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Budapest / Vienna #2

There’s a big island called Margaret Island, or Margitsziget, in the Danube at the northern side of Budapest. Once of its features is an amazing fountain, which is accompanied by recorded music several times an hour. Hungarians are very clever people, and the fountain design is fairly awesome. I thought of 3-D mathematical Lissajous curves.

For most of this vacation I wore a new pair of Mephisto Shark sandals, very comfortable. As has been my fashion-insensitive custom for going on forty years, I often wore my sandals with patterned socks. Mais oui!

The busses, trains, and trams work really well in Budapest, as in the rest of Europe. One of those things that America should have mastered by now, but for some reason hasn’t. Like making good bread and good butter and serving good meat in restaurants. We saw some interesting people on the trams, like this woman (on the right) with her son, who was busy trying to burst a make-shift balloon made of an inflated latex glove. The tough-looking woman was on her cell phone the whole time, talking Hungarian of course.

Yet another shot from Corvin Ter. Love these bent bollards.

Georgia, Courney, and kids took us around in Pest one day, in a funkier, more night-life-loving neighborhood. I liked this drip of white paint on the dark sidewalk. A mystery arrow.

The dead and live vines on this wall caught my eye. Spreading fractal zones of influence. I usuall do my best to crop out images of automobiles from my photos. Somehow cars are almost always mundane and boring.

We made our way to one of our children’s favorite places in Budapest, the Szimpla Farmers Cafe, which could also be termed a “ruin bar,” that is, a multi-room hangout/nightclub carved out of a more or less uninhabited building, including an open courtyard. Graffiti on nearly every surface. I spotted myself in a mirror here.

Naturaly Erno Rubik is a Hungarian folk hero for his famous Rubik’s Cube. The Szimpla ventilation system incorporates a painted sheet-metal model of the Cube. This image was out of focus, so I applied an “oil paint” filter to it, giving it a nice look. Like a graffiti image of the actual photo.

A pure image of Szimpla graffiti, including deep grooves scratched into the plaster wall. Gorgeous. Georgia and Courtney told us that, at night, young women walk the rooms of Szimpla with huge trays of giant, raw, peeled carrots for sale as snacks. SO non-American. Love it.

From Szimpla we moved on to a nice cafe reatuarant in a different courtyard. I was struck by the beauty of a waiting toilet paper roll in its immaculate Euro surroundings.

The cafe’s decor style was, basically, “random colors for the hell of it.” But the colors had approcimately the same brightness, and the merge worked well.

Some awesome wrought iron deco-style street lamps outside, and some deco-style apartment buildings as well. Something I always like in Manhattan is the presence of the 1920s – 1940s style skyscrapers. Budapest has an even broader palette of architectural sytles. A lot of the city was badly bombed in WWII, but interesting swaths survived…and a number of structures were rebuilt.

Dig this slackadelic op-art candy-cane-bridge table-top in an inner-city Budapest cafe called the Akvarium Klub. A flat reflecting pool lies above the underground club’s roof. The grandkids and I had the delight of seeing any angry security guard chase off some rowdy young women who were wading in the pool, with some danger of falling through into the Klub along with a million gallons of tepid Hammond microorganism-laden water. We kids and I got away with wading at the edge.

Our biggest water-fun day was at the Gellert Hotel on the Buda side. A venerable old spa with amazing set of tiled thermal baths beneath it, all in Art Nouveau style, and the baths going up to 38 degrees Celsius, which is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn’t get any shots in there, but here’s a picture of the concrete bank of the Danube just outside. Nice graffiti. Budapest is honeycombed with hot springs—which may have been one of the reasons the Turks invaded so often over the centuries. There’s a spot in this concrete wall where the hot springs bubble through, and Gerogia said she saw a guy washing himself in them, and he said something like, “Poor man’s Gellert.”

Looking out at the Danube from our Art’otel windows one afternoon Sylvia and I saw these far-out patches of light on the river. The sun was setting behind us, and the light was bouncing off a building’s windows and onto the water. Nature’s mindbogglingly intricate computations.

Simple pleasures. A plus sign on a worn bit of concrete with a fence atop.

After about six days in Budapest, we went on to Vienna—and I’ll post the Vienna images in follow-up posts. Sticking to Hungary for now, after Vienna we returned to Budapest and went on to a small Hungarian country town called Eger, known for their vinyards. Some of Sylvia’s many Hungarian relatives were having a family reunion in a country inn there. The guy in this picture is playing a cimbalom, an unfamiliar (to me) instrument that’s popular in Hungary. Kind of like a piano or dulcimer in terms of having stretched strings, but they guy was playing it by hammering the strings with some soft sticks. An Eger band. The guy playing the violin was the group’s front man, a character. Whenever I’d start to take a group picture of my family, the guy with the violin would push forward to get into the family picture, standing in the back row with the others.

This is me at the big reunion, kicking back beneath an arbor of wine vines with dangling bunches of grapes, and after a meal featuring, among other delights, a very fine Weiner schnitzel, a.k.a. “Bechsi szelet” (Vienna slice). I’d foudn a semi-decent shirt for the event. After nearly two weeks, I’d pretty much stopped trying to categorize my meager stash of garments as “clen” or “dirty,” it was more a matter of which one I hadn’t actually worn for a few days.

There’s a certain sense of a middle Eastern influence in Hungary. We even found a minaret in Eger, although it was smaller than it looks in this photo, we walked to it and it wasn’t all that far away. A partly crumbling tower with serious fist-sized chunks of stone at its base. No American-style warning signs though. More like—figure it out for yourself. Love this twilight view. Here again I used an iPhone 6 rather than my heavy-duty Fujiflim X100T, so the image is bit grainier than I’d like. But very myserious and enticing. What would it be like to move to Eger?

The wall of an old castle looms above Eger. Dig the patchwork of roofs and walls and sky. Love it.

We hit a big cathedral or basilicum in downtown Eger. Classic Euro scene here of a marble statue against trees. You can’t see in this photo, but in the parking lot down there, some of the locals were having a car festival, celebrating some kind of really tiny car, like Fiats or Ladas or some such. As opposed to the populuxe Detroit rides you might see at a California car fair.

We walked to a food market out last evening in Budapest, passed this delightfully decript “Window Door — Make Repair — Joiner” shop. No time for his own windows and door…

With a magnificent peeling wall. Next installment will be on our days in Vienna.

Budapest / Vienna #1

Sylvia and I took a trip to Budapest to visit our daughter Georgia, who’s living there for two years with her husband Courtney and their two kids. Courtney is teaching English there, and Georgia’s still running her graphic design biz from afar. Sylvia’s family comes from Hungary, and I’ve been there two or three times before, but not for about ten years. It was fun to go back there. Such a different part of the world. We stayed in a nice hotel, the Art’otel, with a room overloking the fabled Danube. The first day I had jetlag, and woke up to this view outiside my window. Those are the Hungarian Parliament buildings. Kind of shading into the East a little bit here. I didn’t even tweak those colors, believe it or not. That’s how they came up.

Budapest is, in a way, two cities: Buda and Pest. Buda is the more residential side. Our hotel was there, and above it is a hill with the old “var” or castle. Hungarian words aren’t at all like any romance language words you know. Near the Var is an incredibly deocorated church of St. Matthias. This is the tile floor. Very Escher.

The church was rebuilt/redecorated after the war, and there’s a bit of a modernist feel. I dig this crow with a ring. Has a real fairy tale feel to it. I want to write a story involving this crow.

In one corner the church has an odd, off-center oculus window, with seething decoration all around. Like a math construction in the non-Euclidean plane. Hungarians are known for their mathematical abilities, you understand.

Out with Georgia and the two grandkids, we had hot dogs in this very peaceful little square called, I think, Corvina Ter. Thick green grass. A resident bum who was there every day, smoking cigarettes, his skin a dark rich shade, not unhappy looking.

The street near the Corvina Ter was paved with yellow bricks. Awesome plays of light and pastels on the Budapest buildings’ walls.

A lone bicycle chained up. I thought of Atget or Brassai. That European shadow-play photo thing.

A sphinx by the square, she looks kind of modern, like maybe a social worker of some kind. “Please answer these questions or I’ll kill you.”

When I get into it with my camera and I’m in an interesting new place like this little square, I can find dozens of things to shoot. Here’s a homemade bit of heraldry, like a coat of arms, over the door of a massivley baroque house. If this photo doesn’t quite have the presence of some of the others, it’s because I shot it with an iPhone 6 instead of my preferred Fujifilm X 100T…which, however, I don’t always have on me.

Always great to get a clear shot of bicycle shadows on the road near dawn.

Going into town on the Pest side, we passed a night club that seemed to be devoted to mocking, or being nostalgic for, the old Red days.

Came across a museum about writers, they had a show on a Hungarian writer I hadn’t heard of. We didn’t go in, although I like the idea of there being such museums, and I loved the pink and yellow colors on the walls.

I’m always interested in the concept of those evil pigs who turn against their fellows and work as pork butchers. A very sinister examplar here. The food in the place looked delicious. I’m a pig chef myself, I guess, since I think of my totem animal as the pig, and I do like to eat pig meat. I wrote a story “The Men in the Back Room at the Country Club” a few years ago that includes a pig chef type character—only he’s cooking humans for alien invaders. You can read it online. Really this story should be made into a movie along the lines of American Graffiti—it’s about a last night of high-school.

We passed through the church where my wife’s parents were married. So calm in there, a Lutheran church, less decorated than the Catholic ones, but with quite an intricate altar painting. Touring Europe I always like going into a church and sitting in a pew. Good way to rest, and to tune in on the Cosmic Vibe, and to see ineresting architecture and art.

We had lunch one day in a cafe on the enormous square in front of the Parliament building. I dug the lazy-tongs contraption holding up the awning. Exceedingly hot day. Not much air-conditioning in Hungary, which is kind of relaxing, once you accept the fact.

Another shot from near the Corvina Ter behind our hotel. I was waking up very early, due to jet lag, and I’d take a little walk in the morning. The windows here are sized in such a way as to give a “forced persepctive” effect like on a stage set. Sorry about it being out of focus, I guess I rushed the shot. If a photo is far enough out of focus, you can’t fix that in Photoshop or in (my usual editor) Lightroom. So then you say the photo is atomspheric…or like an antique postcard.

Our tram stop had a view of a great Art Deco building with a vivacious tree. I liked the pattern of the balcony railing supports in particular. More to come…

Kauai. Finished 2nd Draft of MILLION MILE ROAD TRIP.

So yesterday I finished the second draft of Million Mile Road Trip, an SF novel I’ve been working on since April, 2014. Nearly two and a half years. It’s been a long haul. And this year was hard one for me in other ways.

I finished the first draft in June, and at that time I put up a long post with a number of illos relating to the novel, so I won’t repeat all that info. And if you want to see more on the backstory of the novel you can also look at the cumulative “Million Mile Road Trip” category of posts on my blog.

In short, the novel features three teens on a million mile road trip across a landscape of alien civilizations. Goal? Stop the flying saucers from invading Earth. And learn about life and love.

The master of the flying saucers is an evil alien bagpipe—are there any other kinds of bagpipes? His name is Groon, and I did a painting of him a few months back that I really like.

“Saucer Bagpipe” acrylic on canvas, June, 2016, 24” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

The teens are Zoe and Villy, aged 18, plus Villy’s irritating 16-year-old brother Scud. Flying saucers and colorful aliens enter the tale. And, yes, it’s literally about a car trip that’s a million miles long—the trip is set in a parallel universe, which contains a single, endless plain divided by ridges into basin-like worlds.

For years I’d wanted to kick up the Kerouac On the Road thing into an book of intergalactic kicks with a seriously long drive. And I was happy to get it to work. Not that my novel is much like a beat novel. I was, at least initially, thinking in terms of a YA novel for teens—although who knows if that’s the market I’ll find.

[Many of today’s photos are from a trip to Kauai I did with Sylvia at the end of July, 2016.]

In the spirit of Kerouac/YA I wrote the book in the present tense, alternating among the points of view of the kids, with the prose style fairly colloquial and intimate. I think Zoe’s voice is especially funny. I posted a sample passage of her in April, 2016. a passage from the “Lady Filippa” chapter about 2/3 of the way through the book.

As I’ve said before, writing a novel is like rowing a boat across the Atlantic. You just cannot believe how long it takes, and how much work it is, and how much doubt you have to fight through along the way. Sometimes writers talk about the “black point,” when you’re so far into the journey that you can’t see where you started from, and you can’t see where you’re going.

You have to count on the muse for help, and I don’t mean that as a metaphor or a joke or mere lip-service to some notion of the writer’s craft. There is some kind of force—maybe it’s just my subconscious, or my trickle from the hive mind, or my archetypal engrams, or racial memory, or the synchronistic elegance of our divine natural world, or the quantum computing metamind of the Great Novelist—but it’s something that kicks in and helps me. Those flashes of inspiration. When the world starts dancing with you, everything fitting, overheard scraps of conversation, dreams, articles in the paper, things people say, here it is.

[A thermostat in an art gallery, plastic-encased, casting an odd shadow. “Vhat is?”]

It was fun being in Kauai, a nice break, we went there right after I finished the first draft, and I didn’t bring the draft along for correcting, so Sylvia and I were just kickin’ it. As a bonus our old friends Marc Laidlaw and wife Geraldine have a house there now, up on the funky jungly northwest end of Kauai, almost at the Na Pali cliffs.

Naturally Marc and I started talking about story ideas. Somehow I want to have a character who is, in some sense, a humuhumunukunukuapua’a fish. I even did a watercolor of him and his friends. He’s kind of a hoodlum.

And here’s a close-up of the pig-like humu in the corner of the watercolor above. Love this guy.

Sylvia and I did a lot of snorkeling. I’m not in the greatest physical condition this summer, and I’d practically die from holding my breath and exerting myself, but it was worth it.

We all went to a luau organized be the Hanalei Canoe Club—it was maybe not quite so generic as a hotel luau. Next the Hanalei River, and it was raining and you could drink coconuts and then get a tray of more-or-less cafeteria-style food and sit with a bunch of locals under a big tent, it was kind of great.

I get pretty excited when I see rain.

And the worn canoes.

I bought a t-shirt from some beautiful young Hawaiian women. Wahines, I guess you can say.

And then, oh my god, they had hula dancers. So great.

I can never quite figure out how the women attain such a high vibrational frequency in their harrumph motions.

A guy came out and did some routines with fire. He mentioned that normally it was too dangerous to do this show under a tent, but since it was raining—oh well.

He had dancers too.

It was a really nice vacation for Sylvia and me. And then when we got back, I cranked on my revisions for about three weeks and got the second (and possibly final) draft of Million Mile Road Trip done.

Finis coronat opus.

Podcast #96. “Totem Poles” by Rucker & Sterling

Aug 10, 2016. Rudy Rucker reads “Totem Poles,” a wild tale co-written with Bruce Sterling. Appears online on today. Press the arrow below to play Rudy reading the story.


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