The waitress asks again, “Bez co?” Without what?
I repeat, “Bez kohouty.” Without pants.
“Um, OK,” she takes the camera and my brother and I start up the spiral staircase that lead to the second floor of The Horror Bar. We reach the mid-point, push the noose out of the way and make sure that the skeleton hanging from the ceiling isn’t blocking our faces. The waitress readies the camera and Chris gives her rudimentary instruction in the international language of mime.
Then we drop our pants.
She laughs at us, gives us a ‘your mother must be so proud’ look and snaps a shot. From the corner, a man chirps away in a language that we easily ignore.
She hands Chris the camera and says, “You said bez kohouty.”
I reply, “Ano?”
She says, “Kohouty means roosters, kalhoty means pants.” She walks away and picks up her beer.
“Ah,” I say to Chris, “I told her we wanted a picture without roosters.”
“That’s probably why she had no problem with it.”
And so begins the Pantless Tour of Český Krumlov.
Why we decide to document our tour of this quaint medieval town with photos of us in no pants, I will never know. It started at The Horror Bar and continued throughout the evening – at the main statue in the main square and the bridge. A few action shots which include reading a restaurant street menu and pointing to a raised crosswalk. The only difference between these pictures and those found in the photo album of your uncle Sid is that we are not wearing pants.
The next morning, we tour the castle in full pantaloons. We stroll through the botanical gardens and Chris takes several pictures. A thorough study of the moat fails to reveal the bears that guard the castle.
The tourists this morning are perfectly typical. There are families out on a day excursion, poorly groomed men in capris, tortured looking women pushing strollers and slews of Japanese tourists. Amid the Japanese tourists, Chris says, “We need to get one of these guys to get in a pantless picture with us.”
We exchange a look probably like the one exchanged by Siegfried and Roy right after one of them said, “Our act needs a tiger.”
We hit the Eggenberg brewery for lunch, beer and devious plotting.
Later that evening, after a meal made up almost entirely of animal and a few rounds of Dutch courage, we head to the bridge. We pace along with casual strides like furry-backed prostitutes at Karlovo náměstí.
After some encouragement, Chris approaches a handsome Asian man and his wife and explains our request—that he get in a picture with us and drop his pants to his knees. Chris tells him it’s a gift for our mom. This does nothing to sway him into our activity. I arrive in time to hear him say, “Sorry, too crazy, too crazy.”
This is an accurate depiction of our next three engagements. We retire to a pub to drown our sorrows over our inability to succeed. Being pantless is all well and good, but getting a stranger to be pantless with you, is so much more.
And that statement holds true for every circumstance you’d care to imagine.
In the pub we sit near the window and order drinks from a waitress whose body is more covered in tattoos than clothing. We don’t speak; we sip beer and sigh. The fact that we are staring at soccer on TV and Chris hasn’t made one joke on its uselessness as a sport is indictment of our gloom. Just as it seems that we are about to ride a downward spiral into a depression that will surely lead to an argument about something that happened two decades ago, we hear it.
From the window, “Hiss!” Once more, “Hiss!”
We stare at each other for a second. Then again, “Hiss!”
Standing in the window, glaring in at us with as much menace as skinny people can muster, are four vampires. They are dressed in all black and have painted faces and elongated canines. They are growling and hissing at us; one of them barks.
If there are moments when ordinary people are telepathic, then this is one of those moments. Chris grabs his camera and darts for the door with such speed that the waitress follows him. She thinks we were splitting on the bill.
I lunge at the window and grab the first vampire. “We need you!” I shout at him.
In a pitiful case of breaking character, the head vampire screeches and puts his hands up in defense. I climb through the window and explain that we need a picture for my mother in which all participants have their pants down. I do this in English.
“Sure,” he says.
“No problem,” says his friend.
Christopher and I weep in joy.
The picture itself speaks volumes. There are four of us, two of them and two of us. All of our pants are around our ankles. Stealing the shot, however, is the vampires’ underwear. Otherwise donned in dark black clothing and paint, they have both chosen bright pink as the color of their underwear.
We buy them all a shot and chat with them for a moment. The female vampire drips hot wax on Chris and I, and we feign pain and shock, but any hope of filling us with terror is gone. And they know it. They leave the bar to frighten those who have not seen their colorful undergarments.
We celebrate our victory with a skinny dip in the Vltava.
As I drift off in bed later that evening/morning, I wonder if pink underwear is the cheery, yet sordid, underbelly of each vampire’s life. Just as people have a dark secret, vampires have a happy secret.
The reason behind our pantless tour is our happy secret.
Your happy secret?