In Vilnius Lithuania
Well we rolled across the border into Lithuania around 4am and hit Vilnius around 830am. I got more sleep than I expected thanks to some fairly creative positioning but still overnight buses are not a comfortable way to travel.
But you if you can barely get any sleep at night in a hostel you sure as shit aint getting any during the day so I showered and set off to explore. Vilnius is the reason that the Baltics slowly got incorporated into my travel plans. I heard really good things and there seemed to be a lot of cool stuff to see and once I had it into my head to come here it just made sense to keep working north.
For example, Vilnius is the home to the world’s only statue of Frank Zappa. Apparently in 1995 members of the Lithuanian chapter of the Frank Zappa fan club got it in their heads that the town needed him in brass on a pole. So they had Dr Konstantinas Bogdanas the famous sculptor of Lenin statues make one. I set right out to see it and found it in an ugly little concrete courtyard; or rather I found the pole where Zappa is supposed to be. But no Zappa.
Where is Frank Zappa? So I started playing Where’s Waldo with the avant garde guitarist.
Was he in the town square? No.
Was he collaborating with the Polish poet Mickiewicz again? You may not know this but in addition to writing the Lithuanian national anthem and many great Polish poems, Mickiewicz also wrote the lyrics to Zappa’s “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow.” Trust me, would I lie to you?
Then I thought maybe Zappa might be chillin in the Independent Republic of Uzupis. It’s a lot like Vilnius’ version of Ljubljana’s Metalkova. They are an unofficially independent republic of artists and squatters whose constitution includes inalienable rights such as “the right to love and take care of the cat”.
That seemed like the kind of self aware insanity that Zappa could groove to, and the art,
And more porny-art all seemed like things he could be down with. Still I didn’t see him.
So I thought perhaps my problem was I was searching for him and like Beckett’s Godot I needed to sit and wait for him to come to me. So I sat. And finished Catch-22 at an outdoor bar on the riverside. I thought the book was ok but not as great as it had been sold. I thought the Abbot and Costello routines of the first chunk were a little much at times and the end kind of meh but it had some pretty sublime moments.
Eventually though I remembered that Godot never shows, that’s the point of the book. And Godot, presumably was at least human not a brass rendering of a dead guitarist’s head so I resumed the search.
I traveled along the river seeing more Uzupis sculptures as well as their “glorious” Angel of Uzupis statue.
I also crossed a bridge that was covered with padlocks. I believe that was art too but I am not sure. If postmodern art is art because it decides its art what is it when it judges itself art but doesn’t communicate that sense of self to you the viewer? I think then its padlocks on a bridge. But Zappa wasn’t on the bridge.
I left Uzupio and scoured the rest of town, even stopping to ask Johnny if he had seen Frank. But all he said was “Number 5 is alive.” Good for you but useless to me.
Finally, getting nervous I searched for signs of Zappa in the Museum of Genocide Victims housed in the former offices of the KGB.
The entire basement of the building is left as it was when it was cells for political prisoners, including various kinds of torture cells like the one above where prisoners were made to stand on small platforms above a pool of freezing cold water for days on end, and most chillingly, the execution cell where thousands of Lithuanians were shot to death. It conveyed all the terror that Terror Museum of Budapest tried so hard to do with its arty attempts at ambiance but through a much more straightforward and well captioned display, letting the rooms really hit you.
Luckily Zappa was not here. So I went back to the hostel where I didn’t meet any guitarists but I met an old Australian of Asian descent who told me, “I was in New York 92. It was…immense. The streets were…very dirty. And full of black people. EEEWWW.”
And there I waited for Godot…Zappa. . Is that him? No. He comes. He will come. He has to come. I hope he comes soon. Should I go? I will go. Pull on your trousers. I do not move. I will be more boring and existential. Or I’ll blast some Peaches En Regalia and go to bed.
(Probably for the best, turns out Frank is down for a couple weeks getting a sculpture face lift. Just unlucky timing.)