Passed the check-in security for peace of mind for all, we enter the grand staircase that leads to the great hall in festive decoration. Gilded capitals of pilasters in Ionic order – historism at its turn-of-the-century style. The chandeliers with their diamond sparkling brightness aided by the stage lights.
The hall filled to capacity with talks by the Ambassador and moderated by the gorgeous host Alena, in a black satin dress with a translucent gauze covering her slender arms. Her figure ripened like a succulent fig, she is moving herself successfully into the role as a charismatic hostess.
The righteous people have been honoured, men and women who saved lives of persecuted Jews fleeing the Nazi occupation and their policy of extinguishing the entire Jewish population. It’s high time that these saviours of humans were honoured and the horrors of Nazi ideologies dealt the death knell for all to see, witness, and partake, Jews and Gentiles, journalists and artists, politicians and captains of industry.
An expressive voice with modulated tonalities from an Israeli singer touched the hearts of all present. We all could meet her after the presentation, when sandwiches, wines, and refreshments were offered. Congratulating her I handed her my calling card with the websites about my artistic achievements. Perhaps she will read some of my poems or hand my data to her friends to read and see for themselves.
I came across a familiar face and then it hit me. It was Alex, the man from a prior visit to Bratislava, when an Austrian TV station filmed a short documentary about surviving witnesses of the Holocaust and the remaining family members. Immediately we talked Hungarian, as I remembered him talking that time, and he responded. Tales from his life as a primas in a folklore band interlaced with memories about common sayings, he recalled from his mother. I recalled the author Imre Kertesz, who wrote about such remembrances in his memoir, as he returned from Auschwitz and could not find anyone of his friends and family alive, except for one person recognizing him. It’s quite an experience to be recognized by one person in a foreign city, yet, a city where we – Tommy and I – came to visit a dozen times. So, even then it’s memorable to have found one person, almost a soul-brother.
Clap, clap, the tall dressed-up man walks noisily passed reminding me of boots by soldiers. Now, the security man, strong, a meaty guy, talks about some issues, but I ask him about Israel. ‘The next election will decide the way forward’, he replies. OK. He is trained to supply diplomatic answers. I tell him about my Granddad, who was murdered by Nazi fanatics, when he refused the local pharmacy owner, – as a chief prison warder – to Poison the food of political prisoners opposed to Nazi ideology. He stubbornly stuck to his duties to oversee the prisoners to embark on their transport to the High court in Vienna. As his surviving grandson, I have sponsored a pomegranate tree planted in an Israeli orchard. Perhaps one day, if I’m ready, I will pursue the setting of a stumbling stone at the place of my Granddad’s violent death. Certainly it has to be considered and followed through. All Nazi crimes and related murders have to be made publicly known and communicated to the next generation.
After a lot of talks and some drinks, Mr T became quite hungry and expressed the wish to visit the Chinese restaurant ‘Yasmin’ in the Jewish quarter. It’s though a bit of an effort to get there, as no Taxi is allowed to drive into the area to bring one close to the restaurant.
Linda, the Chinese hostess and owner is a dear friend of Mr T, who visited here for many years and she remembers me as his companion. Katka, the waitress also remembers us and she serves us well, this time Mr T’s staple food – Chop Suey. I add a plate of glazed noodles, AKA cellophane noodles to the order. It all looks not only perfect to the eye, but also tastes excellent. I love glazed noodles, even if they have an almost artificial taste. They are just a wonderful Chinese invention and excellent with veggies.
For me, not speaking Slovakian, besides a few words I know, resort to my trusted English and a sign-language. When I order glazed noodles, I show Katka the sign lifting my arm and express the see-through quality. She immediately understands. Even Mr T has tried the glass noodles this time and he likes them as well. I must say that his stomach is definitely in good working order. Here in Bratislava, his short term memory also returns to better functioning. It has to do with his memory of childhood that is still chiselled into his memory banks. We don’t speak much, hanging on to our individual thoughts. ‘What are you thinking about?’ Mr T asks me. ‘I think about life’, I reply. ‘That’s always good’, he replies. Then he asks Katka to call us a cab from Easy Taxi and she mentions the hotel at the entry into the ‘Judengasse’. Her husband will give us a lift to the short upward stretch of road, as he has a remote control to lower the access pole at the entrance.
The taxi already there, takes us back to the hotel. A talkative middle aged man introduces himself as a sportsman. A wrestler of Greek-Roman style and good at it. He shows us a video on his cellular phone, where he wins a bout against his Russian opponent. Well done in a tough going to place his opponent onto his back with both shoulders firmly set on the ground for a few minutes. He is full of jokes and Mr T is the right partner, but he is holding back a bit. Later Mr T tells me that Robush seeks sponsors. So that’s why Mr T held back making friends with him. A good night’s sleep awaits us with tired lines across our faces.
I dream a lot about Alena and her beguiling charm, Lucia from the Israeli Embassy staff with her good looks and friendly manners, Nina, the Greek-Slovakian woman with natural blond hair, who dislikes men from Pakistan, probably having experienced some unpleasant incidents. However, all in all the poet always reacts to good female vibrations and his fantasy melts into his innermost being, past experiences, and present daydreams, and realities stirred into one eroticizing cocktail.
This Thursday morning, when Mr T wakes me at 8 am, I notice that he will be this time ready by 9 am for breakfast. Yet, finally sidelined by activating his safe code, whereby I have to assist reading the user’s manual, time flies by. Then he remembers to phone a friend. Having completed his attire, he sends me ahead. It certainly will take more persuasive diplomacy to get him going from his room. Then, finally having decided to come, I lock the room and place the sign ‘Not disturb’ on the door handle. Now then, he cannot go passed reception without some talk and extraction of information, usually a telephone number. Meanwhile I have rushed upstairs to the first floor, where the breakfast room is situated and time is running out when the buffet will be cleared away. I have organized salami, cheese and rolls, poppy seed cake and a muffin, tea and coffee. He has not arrived yet. I eat and enjoy my Asian Sun-green tea. As I dig into a plate of steamed veggies and baked pumpkin, he arrives, mumbling to call him Tomas, the steward, with whom he has a good standing. Then Tomas, speaking German, Hungarian, and Slovakian, calls Diane, the young quicksilver stewardess, who brings him a soft boiled egg, but he complains to me that it’s not well prepared. As most bread has been taken off the buffet room, Mr T refuses to eat salami and cheese. Fine. I have some rolls and prepare some sandwiches for myself, knowing well that we’ll get hungry by the time we catch a train back to Vienna. However, Mr T orders green tea for me through his friendly steward, Tomas, as the wooden tea box had been removed already. Yet, although late at breakfast, Mr T always manages to be served, joking with personnel that is tired of the daily humdrum.
Trying to get some Slovakian talking time on his other cellphone, he has trouble recalling his access code and his former telephone number in Slovakia. This also means that he has during the process of loading on talking time to his local cellphone, walked three times back and forward to the nearby shop. During the following hour, I am dialing for him about a dozen telephone numbers on the minute keyboard of his aged Nokia phone, his fourth or fifth telephone. Then he calls a cab. ‘Do you have some money on yourself?’ I nod, although it certainly is already enough to have met varied friends and associates. But he is adamant, as if this would be the last time he’s coming here, or so it seems to me.
Meeting Ali at the Zinchy palace restaurant, after some difficulties to meet agreed times by Mr T, the two friends talk a lot. Mr T hands Ali some reproductions of his father’s art. Ali was a weight lifter, he explains to me. He always had enormeous physical strength and is still training at an advanced age. He signed my card that I placed into the back pocket of this notebook. Basically he appears to be a nice chap. However, as he talks Bosnian, Mr T cannot understand him completely and he strains answering back. Afterwards we walk to the American Embassy, where Ali calls us a cab. We have the driver stop at the Pizzeria close to the hotel. The pizzas are very good and reasonably priced. Mr T is exhausted and shares another pizza with mushrooms with me. At times he closes his eyes for a few seconds, falling into short stints of snooze. I begin to feel tired as well and wish to leave. I’m beat. Even taking some green good-night tea, I am unable to write any longer an intelligent report. Good night.