A picture of Matt Elliott shot by his friend and fellow shutterbug, Abe Benrubi (used under creative ODC commons license).
October 11th is my friend Matt’s birthday. He passed away last year so in honor of his birthday I’d like to tell you a bit about my last adventure with Matt.
Matt was many things including: a loveable curmudgeon; a lover of fine beer (especially Czech pivo) and Cuban cigars; an Indy 500 fan; and, like all travelers, open-minded with an adventurous and sometimes mischievous spirit. We were close when we were younger, as we both grew up in Indianapolis and he dated my BFF for a few years during college. One of his lifelong goals was to live in Europe, and he spend a very happy period of his life in a Czech village called Třeboň. When Matt passed away last October 27th, at the far-too-young age of 43, he was single and working at Brugge Brasserie, located on the hipster neighborhood of Indianapolis called Broad Ripple.
Matt’s closest friends rallied and hosted an absolutely amazing memorial service as close to the Indy Speedway as possible. They even managed to give some of Matt’s ashes a ride in this year’s Indy 500. They bottled a memorial Matt beer, complete with a gold leaf likeness (seriously, they did). It was truly an example of friends pulling together for each other. I was truly impressed with the way my old friends, who I met when they were boys, became honorable men.
When one of Matt’s close friends (and my old buddy) reached out to me and asked if I had any plans to go to the Czech Republic any time soon, I knew what he was going to ask next– could I take some of Matt’s ashes with me and scatter them in Matt’s beloved Czech village? While of course my answer would be yes- I pride myself on being a great wing woman- what I didn’t understand at the time was that while I thought I was being asked to do a favor, instead I was given a gift of a final adventure with a long lost friend.
In honor of what would be Matt’s 44th birthday, I’d like to share some of Matt’s beloved Bohemian city, and our last day adventure together.
Třeboň was everything you’d expect to be “consistent with the Matt Elliott brand.” By this I mean a bit difficult to get to, but full of charm and personality. I found this blog post about Třeboň incredibly useful when planning the logistics from Prague. It was rainy the day in June and the weather was extremely moody, but it was a lovely little day of adventure.
The town (and the main sites) take Monday as their day off and my schedule was such that I had to go on a Monday, but it ultimately didn’t make any difference– I didn’t get a tour of the Regent Bohemia Brewery or get to relax in the healing waters of the Lázně Aurora Spa but I didn’t really need to on that day. There were fewer English speaking people than I had imagined (most of the tourists were from Austria), and had it been a sunny day with people out drinking beer, perhaps that would have been different. But in June, when I went, it was cold, Slavic and rainy.
I arrived after a 3 hour train ride with a tricky transfer, and was famished. I went and got a bite to eat at The Romantick Design Hotel Třeboň and the schnitzel was delicious (the town is closer to Austria than to Prague).
I was exploring the city when the rain got heavier so I went into a very cool pub to wait it out. When it was clear that the rain wasn’t going to let up any time soon, I headed to the general merchandise store (you know– the place where you buy tape, stationary and a “sexy nurse” Halloween costume) to purchase an umbrella. Unfortunately, The only umbrella they had for sale was a Thomas the Train kid’s umbrella. It cost more than my round trip train ticket to/from Prague and clashed horribly with the dress I was was wearing that day, but this day wasn’t about my vanity. It was about finding the right location among the village’s charming sights to say goodbye to an old friend. I put my earbuds in and went into photo journalist mode. I really wish I had a second shooter with me to document the event because I’m sure I was quite cold, soggy mess. I had to laugh at myself, and thank Matt for the wacky day of adventure we were having despite the miserable weather.
Třeboň had gorgeous parks that were all very pretty, but none felt like the right place to say goodbye. I had read much about the Třeboň Chateau, which has a regal nature that would have appealed to Matt’s snobbish side. I was wandering around a renaissance complex for 10 minutes before I realized I was already at Třeboň Chateau, and truth be told… it was a bit underwhelming. For this friend, I wanted better.
The place that struck me the most was The Regent Bohemia Brewery, which is on the way to the Lázné Aurora. The Regent Brewery has been there since 1379 and is a very attractive building situated such that it faces a large park. There is a sheep’s meadow in front, and there was an absolutely regal looking ram who kept giving me the eye. My iPod was on shuffle and just then one of my favorite Foo Fighter songs, Aurora started playing as the ram and I were having an moment. This felt like the right place. I balanced my kiddie umbrella on fence of the sheep meadow, and opened up the vial filled with Matt’s ashes and decided to try and photograph it using my iPhone.
Scene from a windowsill in Třeboň.
Angels (or saints) in the architecture.
I feel in love with this greenhouse. It was so charming and Czech.
Left: A majestic ram in the sheep meadow in front of the Regent Bohemia Brewery.
Then it dawned on me that I had been so focused on the logistics…that I failed to prepare any words to say. It just didn’t feel right to have come all this way and not have anything to say before you scatter a friend’s ashes. This repatriation to the earth seemed rather significant. So I took a deep breath and thanked my friend Matt for all the support he had given me during my most awkward and least confident years, and told him that I was truly grateful that we got to a chance to have a last adventure together, and thanked him for introducing me to this village. I told him that I ( and all of his friends) would see him on the other side… but that we’re in no rush to get there.
I send this Postagram to my friend, Ted, at Brugge Brasserie where Matt was working when he died.
When I started to sprinkle the ashes, the wind currents picked them up and they sort of danced in the wind in various directions. It was beautiful. That sort of caught me by surprise– I wasn’t expecting it to be beautiful and it was. I could feel the corner of Matt’s mouth turning up and see that gleam of delight he would get in his eye. I’m pretty sure his spirit was chuckling a bit. I had found a little bottle of Absinth called Vest Pocket (Matt was a pocket watch, handlebar mustache kind of dandy and would have loved that). So then I poured one out for my dead homie right there in the meadow in front of a 14th century brewery that I am pretty sure will be standing long after after all of Matt’s family and friends (including me) are no longer here.
I went back to my new favorite Ye Olde Elizabethan pub to get out of the rain and wait for the train back to Prague and had a drink and I felt pretty good and sort of oddly light.
It all kind of made sense to me then and I knew that Matt and I were meant to have this adventure together, and I’m really grateful that I was able to see this town because I wouldn’t have if Matt didn’t take me there (most people recommend Český Krumlov, which is in that general direction). It was a lovely place and I’m glad a bit of Matt wound up there.
I spent some time waiting out the rain at this cool Elizabethan pub with free wifi. I also sent a postagram from there and got a sweet email from my BFF and my old friend, Ted.
I guess I was focused on other things because I was in this Ye Olde Elizabethan type pub for a good 2o minutes before I noticed the bartenders were wearing sheepskin britches more suited for a production of a Shakespeare play. Sometimes I can be REALLY BLONDE. In this case, I was just focused on other things.
On the train ride back to Prague, I made a little video of the day on my iPhone 4S should you be inclined to watch it. Note: I also managed to misspell Matty’s middle name (the correct spelling is “Alan” not “Allen”).
Every living thing is born with a death sentence. I am very grateful for the kindness Matt always extended to me when we were close. He never once made me feel like I was unwelcome or the third wheel when I tagged along on his dates with my BFF, and I was truly lucky to get to return the favor in a sort of unexpected way. They say that everything that happens is some sort of opportunity, and this was certainly one for me. I saw a place that wasn’t before on my radar, and I got this bizarre, unexpected and truly profound gift of seeing something new and having a final adventure and doing right by a friend.
Thank you, Matt. It was a privilege knowing you.
I took this vintage photo of Matt Elliott in my NYU days. Thanks for showing me a part of the world I’d otherwise never see. I was happy to do it.
A vintage pic of Matty and me from a photo booth in the East Village
This is photo of Matt’s Memorial Beer, Diamond Kings of Heaven, in it’s gold leaf packaging. Next time you’re in Indianapolis, go have a beer in Matt’s honor at Brugge Brasserie.
Today, October 11th, in honor of Matt’s Birthday, TwentyTap in Indianapolis has 3 Czech beers on tap served in .5 liters in his honor. Go Czech it out.