“Do you ever dream, Forrest, about who you’re gonna be?”

Who I’m gonna be?
Yeah.
Aren’t – aren’t I gonna be me?

I ran across the center of Prague in the pouring rain today because I had a book idea.

I want this life forever.

The past few days have been spent with new friends in an amazing city. I’ve been up and down as many side streets as I can find, I’ve had beef goulash in three different restaurants, I know where the secondhand stores are and I can take new streets and still get home.

Erin has become a fantastic travel buddy. We’ve now spent three days together and are meeting up in Berlin, most likely tomorrow. The past two nights, we’ve gone out to dinner with her roommates, Wade and Reid, two Canadian guys who met only a week ago. We’ll find them in Berlin, as well. The week has been full of laughter, new experiences, shares stories, and a lot of goofiness.

Me: I bet you boys don’t even remember my name.
Boys: It’s Janae.
Erin: You want to know how they remember?
Me: Aw man, you’re going to say something about Forrest Gump, aren’t you.
Reid: Jenny and me was like peas and carrots.

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This city has been enlightening, invigorating, fun, serious… Educating. Yesterday, Erin and I went to the Jewish Museum in Prague – really a collection of synagogues and exhibits, mostly of the devastation of WWII. The Pinkas Synagogue is now a memorial to Holocaust victims. Every wall is hand-painted with names of victims, listed by surname, then head of family and the rest of the victims, with their dates of death, or, worse if it’s possible, just question marks. Upstairs is a permanent exhibit of children’s artwork done at Terezín, a prison a small amount of victims, of adults mostly educated thinkers who couldn’t simply disappear without a trace, were transferred to prior to concentration camps. There, a teacher encouraged some of the children to draw and write of happy thoughts, home, family. At one point, she hid away these pieces of art, numbering more than 4,000, in luggage, where they were found later. Most of the children who drew these pieces – of fairytales, families, homes and rainbows – did not survive.

It was emotional, intense, heartbreaking to see.

We walked the Old Jewish Cemetery established in the 15th century. The population had once been given only a small amount of land, in the Jewish ghetto, for a cemetery. When it filled, no more land was granted and more earth was brought in for burials. The cemetery, taking only five minutes to lap at a slow pace, is now elevated meters above the main road, as layers of buried bodies rest. Each time new earth was laid, the headstones were brought to the top. They overlap, crowd and tilt every direction. 12,000 headstones shove together.

I overheard a little girl talking to her dad in the cemetery. He responded to a question I didn’t hear with “well sweetie, everyone has to die at some point, you know that.”

“Yes, Daddy, but didn’t the Nazis kill some of these people?”

“No sweetheart… Not here. The victims of the Nazis didn’t get to have headstones.”

The little girl didn’t respond, but I started crying.

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Today, I wandered town again, solo this time, in the pouring rain. I spent two hours at Café Louvre, where thinkers such as Kafka and Einstein frequented. I had no brilliant ideas, so I wrote down thoughts I already had. Putting thoughts in ink always makes them seem more permanent, or certain, to me.

I searched for a place for a cheap haircut – to trim the ends, not to style – but I couldn’t find one for less than $25. I can’t wait to cut my hair tonight. Scissors were much cheaper for a haircut where style doesn’t matter. The search for a cheap salon got me across town, where the rain poured down. I considered seeking shelter at the post office I was next to, but you don’t want to hang out at a Prague post office really anymore than you would one at home, so I walked in the rain.

I got to Bohemian Bagel, which is exactly as non-Prague, every bit New York, as it sounds. I sat with my whole wheat, buttered and honeyed, bagel and thought I’d read Catch-22. I stopped at the desk in front, where the free tour company has a hub, to ask where most of the tour guides are from – you just have to be a native English speaker. She said they’re always looking for guides.

Don’t be surprised, friends. Again, you’re welcome to come, too.

And then, just halfway through my second mug of bottomless coffee, which I intended to milk for all $2 it was worth, I had an idea, and I sprinted home, as fast as I could, minus the part where I made sure to not go down any streets I’d been down before.

So, that’s all for now, off to write my book.

With love, peace and rainbows in Prague…

JCD

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2 thoughts on ““Do you ever dream, Forrest, about who you’re gonna be?”

  1. Well, well … I seem to recall someone saying she was not going to cut her hair at all during the trip. I have to be honest, I am nervous about what you are going to do to your hair with those scissors … Can I buy you an early Christmas present ($25 for a haircut)!!! : )

  2. Janae, sorry just getting to this (always 5-6 behind it seems). Great blog, I was so moved by your description of the Pinkas and the short piece on the girl and her father in the cemetery. Love Dad.

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