Czech border near Furth-im-Wald, Germany: August 12, 1991...
he tingling promise of adventure surged through me once more as I neared the country that could practically call oppression a birthright. Czechoslovakia, a child of the First World War, had been under Soviet or Nazi domination for more than two thirds of its political existence. By any odds, they were a strong people merely to have survived with a modicum of national integrity. In my book, they were heroic.
That personal assessment goes back long before the 'Prague Spring' of 1968, Alexander Dubcek's effort at liberalization under Soviet rule. I can recall sharing an elevator in San Francisco, during the founding days of the United Nations, with Jan Masaryk, the son of Thomas Masaryk who was regarded as the father of his country. Not many months later the younger Masaryk mysteriously 'jumped to his death,' coincident with the end of Czechoslovakia's brief postwar renewal of sovereignty.
Reflecting on all of this, and the fascinating postscript that they had still the imagination to select a poet - Vaclav Havel - as their head of state when self-rule finally returned, I walked across a border with little more to mark it than the change from a well-paved and graded roadway to a pitted and dusty one that lurched steeply upward. But I no longer felt the shock of contrast, as once before on the road to Leipzig. Something unarguably exotic took precedence, now, about these lands of the past: tense, and the present: imperfect.
Nothing was here at this minor border crossing but a patrol station, and inside, a change bureau where I took my first portion of Czech kronen. The area looked like an abandoned construction project - not a cheery spot from which to hitch. But with the steep hill in prospect I saw no point in walking further. The traffic was sparse. Family-filled vehicles for the most part, zooming past me to gain momentum for the climb. Nobody paid me much heed. After an hour of it, with the skies curdling into a possibility of rain, I started wondering if it might make more sense to return to Furth-im-Wald and take the next train.
But a better option came along in the form of a local bus, easily fifty years ancient. When it swung around and opened its door for several waiting people at the border station, I was ready to go wherever they were headed. I took a hard seat by a window, after paying what amounted to twenty cents for passage, and we were underway at once, bouncing along at a fair speed given the age of the bus. We went by a resort called Babylon, a simple rustic lake-front place with a holiday crowd of bathers. No gaudy billboards and no traffic jams . . . fun without hassle or hype, and a sudden rush of awareness that the communist years had preserved something more than bleakness from the past. It was woods and farmland, from there, for six or seven miles until we came to the town of Domazlice, the end of the line, and I followed everyone off the bus.
The immediate view was anything but promising. A general dreariness in sidewalks bordered by grey walls and somber, featureless buildings . . . I followed the others along a side street that narrowed toward an opening up ahead, perhaps a market square. Everyone seemed intent on getting there. It took me by surprise - a tremendous open court, longer by far than any market square I'd seen, as if a typical square had been stretched in one direction, stretched until its ends were too far apart for hailing distance. At one far end stood a magnificent Medieval gate tower, half the width of the court itself and rising six floors . . . with its high-angle roof line almost doubling the height. But my view was stolen at once by a structure just as wonderful right alongside my avenue of entry - a circular tower that rose twelve to fifteen stories, capped and spired with delicate architectural care.
The court, like a spacious avenue, was flanked solidly on each side by a long arcade of shops set back beneath sheltering arches supporting the overhang of three and four-story buildings. People stood around in casual groups or strolled at such an idle pace that the setting took on a dreamlike quality, the entire effect suggesting not only a journey back in time, but to another kind of planet.
I sat for a long moment on a stone bench taking it in, and I thought about the backdrop of conditioning that made this scene seem so unreal - my reflex ideas of what a marketplace should be: crowded, bustling, competitive . . . in short, a style that seemed from this perspective a little insane. Here, community was at least as important as commerce; and even this with an easy grace, a consideration for life's full measure: taking the sun, breaking the day to chat a bit, browse a bit . . . maybe even get a bit of shopping done. None of it with any hurry or tension. I was gazing at the social equivalent of an endangered species, already extinct in the West.
I wanted to see more of this place I had stumbled across in such fortuitous surprise. I strolled down to the tower portal at the far end, and at a little kiosk on its other side I purchased a map of the town for fifty cents, an artful production graced with superb watercolors of local scenes. To my further surprise it was done in three languages including English. Back to the arcade, then, to shop for the makings of an impromptu lunch: a quarter-loaf of fresh hard-crust bread, a half-pound of butter (the smallest amount I could get) and a large, warm cola drink - all for ninety cents. Dining in the sun on the stone bench, ignored by most but regarded with curiosity by a few, I pored over the map. Every useful bit of information imaginable was in it. Even a 'tourist dormitory!' Maybe I should stay the night in Domazlice.
Off I went, to find the tourist dormitory - whatever it might be. But it was not so easily done. The map wasn't the problem, it was the town itself. Streets had no indication of names and were in various stages of repair, so that I couldn't quite tell if a lengthy ditch was a street or just a hole in the ground. At one point I was sure I had come to a certain intersection, but the map didn't quite match what I saw. I was puzzling over it when a short, greying man with a shopping bag came along and I took a stab at asking him where the tourist dormitory was. To my surprise, he spoke a little English. Not enough to give me a clear answer, but he kept pointing in the direction I was headed. So I continued on my path . . . to where it should have been, but wasn't. I circled back, returning to the point of puzzlement, and . . . here came the little man again, his shopping bag now full. This time, seeing my plight, he insisted on leading me to the tourist dormitory, himself.
When we got there - beyond where I had thought it was - it looked like part of a recreation complex, a section gated off from the rest of town. I followed my newfound guide inside to the desk of a stern-faced, dark haired woman with whom he engaged in some sort of negotiation - an absolute blessing, for there was no English spoken here. After a good deal of energized, head-shaking talk between them he finally received for me a key and an armful of linen - after I had paid $3.20 for the night's privilege - and led me across to the dormitory building. As near as I could make out from his uncertain English, I'd gotten the only available room for the night, and it was only because two Russian soldiers had unexpectedly departed that morning (though in fact, I never saw more than a few people in the entire place while I was there).
His impromptu services extended to helping me with the bed linen. When we were done tucking in sheets he told me his name, Jan Prokop Holy, and said he was the town's high school music teacher. I felt I should offer something in return for the gracious, unstinting assistance of this angel, but all I could think of was to ask if I might buy him a beer. He nodded his head and led me away in search of a beer parlor. When we found one, Jan Prokop took me inside, ordered what turned out to be a single beer and then excused himself, saying he'd be back in an hour. He had apparently understood me to mean I wanted it for myself.
Well, I neither wanted a beer nor did I feel like waiting there for him, so I took just a few sips until he left and then I headed off in another direction to resume my exploration of the town. I didn't bother to return on time, either, figuring he would merely shrug it off and go happily about his affairs. But I was wrong. When I found my way back to the tourist dormitory, two hours later, there was Jan Prokop Holy standing by the gate in the tree-filtered light of a setting sun, waiting for me with a big grin. He was a bit better dressed now, with a smart little cap over his thinning grey hair.
"You come, now. You to see house . . . for me . . . where to live."
What else could I do at this point? Off we went, to the house he occupied with his 80-year old mother - the house where she had given birth to him 54 years before, as he labored to tell me. He took care of her now. It was just the pair of them together and a sorry little dog with the absolutely untrue name of Spark.
His withered and slightly crippled mother stood in the kitchen with the smile of a pleased hostess while Jan Prokop served me tea and some sort of prune pastry. She spoke no English at all. I hadn't quite realized it, but Jan had a much harder time with my English, himself, than I had with his. He never indicated directly that he had trouble understanding, he would just nod happily at anything I offered, even at my questions, and continue with whatever he had been trying to tell me. I started being much more careful about my choice of words.
It took me awhile to realize that he wanted to show me the entire house. Only as I was about to leave, after what seemed a decent time for visiting over tea, did he insist upon taking me on a thorough and quite amazing tour.
Jan Prokop was not just a music teacher, he was surely the town's archivist, and his home the local museum! He had been collecting odds and ends all his life, and every bit of it - three entire floors worth, filling each room plus the hallways - was presented for my inspection: photos, paintings, antiques, pottery, archaeological artifacts, musical instruments, books, sports gear, even urns holding the ash remains of his forebears. Level on level, room by room, each door was opened with a flourish, lights switched off behind and on ahead of us in ritual fashion as if to celebrate each room's special significance . . . and each, in fact, held a different range of collectibles.
When I thought it was finally done I was wrong again. Now he brought out four huge scrapbooks, each filled to brim with a fantastic assortment of treasured mementoes: letters, poems, drawings, testimonials, portraits - most of this material personalized, given to him by people he had known or been in some contact with, apparently over the full course of his life: teachers, students, perhaps visitors to the town, and not a few accomplished artists among them. He apparently had known at one time or another a good many Czech luminaries in the art world. Lovely pen-and-ink sketches had been given to him by Jan Paroubek, the watercolorist whose work adorned my town map. When I remarked on this he went to another drawer and made me a gift of one of his personalized bookplates, created for him many years before by Paroubek. It had been sketched when the artist was seventy-seven, and Jan Prokop at that time a young man of seventeen.
At long last, after he had persuaded me to leave a few words of my own in his scrapbook, and after a private performance for me, a composition of his own, on what was probably the most costly treasure he'd ever bought for himself: an electronic organ, he finally accompanied me all the way back to my dorm. It was sometime after 11 p.m. when he bid me an almost reluctant goodnight and farewell.
Of all the people met on my summer's journey, Jan Prokop Holy made the deepest impression, for the simple charity of his being and the wonderful energy he had for life despite its obvious constraints on him. I wish I had managed to learn something from him about the lovely woman whose photograph - taken perhaps thirty years ago or more - I saw in two places among the dozens that were up on his hallway walls. I tried, with several intentionally offhand inquiries, but he resolutely refused to take my bait. I'm curious, too, about a passage I've just noticed for the first time in the historical notes that accompany the map of Domazlice: ". . . the Hussite armies under Prokop Holy quickly defeated the crusaders . . . in 1431."
I WAS HALF AFRAID he'd be waiting for me by the gate in the morning, for I would not have known how to make a gentle escape. But he was not, and I walked through the town one last time toward the rail station at its far end, where I bought a $1.50 ticket for the hundred-odd miles to Prague.
It wasn't quite so easy as just getting on a train. Barely a dozen miles out of Domazlice we all had to get off at a small station. I had no idea what it was all about, or what everyone, including the train staff, was milling around and waiting for. Until five old buses pulled in, and we all piled aboard - including the train staff. I found myself sitting next to a bearded old gentleman who managed to convey, with a bit of difficulty, that it was a short haul to the next station, where the rail trip would resume. I never did learn why. My twinkle-eyed informant had once represented Lionel Trains in Czechoslovakia. He was eighty-one and suddenly thrilled over this brief chance to renew his seldom used and nearly forgotten English.
I continued to sit and talk with him all the way to Pilzen, where I impulsively hopped off the train, prompted by the briefest glimpse, as we slowed coming into the city, of panels of tile artwork set into ordinary brick building fronts. I'd never seen anything like it. It was old and tattered, but nevertheless stunning and worth a brief layover to see if I could find more of it. And I did: a block-long row of tile-trimmed buildings just off the town's Masaryk Square - an array of epic scenes hand-crafted in that lovely Art Nouveau style. From close up I could see the inlay of small tiles, tightly patterned like the very best of stained glass design.
Had I not felt urgently drawn on to Prague, I could easily have spent more time in Pilzen. This was no sleepy village like Domazlice. For a brief couple hours I was energized in its strong pulse, captivated at the same time by that earthy simplicity that seemed to be everywhere in the old east bloc - an ever-haunting reminder of times and places long gone from my life. I made my way back to the station along a grassy footpath near the rails, walking through weeds and feeling like I belonged there.
The final hour and a half of rail ride that took me into Prague that day was spent at the passageway window, not entirely to soak in the passing scenery but to be by myself for some reflection. For this was the day, the thirteenth of August, on which I had walked away from my old world twenty years before - abandoned it entirely for as uncertain a future as ever any newborn faced.
I wasn't dwelling on the event, but on how unforeseeably and uniquely different my world had become as the result of it. The fellow who took his desperate chances on that day in 1971, at forty-four and all too sure he was over the hill, could never have imagined he'd be vagabonding like this at sixty-four, free and easy and tremendously alive. He was a rationalist through and through, dedicated to logic and reason like the computers he worked with; at least he had tried to be, up to that moment. He hadn't ever heard of the I Ching, nor could he likely have imagined a life attuned to the seasons. The one was superstitious, and the other much too primitive - hardly useful ideas in a rational world. His greatest fear, in taking that irrevocable step, was the hazard of living without a regular income . . . the likelihood of ending up homeless and friendless. Providence was just a place in Rhode Island, or otherwise a Biblical fiction to comfort the forlorn. Not in his wildest speculation could he have seen himself roaming Europe for a summer on $100 per week, or whatever was its 1971 equivalent.
It should seem that a person is fairly stable by his mid-40s - at least as to knowing who he is, and what's real in life. But a signature is about all that would now suggest a shared identity between us. That old Irv Thomas simply couldn't have given credence to the world this one lives in. I would seem to him either an alien or a madman. And he, if I met him today, would be a poor fool confined in the world of his own limiting beliefs. Not entirely, perhaps, for he had the daring to walk away from them. If ever I could capture the secret of that moment when reason lapsed and faith took over . . . I think I'd have the elixir of life itself; the magic key to all its possibilities.
LATE IN THE AFTERNOON I reached Prague and found the intensities of my August re-kindled. From dozens of possibilities, the only host I could locate, this late in the day, was a single-night prospect. They lived on the city's fringe, and I nearly got lost in a sea of identical high-rise apartment houses, getting out there. I was watching for a particular bus stop - difficult enough when the signs are unreadable and the bus is racing to maintain a schedule . . . I didn't need the passenger with his head bobbing back and forth between me and the window. I was afraid I had missed the stop, and the driver - when I managed to get the question across to him - seemed to think so, too. An angel suddenly spoke up at the last possible moment, a woman about to get off at the very stop I wanted. She even lived in the same high-rise as my host.
Inside, she had to rescue me again. I was four flights up a windowless stairwell when the interior lights went out, plunging me into pitch black and sudden panic. I yelled out in desperation, thinking someone, somewhere, had switched them off - and my angel heard me, and turned back to come to my assistance from the hallway she had taken. The switches worked on a timing principle and had to be clicked again, on each floor, if continuous light was required.
Somewhat shaken, I arrived at the yuppie-furnished apartment of Milena and Radomir, immediately startled by the elegance of their world. I had already adjusted to a 'backward' land. But here in this condo-style apartment they had it all: starkly modern furniture, stacked stereo equipment - expensive luxuries in the east. I had to make an instant readjustment. It was Milena who greeted me and accounted for their up-scale circumstances. She was the one who spoke English and spoke it quite perfectly, for she taught it at a university. Radomir, she explained, had recently started a thriving new magazine on the pop music scene, and they were soaring with its sudden success.
It prompted a long conversation, next morning over breakfast, about Milena's concerns for what money might do to their lives. I was amazed at her awareness of its hazards, considering the shift to instant capitalism already underway here, and the near universal urge to instant wealth. I'm sure, in fact, that she must have been as surprised at discovering an American with a positive perspective on poverty, as I was at finding yuppie life already alive and thriving in Czechoslovakia. But our worlds were so far apart, in so many ways, that I could only encourage her to keep an open mind and stay sensitive to inner reactions, for her most reliable guidance.
I needed another host for that night and Milena let me use their phone to find one. It took awhile, and all I could manage was another one-nighter - more centrally located, but he'd be away at work for the day, which meant I'd be burdened with my pack while exploring Prague, unless I could find a place to leave it. The railroad station provided the solution, with what surely must be the all-time best storage bargain: coin-operated lockers that allowed a full day's use for three cents! I could even set my own 3-digit-code for the combination lock.
For most of the rest of the day I was in Paradise. Without question, without challenge - and for me, sadly, without camera - Prague was the city I had been seeking all through Europe: the Mecca for anyone who loves Art Nouveau style. It is much more, of course - a city with a thousand years of architectural history still standing. In fact, they hardly boast their Art Nouveau heritage . . . but it is all there, in structure after structure, detail upon detail - the most ravishing embellishment and artistry that one might ever hope to see. For my money (little though it may be) this is the Queen city of eastern Europe, in a class shared by Paris alone.
In some ways I found Prague even more engaging than Paris. Its central core is a city grown slowly through time, with striking examples of Medieval architecture spotted, here and there, as if by whim or impulse. Avenues and narrow byways intersect in a charming and irregular cross-quilt of surprises, so that a wandering path is pulled left and then right, and its track is quickly lost - which made it all the more remarkable that I was able to retrace my trail when I had to.
My eyes were not only cast upward at the facades, but down at shop windows, for the prices were incredibly low; and the antiquarian bookstores, especially, were too tempting to resist. In one of them I found two old volumes filled with wonderful art - unreadable, of course, but the artwork unobtainable in the States, and a magnificent bargain at $2.40 for the pair. I had them tightly wrapped for later mailing, and walked on with the treasure under my arm.
Many twists and turns later, as I was browsing in another bookshop perhaps an hour from where the purchase had been made, I suddenly realized I no longer had the big wrapped package with me! A pure disaster. I raced out and back-tracked as well as I could, goading memory to spot every corner turned, every place I had seen. The little card shop, and that crowded waffle stand I hadn't the patience to wait at . . . that other bookstore over there, and the little churchside table with lithographs . . . remarkably, I recovered my entire zig-zag trail back to where the books had been bought, going into every place where I spent time and might have laid it down . . . asking at the counters where I had stood . . . pounding on the door of one book shop that had just locked up for the day . . . taking every detour that I had along the way. But not anywhere was the package found, though I traversed the entire long route and then did it again.
I went back over it, now, in memory, seeking any overlooked possibility. It finally came down to one tobacco shop where a Mucha card in the window had drawn me in to see their stock. I recalled it clearly, but I hadn't encountered it along my retraced path. Was I crazy? The little shop could not have vanished . . . or could it? I do live in a sometimes strange world. Again, for the third time, I walked the entire route looking specifically for the tobacco shop, but it just wasn't there. One possibility remained. I spotted a solid metal draw-gate that had been pulled down over one shop along the way, covering everything - no visible name, nothing. It was a last lingering hope, though admittedly remote. But I couldn't check it out until the following morning.
Made late by the whole sorry event and trying to put it out of mind, I got my pack from the locker and waited streetside for the number nine tram that would take me to my second one-night host. And waited. And waited. Every other tram using the stop had come by several times, but no number nine. I briefly considered that it might have vanished to wherever the tobacco shop went. I'm not sure what made me eventually take a chance on the tram marked 'X' except that there was no provision for it on the posted schedule. It made about as much sense as everything else that was happening. And senselessly enough, it turned out to be the right move. Petr, the host whose apartment I presently reached, could give me no explanation for it.
Petr was a 40-year old computer programmer whose wife was out of town. He had picked up English entirely on his own by reading Agatha Christie novels, puzzling his way through them with the help of a dictionary. By the third one, he said, it was more than just words and sentences, he was able to get a sense of the story as he read it.
Petr had to leave early the next morning, which meant that I did, too. Back to the railway station and the three-penny locker, at 6:00 a.m. This one-night business was becoming a drag, and I decided I'd take it just one more time if it happened again. It wasn't just the hassle; I had already learned that something more than a single night was required to retain a clear fix on my host, and there was not much point in making friends I'd soon be unable to remember. But it was far too early in the day for any phoning, so I walked in toward town and came to the great old structure called the Powder Tower. Prague has perhaps a half-dozen of these wonderful old Medieval giants - massive, spire-topped stone gate towers that dwarf everything around them. This one dated to 1475, and alongside of it was possibly the best preserved Art Nouveau structure, both inside and out, to be found anywhere: Prague's Municipal Hall. It is kept in pristine condition for theater productions and concerts.
Walking around the far side of this jewel I came to what certainly had to be the ritziest hotel in town, the Interhotel Pariz, somewhat matching in verve (if not taste) the style of its elegant neighbor across the street. Feeling high, amidst this abundant display of extravagance, and possibly not yet fully awake, I had a sudden extravagant impulse of my own: to fully indulge myself at these cheap Prague prices by taking breakfast in the dining room of the Pariz!
It was innocence in its worst aspect. I should have been alerted by the fact that the menu had no prices. It did stir a bit of caution, but only to the point of ordering a prudently simple breakfast. How could I be so crude as to ask the price in advance, amid such finery? Eggs with just toast and tea - and they were exquisitely prepared in a creamed, scrambled style that I had never before tasted.
I figured it would set me back some high Czech price - a few dollars perhaps, but . . . well . . . live it up while the living is cheap! I luxuriated on a refill of tea and didn't look at the bill until the waiter had left.
I felt weak as I paid it, and guilt-tripped myself for the rest of the morning. It suggested to me why I might have lost the books the day before. Splashing around in a gusher of suddenly discovered affluence, I had become like every other profligate American. Have it, spend it! Never mind whether you've any need for what you're buying, just throw the money around like you're God's gift to the economy. It brought home why I choose to live in poverty: because it puts a measure of healthy restraint into my life. It teaches me to spend with discretion, not abandon.
I was still berating myself thus when I came to the iron-gated mystery spot, now revealed in the morning sun - and sure enough, it was the tobacco shop with the Mucha card in the window. The young woman smiled as I asked about a package of books, and she fetched them from the back room. Suddenly my dalliance with the perils of affluence felt a bit better . . . and I promptly found another bookstore, where - God help me - I could not resist three brand new books of art and photography, adding $5.50 to the day's already overblown expenses . . . and it was hardly past ten in the morning.
The time had come to see if I could locate another host, so I found a telephone and pulled out my list. I was working now with a short list abstracted from the full one, to make it easier for phoning - just the name and number of only those hosts who were receptive to short-notice guests. And I was about to be swept up once more in the strange ways of fate, synchronicity and unintended error. Without realizing it, I had linked the name of one such host with the phone number of an adjacent one who had specified seven days advance notice. So it was a rather strange conversation that took place on this first call I was making.
"Hello," I said, to a male voice, "Could I speak with Jana?"
"This is no Jana here," he replied, in a near variant of English.
"Uhh . . . is Jana home?" The momentary silence on the other end prompted a full disclosure. "I'm a Good Neighbors traveler looking for a place to stay tonight."
"No Jana here, but I'm Good Neighbor."
"Oh . . ." this set me back for an instant, but I quickly figured he must be a guest who had gotten there first. ". . . you're visiting Jana, yourself?"
"No Jana here. This is Daniel, and I'm Good Neighbor, too, and maybe is okay if you come for tonight."
He was a guest? . . . inviting a second guest on his own? I didn't think that was going to work at all. "How do you know she'd want another guest?"
"No, I try to explain. This is my place now and you can come tonight."
It still made no sense to me, but he was definite about the invitation. Perhaps Jana had gone out of town and left him there. So I simply said okay, I'd be there early in the evening. Fortunately, when I turned to the main list for an address, there was the name Daniel below Jana's, and I quickly figured out what had happened. It was a wonderful break for what ultimately came of it.
I found his place up a cluttered, uncertain stairway in a massive old multi-unit structure badly in need of maintenance. It looked as if it had been converted, long ago, from a warehouse - sometime, say, in the 19th Century. His own quarters, however, did not seem so blighted, though a bit cramped: basically, a two-room apartment with a loft bed. A half-room bath and water closet was separated from the living room by the kitchen. Daniel lived there with a wife and child who were away, to my good fortune, or else I'm sure there wouldn't have been room for me. But he, himself, alas, was leaving on the following afternoon for the weekend. It looked like another one-nighter, after all.
Daniel proved to have a better grasp of English than our phone exchange had at first suggested. In fact, he was a freelance translator of texts and playscripts, from English into Czech. He had recently been to San Francisco, where, by pure chance, he met the people who publish the Course in Miracles and had returned home with a contract to make a Czech translation of it. We talked for a couple hours and then he went out for the evening, leaving me there to my own devices. Quite exhausted from rat-racing around Prague for the past two nights, and knowing further that I'd have to be on my way again on the morrow, I did very little more than lay out my sleeping bag and crash for the night, right there on the floor.
In the morning, possibly on the clear evidence of my wasted condition, Daniel said he saw no reason why I couldn't remain there through the weekend while he was away. So here it was again: a restful gift of solitary retreat - all the more remarkable in this instance for the accidental way it had come about.
We had a wonderful conversation that morning. Daniel loved photography, especially the soft, subtle early-century work that I, too, had always found appealing. We talked of California, of religion and reality - prompted by the Course in Miracles assignment. Daniel didn't really believe any of it, but his curiosity had been prodded and he wondered how I felt about it. I thought it was a pretty fair miracle that had put us in connection and given me a weekend of 'private lodging' in this great old city, just when I most needed it. I told him, simply, that I believe what I experience and try to stay uncertain about everything else.
Before leaving, he gave me the packaging materials I needed to get my books in the mail, and directed me to a nearby post office. That was my final economic jolt of the week: the five books that had cost me less than $8 required almost $17 in postage to mail home. But all else was so cheap this week that I had spent only $90.30 - even with the indulgent breakfast at the Hotel Pariz - edging my ten-week average down, once again, to $95.43.
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