9 Minutes Before Eleven “ On the Wings of Fallen Angels..” -Chapter One- Richard Ozanne c 1999 It seemed a long time ago but still fresh in my mind, a brief glimpse, of time passed, but focused memor…

9 Minutes Before Eleven “ On the Wings of Fallen Angels..” -Chapter One- Richard Ozanne c 1999 It seemed a long time ago but still fresh in my mind, a brief glimpse, of time passed, but focused memory, those streets of Prague and those slalom structures, a thousand spires that built the city. The town breathed with the hearts of ancients as well as some surrealism left in bygone ages that were sandwiched between ages, with soft coals smell drifting through the streets and a subtle bent of newness entrenched within the Gothic parable of bygone ages, gray, mustard and tinder. An essence of restlessness was around each corner. I could feel the riddle written in the streets between Nove Mesto and Staromestska, a fulfillment of the treats of sausages baking on the grills between places down towards the center of the old village, still patched and scraped with memories of all who lived there. I too was the walker and sojourner of these channels and matrix of streets wandering ever impatiently as a newcomer, feeling a fallen spirit placed here again. I walked these streets a good dozen miles a day at times, and perhaps more on some occasions. The stone beneath my feet always played an uneven sway in my step as centuries had worn them, prominent ages, and providence giving me a chance once more having a glance at the raised towers and history which made this town drifting through my head on each walk, and journey throughout the streets from the old and grainy mustard Jewish cemetery, with its oracle crows calling “break” at the falling of another eve, to the young lovers whose hearts beat tenderly together in the magic of youth and of love which was admired as well as jealously wanted. This was another evening looking up at the sunset between those lofty buildings so old, and long forgotten, that one couldn’t really describe their history, those coal suited buildings that lay between my eyes and the sky as I walked, feeling those cobblestones under my feet again on such an eve. I was walking from Opalatova Street up, my valise heavy with teaching documents, my class ended in English, I a free man of sorts to think about other issues, a full 4 hours down of speaking, teaching and scratching diagrams all over the blackboard. I was tired, I moved with a quickened pace home. Still the dream like essence of Prague was insistent on my attention. This was my nightly path between the center of Prague and the subway line to “Museum” or rather “Hlavni Nadrazi” (The train station) which was a mark half way home from the center. Usually I was taking the bus, but on some nights I walked the parallels between the crowds, elbow room only, Germans, Italians and then some Russians. This was a real walk, far from internet, and hard stones under my feet, pounding pavement under-foot. Tourists arrived like clockwork here, different groups every week, arriving and departing on their holidays. Somewhere here seemed at times like a city that was between spatial references, way out there in the midst of a gigantic international world. Today it was a group of Italians that were gathered walking evenly following their guide, his pole held high. They were following, I was escaping. I could seen the last rays of light spread upon edge of the Museum out the the end of Wenceslas square, watching traffic, being especially careful of the trams that would appear out of nowhere as I moved on my special path up, crossing the street and over towards the Hotel Europa, that hotel where I had residence for many months and sometimes still resided in my mind. Time plays tricks it is said. Was this the late 1990’s or the early 1930’s, still in an old style movie, faded color but true to the essence, a poetic movie wrought before me, through my vision, in polite integrity of real circumstance, somehow measured the details, and put upon the pedestal of time for investigation. Suddenly a thought passed through me, and upon the wall, like a shadow; to stop by Europa and see if Dieter was working the desk. Dieter had been an old friend who made violins up in the attic of Europa during the days of residence at this legendary hotel. There was the Europa, grand in style and offering music in the Cafe heard from across the boulevard. The old Europa now demoted somehow to one star from five, by the period of reconstruction after the fall of communism. There is stood, and archangel of great gilded times past, the dim lights from within shining, one savored this time of thin harmony of music from the cafe as I approached. It was Bedrich Smetana tonight. Sometimes it was jazz. I rolled around through the turnstile of a revolving door into the lobby. It was like a merry go round between centuries, entering the last of the 20th through a portal of the 19th. A passing friend from the hotel tipped his gray Czech brow in welcome greetings. I could smell the cafe, something fresh was cooking that included meat, onion and garlic. I sank myself in towards the front, half covered by the red velvet curtain that provided some covering from the doors in winter. Yes, I could feel the snap from the back of me of the cold as well as the steam from the radiator that was at my legs as I peered into the Europa Cafe from the side door, bolted shut. None of my friends could see me here. Carefully I scanned for Petra, Vossek, Dmitri, and Vera. They were not at their nightly chairs at this time, sitting drinking wine or coffee and absorbing this old expensive place and its nostalgia of the turn of the 20th century guild. No, they did not come tonight. I turned around and looked at the front desk. Peter was tending the desk, the German-Czech with many legends, known and unknown. There were two people just receiving their room keys, and set off. Casually and with a great sense of balance he seemed to turn around and see me there, glancing straight at me as I approached, addressing me with a smile. He reached to the key box behind him and produced a key. It had been many months that I had stayed there, this was still automatic with Peter. He smiled, “My friend...you must have your room key!” I laughed and told him I was living elsewhere, in Zizkov this time and didn’t reside at the hotel but would return one day to my room. He again looked in back of him and pointed to #10, my room, “It is here for anytime..” he smiled, and then asked me about my life and what was new. We talked a bit and then I asked if Dieter was working that evening. Peter paused smiled and then shook his head. Out of the corner of my eye a familiar friend Vacek appeared. Shaking hands, we greeted each other, conversed lightly and bid farewell. I spotted the clock and I had been already almost ½ hour off my usual schedule home on this night. I would have to grab the buss at Halni Nadrazi for the trip up, making some better time. Natasha had cooked some dinner and was eager for me to come home for supper. I bid farewell, headed off into the night, up the street, catching the bus and seating myself on a crowded coach toward Zizkov, paying close attention to the bus stops as they passed not to be confused with my stop. Soon I was at my street and viewing my apartment building, not as ancient as the old town amidst a group of 1920's era 12 story structures. The large door opened and I walked in, tired from the walk as usual, up one and then two flights of stairs and a mustard colored Mezzanine, typical of the old Soviet designs. Ringing the loud harsh sounding doorbell Natasha was eager to see me, gracefully inviting me into the front room and setting me on the sofa for the evening Becherovka, an aperitif. My greeting home was endearing after the often cold day on the frontier, I one of the very few who seemed to have drifted through Prague, and on this occasion decided to establish an outpost here, and now with the drink of Becherovka, toasting to the day which was not easy, but difficult only now to have my kindness given to me at home before dinner. Tatyana was a lovely lady. Her inspiration was Prague for me, her smile an effervescent light at the end of an often dark street, living and trying to make it in a totally foreign land. It was my first year. I had been lucky. I went back in memory at that point to the first sight of Prague from the train station, the time when I stepped off the train was given a room at the Hotel Europa to stay and all of the dramatics that I had seen. Memories had their willing target, I a nostalgic person. But this was my first year and I had started teaching via a good school in Czech and was invited to teach continuing education courses at the Faculty of Pedagogy as well as at the television NOVA. It consume all my time, but these posts were work and paid a bit, though I was always open to more prosperous projects, and still a most willing subject to my own visions, as an artist and designer, independent and working for myself. In the larger picture it seemed as though everything I had done in Prague was work all the time to this fine time when I pulled forth my Becherovka to my lips, forgot about the past and brought that sweet liquid to my lips for a partial fulfillment of the present. I looked at Tatyana and gave her my full devotion with a kiss and sweet words for the dinner table was set. The meal was phenomenal as usual with fresh baked bread and sausage, sauerkraut (Cabbage rather) and some home-made dumplings with a wedge of Pork. I loved the simplicity, but moreover I loved to return home to a kind and warm setting, appreciating Tatyana for her ability to keep a happy home, and kindness on her lips despite the storms I often encountered. It was such an evening when lightning was crashing, and the rains were gathering puddles in the streets the water heard down below beating, as one could catch the flashes outside over the silhouettes of the buildings and dim lights along the structural walls and chasms of the apartment buildings in Zizkov. As I finished the meal I thanked Tatyana and tipped the napkin to feel away a little cabbage on the edge of my lip. She smiled at me with a most courteous smile and told me of her deep love for me, encountering the position of romance of the highest order. I looked into her smiling eyes with a touch of sentiment, and not so shallowly to bestow a radiance of love that was sparked here. Her eyes breathed the light of a nearby candle as the softness and glow of her temperament set golden promises adrift in thoughts, both hand tenderly embraced and promises made, I knew that this was an engagement. The phone interrupted some drift in consciousness here, as always at such subtle moments before the touch of love, bestowed an impassioned moment with intercourse following. That gnashing ring, obnoxious, as though an old woman was letting loose her rage of not being young, that damned phone rang and the talk began. It was Lesha, and then Johanne, two students who scheduled lessons. Afterward the desert was brought. Zmrzlina, or ice cream and cake of the best variety, followed by light coffee and then small talk, Tatyana relaying to me something she had forgotten. She told me of a message from Dieter as well as my friends associate Vronkman who managed some of my work in Prague and was a friend of Sarka and Millionen. With all the names that went by and their difficult pronunciations I had a difficult time keeping track of the many, coming, going and in between. But the message was from Dieter asking me to accept one of his packages which I may find in my postbox and to please deliver it to an address, given in the message. It was the same as many times before, a letter or parcel or even a piece of statuary given to me to pass along. “Oh yes!” Tatyana added, “Dieter wants to meet you at the Kafka Cafe...he say you know where it is” All of a sudden the phone rang with that almost yelling bell. I had never been use to it ringing. Tatyana grabbed it and answered, then beckoned me to come in to take the call. It was Dieter. “You must...” a strange restrained voice remained, “Meet me tonight at the Cafe ..K.” He then put the phone down. It went into a repeated tone. “Well another night..”I said to myself as I told Tatyana that I had to meet my associate in Prague, apologizing that it would only be an hours meeting. Tatyana looked sad but we came to a halfway resolve of the issue to meet in town later in the evening at yet another cafe Gulu Gulu in another portion of Prague. I grabbed my bag and set out. It was still only 7pm and the night was young. I arrived at the Kafka Cafe about 7:45 a quarter to 8. The place was still open, but not as bustling as usual. Tonight they had the televisions blasting some sports game and a marginal crowd that was interested. I looked for Dieter and he hadn’t appeared yet. Ordering a coffee, I settled into a still and dim corner of the main room of the cafe. A few nice looking ladies came in, smiled and took their seats opposite me as I waited for Dieter. Checking the time on a bold decorative clock, I paced the time. I usually paced time. It was like a ticking clock, the footsteps made on the pavement. Endless ticking,., He was never that late. Dieter was a man of precision though seemingly a little show on the catch, too sharp on the catch, a man of a disguise, not of face value. This was kindly Dieter. He was a man filled with a joke, forgetting the punchline only to exacerbate on the articles and syntax of the sentence as well as specific words in vocabulary as he slowed, marked it all out, and surprised one with his wit about bending words and sentences. But when Dieter was happy, he was happy, and sad...hum, I can say sad of course as he was filled with a very established diorama of gray emotions. He had a long face, kind and lost, a brilliant man at chess, and discussions and discourse on religion, pragmatics. All inclusive, a kind man of honesty and conviction having only one drawback...this time being late. He would never excuse himself for his behaviour. I would listen to this for an hour or maybe two, or maybe he would draw back and say, “I'm sorry…” or the excuses being laid on the banner of honor, or simply laid aside. I was not this time bandit! But now I was pacing, foot-by foot, stepping down, and then stepping on the curb. And then I went back in my mind. I drew an envelope from my mailbox, early this morning and now from my coat sleeve and measured it, wondering the contents and placed my hand on it retrieving some news from a vacant newspaper left on another table. It was in English, a preferred language arguably since my Czech was never that good, making attempts at times to learn it conservatively. Trying not to be suspicious, I tapped it to the content, lightly as I watched each face around me, dodge, excuse and walk around to go in the cafe, the weather getting cool, a breeze coming about, stirring in another direction still, a premium on my neck. It had been 45 minutes and now was approaching an hour, Dieter still had not arrived. I put the envelope in my coat pocket and began to think he got caught up in something, thinking our meeting wasn’t that important. Suddenly Dieter appeared in the doorway, a 6,7 shadow, the backdrop of light making his silhouette seem strange and gnawing. I walked over to him and he stood still and acted as if he didn't know me for one minute, then gave me a word, “I cannot meet you tonight, deliver the mail to Peter...” he commanded in a silent breath, turned and walked out into the dark. I did not ask questions. Somehow I knew. The night passed with a strange feeling. I walked on as though the night were young, laying a whistle into the air, passing the pharmacy, and the old town square, looking up for a moment, checking the time, walking over to Gulu Gulu and meeting Tatyana there. Oh I progressed not to think. The night was love and still to be enjoyable. Tatyana had been my girlfriend for some time. It was like the darkness was given light when she would appear. We met, and kissed in a welcome. Our evening had consumed a few cocktails and an hour at a jazz club and then we set off for home. She had never met Dieter, but was constantly asking about many of my whereabouts from different times, seeming somewhat jealous. I gave alibis for this evening, kept quiet, or even jovially attendant and of my speech, even in a childish joke. It was better that way, better to seem wandering than suspicious, no jealousy here but another life, dare I speak, or say, or tell. Yet it was a dream. Prague was a dream and so I measured each day by practical clockwork consuming time as it was given in various ways. The next day on my way to a teaching engagement I stopped by the Hotel Europa where I was promptly greeted by Peter and Vacek. I was given a piece of paper in my palm with my hotel keys by Peter. “On Saturday, your reservation is made...#15” He slipped another envelope to me from the American Center in which I was invited to a formal engagement. “You are very popular!” Peter said and smiled. I never asked and was never told about the efficiency of numbers, rooms, envelopes, or markings on newspapers as general descriptions of things which I was not supposed to know. I would appear on Friday and continue on to the train station going down to Cesky Budweis on Saturday, running as an alibi, my location as both Prague and Budweis had “Hotel Europa’s” I laughed, shuttling envelopes, the most pure white type, or the manila forms. It was the days before internet, presents being given, but underpinnings being less known for the benefit of all. I played aloof to miscalculations of bills, especially to my benefit, wrong change..to be given a benefit​? Alas this was only a dream, a complete dream of envelopes and documents flying here and there, unknowns being counted among shadows, or packages being delivered in the freezing cold of the night to sources that are mere fog, relating to one point where life was only normal in the Czech Republic at this time. But the enhancement, therein, might maintain a certain element of imagination. Room Number #15 did not exist but was a broom closet. Room #10 did. Memories of that chasm of Europa's Mezzanine did provide allot for the imaginations getting. The smiles were there at Europa, with Peter always guessing if it were #10, #5 or #47 or #356 where I would hang my hat for the evening! We laughed, and our party departed. This afternoon was the same episode, along the same line, distributing myself to various quadrants in Prague at 2pm an hour in a basement, on an old grand piano which I was allowed to practice and at 3:35 another episode with a class in Hradczany, moving again to Biskupcova St, for another hour session with a private client, and then the rite of evening classes at the Pedagogical institute in which I would pay 2 hour dues until that 7 o'clock bell would ring, I remaining hoarse from talking the full period about vocabulary to attentive students. It was the same regiment every single day, changing clients to Pancras and another client down in the center of Prague at periods. Indeed what was made of the day? Hours of walking, tramming and then the silent period of practice, possibly a concert for an hour waiting, as the other assembly would play, first a flutist, then a classical guitar, I pulled out in all excellence for a Chopin Etude, or set, disguised in my name for a group of anxious tourists wanting to hear Mozart, Bach and The Beetles. One day I sat besides myself, fulfilled in the abstraction of a living breathing creator, here on this planet, to do a variety of things, not always known, nor seen, in the prejudicial variety show of commercial culture, only to be an English Teacher and a piano player where Liszt was liked, and Chopin was liked, now disappearing again to a class where I would garnish the same suit, appear in tails at times, maintaining another profile and live in Prague practically unaffected. History and tradition somehow were intact here, not played against one another like a two piano concerto where each pianist have a different score. Europe was far different in its tastes and traditions which were learned, not just assumed. Slowly I walked on my 2pm journey to that mustard colored building. It had been an old music school, closed, some parts boarded up and partially under restoration, for a restaurant and hotel that eventually were abandon. Heila, Savodas sister said it had been a ballet studio, and also a legend of Mozart performing there in the Sal (a small hall) known as the Male Ruze, “A small rose...” No one really knew. The old plaques were torn out, and only legends remained. The communists stripped the walls of the murals, and this place was also considered a munitions storage at one time. I saw it once on the inside, given a tour. It was for Sleva (Sale) (in those days, about 340,000 dollars, the cost of repair two million..) The palace of c.1734 remained, all broken columns of 19th century style, with wooden inlay floors coming up from neglect. There were rooms of old style in the manner above. Part of it was let out to a storage company, In America it would have been demolished, shrubs growing from a second story parapet, pigeons making their nests in the partially collapsed roof on one end. (I learned later, that they gutted it and reconstructed the building for modern offices) But in the early days of my stay in Prague this was not the case. I would walk to the back loading area, and down and around, to those doors that reminded me of some gateway, perhaps to paradise to others leisure-time. , down one level and then to another. Each step followed another, the heavy smell of ancient buildings and a sound of trickling water were to be heard. There was a long corridor filled with seats, boxes and drama from the last century. At the end of this was a clearing and a long black piano laid with thick padding .It was open, and somehow always in tune for its age. It was there that I practiced and there that I weaved my soul with music as the workmen would sometime come, smile and sit and listen but not disturb me. Sometime I would break to silence... I would look overhead at the thickly coated pipes, as metaphor; the mesh door that locked, as a chasm to a corner, and then the table upon which old music books lay. An old lamp could be turned on by a key on the wall, was my light in this chasm, wires bundled, crisscrossing like spider webs...music as could be had, and read. I had another room. Mr. Savoda was kind to make this space available to be a studio if I wished. There was no light down there, the old windows were thick with cobwebs from the last century. There were the old canvases from the Europa studio. The ones that didn't sell.. fifteen pieces, a portfolio. I stored all that wasn’t needed on my shoulder or in my briefcase for another days trial. The hours would end, and like clockwork the busy blue suited workmen would come through gathering ladders and buckets and smile as the started their afternoon work packing. It was like this was a hiding place for me.in a piano, dim light gattet of a Prague basement. I could come and go if I chose, perhaps even live there! in the afternoon or evening ,so long as those great doors were not locked I was free with a piano and environment. Sometimes after classes let out I would come.It was only ten minutes walk to Starometska, three minutes to Charles Bridge. Sometimes late in the evening I would come here. Eventually I was given a key, but I also knew other performers practiced there, Two pianists with the opera, and a quartet. My refuge would change as the months passed to a similar place in Old Prague, at an old school, another basement studio once more, and a teaching room where the perspective of a portrait of Brahms would tower over me. Mendelssohn there feeling free to express, and I insulating myself until I was finished, and closed the door behind me walking, marching to another session of teaching in another vicinity of Prague always leaving hours open to remain at my flat in Zizkov for artwork to appear, a studio and sessions like clockwork for some exhibitions, be they many, untold, and undiscovered among the cataclysm of renowned centers here and there. This day was like others. It was a common night.Tonight I returned home tired of the day, same routine, only stopping briefly at Gulu Gulu before my return home to see if one associate of mine, a quite intelligent young fellow from Lebanon “David”, a Phd in Chemistry in residence, was available to pattern, edit, and put some of my notes on Disk, the only fellow who had computer in Prague that could proceed with this at that time. It was 1997 and the Internet Cafe was a weak commodity in Prague without signing up for rather expensive sessions. I would write everything in hand-script only for later transcription for editing on my lusciously equip 486 laptop, slow but sturdy archaic element from days when EMail was a relatively unknown thing and Facebook a dream, especially in Czech. As I walked into the smoke filled Gulu Gulu David was present, as usual drinking a firm glass of Pivo (Beer) and affirmed that he could process some 150 pages for me at a reasonable cost on his bosses computer. The trade was a snack, sandwich, and beer, but moreover some companionship sitting, both foreigners in a place where expats and tourists unraveled their interests and travels, locals keeping busy on the relaxing timber of chat, football games and ephemera. There was interesting conversation in periods however, people gathering together by mutual interests in this place, some less common than the rest. I had been formatting this document in what seemed as a forever time...the last part of my so-called dissertation, changed dramatically from two years process, the feeling of this anticlimactic being a little of memory. I turned around and there were a few of my students that cheered me on from a different table, Sarka and Denis were there, George (The American) and old Zdenek who sold the candles of Lenin, Stalin and Marx was passing again around the place. Choosing to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere, a thick cloud of smoke enduring the entire cafe was layering the visual, as one friend rushed toward me and announced that Tatyana was going to come soon. I smiled, knowing she had a phone and I was at the mercy of that decrepit payphone adjacent to Gulu Gulu. Somehow everything worked out always, like precision, as per some kind of thought mail. I turned and there she was, neatly dressed from her work at the design shop. We greeted each other with the usual overwhelming embrace as Sarka stood and came over announcing in a giddy voice to us, “She knew the power of Prague when it came to Love” To her it Its a most amazing place...” she added, “where couples can be lost and found in the many corridors of the streets, a bench or special park where lovers would wander, find themselves and suit themselves to entanglement in passionate love making at the feet of Macha. Tatyana seemed to know my whereabouts as though by telepathy. How she did I never could know. Tonight she was specially graced in a black skirt clear to her ankles, a high collar, the pitch of her hair, extravagant and elegant. She stood in the doorway of the Gulu Gulu, and people did wonder of the occasion when she entered, peering up in suprised at an elegantly dressed lady. She was dressed for me not for the situation, as jeans and T-shirt would be enough. I didn’t have a phone at the time, but she always appeared many times out of the blue, in direct connection to where I was in Prague. How this was seemed amazing but kindly! I could never get over Tatyana's incredible light blue eyes, fair skin. It was always hypnotic. As always I was taken in a kind of mesmerizer and a dream world when it came to her appearance. She always dressed well whether in tasteful dress or sneakers and T-Shirt, the latter not too well remembered as she always mesmerized my attention. Of course she was always asking about the days events. Many days were ordinary. Same..Same teaching and of course waiting for some time to do some more, tranquil and intense work at home in my art. We laughed a bit, I held her in my arms and we descended into conversations about world events, and living in Prague. I remember those days with fascination! It seemed a long time ago since I lived back in America. Actually it was only a couple of years in retrospect. During this time I had made trips back for business but only short term, a month or two at most and then I was back to Prague, which seemed then like a home, a foreign land which I assumed to be a home. Sometimes memories would skip back to busy Phoenix traffic instead of walking or taking a bus. In my arrival back I always felt it was like a visit to a busy casino, lady luck always on my tail for the winning numbers. Life in Czech was more practical, pragmatic, but hard earned, and in ways easier, but there were difficulties being a foreigner at times. I am American, though no one really knew my nationality. I always looked back in nostalgia at things that could have been, but were not, playing the scenes that were more of a made-for-television movie than reality, and in someway nonsensical dreams, painted realities. That I was able to live, able to work here was a gift in many ways. That this was a reality far away from American dreamlands of mega-millions, big bucks and business at all costs seemed a sobre reality for an artist, painter and a musician, who in his time would live a life that was simple and endearing here without being muscled by primate concepts of keeping up with the Jones methodology and live life simply and among friends. I was a peaceworker between people, a intellectual, visual artist, writer. I taught the young to be inspired and to inspire in a system of schematics, on others writings, and anothers goals. Often I was pressed for time in my work here, with 10 students waiting, a class in Plzen of another eleven on the weekend, twenty more students in English as a Second Language to fill up my time, and then the saving of my own free hour I sat in studio as a reflection. At the cafe, I sipped cafe wrote and filled pages of my sketchbooks, worked at home, at night writing journals, reflections. The in-between pages lifting to some thought filled dreams of the past which seemingly never really went away, nor ever could. I was present here in Prague, not at home, for this was my home, for the time being. I was working, and living life in a simple way, measurably being productive. I would drift forward at times to wonder, if I returned to my homeland what this reality that I was experiencing would mean in the greater aspect. This did not good however, for present is the greatest gift of experience. I would spend seven years in Czech Republic which in memory would be the experience of a lifetime, each moment assembling itself upon the next, in artistic notions, and stranger dreams, and experiences which would be irrevocable. The morning was brisk. The late autumn air was catching a strong chill as I would gather pastry in the morning for breakfast from a little shop of homemade breads in Zizkov, on my route passing by a bookstore where I viewed the latest news from America in the Herald Tribune, or some new novel...entitled “On Wings of Fallen Angels..” by an uncommon, and unknown author of nonfiction poised in a world of the virtual. -End Chapter One-

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