Patrick McNeil, 2014 PSP participant
Patrick McNeil’s short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Philadelphia Stories, Eclectica Magazine, The Head and The Hand’s Chapbook Series, and more. He is the organizer of Philadelphia’s own Backyard Writers Workshop, and founder of the Writers Retreat in Tufo, Italy.
Prague worked on me in lots of quiet ways I don’t think I understood at the time. Now, four years later, I organize a modest writers retreat of my own, inspired in a lot of ways by my experience in Prague. I’ve decided that the main thing is to strike a balance between living and writing, between consumption and production. Every writer needs to find their own sweet spot, and that’s what a program like this ought to help them do. I found mine in Prague, writing in the mornings, workshopping in the afternoons, and sharing the evenings and the city with a handful of people I’ll never forget.
Eyes On Me
The astronomical clock in Prague has nothing to do with me. Still, it should hold your interest: the tragedy of Jan Růže, the ingenious maker of the clock, is a fascinating one:
To ensure there would never be another clock of its like in the world, the jealous King John blinded Jan upon its completion. Jan would have his revenge, though, by climbing the clock-tower and destroying his own creation.
“You do not need eyes,” adds the tour guide, sagely, “to make a wreck.”
But you don’t hear a word of this, you miss the lesson here. The idea of a jealous king has you thinking of me again. You have that non-look on your face.
It never really leaves. This was supposed to be a vacation from all of that.
Go home, then.
Except that when you do, there it still is, my side of the couch. The remote I used to give up without a fight. Every grilled cheese for the rest of your life, they were always my favorite. They still are, you know.
The rest of your life, try, try again:
The Cape of Good Hope, a Chor Bazaar in Mumbai, on a fishing boat off New Zealand, the farthest you could possibly get, in a conversation about something as not-me as flounder, you won’t be far enough:
“It’s like a Picasso,” you’ll say. “How both the flounder’s eyes are on the same side of its head.”
“You know she wasn’t born that way?” this other guide will say, enthused. “One of those eyes migrated all the way around to sit next to the other, so when she’s lying flat in the sand they’re both looking up at the same thing. Evolution, right? Real mindfuck.”
“Migrated?” you’ll say, stuck again. Something about the word, it’s not not-me enough.
Like you, the flounder evolved to focus on just one thing.