthplace of light beer: Pilsener was
invented in Plzn and the original Budweiser (Budvar) was
first brewed in Ceske Budejovice.
While sitting in U Fleku, one of the citys
old beer halls renovated to accommodate German tour groups looking for
The Good Soldier Schweik, I cant help but think that though Kafkas
mother has had her past liaisonswith the Hapsburgs,
Hitler, and the Sovietsshe has traded in her fangs for dentures.
A shroud of film-noir pollution, dark legacy of black-sheep Communist
sons, has wrinkled her facades without marring her beauty. There is
scaffolding up everywhere to give her a facelift. Prague is like an
aging senile sorceress who no longer recognizes her children.
But now with democratic euphoria dying down
to be replaced by good old-fashioned Capitalist greed, problems are
rising like smoke from the ashes of Communist rule and affecting the
atmosphere. It seems as if Prague is going through some kind of alchemical
transformation, even as Czecho/Slovakia recovers from an identity crisis
resembling multiple personality disorder. The question is, as Czechs
enjoy their entrance into the EU and NATO, whether the New Alchemists
of Prague, unlike their historic predecessors, will succeed this time
in turning the once-worthless Czech koruna (crown) into gold. Or whether
theyll perforce pawn off Pragues Technicolor soul to foreign
investors and tourists attracted by the citys uncanny resemblance
to the Magic Kingdom.
All that Europeans and Americans need now
to visit is a passport. Theres even a bunch of bars off the Old
Town Square where timid travelers, unsure that the red devil has been
completely exorcized, can reassure themselves with Chicago-style pizza,
taped screening of college and pro football games, MTV, and T-shirts
wittily sporting the slogan Czech It Out. Arrriving by train
at Hlavni Nadrazi (Main Station), I was warmly welcomed by a swarm of
hustlers and touts offering private rooms, which I checked out, since
finding hotel space without a reservation is nothing else but the overused
adjective Kafkaesque. If Prague is the next Paris
of the Twenties, an art mecca for the new millennium, its
sometimes hard to see it.
I remembered back to the time when a foreign
traveler like myself, armed with just a little hard currency, could
storm the lavish turn-of-the-century Hotel Pariz in the Stare Mesto
or the Art Nouveau Europa on the Champs-Elysees-like Wenceslaus Square.
At least I revisited the Europas adjoining café and terrace,
where the hoi polloi can hobnob with Pragues New Elite and nibble
Austro-Hungarian-style pastries washed down with pivo (beer) or slivovice
(plum brandy), which some say was invented here.
Long used to hordes of organized East Bloc coach tours, the
city has not yet coped with the added influx of Westerners from
the Other Europe, who have seemingly replaced the Soviets as occupying
force. The post-Communist lines outside the new flash bistros rival
that of Brezhnevian bread lines. And in the free-free market atmosphere
a strange new economic form flexes its muscle as denizens interpret
Capitalism as devising new and clever ways to overcharge foreigners.
Its wise to even ask the price of a beer beforehandKolik
stoji pivo?since the old system of artificially-set
exchange rates and prices for foreigners has gone completely out
this charge for? I ask, checking my bill. Then checking it twice.
Bread, says the waiter with an ingratiating grin.
What is that? I didnt order that!
Yes, but you ate it. (Big smile.)
Familiarity with Kafkas short story
The Hunger Artist may help prepare you for the ordeal: you
too can think youre starving not because you cant find food
but because you cant find food you can like. Despite the proliferation
of new gourmet restaurantssuch as the 12th-century cellar Le Terroir
or the hip Parizka Street bistro Pravda, serving wild game (venison,
wild boar, duck, goose, rabbit)the average Czech cuisine remains
a little monotonous: pork, dumplings, perhaps a few symbolic peas to
show how far the New Czech Republic has come.
When I first visited Prague in 1989 shortly
before the Velvet Revolution, I felt Id been there before. Others
report a similar sense of deja-vu succumbing to the spell of mysticism
wrapped like a cloak around this city that somehow escaped destruction
during two world wars. For an American then it was fun to think one
had drifted into the pages of a Cold War suspense novel or had inexplicably
metamorphosed into Joseph K in Kafkas The Castle, wading through
the labyrinth of Communist bureaucracy and red tape. One had to get
a visa months in advance, comply with a daily minimum currency exchange,
register each night with the police, and keep track of all the cryptic
hieroglyphic papers, stamps, and receipts that at any time a curious
officer might ask you to produce, with a passport, during frequent random
Its now common knowledge that foreigners
hotel rooms were routinely bugged, though only genuine spies and counterrevolutionaries
had anything real to worry about. What are those strange wires, why
doesnt the radio work? I remember wondering, checking out with
a not-just-being-paranoid thrill the extra amenities that came gratis
with my very first Prague hotel room. In a police state, nothing could
happen to you. Especially when capitalist foreigners had wallets (or
for some, briefcases) crammed with much-needed hard currency.
What little crime there was ran underground.
For a city of over 2 million people, the streets seemed suspiciously
safe. On every street corner stood a policeman, and vacationing Soviet
soldiers licking chocolate zmrzlina cones could be spotted window-shopping
throughout the city. Now the main difference is that some of them have
seemingly transformed into prostitutes, style carefully copied from
Western films, hanging around the easily accessible luxury hotels, cafes,
and heavily fortified nightclubs around Wenceslaus Square.
Back then it wasnt surprising that
many Czechs were hesitant to speak to foreigners, when such contact
often included free trips to police headquarters to answer questions
and fill out forms, or worse. Lost, I asked two leather-jacketed toughs
toting tourist maps for directions, who replied, Why are you asking?
before fleeing white-faced and trembling down the street. A Czech friend
later surmised that the two tourists, whose reaction seemed extreme
even in a police state, had probably been East Germans, many of whom
were at the time trying to sneak West via the West German embassy.
Still many Czechs I met whispered that they
believed we were being watched, and surely there seemed
to be no shortage of impromptu police escorts, as when in the southern
town of Cesky Krumlov (the Bruges of Bohemia) I acquired
one suddenly when I ducked into a lively Gypsy bar, attracted by the
wild strains of frenzied violins.
One day in Communist Prague I came across
an old man, who asked me if I was hungry by shoveling air into his mouth
with an imaginary spoon. I followed him through a door leading literally
into the hillside, down a set of winding stone stairs, into the Hobbit-Hole-like
thousand-year-old Strahov monastery, where a wedding party worthy of
the Mad Hatter was taking place.
Everyone down there was an engineer.
Karl, an English-speaking decomissioner of
power plants, translated, Is it true in America that you can buy
anything you like? (Luxury goods then could only be bought with
hard currency at the government-run Tuzex shops.) The concerns of these
so-called Communists sounded familiar. They complained that the only
way to get anything done was to bribe party officials with hard currency.
The newlyweds, on a 14-year waiting list for their own apartment, would
live with their parents. They dreamed of having a dacha in the country,
and the Czech bride (Alice?) added, With a swimming pool, and
also a small Skoda car . . .
The talk turned to banned expatriates
like Milan Kundera (The Joke) and Josef Skvorecky (The Cowards), whose
books, most published outside Czechoslovakia to Western literary acclaim,
are even now unpopular in the Czech lands. Czechs prefer those who stayed,
such as Bohumil Hrabal (Closely Watched Trains), Ludvik Vaculik (The
Guinea Pigs), and, of course, Vaclav Havel, whose political play Temptation
is based upon a Faustian theme. Said Karl, Down here undergound
we can say what we want, but up there is only silence. Added Alice,
Everybody is afraid. Then they passed around one of the
wedding gifts, a small bronzed bust of Lenin, and irreverently dunked
his head in their beer mugs for the benefit of their unexpected foreign
guest, passing him hand to hand like relay runners holding aloft the
flaming Olympic torch.
Much has changed. All Lenins have been knocked
down and dragged from their pedestals; some of them have even been dynamited,
to the dismay of this tourist looking for photo ops of Pragues
Communist past. Communist museums are now closed and undergoing restoration
for other purposes. Even the names of metro stops have changed (Gottwaldov,
namesake of first Communist president Klement Gottwald, is now called
Vysehrad). Most significant, all the atlases are being revised so that
Europe is no longer only East, wheras before, in one atlas
I was shown by a Slovak engineer living in a typical Stalinesque concrete-block
suburb, Western Europe figured prominently as a sizeable gray blotch.
Westerners may have once felt lost without
the comparative signs of commercial advertising to follow, only the
monotony of Hammer-and-Sickle motifs and portraits of famous political
cult personalities, like last Communist president Gustav Husak. But
now anyone would be dazzled by the bewildering tourist blitzkrieg and
commercial frenzy that has hit Prague, with such offerings as the Kafka
and Mozart Sound and Light Puppet Pantomime Extravaganza, or something
like that, which I glimpse while walking past a banner in the Josefov.
It was here that Rabbi Low (buried in the
eerie Old Jewish Cemetery) created The Golem, the Renaissance Man of
Clay who ran amok at a time when any alchemist worth his salt could
be seen dipping in and out of pivnice (beer halls) and kavarna (wine
cellars). The Golem legend influenced both Mary Shelleys Frankenstein
and Karel Capeks R.U.R., which introduced the Czech word robot
to the rest of the world. A more recent monster stalked the few remaining
streets of what was once Europes largest Jewish Ghetto: Here Hitler
planned to build his Museum of an Extinct Race.
Only a few years ago you could idle in relative
peace among the remarkable statuary on the Charles Bridge, contemplate
the golden-star-haloed head of Jan Nepomuk, who was chucked off the
bridge and martyred in 1393, and the statue of Jesus above whose head
hovers golden Hebrew lettering. Now the ancient walkway is a giant Venuss-flytrap
hungry for business: gone are all the long-haired guitar-strumming dissidents
singing John Lennon songs, now replaced by manic vendors hawking such
things as Russian fur hats, Soviet watches, Babushka dolls, and pieces
of the Berlin Wall. An economic Iron Curtain to collect dollars and
eke out euros? Maybe just an obscene shrine to the collapse of Communism.
But some things havent changed. Change
money, change money? still floats in the air like anachronistic
church bells, evoking the time when the black market worked wonderfully
well for all. Apparently, no one has told the black marketers that banks
now offer nearly the same rates. Dont do it; youll be robbed.
And dont be deceived by the apparent paradox that the Communist-built
department stores are now stuffed with Western goods, at Western prices.
Compare the smart Czech shoppers of yore who formerly picked and chose
from row upon row of exactly identical goods.
Many of the new businesses sprouting up overnightly
are joint-venture operations catering to foreign tourists and former
apparatchiks whove managed to hold on to the means of production
and all Das Kapital for their personal profit. Unlike the dreary commie
cafeterias of yesteryear, the post-Cold War cafes and restaurants rustle
up customers around the clock. The Old Town Square venues are almost
always full, but great for goulash and guessing where all the fashionably
dressed visitors are from. Trading in drab Soviet denims for stonewashed
Levis is a phenomenon known as apparatchik chic. And
its sometimes difficult to tell if all the wildly dressed bohemian
hipsters at the bars and cafes are from Prague or Peoria, Eastern Europe
or the East Village.
In fact, at an art gallery in the cramped
alleyways behind the Tyn Church, run by a lovely icon-eyed Russian expat
selling surreal paintings from the ex-Soviet Republics, I meet an American
artiste with a samizdat smile who has come to live here
for a year. Isnt Prague fabulous? he says, with a
cavalier wave of his jaunty chapeau. I feel like Hemmingway living
here. Things are changing quickly. Its now almost like Western
Europe, but darker and retro.
What kind of WORK do you do?
I ask, slightly miffed by how many Yanks were living in Prague, apparently
without employment. (One estimate is that there are over 100,000 American
temporary residents here.)
Oh, you know, a little of this and
that, the artiste says vaguely. A little import-export,
writing, painting, photography, busking. Obviously a skilled flaneur
evading a question and a stable means of support.
At the nearby Ebel Coffee House, a popular
expat hangout, I also meet a Canadian backpacker here for the long haul.
Its getting more expensive, she says with a look of
laughter and forgetting, taking a sip of her decaf cappuccino. But
its worth it. Everyone wants to live in Prague.
Unfortunately, foreigners hoping to finance
their trips or buy a car by selling Levis may now be disappointed.
In a bar by a Stare Mesto movie set, cameras and lights trained on a
spic-and-span 18th-century building looking brand-spanking-new in the
artificial glow, I see two vacationing American college students trying
to peddle their jeans to a group of youths who turned out to be New
American Expats: Everyone is sick of tourists like that!
they say, leaving me with the sneaking suspicion that the bar might
have also been a movie set.
Angst. Time to climb Vysehrad Hill, the legendary
birthplace of the Czech Boii tribe of Prague, for a panaromic fools
view of green copper domes. In the Golden Age of Prague, during the
reign of the 14th-century Holy Roman Emporer Charles IV, they had all
really once shone like gold! (Almost everything, including Central Europes
oldest university, seems to have been somewhat prematurely named after
this Midas.) Red-tiled roofs, black-thatched towers, and hundreds of
spires held out like a series of solitary middle fingers. All the disillusioned
ask why? And already know the answerone that cant be explained
away solely by economics.
Czechs and Slovaks themselves were hardly
united. A while back on Czech TV I saw former playwright/president Havel
egged by a Slovak audience, many of them former Communists turned nationalists.
Havel has consistently condemned all cheap and seductive appeals
to nationalist feelings that reduced people to a herd of
aggressive soccer fans. Now breakaway Slovakia has become just
another piece in the jigsaw puzzle of the splintering and reuniting
of larger Europe. Whatever happens, though, Czechs and Slovaks are confident
of what theyve dubbed their Velvet Separation.
After the fall of the Great Moravian Empire
in the 9th century and the Magyar (Hungarian) invasion, Slovakia was
separated from Czech Bohemia and Moravia for a millennium. It wasnt
until the post-WWI first-ever democratic republic of philosopher/president
Tomas G. Masaryk that the artificial Czechoslovak state
was born. This model democratic nation came to an abrupt end when the
country was handed to Hitler by England and France under the infamous
Munich Diktat (1939), because British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
thought it silly to go to war over a quarrel in a faraway country
between people of whom we know nothing. Chamberlains Faustian
piece of paper guaranteeing Peace in Our Time! proved no
magical charm; even Hitler supposedly joked to his confidantes that
he was simply giving an old man his autograph.
If Prague is the keyhole to Europe, the key
to the city may lie hidden somewhere deep in its past. Stumbling upon
Karlovy Namesti, Pragues largest, least interesting, but most
historically important square, I pass by the Faustuv Dum (Faust House)
with its long diabolical history of alchemy. When Prague was the Paris
of the East and one of the intellectual centers of Europe, the
shadowy turn-of-the-17th-century mad Holy Roman Emporer Rudolph II (buried
in an elaborate pewter coffin in St. Vitus Cathedral) moved the imperial
capital from Vienna to Prague and created the international
Royal Court of Alchemists.
It attracted real astronomers like Johannes
Kepler and real alchemists like Irish international con man Edward Kelly.
That alchemists then were more successful at filling their own pockets
with Rudolphs existing gold than at creating a new supply doesnt
spoil the myth. Rudolph became so obsessed with his arcane cabalistic
studies that he eventually relinquished the throne and died without
ever discovering either the secret of eternal life or how to turn his
alloy coffin into gold, yet his reign was remarkable for its religious
tolerance, and he even allowed the Czech language to be spoken at court.
On this same square occurred the first incidence
of a unique national pastime: defenestration, literally chucking people
out windows. Once upon a time, political change was caused not by ethereal
alchemical forces, nor secret deals, nor surprise party crashing (the
Prague Spring of 1968 was soon dashed by Soviet tanks). The so-called
First and Second Defenestrations of Prague sparked off two long conflictsthe
Hussite Wars (1419-1434) and the Thirty Years War (1618-1648)both
abounding in colorful heretics and martyrs.
Over a long period of time, armies running
to and fro, heretics shouting at the top of their lungs, martyrs crackling
in flames, the Promethian fire of self-determination was stolen from
Bohemians, from whom all subsequent bohemiansLeft
Bank Parisian or otherwisederive their name. For centuries it
was synonymous with unorthodox. Perhaps the most tragic
Third Defenestration occurred after the 1948 Communist Coup when Jan
Masaryk (son of Tomas G) suspiciously fell to his death, out of a window.
That the Velvet Revolution was brought about
by peaceful means, when modern Prague has no shortage of windows (many
of them forcefully cleaned by dissidents under the Communists) is a
credit to the New Bohemians. Yet many still point with Nostradamus-like
suspicion to the fact that a 68 (Spring) is an upside-down 89 (Fall),
the year of so many changes not only in Czechoslovakia but throughout
Which came first? Gorbachev admitted that
the main difference between himself and Alexander Dubcek, the deposed
1968 president/hero of the Prague Spring, was about 20 years.
Good Czech-made puppets of political figures are available throughout
There is no better place to explore time
than in Prague. Seemingly Czechs have cured themselves of their historical
propensity to defenestrate, and while things are not yet picture-perfect,
for the passing tourist Prague still resembles a postcard. Yet reading
one of the new Czech-English newspapers in a café, I come across
yet another example of the criticism of gross commercialization magically
mushrooming in Praguea hoax story about Disney Corporation plans
to turn the city into Prahaland. Praguers could stay only
if they dressed in Mozart-era costumes, the figures in the Astronomical
Clock and along the Charles Bridge would be replaced by Mickey, Donald,
and Goofy. Maybe also, I wonder, Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins?
With the beginning of the new millennium,
however, it might be politically naïve to completely ignore the
muffled cries of Pragues numerous ghosts. On Wenceslaus Square,
beneath the equestrian statue of a historic Czech nationalist leader,
the Good King Wenceslaus of Christmas-carol fame, I study
the shrine to modern-day martyr and national hero Jan Palach, who set
fire to himself there protesting the Soviet occupation of 1968. So powerful
a symbol is Palach to Czechs that Communist authorities had to dig up
and spirit away his immolated corpse to the provinces lest revolutionary
forces congregate at his tombstone to mourn; and it was in fact from
his gravesite that the gathering Velvet Revolutionary forces marched.
Spring forward. Fall backward. Were
in awe of this Milos Forman movie set of a city. In the New Prague Springs
to comewhile souveniric swarms live like royalty with the favorable
exchange rate and quaff Staropramen beer from lookinglass mugsduring
the next Easter repast Pragues eerie past is worth keeping in
mind. There are many different forms of occupation.
All those whove seen Prague may be
found revisiting the Golden City.
© John M. Edwards March 2009
Bio: John M. Edwards has traveled worldwidely
(five continents plus), with stunts ranging from surviving a ferry sinking
in Thailand to being caught in a military coup in Fiji. His work has
appeared in such magazines as CNN Traveller, Missouri Review, Salon.com,
Grand Tour, Islands, Escape, Endless Vacation, Literal Latté,
Lilliput Review, Coffee Journal, Artdirect, Verge, Slab, Richmond Review,
Borderlines, North Dakota Quarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, and
North American Review. He recently won a NATJA (North American Travel
Journalists Association) Award, a TANEC (Transitions Abroad Narrative
Essay Contest) Award, and a Solas Award. He lives in the Hells
Kitchen area of New York City. His future bestsellers, Move and
Fluid Borders, have not yet been released. His new work-in-progress,
Dubya Dubya Deux, is about a time traveler.
John M Edwards
Café Hopping in Indonesia
went out to get a cup of java in Java and ended up on an infernal coffee
odyssey through the Indonesian archipelago.
John M Edwards
only problem with the New Years vacation I was taking was that the destination
was right smack dab in the middle of a war zone!
...rows of hospital beds full of fully clothed, groaning
patients, whose limbs were being gleefully mangled amid the wild hoots
and derisive snorts of bystanders,
Fishing: Chasing Tail in the Tropics
John M. Edwards
Well, the problem was, I thought I saw a real live mermaid. The
genuine article. This was a fantastical phantasm (or orgasm) that was
hard to shake.
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