Havin’ a Ball

Prom Night, 1983It’s 8 a.m. Wednesday morning and I am standing in the shower with lethargic aloofness. An almost total loss of motor and mental function has led to minor incidents in the last few minutes. I am wearing socks. I have scrubbed my eyeballs with soap, which has resulted in teary eyes already red from dangerous dehydration. There is a squadron of earwigs dancing on my frontal lobe, biting into it with random cruelty. I have cracked the (detachable) shower head into my nose twice.

Despite my critical condition, I giggle in waves at the memories from the evening, night, early morning and morning that are battling the earwigs for my attention.

Last night was the university’s ball, and it was a doozy.


Balls are a huge part of Czech culture and something taken very seriously. Every subsection of Czech society has a ball: hunters, fishermen, bowling clubs, students, taxidermists, everyone. As someone who grew up going to American proms and dances, there was almost no context for what to expect from a Czech ball. It’s sort of like your prom, Al Capone’s wedding, a beer festival and Hunter S. Thompson’s Bar Mitzvah wrapped into one night of debauchery, fun and elegance.

The night before, I walked into the Žofín Palace which sits on Slovanský ostrov (Slavonic Island), on the Vltava in the heart of Prague. There were two ball rooms, the Lord Mayor’s Parlor and the Knight’s Hall. As it had always been my dream to imbibe whiskey in a room called the Knight’s Hall, I order a Jameson neat and wander around.

Every man was wearing a suit and the female students were dressed up in a variety of styles. Some were wearing throwback 1920s flapper dresses; others garbed in dresses so skin-tight that they resemble frilled sausage casings. There were enormous ball gowns and less than enormous skirts. Some of them were wearing what appeared to be the leftover material from a ball gown alteration. In any case, complaints were not coming from me.

Only one thing was uniform, every female present decided to wear the tallest high heels they could find. The effect was that I was surrounded by very beautiful, dressed up trees.

A Beatles cover band and a polka band were playing simultaneously under the same roof, surely making some kind of music history. There were various student performances going on all night. Hip hop and salsa dance routines that would result in a dislocated hip, were I to attempt one.

Later in the evening, I was part of my own small tradition, three years running. I engaged in a rousing activity called ‘Let’s get the English teacher drunk.’ While my students were scattered in small groups throughout the palace, they must have all conspired to take part in this party game. Every year, I make the same mistake. This year, at my pre-ball Chinese sobriety feast I swore I would not make it this year. Somewhere around midnight, I broke that promise.

I stepped onto the dance floor.

From that point on, events take on a vague countenance. A salsa dance with a woman in a wheel chair. I cut my thumb spinning her. A bastardized rumba with a beautiful woman dressed in bright red, resembling a luscious beet with  a shoulder tattoo. At the after-hours party that I wisely chose to attend, there was a sweat-filled stomp to a Grease medley that now has me considering seppuku and a confusing swirl to a song that the younger folks assured me is considered good music these days.

I arrived home at 5 a.m., sweaty and gleefully aware of making a fool of myself on the dance floor.

Now, standing in front of the mirror thinking of the night before and the day ahead, one thing becomes clear.

I am not going to try to shave.

  1. #1 by Chris on April 5, 2012 - 3:46 pm

    Tell me more about the polka.

    • #2 by Damien Galeone on April 5, 2012 - 3:55 pm

      Beer barrel, invented in Cz. No other kind and a good compliment to a Beatles cover band, to boot.

  2. #3 by Lindsnayhay on April 5, 2012 - 5:16 pm

    Damien. As soon as I read that line about you stepping onto the dancefloor, I snorted in laughter as images of you dancing that magical night in Cesky Krumlov with Tom Chaco and me (talk about a motley crew – how did that even happen?). It still ranks in the top 10 hardest times I’ve ever laughed in my life. I can’t stop chuckling over here in China. Love and miss you, and hope to talk soon. xx

  3. #4 by Damien Galeone on April 5, 2012 - 5:49 pm

    Lindsnayhay! How can I possibly forget the night of the one-footed stomp along?!

  4. #5 by Andy on April 11, 2012 - 5:17 pm

    “I stepped onto the dance floor.”
    “I am not going to try to shave.”

    Heeheehee…now that’s a rough morning. That must’ve been a helluva party.

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