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Piove sui works in regress.

European, italiano, piemontèis. Falso e cortese. Geriatric millennial. Bezbožný. Samotář. 100% spoleh!

La pioggia da sotto ·

Storm Arwen, Caithness, 26 novembre 2021 (via Pamela Taylor).


Scozia e Inghilterra si sono risvegliate giovedì mattina sferzate da venti con raffiche fino a 185 km/h. È il biglietto da visita dell’annunciata tempesta «Xaver», di origine artica, che da mercoledì ha messo in allerta il nord Europa. Nelle Highlands scozzesi, migliaia di case sono rimaste senza elettricità e diverse strade e ponti sono chiusi. Il traffico ferroviario è sospeso, molti voli sono stati cancellati.

Saluti dalle Highlands scozzesi. 185 km/h no ma 90 mph sí. Un paio di blackout al mattino, la collega gnocca rimasta a terra in aeroporto, l’intera rete ferroviaria nazionale bloccata. Andare in stazione in pausa pranzo a comprare i biglietti per il ritorno, con il fiume grigio che traboccava e il nevischio che girava in grandine sul coppino, è stato divertentissimo!

In Scozia circa 80mila persone sono state evacuate e molte città sono rimaste senza elettricità.

No. Chissà questi cos’hanno tradotto.

A differenza della cittadina gemella, il porto di Cicely è sopravento sottovento protetto dal vento, altrimenti sarebbe scattato anche qui come nel resto dell’isola l’allarme storm surge, l’evento meteorologico piú terrificante di cui si possa sorridere in TV (ovviamente la pagina di Wikipedia in italiano non esiste).

Gale, gale blow
Gale, gale blow
My umbrella can’t take it you know
Been caught in a hail storm
A blizzard, tornado’s nose
But nothing, no nothing
Can beat this gale blow

Se mio nonno è sopravvissuto alla Campagna di Russia, io posso ben sopravvivere al meteo della contea.

(Prospettiva Nevskij, dall’archivio di Cicely, Scotland, .)

Internet explorer #15 ·

Craig Mod › Let’s Fly.

Things of Interest › Fiction, by Sam Hughes (qntm).

Medium › The Stoicism of Benjamin Franklin, by Donald J. Robertson.

Big Think › Just four colors are enough for any map. Why?, by Frank Jacobs.

Ars Technica › You only live once: Epidemiologists analyze health risks in all the James Bond films, by Jennifer Ouellette.

Aeon › The posthuman dog, by Jessica Pierce.

TV Brno 1 › Modeláři železnic mají v Brně své zázemí, od Jany Holubové.

Common Sense with Bari Weiss › First Comes Love. Then Comes Sterilization., by Suzy Weiss.

The Guardian › I sold my eggs for an Ivy League education – but was it worth it?, by Ellie Houghtaling.

Radio Prague International › Czech scientists first to look inside atom, open new window into understanding […], by Tom McEnchroe.

Science › Real-space imaging of anisotropic charge of σ-hole by means of Kelvin probe force microscopy, by Benjamin Mallada et al.

Vera LackováAlica

Nová hudba, ktorej verím #6 ·

How did I not realise before that Veronika Svorenčíková’s Nová hudba, ktorej veríme is itself a shout-out to Steve Lamacq’s legendary show, In New Music We Trust? She is carrying the torch of new good indie pop and rock to the airwaves of Central Europe.

Dubstar – Tectonic Plates

And why do I have to get to know about new Dubstar releases from Daniel Baláž and not from Lammo? What is the BBC good for nowadays?
Tectonic Plates is produced by Stephen Hague and you can hear it in the crisp sound of synths and guitars. Oh, that guitar riff in the middle!

Wet Leg – Wet Dream

Recently I read the proposal that it should be a crime to engage in solitary sexual fantasies without the express consent of the subject.
I am sure we are all both perpetrators and victims of this heinous thoughtcrime, and I bet Wet Leg would concur. Consider the lobster.

Tolstoys – Skin Hunger (We Are Human Beings)

Tolstoys are back early next year with their sophomore album and are releasing a string of videoclips that are shot by young visual artists.
The video for Skin Hunger is in portrait format because their primary audience lives on smartphones. Also their audience need touching.

Sui gesti anticonservativi ·

Il 7 novembre di ottantacinque anni fa, un sabato, a Ovada, Celestina si gettava nell’Orba lasciando quattro figli.
Ora che i quattro figli sono morti, il “gesto anticonservativo” di Celestina resta soltanto una nota nel registro parrocchiale. Qualunque cosa l’abbia attratta all’acqua, nessuno può piú ricordarlo. Le ragioni del suo gesto si sono perse nel tempo, le conseguenze si sono fatte intangibili.

Di recente due mie amiche hanno perso loro cari per suicidio.
Da come le mie amiche me li hanno descritti, i loro cari erano molto simili: burberi, umorali, passionali; in società non stavano granché bene, ma erano indispensabili per coloro che avevano intorno. Il perché del loro gesto non si è compreso. Alle mie amiche sono rimasti lo sconcerto e la rabbia, e una scalfittura all’anima. Ed è probabile che fra ottantacinque anni anche le mie amiche saranno morte, e il ricordo dei loro cari resterà soltanto negli archivi digitali dei giornali locali.

(“Gesto anticonservativo”, quale raccapricciante locuzione da giornale locale o da pretore di provincia!)

Nei giorni in cui cominciavo a prendere note per questo post, leggevo e mi appuntavo una citazione: nulla rende una determinata situazione piú intollerabile della consapevolezza che non possiamo cambiarla in nessun modo. Google non mi aiuta, ma mi pare di ricordare che fosse di un economista liberale e che fosse riferita al tema del lavoro.
Negli stessi giorni finivo di leggere quel libro sullo stoicismo. Gli stoici veneravano quei personaggi come Socrate, Catone Uticense e Seneca, che preferirono darsi la morte al perdere la propria virtú civile. A distanza di millenni noi posteri guardiamo con ammirazione a figure come Jan Palach e Irina Slavina, sacrificatisi per denunciare l’insostenibile situazione politica nel loro Paese, senza soffermarci a pensare al dolore di coloro che avevano intorno.

La filosofia stoica tratta anche il suicidio di persone comuni. Epitteto ricorre all’allegoria della “porta aperta”:

Ricorda che la porta è aperta. Non essere piú timido dei bambini, ma, come quelli, quando il gioco non è piú di loro gradimento, dicono «non gioco piú», cosí anche tu, quando le circostanze ti sembrano altrettanto spiacevoli, di’ «non gioco piú» e vattene; se rimani, però, non lamentarti.

Se la sofferenza non ti sta bene, la porta resta aperta. Se ti sta bene, sopportala. Ché la porta deve restare aperta in ogni caso, affinché noi non abbiamo preoccupazioni.

(Diatribe, I 24.20, mio adattamento via Wikiquote; e ibidem, II 1.19-20, mia traduzione via How to Be a Stoic.)

Nel suo libro Massimo Pigliucci spiega che per Epitteto la decisione di varcare la porta aperta è una questione di giudizio personale, relativo a situazioni specifiche: se la situazione è veramente intollerabile, allora la persona ha l’opzione di andarsene. Al tempo stesso, quella porta deve restare aperta affinché noi non abbiamo preoccupazioni: la possibilità di andarsene è ciò che ci permette di sopportare le condizioni avverse e i momenti piú difficili della nostra vita. Cosí come per gli stoici la morte dà significato alla vita, la possibilità di abbandonarla volontariamente ci permette di viverla con coraggio.

Ovviamente il gesto dev’essere frutto di una decisione razionale, da prendersi né per impeto né per tedio:

Un mio amico, senza alcun motivo, decise di lasciarsi morire di fame. Lo seppi quand’era già il terzo giorno che aveva cominciato il digiuno: andai da lui e gli chiesi che cosa fosse successo. «Ho deciso», disse. «Bene, ma che cosa ti ci ha spinto? Se la tua decisione è retta, ecco noi ti sediamo vicino e ti aiutiamo a uscir di vita; se illogica: mutala».

(Diatribe, II 15.4, citato in Alida Airaghi – Il suicidio nel pensiero greco.)

E poiché il pensiero umano è immutabile, non sorprenda di leggere la medesima allegoria a distanza di millenni:

Qualcuno ha fatto del fumo in casa? Se non è troppo, resto. Se è troppo, me ne vado. Ché devi sempre ricordare e aver fede, che la porta è aperta.

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

(Diatribe, I 25.18, mia traduzione via How to Be a Stoic; e David Foster WallaceInfinite Jest.)

Per Wallace (che soffriva di depressione e, sí, si è suicidato) al di fuori del palazzo in fiamme non si può capire perché sia preferibile prendere la via della finestra aperta. Se Wallace ha ragione, e il gesto è al di là della nostra comprensione, per noi astanti non ha senso provare rabbia. Dunque, che fare?

[L]a civiltà di massa ha questo pregio, che ciascuno può annegare liberamente senza che gli altri gli diano fastidio nel tentativo di salvarlo. È in fondo una forma di delicatezza e di rispetto dell’opinione altrui di morire da sé.

(Giorgio Scerbanenco – I milanesi ammazzano al sabato.)

Sulla base di millenni di letteratura, filosofia e religione, suppongo che un focolaio di malessere sia acceso nella casa di ciascun individuo che abbia raggiunto l’età della ragione. Quanto il fumo e le fiamme siano sotto controllo, forse lo sa l’individuo; difficile è stimarlo dall’esterno, ancora piú difficile se si appartiene alla civiltà di massa su cui ironizza Scerbanenco.
Restando nell’allegoria usata da Epitteto e Wallace, per prevenire i gesti anticonservativi suicidi occorrerebbe installare segnalatori di fumo ed estintori di fiamme in ogni casa. Non penso che ciò sia fattibile dall’esterno; il controllo del proprio focolaio spetta a ciascun individuo. Quel che si può fare all’esterno è costruire scale antincendio che consentano agli individui in agonia di andare oltre la scelta fra soffocare o gettarsi. Se nulla rende una determinata situazione piú intollerabile della consapevolezza che non possiamo cambiarla in nessun modo, e l’unico cambiamento possibile appare la via della finestra aperta, offriamo alternative.
Nel frattempo controlliamo il nostro focolaio personale e verifichiamo l’agibilità della nostra scala antincendio.

In morte di James Bond ·

Nell’ultima scena di Není čas zemřít (No Time to Die, non so come s’intitoli in italiano) Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) guida l’Aston Martin color argento lungo una strada costiera con We Have All the Time in the World come colonna sonora. È un evidente rimando al funesto finale di On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, ma è un finale ribaltato, perché accanto a lei non c’è James Bond (Daniel Craig): egli si è sacrificato per salvare l’umanità (e la stessa Madeleine) (e la bambina dagli occhi azzurri che molto probabilmente è sua figlia) (i conti tornano).

Fra le fantasiose teorie che provano a spiegare razionalmente come Bond sia in giro da sessant’anni e come abbia avuto sei sembianze diverse, c’è quella per cui “James Bond” è un nome in codice, un’identità fittizia che può essere assunta da qualunque spia nell’élite dell’MI6: orfano di padre scozzese e madre svizzera, ammiraglio della Marina britannica, ecc. A prender per buona tale teoria, consegue che il Bond di Connery non è il medesimo Bond di Lazenby (this never happened to the other fella), che non è il medesimo Bond di Moore, che non è il medesimo Bond di Dalton, che non è il medesimo Bond di Brosnan, che non è il medesimo Bond di Craig.
Non sappiamo cosa sia successo agli altri, ma del Bond di Craig abbiamo assistito dall’esordio alla caduta in cinque film dalla forte serialità.

La componente seriale è insieme la forza e la debolezza di Není čas zemřít. A me è piaciuto come se fosse l’ultimo episodio di un telefilm non eccelso ai cui protagonisti mi ero affezionato per abitudine, e mi chiedo quanto possa piacere a un avventore casuale del multisala che non sa perché James Bond sia restio a fidarsi della donna al suo fianco, o che non ha visto Vesper Lynd morire annegata in Casino Royale e non può cogliere la sua e nostra frustrazione nel veder morire annegato Felix Leiter.
Visivamente è un bel film. Il regista Cary Joji Fukunaga va matto per gli interni con luci fredde al neon, ma le scene girate nel sole accecante di Gravina e Matera sono una splendida cartolina. La scalata alla sala-controllo ci immerge in un videogioco sparatutto in prima persona; e quell’inquadratura nella galleria di cemento, con Bond che si volta a sparare a un cattivo del quale noi spettatori abbiamo la soggettiva, come nelle celeberrime sequenze della canna della pistola? Genio!
La sceneggiatura di Neal Purvis e Robert Wade questa volta ha un senso logico lineare, con qualche omaggio-scopiazzatura ai film precedenti (la visita alla tomba dell’amata in For Your Eyes Only, la casa di campagna in Skyfall, l’isola-laboratorio da Dr. No in poi). Il felice contributo di Phoebe Waller-Bridge si può leggere nell’umorismo autoconsapevole che finora alle interpretazioni di Craig mancava, e nel personaggio della spia cubana semidilettante che tiene testa a un intero commando della SPECTRE e poi chiude Bond fuori dalla porta senza smancerie.

Ana de Armas nei panni della spia Paloma in una scena del film.

Ana de Armas, pigliami a calci.

(Fra parentesi, la cubana semidilettante sembra una spia migliore della nuova 007 Nomi, che non ha molto da fare e quando lo fa è in ritardo, che non ha molto da dire e quando lo dice non l’ascolta nessuno, e va bene che è donna, e va bene che è nera, ma non va bene che è culona, e l’attrice ha due espressioni, con gli occhialetti e senza, chiusa parentesi.)

Cosí come On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, anche No Time to Die in fondo è un dramma sentimentale: il triangolo amoroso fra James Bond, la dr.ssa Madeleine Swann “figlia della SPECTRE”, e la defunta doppiogiochista Vesper Lynd. Vesper Lynd era stato un vero colpo di fulmine per l’esordiente Bond di Craig, e da morta è un ideale irraggiungibile. Madeleine Swann è un’innamorata devota ma appare come un ripiego. Il ricorrente tema musicale di We Have All the Time in the World dovrebbe suggerire che lei sia la donna della vita di Bond, ma a me cultore della materia quelle note evocano la tragica figura di Tracy di Vicenzo, estendendo il triangolo sentimentale dell’era-Craig a un quadrilatero su tutta la filmografia. Il problema è che il binomio Madeleine Swann / Léa Seydoux non regge il confronto, per definizione del personaggio e per bravura o carisma dell’attrice, né con Vesper Lynd / Eva Green, né con Tracy di Vicenzo / Diana Rigg.
Capisco il metter su famiglia, ma farsi bersaglio di una batteria di missili per lei? No. Aveva fatto bene a imbarcarla sul primo Frecciarossa.

Moving up ·

Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt and Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in an episode of Parks and Recreation, entering an elevator before the doors close, with captions «You ready?» «Not at all. But that’s never stopped us before.»

The Encampment ·

Ogni anno il Brno Writers Group organizza un concorso letterario in lingua inglese. Quest’anno il tema del concorso era «Where I am local». Colto da ispirazione, ho scritto e inviato un racconto che probabilmente avrei pubblicato su queste pagine in altra forma. Non è niente di che, sono stati premiati testi migliori, ma mi sono divertito a buttar giú parole e a rifinirle ossessivamente per un mese e mezzo.
Ogni riferimento a ingegneri nucleari esistenti o a bettole realmente vissute è puramente casuale.

Everyone has a personal geography, and a personal toponymy that was drafted by the most diverse choices and experiences in life.
At times it may happen that various personal spatial planes intersect and collapse in one point: such points are the places where we are local.

Přeju vám příjemné čtení!


There’s a hole in my neighbourhood down which of late I cannot help but fall.

It first happened on the very same day that I relocated to this faraway corner of the city. It was a late Sunday afternoon at the end of summer, and I had managed to lock myself out of the flat I had just moved in. The locksmith had told me on the phone that he would come in an hour, but I was hungry, and above all I needed a restorative beverage.
I had noticed before that the closest place to my set of renovated paneláky was this hospoda, an unpretentious pub like any other, sitting at the intersection of two minor streets on the opposite side of the Svratka. So I got out in the warm setting sun, I crossed the Harbour Bridge, and I hesitated for a moment in front of the signs above the door. The Encampment was the name of the hospoda, and a golden plaque explained that Oliver Cromwell himself had camped on that spot with his New Model Army, on his way to the conquer of Hradčany.

I pulled the door: the pub was bigger than it looked from the outside, but far less crowded than I expected. At separate tables three elderly gentlemen were drinking beer, glancing from time to time at the big screen mounted on the wall at the other end of the room. ČT Sport was broadcasting the derby match between Vysočina Jihlava and Ross County, but the volume was muted, the radio instead playing nondescript classic rock. One third into the room stood the bartender, a plump woman wearing a platinum mullet, surrounded by a circular laminate counter, washing mugs. She greeted me dobrý den and she paid me little attention. I greeted her back and I asked her if they served food. Only brambůrky, kešu and tyčinky, she replied. She also had desítka and dvanáctka on tap, Kofola, and two bottles of single malt whisky from the local distillery. As I was more thirsty than hungry I ordered a pint and I gulped it down in silence, then I hurried back to the flat, into which the locksmith broke without asking me for any proof that I was the legitimate tenant.


Weeks passed before I fell down that hole for a second time. Whenever I went out to meet friends it was in some glamorous place downtown, the kind that you can read of in the travel guides. But one Wednesday evening in the middle of autumn I found myself home after a miserable day at work, and I knew that I would be thinking of charts and figures until the next morning, and I needed to let my mind roam elsewhere. So I got out in the pervading mist that was exuding from the river, and I crossed the bridge, balancing my steps on the slippery cobblestones. The bright signs were on.

I pulled the door: the pub was dimly lit, and the number of guests had increased only slightly. At separate tables two elderly gentlemen were drinking beer, while at the counter a tall middle-aged man was leafing through a tabloid. A couple in their twenties were sitting quietly under the big screen at the other end of the room, with no glasses in front of them. As for the big screen, this time it was showing a Slunečná repeat, and again the volume was muted, although no sound was coming out of the radio speakers. The bartender had changed into a skinny brunette with a pale complexion and a large green tattoo over each of her bare collarbones. A pair of butterflies? I couldn’t tell. I hung my winter jacket and I ordered brambůrky and pivo, which I fetched to a table in the darkest corner.
The young couple left when I was half way down my makeshift dinner. As soon as the door had closed, the tall man sighed aloud, moved next to where the couple were sitting, and began throwing darts at a target. The bartender switched off the big screen. One of the elderly gentlemen went out for a cigarette.

I was so deep into my thoughts of charts and figures that I didn’t notice that the gentleman had come back in, and he had got another desítka, until he took a chair and sat opposite me, uninvited. I startled. He opened the conversation by asking
«Are you middle class or working class?»
I could understand the words but not their meaning, as I was too busy trying to process the situation. He asked again
«Are you middle class or working class?»
Still my brain couldn’t make any sense of what was happening. I must have looked helpless, because he felt the need to elaborate
«You sit in shitty bar in ******* but you wear kašmír svetr and have rich bunda, that is why I ask are you middle class or working class!»
«It’s… it’s not cashmere, it’s probably yak.»
«Jak what?»
«It’s an animal, its wool is cheaper than…»
«Animal! I am also animal, I am Yellow Dog! But I am called Honza, I am pleased to know you.»
He stretched his right hand across the table, his left hand keeping the mug firmly close to the chest.

Honza, alias the Yellow Dog, turned out to be much younger than I had assumed. He hadn’t yet reached retirement age, but his thin figure and curved posture made him look like a frail senior. The long face and a tuft of golden hair gave the final touch to a vague canine semblance. What stood out were his eyes: wide, and lazy, not just as in pointing but also as in moving to different directions at once, as if the extraocular muscles had lost control of the bulbs and these were bubbles floating in a lava lamp.
That evening he did most of the chat, and it took me a while to grasp his Gaelic accent. He didn’t get my name. He thought I was French (no) and, like everyone else, he was curious about how I had ended up there. I told him of Anička, our love story and our breakup. He replied that he hadn’t heard from his wife and daughter in five and a half years.
«I have drink problem»
he confessed with a smirk, before emptying the mug and offering me one of his Spartas. I declined and, out of sheer habit, I warned him that smoking was bad for his health. He got up from the chair and he laughed at me. I thought I deserved it.


«Yellow Dog? He was inženýr at nuclear electricity»
the skinny pale bartender explained three Wednesdays later. From my stool at the counter I could appreciate the details of her clavicle tattoos – now I could see that they were two tortoises – but I could hardly hear her, because the hospoda was packed. The place had been booked for the evening by the local committee in support to the autonomy referendum. The big screen was looping a promotional video, full of forests and lakes and meadows and cliffs and happy families. At the sides were two flags with a chequered eagle painted over a Saint Andrew’s cross. Four tables had been joined and covered with trays of chlebíčky and salmon rolls. Standing behind the tables were two lads, giving out fliers and gadgets, attempting to talk politics with the voracious customers. A woman with a distinctive pin badge tried to engage me in the debate, but I bounced her away politely.
«In Thursday is karaoke night, we have more fun.»
A loud thump made all the heads turn towards the tables. Two elderly gentlemen, regulars, were grabbing each other’s ties and were smearing greasy gouda on each other’s faces.


«Second floor! That is where the language students are! Go and find yourself a pretty Slovak»
the more talkative of the independentist lads advised me the following Wednesday. His pal giggled and shaped a female body in the air. In a fit of laughter I snorted foam out of my nose. Of course I had made again the mistake of bringing Anička up in the conversation. I was sure that she would have frowned upon this display of shallow camaraderie.
It took me some effort to get up and head to the loo. I perceived half-consciously, on a sensory basis, that the hospoda was empty and silent, and that the skinny pale bartender was staring at her smartphone, just waiting for the closing time. For a change I chose the urinal on the left, and I aimed at the sticker with green and white stripes. Was it Celtic or Bohemians? I could ask, they would know. They seemed nice folks. They must have been football or hockey fans. Rugby league, perhaps? I could invite them to a match. At least I should pay this round. Yeah, they were really nice to me. Had we run out of hand towels?
When I left the toilet, the bartender was sweeping the floor and the lads were already gone.


I hastily asked the driver to pull over in the middle of the bridge. It was likely against the law, but she complied, as no other car was in sight. No one in their right mind would get on the road in such a heavy snowfall. She was tired of it too, she had already spent forty-seven minutes driving me home from the airport in first, second, at times third gear. I tipped her over the full fare, I collected my trolley bag from the trunk, and I wished her a veselé Vánoce. As I had wasted hours in the airport lounge waiting for the last plane of the week to land, so that the plane could fly me South, I had resigned to the reality that I would spend my Christmas in this faraway corner of the world.
In the black waters of the river, which once was aptly named Švarcava, an otter, or a seal, or maybe a sea lion was swimming placidly towards the harbour and the openness. Under the bright signs of the hospoda Yellow Dog was puffing at his cigarette; he nodded me in.

I pulled the door: the Thursday night was in full swing. Surrounded by the circular laminate counter, the tall darts player was pulling pints and pouring drinks. The mullet-sporting woman was scrambling among the tables. All were occupied, mostly by groups of married couples with their kids tagging along. At the other end of the room a man in a grey suit was crooning a personal rendition of The Beer Barrel Polka.
I was still looking for a free seat when I saw the skinny pale lass, off-duty, waving at me and pointing at the tip of her bench. I took off my coat and I hid the trolley bag under the table, while she and her friends squeezed to their right. I introduced myself to the party and I understood that they called her Tessa. Eventually I caught the platinum mullet’s attention and I ordered a double whisky, not the one with the lighthouse on the label, the one with the crocodile – like I knew the difference. My new best mate shared with me a bag of herring-shaped gingerbreads that she had baked.
«Eat perníčky. Not be drunk.»
I took one. It was hard and tasteless. I took a few more.

Yellow Dog was the host. He was in control of everything: microphones, karaoke set, big screen, room temperature. I was amazed by how well he managed to prod the shy to the spotlight and to revive the audience after a bad performance. I realised that he wasn’t touching any alcohol. Soon he was at my side.
«Come and sing!»
I shook my head in terror. Tessa saved me by raising her hand enthusiastically. I gave her way and I saw her negotiate with her friends what she would pick. Titles by a certain Lewis Capaldi were booed without mercy. At the other tip of the bench a boy dressed in leather suggested Černí andělé, but she didn’t know the lyrics. By association she chose the karaoke staple, Angel. She squealed all the way through it.

And down waterfàáàll

Her friends and I looked at one another. She sat back happy and unaware. Yellow Dog rushed to call up a lady who intoned like a professional one klezmer-influenced song about riding a black horse in a night full of smells. A quartet of customers stood up and mimed fiddles. I ordered another double crocodile and I took the tumbler outside.

The snowfall had ceased and the sky was clearing up under the crescent moon. An idyllic image, indeed. It also meant that later I would have to skate home over icy pavements. A couple left the hospoda carrying a sleeping toddler. Yellow Dog slipped through the door behind them, opened his pack of Spartas, and lit one. He smoked it to the filter, then he lit another one. Only then did he tell me, or the otter in the river,
«Today I stopped.»
I had guessed it right: he had quit drinking! Such a clever man couldn’t waste himself that way! I was finding the words to congratulate him, when he continued
«Tomorrow I start again.»
I dropped my head and I chuckled at my own foolishness. He threw the cigarette in the snow and I followed him inside.

And then I followed Tessa to the big screen. She smiled and she browsed the “Duets” section of the karaoke software. At Felicità I pretended to walk away in shame. At Falling Slowly her friends cheered, but we were no Glen and Markéta. In the end she chose Empire State of Mind: before I could complain, I was barking of a concrete jungle I had never been to, and of rappers and ballers I had no idea they ever existed. At the chorus she locked her eyes into mine and she bellowed

Now you are in Brnòóòóòóò
These streets will make you feel brand-new
Big lights will inspire yoùúùúùúù

I «yo, yo»-ed back to her.

At the end of the karaoke night the tall darts player rang the counter bell and the remaining audience hushed. Yellow Dog took centre stage, he made his eyes roll around the room, he winked so to make the audience cackle, and he opened the empty envelope.
«And winner is…»
I sipped the last of my crocodile whisky.
«Tessa and New Guy!»

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