The Tanks are Rolling Out …
It is one of my oft told life stories.
In the late fall of 1989, i was in Hawaii and i got a call from Rabbit, who said
They have just had revolutions throughout Eastern Europe. We need to go, as soon as possible, we need to talk with the revolutionaries and find out what really happened. Because soon they will write the history books, and once they are written, the truth will be lost forever.
So, in the summer of 1990, Rabbit and i went to Eastern Europe and talked to revolutionaries and discovered some precious pieces which would never make it to the history books.
I tell this story often when introducing myself. It is one of my life stories which helps move the characters along. Gets me from being an affluent ocean engineer living in a condo on Oahu to an oft homeless anti-nuclear activist in then Czechoslovakia. Just one problem, the story’s not true.
Oh, parts of it are true; Rabbit and i did go to Europe. We talked a bunch about the political changes in the world and the fall of communism, especially. But we went to Southern Europe, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, which we had planned for months before the revolutions of 1989. We had a wonderful thought-provoking adventure, it just was not to the east. The urgent invitation conversation never happened, but it should have. And thus the story.
Rabbit would spin off and head home to San Francisco, and i would do Eastern Europe by myself, because i was just figuring out what to do with my life. And i would soon fall in love with Czechoslovakia.
I arrived in Prague on a hot August night. I slept in Hlavni Nadrazi (the main railroad station) which is normally not possible, but because it was the day before the big Rolling Stones concert, the station was packed all night and the police had bigger fish to fry.
The next day i walked around the city where i knew no one. Had you told me at the time i would spend most of the next eight years in orbit of this place i would have been curiously surprised and delighted. When i walked through the central city, i found a curious thing. It was a pink tank.
It was on its side, having been flipped by the locals when the Russians had tried to maintain control eight months earlier. Once the protesters had uprighted the tank, the artists came in and had at it.
I timed my visit to see the inexpensive Rolling Stones concert. It was being held in Strahov Stadium, which was (and technically still is) the highest capacity stadium in the world, seating between 220K and 250K people. When it was an active sports arena it could house seven simultaneous soccer games. Trouble is there are not many times you want the capacity to hold seven parallel soccer games or 220K people.
The first Rolling Stones concert in a recently liberated country, however, is exactly one of the times you need a stadium that size.
The posters for the concert read “The Tanks are Rolling Out, the Stones are Rolling In.”
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]