The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: Prague

Chasing Roads

otakarova

Once upon a time, in Prague, a tram and a car stopped at the corner of a street called Otakarova. The traffic light was red and both vehicles were waiting for the light to turn green.

“You know, you have it really good,” says the tram, let’s call him Twenty-four, to the blue Skoda car who was waiting alongside him.

“What do you mean?” says the blue Skoda, whose name is Rush, because that’s what his owner named him. “Why do you say I have it really good?” asked Rush to Twenty-four, as his engine rumbled silently and he went put-put-put.

“You have so much freedom on the road. Look at you, after this traffic light turns green, you’re allowed to turn left, right or go straight ahead or anywhere you want to go!” says Twenty-four. “As for me, I go wherever the tracks are laid for me.”

Rush considered what Twenty-four said, and looked at the roads around him, and then he said, “But looking at the roads, you have options too! The tracks bend left, curve right, lead straight ahead.“

“I have choices?” Twenty-four scoffed. “While the tracks bend left, curve right and lead straight ahead, I cannot take any that I wish to. Do you see that small, red blinking light above the traffic lights?”

Rush swivelled its headlamps upwards, and saw that above the traffic lights was a smaller single light that had a red arrow, blinking steadily. It pointed straight ahead.

“Yes I see it. It points ahead,” says Rush.

“There you have it,” says Twenty-four, “that’s the path I will be going, no other ways about it. Many roads have been laid for me, and I don’t even get a say in which ones to take? All I can do is run on schedule and go where I’m supposed to.” At that, Twenty-four rang its bell, alarming a pedestrian who was attempting to run across the road in front of Twenty-four.

“But it’s not so bad, is it?” put-putted Rush, “You’re a great big tram! On the roads, you’re the king – everyone has to give way to you, maybe with the exception of ambulances and police cars. You have the right of way and if you crossed paths with me, I’m expected to maybe even go up on the pavements just to make way for you if the road is too narrow for both of us.”

Rush continued, “Also, look at the good you do for everyone! Hundreds of people, with your help, make it to work, to school, to wherever they need to go.”

“Hundreds of ungrateful people who litter and vandalise within me,” Twenty-four shot back.

“Hundreds more people who’re glad you bring shelter from the rain in the spring, and warmth from the biting cold of winter,” says Rush.

“Trekking dirt in from the rain, vagrants who sleep without meaning to go anywhere, just to be warm,” says Twenty-four. “I wish I could be like you, going anywhere I want to.”

“And I wish I could be like you, and not have to worry about changing lanes, giving way, looking out for pedestrians, etc,” said Rush.

Just then, the traffic light turned green.

“Well it was nice to meet you,” said Rush. “I’m going left now.”

“And I’m going straight ahead, as if I ever had a choice,” rang Twenty-four its bell angrily as it started to roll ahead.

And so they parted ways, with Rush put-putting off to left and Twenty-four moving straight ahead.

 

A couple of hours later, as Rush was returning back to that junction at Otakarova, and took the route that Twenty-four had taken earlier, he saw a tram lying on its side. There were many people around, some sitting on the sidewalk, some crying, others holding up a bandaged arm. As Rush drove past, snippets of conversation could be heard: “It was as if the tram was trying to go off its tracks or something. How scary!”

Musical memories

Have you ever listened to a song, and be deluged by memories associated with it?

There are certain songs that will always remind of certain things. Amy Winehouse reminds me of my time in Prague, for I listened to a lot of it whilst there. The grey streets and grey looks of people staring across you on the tramvaj will always evoke the soulful tunes of the late musical talent.

Particular albums of Japanese electronic artist, Fantastic Plastic Machine, brings about images of my time in Munich and Vienna.

Songs from Chinese pop singer Faye Wong reminds me of this one friend whom I, of my own stupidity, did something cringe-worthy, and we’re no longer friends. We talked about how Faye Wong is one of his favourite singers. I can’t listen to her songs without being reminded of how dumb I had been.

Music is not something that is merely heard with the ears, but seen by the mind and felt by the heart. All it takes is music to remember memories, to feel emotions, to affect judgement (BrE. AmE uses ‘Judgment’). Just as diaries hold your memories for posterity, we are just as able to meaningfully code data into the tunes and lyrics of music.

It is said that Socrates used different locations of his home to memorise his oratories, by assigning a word or fact to a specific object or feature of his home. Likewise, I think tunes, rhythm and lyric can achieve the same storage effect.

Losing these memories, on the other hand, seem a lot harder. How does one consciously forget a tune? When one hears it, recollection of it is instantaneous. Plus, many memories imprinted onto music are done so subconsciously — perhaps an incident happened while you’re listening to the tune, but it is seldom a concerted effort. This makes losing that memory more difficult.

Be wary of musical memories, they have ways of nesting in your head.