Beat me -- I feel dirty

I'm not sure what I'm watching here in the garden. Elderly men who I've never seen before, but who apparently live in my building, are taking their rugs out into the garden and beating them. Of course, they're cleaning them -- I know that. And yes, they're using that little shamrock-shaped braided wicker rug-beating thing. And the, uh, big, gray frame thingy, the sole purpose of which -- other than taking up the center of the garden and looking instutional -- is to hang a rug over whilst one beats it.

Right. So all that's mundane enough. But it's the way they beat the rug, going at it with a certain tak já nevím co, as the French would say if they spoke Czech. It reminds me of the erotic relations characters in Svankmajer's Conspirators of Pleasure have with objects.

'Erotic?' you say. Well, let me try to explain.

First, let's assume that dancing is basically an erotic acting out -- mating behavior. (If you can't accept that, take a hike.) Second, note for one uncomfortable moment the unfair generalization you've heard more than once: that Czechs can't dance. (It's a rhythm thing. Of course, anyone who can keep up with traditional cimbalom music, with it's lack of time signature, definitely has an innate sense of something, if not exactly rhythm, and no small amount of my respect. [Kundera addresses cimbalom in The Joke.])

Where was I? Oh yeah. So here's these geezers who, nearly as I can tell, emerge from their warrens each spring to molt the carpet. They raise their hackles and demonstrate their virility in a sort of rhythmless carpet-whacking dance. The thwump! thwump! thwump! echoes across the hills. This goes on until they feel they've exhausted themselves or until a female calls to them. Then they go back inside with their freshly spanked carpet. And drink tea, I hope, for another year.


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