Man of Window…
c. Richard Ozanne c.1999
This story is fiction….or is it? It is better as fiction, than a real entry some may say, as fiction has a protection curious to its own cause of never having happened, being a virtual extent of the imagination..
A young cosmopolitan was an insistent journalist, writing his memoirs, giving impact to the second of this day, second in a recorded journal. His hand was steady, though perfectly ingrained into his surroundings, referencing certain experiences that impacted him that day, scribing to the moment an article:
-A Certain Character of People-
“Its not that people are in themselves bad...rather, a certain peculiar nature that
forces them into believing what is done for the good..is good, but rather the contrary,
is a satisfactory conclusion-the definitions that they entertain in a very peculiar sense, a character of people...not all but greater than some”
“Intelligence, is better if its left to that variety of intellect that does not confine its nature to rules, limits of operations, and regulations, rather finding that if the search for truth, (if it can ever supported as truth) is a variety of the supposed and truth existing , to a greater or lesser degree, as with all things supported by supposed logic...”
The light was beginning to lower in the court outside, a fountain, and then the church where Jan Huss was inclined, to that moment, history made there and forward to the moment, of task as the words were written and inscribed into a page:
It should be known, hereby to be heard, and not up to any more fertilization of thoughts of the road, on this note of a certain candor and...Character of People.
It is better to be said with an old saying: It is better to trust a total stranger than full-blood kin. I dont know who wrote that, but it has been certainly true in some views of the road. Strangers flood each day, and of course..”kin”, what does one say? In certain perspectives, kin should step forward where the stranger leaves out. Certain logic might tell us that, or not as the case may be. One cannot judge all the character of people in a certain bulk, and one can never judge kin on the same level either. Kin may be close, or said to be close. They may come closer at times, or distance themselves to perform their roles as “Perfect” strangers…”
The late afternoon was beginning to fall, the cafe house Gulu Gulu, an element of Prague, journal entry April 31 -’0’ (blurred by a coffee stain). The young man switched mediums, to record on this day sketches of his environment, not in too much detail, but as exercises in skill referencing the moment.
“Artists are writers of vision” he recorded once in a preamble to a book he had been writing on art, that was little asked for, lesser known and still existed in the stockpiles of old references, waiting for a sponsor for this article to come forth…
Waiting was a key issue in all creative endeavors…
The sketchbook commenced, a couple of leaves scribbled a out ...and the time checked..and ticked.
“Tatyana was supposed to meet him here...at 5:30.” he thought to himself, now 4 an hour and one half to wait. He scanned the room for a friend to join in the interim, perhaps for coffee, or just for conversation. As a foreigner things could often be a silent realm in Prague, good friends often made life a little better, if not for a game of chess, or casual conversations.
The Gulu was beginning to be filled with a nightly crew of expats. They were all new, two day or week visitors. Some had come to entertain a dream by living here, taking up a hobby of writing, or becoming an artists. But no, most of the people were ordinary 20’s or 30’s crowd, out for a vacation and in for some conversation, beer or the famous pick-up. This night was no different than others. One side of the cafe and back room were clogged with young Germans and Italians on a getaway, a very few Czechs actually becoming part of the environment. There were the Brits who came in and a handful of expat Americans...not as many Americans as the books said however.
This week it was the Italians. Next week they would be from Hungary, Poland or other parts of Eastern Europe.
There was a new crew in town though, something noticeable among the backdrop of people, mostly people of Arabic descent. Not that it mattered much, but this was unusual in these times, and some people talked about the numbers.
Through the door came two young Arab men in their 30’s somewhere, and sat off to the side. Three or four came in, and took various places at tables together, somewhat obvious, but not in too much of a stir as to call attention.
They were tea drinkers. The cafe did become rowdy after a while in the evening however. Not this evening however, things being more on the calm end in an eerie way.
The position of the table where the young journalist was sitting had become uncomfortable. Servers were coming through one way and other people came in at a peculiar angle causing a traffic jam in front of his table.
He moved to the other side of the cafe to gain some light and a bit of fresh air at the window at a clear area. Setting aside both his journal and sketch-pad he momentarily caught the eye of the waitress and ordered some Videnska Kava. (Vienna Coffee), and sat looking out the window at the late day catching a sense of a brisk wind from outside in the partially opened port.
Bringing his sketchpad out, he sharpened his pencil in a usual fashion and began to sketch again.
“A Certain Character of People…” caught his minds wave as he sketched out some characters in the role that existed around him. Faces always seem to be a study in action...he thought to himself. Nothing really interesting, nothing really recordable. People start to look the same if one is an artist after a while, its just sketching and a study,
“If only for a character...that would be interesting…” he thought to himself as the door opened and another crew of people walked in, and foreigner, perhaps Arab, neatly dressed with a backpack, and vermillion shirt, took a table five feet away. An older Arabic fellow took another table to his right, the two faces juxtaposed seeming to have some kind of family relationship one older, and one younger.
He had seen one of them several times in Prague, the medium built fellow with dark black hair and a certain kind of jaw-line that was rather rare among other Arabs.
“A Certain Character of Person..” is made up of the elements of juxtaposition of features, this a study in physiognomy..
This face was unique. This fellow was pale-with a yellowish tinge to his complexion, almond shaped eyes and blocked in features that seemed to appear more like a boxer, his hair oil colored, measuring perfect angles of attack on thin lines of his face in an “X” like fashion.
“Measurement and a critical eye are very important for a likeness to be rendered. General features of most people tend to not lead to characters...but some people have something written, a legend perhaps, a face….”
The fellow, passed back and forth in front of me making gestures in Arabic to the older man at the other table who waved him away in a father and son kind of gesture…
Watching the character traits though ones side eye and not appearing to take notice is an art in itself.
On his lap the young journalist sketched the characters as they appeared, not looking directly at them but from a side-view, a side glance as though not to appear to give attention, which some cultures consider rude.
“Something about this particular face…” the young journalist marked, redefining the lines and making some corrections until continuing a likeness, with shadow and form in a brief sketch.
The window opened a bit, and a rush of cold air came in the room. The younger Arab rushed to close it, while the older arab complained of the smoky bar and need for fresh air. He then returned to his seat, and in a very strange pose, turned the chair completely around and sat on the chair backwards, face forward, arms over the top of the chair, looking out the window...as the last light of afternoon was beginning to dim, and a setting for a light shadow drawing was being set, and drawn...of this figure...sitting there looking out the window, onto the Jan Hus Square.
The qualities of personality of this face were both intent, and distant. His hands were clasp together, rather large, his jaw muscles had a quiver of a nervous man, his eyes dark, and not clearly visible, disappearing into a mass of light and shadow.
That color of hair appeared dark, like coal, neatly cut, one wondered this persons mission, only to be portrayed in this drawing.
“A Certain Character of Physiognomy…”
What nature does a face take on in a sketch or photograph? The identity was undefinable but this feature, sat there as if waiting, as if a predator, then or sometime in the future...blocked in, and harnessed by that chair, staring straight ahead intently. Physiognomy, that of a canine, not herbivore...but carnivore, animal, some strange bird, prehistoric-flightless-mineral...ferric oxide..
One kind of having a degree of wonder and at a time…
”a pity for such an identity, at least appearing...from this face on a sketchbook page…” the young artist inquired. “Its distant, and too aware, but not aware…” he thought to himself as the drawing progressed...the same with the old Arab, another sketch page…
“One cannot judge all the character of people...all people, in a certain bulk, and one can never judge kihn…”
The artist thought to himself in brief sipping his coffee and returning to his journal for a correction of one statement judging the psychology of things as he panned the cafe.
A Quote of Goethe came spilling on the page, only to be wiped away, and written back again.
“I am the spirit that negates.
And rightly so, for all that comes to be
Deserves to perish wretchedly;
'Twere better nothing would begin.
Thus everything that that your terms, sin,
Destruction, evil represent...
A scraping correction in synthesis, and prayer for errors, colors and syntax, meshed one sentence into another...phrase rather worthy, but not appropriate….
“A man *sees in the world what he carries in his heart,,.”
He quickly closed his book to a gnawing sound that came forth, in broken English. The Old Arab man was asking for sugar and cream, choosing initially broken German, than English, and then initiated a conversation, “Where are’ you frem?” he asked in a thick accent, “Deutsch Sprechen…? Anglishe Speak? “ he phrased.
The dialog continued, in a very casual way at first, and involved itself further into a conversation, the old man being buried in a thick coat to stay warm as the sun was beginning to set, and the window now partially ajar. “closed the window”...
So much attention was put on the window, it either open or closed. The other Arab man was still position in his same position as if frozen, the old man and the younger man talking as if briefly having knowledge of each other...with some debate written silently between them that really couldnt be drawn.
“I see you writing…art you a teacher?” the old man questioned, and tried to involve himself in conversations, as the other man was still sitting there silently, “You teach...English here in Prague?” he asked, out right and then began dialog on international issues, as if to involve the young philosopher, in a heavy setting of Global Politic, something about Arabia. He was from Lebanon and lived in Saudi Arabia I heard, as he introduced himself, grabbing time to make some altogether serious conversation about Israel and Palestinian politics.
The young cosmopolitan checked his time, and not having a phone, realized it was later than expected.
Taking his books with him, he excused himself to the old man and payed the check, making it through the gathering backpacker loiterers at the entrance, that seemed to be leaving instead of entering on this night.
Another face, with a backpack and a tube of material, forcefully made its way into the cafe almost upsetting a waitress on his way in. It was his manners, moreover another physiognomy that was noticeable...big eyes filled with angry emotions and an energy that seemed to trip everything in its way once he entered the door, bursting 13 steps in to the back and to the side, where he began to shuffle things, finding a place with one seat and his cargo.
Leaving the Gulu he walked down into the pre-night square, sun low on the horizon, only a few beams making their way across, as red banners across the flat ancient surfaces of the Prague window.
He walked straight across the square, glancing at the Huss Church in Prague, and at the far end of the street took a left to see one of the last remaining phone booths, tagged by graffiti, and in a area of lesser value...the street of old antiquariats and book stores.
He took a card from his pocket, labeled with a picture of Tyn Cathedral, a “telephone” card more appropriately, that had enough for a two minute phone call to Tatyana, making sure everything was ok.
A certain feeling of hollowness echoed through the square to the left, center and up to the old Cafe Gulu Gulu, as some singing could be heard echoing through the streets. It was off pitch, had a edge of bitterness, and was in a familiar tongue...English, rather some American, his backpack thrown on the ground and making a drunk mockery of himself in the square.
“This was not uncommon however. One only wonders why people come to Prague and make a mockery of themselves, beer tipped and pretending to sing..”
Looking out into the square the spectacle was direct and blatant...singing old patriotic songs in a very strange way that seemed almost twisted, crazy.
Tatyana wasnt in, and so the phone was hung and a visit to the TABAK shop was going to be made to pick up a Herald Tribune. The TABAK shop was just up the way and across the square..,
Halfway across was the young man in his late twenties or early 30’s screaming at the top of his lungs “God Bless America…” in a very disturbed way, his clothes worn from the backpackers lodge and his napsack thrown at his feet.
“Quite a song..for the middle of a square in Prague...I would’nt guess you were American..”
The fellow had a glass eyed stare, as he kept on singing and standing at attention his hand in full salute, looking off in a gazed way that seemed almost as someone disturbed, even terribly frightened.
Passing around, there was only one quick statement, “Oh my God!...God Bless America!...” he said, returning to his sung rant that evening.
Around to the TABAK shop and a purchase of a new paper. When he returned around his buddies had come to grab his belongings and help him back to the hostel..so to speak, if that is where he came from.
Gulu Gulu was beginning to be more crowded as the last rays of light skirted across the square.