Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Economist

My dear friend-- I'll call her "The Economist," came to town. She had been in Lindau, Germany (40 km from Zurich) for a conference of Nobel Laureates in Economics, and she flew into Budapest on Sunday afternoon. I realized when she arrived that I hadn't been around any Americans for a while. It felt so easy and comfortable to be able to speak "American" again, especially with The Economist, with whom I share a more specialized vocabulary of longstanding friendship.

This is a very intelligient woman, the Economist. She is, in fact, the smartest person I know. When I say smart, I do mean that she has a giant pulsating brain, but I also mean that she is a creative thinker who is a superb and engaging communicator. She has not just a beautiful mind, but a clear mind. Though she might be a factory of contradiction and complication, her mind is "clear" because of her logical and balanced method of thought. (I do NOT mean "clear" in any Scientology sort of way).

Speaking of a beautiful mind, she mentioned, in a far too casual manner in my opinion, that she met John Nash,who was at the conference. She does admire him, but she said that he gave a speech about game theory, which isn't relevant to his expertise, and that consequently the audience received his speech with bafflement. (Though really wouldn't you be interested in knowing what John Nash thinks about anything? Not being silly here. For argument's sake, let's say John Nash looked at a bunch of Picasso's Cubistic paintings, would you say that you weren't interested in what he had to say because it isn't his expertise? No, he is probably capable of detecting patterns and seeing in a way different from even the most fastidious art historian. His way of seeing could thereby add another perspective, another view of the Truth which is as Cubistic in nature as any of Picasso's paintings. I argued rather weakly on this point, and the Economist seemed unmoved.) She said that he dropped his books, and that everyone around him was so eager to help him, but that he had such a terrified look in his face. She surmised that perhaps he didn't know if the people helping him were real or not. As The Economist said, he has paid dearly for his mind.

I took her to Marquis de Salade on Hajos Utca for dinner, where Zsolty joined us. We all had small glasses of Unicum before dinner, as I wanted her to start off her visit with a proper Hungarian experience. Unicum is vile stuff, and I don't know why anyone drinks it, but for some reason I force myself to have it. I keep thinking that one day I'm going to drink it, that I'm going to "get it," and then I'll really be assimilated or something. If this Unicum epiphany actually transpires, I will post immediately.

The Economist convinced Zsolty and me that supply-side economics was a bunch of bollocks while we enjoyed our sundry lamb dishes, a specialty of the restaurant. After dinner, I took her to Mumus, my favorite kert, where we ran into some Americans that we had also seen at the restaurant. They were visiting Budapest for a half-marathon that had taken place that day, but they live in Germany and are in the Air Force. One of the men in the group approached us, and I have to admit to feeling a bit of dread. I just wanted to have The Economist to myself-- I didn't want to have to have what I thought would be an inane conversation with some American fat-neck. I'm sorry to say that I apparently have some prejudices that I need to seriously reevaluate. He was not an American fat-neck; he was a polite, smart, funny, engaging person with whom we had a "shitload" of fun. I say "shitload" because he used this quantifier while we were talking to him, and I burst with laughter and glee: no one in my present world uses the word "shitload" or knows what or how much a "shitload" is.

I had a wonderful time with The Economist. Few people understand me as well as she. For a brief three days, there was someone here who knows me, someone with whom I need not disguise my grief at the loss of J, someone who knows my ugly bits and who still loves me.

Now I am alone again. But it is a glorious solitude-- in this city, in my shrapnelled, shredded dark beauty, my Budapest.

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