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05 August 2005

i will unleash a fury

one last day in budapest; night train departure. sarah wrote some postcards in the morning while i studied the map. out of the hostel by noon. it wasn't raining fortunately, but as we walked down the street, the sky leaned down and whispered to us, telling us about a sadness today, tears were imminent. we brought our umbrellas.

back to the post office [fond memories of this place] to mail sarah's cards. to mav to buy the train tickets.

i've come a long way but i have a long way to go. but maybe never. the infamous budapestian turkish baths. an attraction for so many, a must do, but not for me. a less than zero appeal. thank you, no. sarah on the other hand was very interested in going; i'd accompany her to the border of the széchenyi bathhouse and then run screaming away. ha! first, we needed to locate an atm; we were low on hungarian funds. wandered for an hour, past anonymous and the agricultural museum within a fortress, past the bathhouse and a person living elsewhere in his head for the time being, to an amusement park, the atm. funds secured, we walked back. the person was still away; dead? sarah and i made plans to meet back in one hour and a half. as planned, i screamed and ran.

i returned to the nearby agricultural museum. the first floor; tractors. more notable; the second floor. high ceiling; walls _covered_ with antlers. imagine the weight they carry. bear skins. taxidermy. timing was perfect; i returned to greet sarah at the entrance of the baths. so was i missing out on the experience of a lifetime? from her report, no. splashing children; vicious tourists; grumpy old people. maybe she just told me those things so i didn't feel like i missed something; what a sweet girl.

we searched for a restaurant on the way home, but didn't have much luck finding one that looked inviting. we stopped at a supermarket and picked up some groceries and then returned to the hostel to eat. our train was leaving around 2000. we hung with chubba and the other hostelites before packing and walking to the train station.

i guessed that the train was delayed based on the sign, but i confirmed with a couple standing nearby. sarah and i stood by the wall waiting for the train.

there seemed to be a lot of shady people in budapest; i doubted sun ever entered the train station, the headquarters. an inappropriate prejudice; they may have all been beautiful people, but the feeling inside me was keeping all senses on high alert this evening. so, how to combat shady people? ha! well... become one, at least on the outside. recently i've picked up a bad habit: in high alert situations, whenever someone looks at me, i immediately respond with a glaring stare that i don't break until the other person looks away.

==> i see you. i am not an unsuspecting tourist; i am fully aware of your presence and i am on high alert. if you try something, i will unleash a fury the intensity of which you've never before experienced. there are easier targets; move along. <==

but there must be another way. in additional to the animal instinct invitation for conflict, the very thing i'm trying to avoid, the prolonged eye contact has been perceived in the past, depending on the setting and the predisposition of the other person, as a signal for transactions involving drugs or sex. not exactly what i'm going for. in the train station, i encountered someone who apparently shared my bad habit. while performing a visual sweep of the area, i caught a guy looking at me and immediately initiated the glare. we maintained eye contact for a full five seconds [count it out; it's a staring lifetime] before he nodded and i looked away. i kept track of his 20 for the rest of the wait; when he walked away i realized that he too was a traveller. ==> i see you. <==

a train arrived; the sign didn't turn but passengers mobbed. we waited before deciding the mob rules. we boarded the train and confirmed it was going to prague, scheduled to arrive around 0600. there were six of us in the uncomfortable compartment; i feared a long night of high alert was ahead of us. fortunately, several compartment people got off after a few stops; by midnight sarah and i were the only ones left.

posted by paul at Fri 05 Aug 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

04 August 2005

whisper screaming and angry faces

raining. lots of rain. a raining city in never as inviting and despite my best attempts to keep an open mind, poor weather always affects my impression of the city in a negative way. sarah and i marched along underneath my very small umbrella until we bought another for her in the underground. we were having a problem figuring out the budapestian metro system. signs pointing to the metro led to areas beneath large intersections; once we were down there we couldn't find the entrance to the train. did these areas exist just for the shopping and shadiness? so strange. no maps or other directional signs, just a large open square area filled with dodgy individuals and 'undercover' policemen who might as well have been standing under a flashing red neon sign that read 'POLICE' with a large arrow pointing down. i'm not sure if the rain had dampened our intellects, but sarah and i couldn't navigate the system and weren't really in a mood to spend time decoding.

we walked down the street with our two umbrellas. while my high tech rain gear detected changes in wind velocity and reconfigured the fabric to provide maximum coverage and protection, sarah's low tech solution that she'd purchased only moments earlier from the shady underworld blew inside out with each gust. it wasn't really funny [yes it was] but i couldn't help laughing each time it happened. we swapped and i dispatched the gro 'solutions department' to mod her umbrella with some terretronic [tm] enhancers and pneumatic detach [tm] calibrators. i didn't know it at the time, but i should have had the department working on something else... say, waterproofing materials?

sarah needed to pick up some postcards and stamps at the post office; as she ran inside, i waited in the doorway, unaware of impending doom. a car roared by through a gigantic muddy puddle situated directly in front of me and [time slowed down. slow motion, i believe they call it in the moving picture theatres. silence. i watched the wet black tires of the car roll slowly through the brown water. a steady stream of droplets began flying from the puddle, proceding in a straight line, defying gravity, directly at me. so slow i could count them, and i did: one. two. three. four. glistening through the air. i stood mesmerized as more droplets jumped from the puddle and began a course through the air towards me. hundreds. no... thousands. so many i could no longer count them. in the air they began collapsing together into giant amorphous globs of gravitationally unchallenged flying muddy water. straight at me! i shook my head to get rid of the trance... and my mind grasped the doom. the _globs_ of doom were about to completely soak me; not clean pristine refreshing spring water globs but dirty muddy 'just got out of a bar at 0500 hang on man... i'll catch up with you in a second... i need to take a leak [right here]' disgustingly wretched water globs. in my mind, i screamed a visciously loud andre the giant [tm] scream 'NOOOOOOOOOoooooooo!' before time resumed its normal course...] sprayed water _all over my legs_. i wish i had a video of that moment; after it happened, i just stood there with that stupid 'what just happened?' expression on my face as the car drove away.

sarah returned right after the water hit me and didn't even laugh at me. wow, what a sweet girl. i was laughing a 'that wasn't so funny' laugh. we walked down to a nearby cafe to grab some food, allow me to dry off, and hang out to see if the rain would go away. there we witnessed an american family imploding. [our take: mother and father allow teenage daughter nellie to take a friend to europe for their annual vacation. nellie refused to come otherwise; she wanted to stay at home during her parents' vacation. 'i'm old enough to take care of myself. i'll be fine while you're gone.' mom and dad knew better... nellie had been seeing mark and they considered him a bad influence. there was no telling what might happen if they left her at home unattended. parties? drugs? [gasp] SEX? they'd seen 'sixteen candles' and knew what could happen. 'fine nellie, you can bring laura.' cut to budapest. it's a week into the trip and mom and dad are really getting on nellie's nerves; she wants a little bit of freedom... hey, she's _earned_ it, right? mom and dad are keeping the reins a little too tight for her liking. moments before entering the cafe, nellie had exploded when her parents refused to let her and laura walk around budapest by themselves. it was the final straw. nellie couldn't take it any longer. she just couldn't. 'i can't take this any longer!' she screamed. dad had to go buy film for the camera; he'd deal with this when he returned. cut to the cafe. mom sat down at one table and nellie and laura at another. mom was trying to remain calm but her patience was waning. talking became whisper screaming and angry faces. 'you get over here young lady. laura, could you also please come over here?' then dad arrived. more whisper screaming with occasionally non-whisper real screaming. [waitress came: dad said he wanted 'coffee. american coffee.' [i cringed.]] dad was done with this and laid down the law. 'that's the way it's going to be. too bad.' IMPLOSION. nellie went postal and threw her ice cream at dad, causing him to dump his coffee all over his lap and fall over backwards, taking the entire table with him as he fell. wow. nellie screamed that she was sorry as mom escorted her quickly from the restaurant, laura sulking behind them.] that's not _exactly_ how it happened... it was our take on the situation. in reality, the implosion was much less dramatic, but still highly entertaining.

after breakfast, we went outside to brave the weather. the rain was lighter now. we decided to go across the bridge to the castle. wind wind rain rain. we walked the path imagining soldiers dropping hot oil and shooting arrows at us through slits in the stone walls. and the stone hurlers... forgot about them. we followed the path up and around to a looping courtyard. a sleeping person, how uncomfortable. finally up to the castle, a museum. we entered and dropped our umbrellas and bags off. paintings and stone carvings and wood carvings. pieces of old buildings and wooden tomb coverings. we left and descended the mountain via the funicular. back across the bridge against the wind and rain. i was freezing. grabbed a slice of pizza. we considered trying to navigate public transportation, but decoding isn't fun when it's raining. we arrived back at the hostel around 1700 happy to be out of the weather.

sarah had investigated the opera in budapest that morning and had sent an email to the opera house asking if tickets were available for tonight's show. we checked her email account when we returned to the hostel; the opera house had replied that she couldn't buy tickets online but that we'd most likely be able to get them if we just showed up tonight. we had plans. the hungarian opera! hmm... what to wear to the opera? i didn't have the tuxedo i usually wear to the opera with me, unfortunately. after a shower, i took a look through the reconnaissance wardrobe and settled on a nice pair of olive green cargo pants (convertible to shorts if i found it too warm in the opera house); one black dickies industrial work shirt (tucked in, of course); and oh!, some brilliantly brown hiking boots (score!). i didn't look opera level, that was for sure. far below in fact. sarah of course had brought a beautifully cute dress and high heels (not sure how she fit those in her bag) and looked like 194,760,000 hungarian forints. i wish i had a picture. i surely wasn't worthy. one of the girls who worked at the hostel called us a cab and we were off.

the cab showed up horribly late and we arrived at the opera house just as the first 'everyone to your seats please' bell was ringing. we proceded quickly to the ticket office. 'no credit card, only cash.' we didn't have enough hungarian currency, so i broke out american cash from my reserve funds. 'ah yes, that will do nicely.' we bought inexpensive tickets for seats on the third balcony and were ready to walk away when the ticket agent told us to wait... she'd lead us to our seats. tonight was our lucky night. the ticket agent told us that some [very good] tickets hadn't been purchased and that we could have those seats... box seats... stage level on the right side. she scrambled around trying to find the box... opened the door for us... _WOW_. we had _amazing_ seats and the opera house was beautiful and i had a super hot date. we gave the woman a gigantic thanks and sat down just as the lights dimmed. 'that's not just gold spraypaint... that's gilding...'

i unfortunately cannot name the opera we saw and i wasn't able to follow much of the plot (sung in italian with hungarian subtitles on an led screen above the stage). i can however comment on the singing: amazing, particularly the female vocals. all of the women had beautiful voices; the audience applauded loudly at the end of each of their songs. the stage set was grey and killer... looked as if it had been designed by hr giger... a writhing climbing mass of sculpted people. the highlight for me was a song (one that i've heard before, but can't name) sung by about fifty people on stage... clanging hammers on swords on anvils with an almost industrial feel. the voices all in unison, creating an ultra.powerful sound. the best part, for me. the show concluded with an inferno, a red sheet waving and simulating fire. i wouldn't have predicted this, but i had a great time at the opera and i was really happy sarah had taken the time to investigate. as i said before, i didn't follow much of the plot and wasn't really prepared when the ending came; sarah on the other hand was able to give me an entire rundown of the cast... relations... plot... subplots.

we returned home and walked down to the same restaurant we'd visited the day before. back to the hostel. i felt like we really hadn't seen much of budapest... the rain brought a mist over the city that had been difficult to penetrate. we'd barely seen the castle. we hoped the weather would be nicer tomorrow so we could see a few of the sites before our train departed in the evening.

posted by paul at Thu 04 Aug 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (6)