Thursday, May 12, 2005


Top Ten Reasons Why My New Flat/Neighborhood is Awesome:

1. If I'm heading west or south, then I always see Imre Varga's silvery weeping willow sculpture commemorating the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in back of the Synagogue. At night and lit up, it is especially alluring and captivating. It's shiny grace always gives me a perk.

2. I'm in the same neighborhood with my homies, the Jews! I feel right at home.

3. One of the saddest buildings in Budapest is opposite my bedroom window. It's basically an unrelieved brick wall. But this means that I get to walk around naked with no worries. Also, the red brick geometry of the facade makes a beautiful abstract statement against the airy blue sky when I wake up in the morning and turn my head back to look outside.

4. It's my OWN flat!!!! I can decorate it as I please. It's mine. Food tastes better in your own flat. You sleep more soundly in your own flat.

5. This reason may be an effect of the latter reason: but I notice that I really like cooking in this flat, and have already had friends over for dinner several times. And this may be a commentary on the former flat too-- the fact that it always felt so uncomfortable and museum-like to me. This one, though not lined in silk and beautiful oil paintings and antiques, is very COMFORTABLE and FRIENDLY.

6. I LOVE my "local." You may remember that I complained bitterly about my formal local "Beckett's." Now my local is Szoda, rough and studenty, just my cup of tea (or beer, as is more often the case).

7. I am in Kertek Heaven! The seventh district is where most of the kertek are, maybe the coolest thing in any city, in my opinion.

8. The little Gypsy boy who plays the accordion near my house. He is about eight years old I think, and whenever I see him, I drop some change into his paper cup. He always rewards me with a little wink, and I think we are destined to be friends.

9. Much better cable. At this flat, not only do I have America-is-the-Only-Country-That-Exists-CNN, but I also have BBC World! I have already seen a great program about my favorite sense, smell, on the BBC. Also, my TV5 does NOT rudely transmogrify into the the porn Gold channel in the middle of a Truffaut film that I am watching. I do not have anything against porn, but when I am in the middle of watching something on the French channel that is interesting, it sucks to have it interrupted. I have tried to watch the Gold Channel, but I notice that I get very distracted by the hideous sofas and art on the walls that comprise the typical porn setting. I think it's safe to say that the whole point of it is therefore lost on me.

10. It's easy-access to every part of the city that I visit. Andrassy is just a tad north, the kertek are east, and Ferenciek tere is just a bit west.

So, I am in a good place, both physically and mentally, after what some might consider a bit of an ordeal. It is at this place that I am going to discontinue Budapest and the Rest:

I feel that now is a time for serious study. I have long flirted with the Lord Buddha, but more and more I am coming to believe that this is my proper path. I don't know if keeping a blog and following this path are necessarily in conflict--probably not-- I could maybe even start a new blog: "Buddha and the Rest"-- but I sense that it would somehow be a hindrance to me, that it would pose an unnecessary difficulty. And an implicit part of Buddhism are that words are insufficient means to convey enlightenment.

I have always been fascinated by those who left the world for a while to pursue something else, be it the philospher's stone or Art or spiritual growth. Rimbaud, Proust, and the Lord Buddha himself come to mind. This is my time. I am not leaving the world altogether-- not all schools of Buddhism require this. There is a even a place for a sensualist such as myself within Buddhism-- but I have a lot of learning and a lot of work to do, and it's best if I can fully dedicate myself to this with the time that I have right now.

If you have read this blog, I thank you. For someone to read my words feels like such an amazing gift. Thank you for that. Thank you for your comments. They have been wholly beneficial and encouraging to me. I hope that all of you find a path that feels right for you, and I wish you the best as you follow that path. And, of course, I wish you Love and Compassion.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Freedom in Exile

Basta with the poor-me routine!! It's a bunch of rubbish! I've never felt so happy and strong in my entire life! Only a couple days ago did I notice that the title of the book I'm reading is something that describes my own state of affairs: Freedom in Exile. I am not comparing my recent experiences to that of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but I have been exiled, and I am consequently enjoying a feeling of freedom. According to the Lord Buddha and the yoga sutras, you should welcome a so-called enemy, because he can potentially fortify you. Encountering an enemy is an opportunity to strengthen. And right about now I feel myself a powerhouse.

So, turning my focus back to the subject of this bloggy, Budapest, here are some of my favorite shops:

1. Feyerzsuzsa on Kiraly Pal utca. This shop sells handbags and little silk whats-its all designed by a local gal. Fun fabrics and colors and ingenious designs. One style features two handbags that snap together, depending on how much stuff you're going to be toting.

2. Red Bus Bookstore on Semmelweis utca 14. This tiny shop on probably my favorite street in Bp sells second-hand English books. There's loads of rubbish, but an ample "classics" section insures you'll find something worth your 450 forints or so. I recently bought Cheri by Colette and a book by Jean Rhys, also set in Paris.

3. Magma on Petöfi Sandar utca 11. This store sells the work of local artists and artisans. Ceramics, bedding, clothes, handbags, and jewelry. I love these kinds of stores! Why would you want some bland Louis Vuitton bag that the whole world has when you could have a one-of-a-kind bag that reminds you of a fabulous city?

4. Vasseva on Paulay Ede utca near Liszt Ferenc terrace. Hungarian designer Eva's shop features her flowing designs in sumptuous fabrics. She will also design something specifically for you (clothing or home design). I got a long straight skirt in a light-mauve linen. It has a zipper down the back that Eva has made into a design-feature, as it is framed in a white cotton.

Hmmm, seems that I have something that HE needs, I use it as a bargaining chip to get the rest of my stuff back, or do I not even bother? It's very very tempting to make things difficult for him, but I could have done that at any point, in much more devastating and creative ways. It just strikes me that he's not even worth it. I don't even like to waste my thoughts on him. Much better to use that energy and inspiration to cast him as the villain in my novel.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Walking Cliche

I am a walking cliche. I got my hair cut this morning at Zsidro on Andrassy ut. But it must be done. You have to cut your hair when you get free of a bad man. It's not as short as my 2003 Frodo the Hobbit hairdo, but definitely a lot shorter. Less flouncy/curvilinear, more jaggedy/Joan Jett. Maybe my new hair cut will allow me to tap into her punk rockedness. My Uncle Tom who lives in Birmingham, Alabama, despite his political conservatism, has always had an affinity for Joan Jett for as long as I can remember. Once I asked him why he liked her so much, and he replied, "I'm not sure. I just think she looks like she might break off the end of a beer bottle, and come at ya with it."

I was walking down Andrassy, and I started crying for the first time during this whole business. I don't know why I haven't cried before. Maybe it's been an adrenalin thing. I knew my survival was at stake or something. But now that I am safe, everything came pouring out. I was thinking of what Jamie would think. He would be so sad and so disappointed in who I chose to spend these last few years of my life with. How could I go from the gentlest, sweetest boy in the world to an irrational, violent monster? Badly done. How will I be able to trust my own judgment in the future? Maybe I have answered my own question though: maybe I should just think of what Jamie would think.

I did get most of my belongings back. I am very happy about this. It felt like a Christmas windfall, because I really thought everything was gone forever. There was absolutely no chance of me contacting him in an attempt to get my stuff back. (I will never speak with him again.) Some things are missing, some drawings are torn, but I got back: my computer, my Dutch pencil set, my photograph of Whitman (my cat who died about a year ago), my grandmother's evening clutch she got in India in the 50's, my silk dress from Liberty that I bought with Shani, my Miller Harris perfume, most of my books, and most of my clothes. Before I left for London, I had bought him some daffodils from my gypsy friend on Szent Istvan korut and a Francia kremes as a peace offering. At that point, I still had hopes for some sort of amicable resolution. He put the rotted daffodils and the Francia kremes in my suitcase. My mom said it was "a nice touch." I wonder if he was trying to tell me something?

Last night I made dinner for Zsolti to thank him for being so kind and helpful to me throughout this. I made penne with green peppercorns, zucchini, and fresh mint. It's a nice thing to eat for the spring.

I was at the big market yesterday, and nearly every fruit/vegetable vendor had beautiful feher sparga, or white asparagus. I bought a kilo, and I have some idea of how I'm going to prepare it, but if anyone has any white asparagus recipes, I would really appreciate your sharing them with me. I'm going to have to cook a lot more than I have in the past in order to save money, and I am definitely going to have to curb my Cafe Kor habit.

I am off to buy a coffee maker and some bed linens.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Back in Bp

I am back in Budapest. And I am not leaving Budapest. Because then he would win. My first instinct was to go back to the US and into the safety net of my family. But I have a life here. I am not going to run away.

Less than making me think about how much I have lost, this has made me realize what I have, and that is: amazing friends. L insisted that I stay at his house, but I think it's important for me to be as independent as possible right now. Zsolti miraculously found a flat for me on very short notice. It's near the synagogue. It's too big for me, but I am grateful to even have a bed to sleep in. There is a little sign on the bathroom door that says, "Bad." German for "bath," but my first instinct was that it was an adjective for me. I must be bad, and that's why this is happening.

I know now that he cannot ruin my career. That is the main thing. He wrote a letter rescinding a letter of recommendation that he had written for me to an organization that had chosen me to work for them in Paris for a few months in the fall. But I have contacted the director, and he has assured me that no letter he could write would threaten my position with them.

I have a lead on where my belongings might be, though I still don't know if it will be possible to get them back. I will find out more tommorrow.

I am thinking of enrolling in a TEFL course that begins in May, so that I can be productive until it's time for me to go to Paris.

This post is lackluster. I am just so tired. But thank you for your sweet comments and e-mails. They have made all the difference.

Friday, April 22, 2005


If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If someone calls you a whore, make whore sauce. That's what Shani and I are doing tonight with our girlfriends. Making a beautiful puttanesca.

Last night I was walking to yoga in Primrose Hill. I got a phone call. It seems that I am homeless, jobless, and that most of my belongings are now irretrievable. I remember a repetitive hissing of "whore" and "cunt" and something about ruining my career, and I heard something drop onto the sidewalk. It was the phone. Something else dropped. It was me.

Shani picked me up. I was shaking and slumped. I thought she couldn't be serious, but she insisted that we still go to yoga.

She was right.

The yoga teacher is writing a book about bad boyfriends, and boy-have-I-got-something-for-you. He wants to use my story.

In class, he said to "let go."

"Whatever it is, let go of it." I let go of "whore" and "cunt." I let go of my career. I let go of my home. My beautiful things. My laptop. I am only me now.


This morning over coffee Shani made me swear that I would not answer my phone, as she thinks that he will call again to get some sort of closure. "But why would he call me again? He got to call me every name in the book,..."

"No, only two!" Shani said.

So we came up with a plan to "celebrate," and that is to make whore sauce, or puttanesca. So I did my thing on Portabello Road today. I bought the usual suspects for the puttanesca: some lovely anchovies, plum tomatoes, capers, Italian parsley, some beautiful black olives from Spain I've never seen before. And then some antipasti too from the man with all those big gorgeous brown ceramic pots full of delicacies: marinated mushrooms, gorgeous fresh slabs of feta, and some fennel to slice and roast.

Do I have bad karma? Is this a punishment? It could be. So I will not return poison with poison. My path is to be even kinder and more generous to the people around me. The food that I bought is not just for my girlfriends-- it's my offering to the world. I am letting go. I found myself grinning broadly. I bought grapes from a man who called me "darling" forty times, and I laughed and called him "darling" back. I joked with the man in the Spanish food store about the difficulty of switching amongst languages. I found a little booth where two women were having a sale on cheap frothy floral silk things from India. As I need clothes now, and I cannot afford to replace my beautiful things, I'll be doing the gypsy chic thing this season. I bought a dress, a blouse, and a tunic for 40 quid. But then why did I feel happier rummaging in the 10 quid pile than I have in a couture boutique? Maybe because I am light now. I have let go. The further I went, the more I smiled, the happier I was.

It's only me now.

Monday, April 18, 2005


I had to leave Budapest quite suddenly. I am in London with friends until it is safe for me to return. This will be in about a week or so. Do not mean to be cryptic or alarming. I am fine. I will be fine. More than fine.

I simply have an utterly irrational and hateful ex-boyfriend who attempted to ambush me. Who does not want to let me go.

Shani is trying to kill me with yoga. Serious ass-kicking yoga. It's very good for me. And I go shopping at the Portabello Road Market during the day and cook at night. And art, art, art. So don't cry for me Argentina.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Boldog Születésnapot Attila!

Boldog születésnapot Attila! On this day, 100 years ago, the great poet Attila József was born in Budapest. Notice I did not say, "great Hungarian poet." I believe that in time he will come to be recognized as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.

Attila had a painful existence: his childhood was marked by poverty and tragedy, and his adulthood was plagued by depression and psychological instability. At the age of 32, Attila committed suicide by throwing himself under the wheels of a freight train.

But I do not want to focus on his death; rather, I would like to focus on the way that he is still living, and that is through his powerful poetry. The poem for which he is best known is "A Dunánál," or "By the Danube." It was with this poem in mind that the Attila József sculpture was created beside the Parliament building. A large marble plaque features two lines of this famous poem:

And just like my heart's high tide
the Danube was murky, wise, wide.

Every Hungarian is well-acquainted with his life and his poems, and most of them seem to know one or two of his poems by heart, having been required to memorize his verse as part of their education. I sense a certain tenderness in the hearts of Hungarians, young and old, when I speak to them about Attila. This tenderness is contagious, and his words are now dear to me. I wanted to have a 100 birthday party for him tonight, at which everyone would read aloud their favorite poem-- but I have been ambushed by an unexpected visitor, so the birthday party must be delayed.

Another famous poem is "Tiszta Szívvel," or "With a Pure Heart":

I am fatherless, motherless,
godless and countryless,
have no cradle, no funeral shroud,
and no lover to kiss me proud.

For the third day I have had
no food, not a piece of bread.
My strength is my twenty years--
I will sell these twenty years.

And if no one heeds my cry,
the devil may choose to buy.
My heart's pure, I'll burn and loot,
if I must, I'll even shoot.

They will catch me and string me up,
with the good earth cover me up,
and death-bringing grass will start
growing from my beautiful, pure heart.

Attila was forced to leave school, the University of Szeged, because of this poem. Years later in Attila's "Birthday Poem," he remembers the words of the dean who expelled him:

"You sir, as long as I am competent,
will not teach on this continent,"
he blustered,

But Professor Horger, if it gives you cheer
that this poet is not a grammar teacher,
your joy--

I shall instruct a whole nation,
not only the high school population,
you'll see
you'll see.

Yes Attila, and not only a whole nation, but beyond that. Would you have known that your words would be in the heart of a woman born in Birmingham, Alabama? Would you have known that she would grip your poems in the crook of her arm as she slept? You are in many hearts, in many shades of purity, your words are buried in the dark places and they are still on the tips of tongues. You are living still. You were not alone in your suffering or separated by your time. You are here, Attila.

Quotes from By the Danube: Selected Poems of Attila József, a bilingual edition. Translated by John Bátki. Published in 2002 by Corvina Books Ltd.