4/14/2003

married life

Zsuzsa’s up. She tried to convince me last night that ‘szarok rád’—literally, 'I shit on you'—is not too hard a curse.

I guess it’s relative. The thing is, we don’t curse like this in English. We’ll say, ‘Fuck you!’ or ‘Fuck your mother!’ or something, but we don’t generally specify who’ll do it. And it’s not really a command, I don’t think. So, when we say, ‘Fuck you!’ I don’t think it means ‘go fuck yourself,’ otherwise, we would just say, ‘Go fuck yourself!’ Most people don’t think about it, of course, but the sense of it seems to be, some unspecified third party, a contractor or something, should come along and do it. Sometimes foreigners trying to curse in English say, ‘I fuck you!’ which sounds more like an Arab or a gypsy curse to me. ‘I shit on you!’ implicates the supposedly offended party. It’s a whole different dynamic. For modern-day Anglo-Saxons I think the idea is to stay above the fray. I mean someone offends you, a simple ‘Fuck you!’ (meaning someone will, but not me) will do. We don’t want to get our hands too dirty.

I don’t remember exactly what was said Saturday night to merit that ‘Szarok rád!’ I think it had more to do with the fact that at some point (around half-past eleven) I left the kitchen where we were chatting amiably enough, and switched on the telly.

I had been waiting all day to see a light-middleweight boxing match I’d seen advertised earlier when we were watching the telly together. Between Hungarian Mihály Kotai and Brit Darren Rhodes. The ad consisted of a segment probably about a minute long, showing their weigh-ins. Traditionally the weigh-ins take place in the locker room, with the boxers totally naked, but both of these guys were in their underwear. Kotai was first, and the camera panned up and down his body. He’s every inch a man. Perfectly proportioned. And undefeated. Rhodes is wirier, and altogether less impressive, with a spotty record of wins and losses. But I didn’t catch the time and wasn’t even paying attention to which channel it was on. So, when I realized this was it, I made no apologies. And why should I?

Actually now I remember, we were talking about this excursion she had planned for Sunday. We were to set out at ten, but then this Ági, who was driving, phoned and said nine-thirty, which irritated me. To tell the truth I didn’t really want to go, or maybe I just didn’t want to think about it beforehand. It was like a man on death row being told the night before that for scheduling reasons they had moved his execution up a half-hour, and was that OK? So when Zsuzsa told me I said, and how long will we be gone? She said we’d be back by four. I said, that means we won’t get back till at least six. And she said, well, what else do you have to do? I said, nothing, but like Gertrude Stein said, ‘it takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.’ I have to make time for that!

So we had just started in on this question of whether or not I would in fact accompany them on their excursion, and she was saying, ‘OK, don’t go! Just stay home and write in your stupid diary and masturbate to your stupid pictures, then!’ Just like José. She’s the one who begged me to show her what I had on my laptop, and I foolishly obliged. Now, she’s criticizing me for it and demanding edits. I mean, who are these people?

Anyway, once she starting going off on me like that, I just laughed and left the room. I switched on the TV (and it occurred to me instantly that this is precisely what TVs are for), and saw my boy Kotai in training in a segment shown before the prerecorded bout.

She banged on a good deal longer, and I said mm-hmm, uh-huh, and watched Kotai dancing around the ring, his perfect, hairless torso glistening with sweat, his muscles moving fluidly beneath the surface.

She called me a typical ‘macho geci’. (Geci is Hungarian for cum--it's a very rude, crude thing to call someone, as you can imagine, but it kind of cracks me up.) I said good-night and closed the door of the sitting room. That’s where I sleep, and it was getting late, and we had to be up early for our Sunday morning excursion.

That’s when she shat on me, rhetorically at least. And then I heard her in the kitchen cussing me out. So I closed the dining room french doors into the sitting room as well. That was funny. I knew that would get her.

There was silence, and then some minutes later she knocked, and I said, yes? She stood in the doorway and told me there was a Hungarian saying about nursing a snake at one’s breast, or something. The essence of it was that here you were nursing what you thought was a babe, and you look down and it’s actually a snake at your breast.

I said, mm-hmm. Not looking from the TV, of course, lest I miss a glimpse of some sinewy spot on my boy Mihály (the Hungarian commentators called him Misi, of course).

I was like, that’s an interesting saying. Thank you for sharing a part of your language and cultural heritage with me. Good-night!

She left and came back in a few minutes later, kissed me on the cheek, and went to bed.

I waited till around nine to shoot my wad. I came just as they stopped the fight momentarily to tend to a gash above Kotai’s left eye. The blood was gushing out, his face and chest was slathered in it. It was very erotic. He went on to win, but only by a hair. In truth, it was not a spectacular fight. It did the trick, anyway.

4/12/2003

a delicate situation

Yesterday on my way back to the flat from lunch with Jack I ran into Zsuzsa and her Péter on their way out (they were going to the cinema, to see Chicago).

It was right in front of the building. It’s the first time I’ve met Péter. He’s bigger and taller and uglier than I thought. We were both very cool to one another.

Later Zsuzsa said he was surprised and maybe a little dismayed that I was handsome. But he could tell I was not Hungarian. That was interesting. I mean, why would he mention that? Good-looking bloke, but you can tell he’s not Hungarian. And? I mean, so what? I asked Zsuzsa what it was supposed to mean, and she said, 'how should I know?' And why should I ask?

I was just curious. I mean, I didn’t ask her what he thought of me, she volunteered it. But maybe it was a tit-for-tat type thing, because then, of course, she wanted to know what I thought of him.

I wanted to be delicate about it. I mean, what I really thought when they left was, ha ha, I’m better looking. And then, that they really didn’t look like they belonged together. I avoided words like ‘ugly,’ ‘disheveled,’ ‘hangdog.’ I said I thought he looked... And she filled in the blanks.

That was last night.

Then this morning on her way out, suddenly she stops putting her shoes on and looks at me, sort of accusingly.

'So you think he’s ugly.'

I said, I never said that, and I never did.

She said, 'yes, you said he’s ugly.'

I said, I never said it. I said, you said it.

She said, 'well, it’s true.'

I said, well, OK. But I still never said it.

I told her I thought if I saw them in action I might see how they fit together better than I did at first glance. But I don’t think they do. He’s a bum. He may be good for a few laughs now and again, and maybe he’s a got a big dick and probably he’s a decent shag (though he looks to be clumsy), but she’s not a teenager. This is the kind of guy you date when you’re seventeen. To piss off your parents. It’s not supposed to be serious. But it’s none of my business.

4/10/2003

an historic moment

Yesterday seems to have been The Big Day in Baghdad. The BBC reported, and I quote: ‘The president is said to regard the fall of Iraqi capital as an historic moment.’ It’s very funny, on any number of levels.

I think there’s a bit of cheek involved, of course. But from Arie Flescher’s speech you got the feeling that the ‘president’ still just doesn’t get it. I don’t think Bush has a historical consciousness. He’s barely conscious at all.

But the way his spokesman talked about it was like, yes, the ‘president’ watched a little bit of the war on TV and said, ‘hmm, this looks like one of those watchacallits.’ And one of his advisors said, ‘erm, election themes?’ ‘No, no, that’s not the phrase I’m looking for.’ And another one said (with a snicker), ‘imperial liberation campaigns?’ The ‘president’ scratched his head. ‘No...’ A third (maybe an intern): ‘umm, a historic moment?’ The others rolled their eyes. The ‘president’ looked vexed for a moment. ‘Say again.’ ‘A, umm, like, historic moment.’ ‘Yeah! Yeah, that’s it! It looks like one of those!’ He turned to his spokesman. ‘Can we use that in a speech or something?’ And Arie’s like, ‘I’ll float it this afternoon, Mr. President.’

4/09/2003

queerspeak

I was reading some more articles from the web I’d downloaded. There was one about socializing in the age of AIDS. Gay things just bore me nowadays. I mean, the whole queer theory thing has definitely had its time. It’s totally entrenched in the academy now, and so has become totally sterile. Reading this article, you can see how it got there, though.

There’s a program for gays that’s supposed to foster safe sex through friendship. A book called Gay Men's Friendships: Invincible Communities (a very typically Queer Theoryish title, don’t you think?—I mean absolutely no relation to the way things actually are) by a certain Queer Theorist called Peter Nardi is quoted.

Nardi writes: ‘Friendship may be the central organizing element of gay men's lives...[it is] the mechanism through which gay masculinities, gay identities, gay cultures, and gay neighborhoods get created, transformed, maintained, and reproduced. Friendship appears, as forcefully as any human behavior, at the intersection of self and society where the individual and the community reside.’

This is the way all Queer Theory sounds. Sort of mock scientific (‘central organizing elements,’ ‘mechanisms,’ ‘gay masculinities’ ‘reproduced,’ ‘the intersection of self and society’), and very sterile.

And what does it mean to say ‘friendship appears, as forcefully as any human behavior, at the intersection of self and society’? I mean, and? Like, so? It’s a commonplace, isn’t it? And anyway, if it appears as forcefully as any human behavior, what makes it a particularly compelling behavior?

This nonsense is dressed up, albeit in a lab coat, in the apparent hope that it will fool someone into thinking it’s more profound and scientific than it is. It’s queerspeak. Following in the footsteps of French theorists, gays realized the only way into the academy was to state the obvious sort of abstrusely and hope nobody calls your bluff.

I say sort of abstrusely, because this bloke’s not even clever enough to make a good compound-complex sentence, which should be a prerequisite for a position in the Dept of Gender Studies at any self-respecting university. He doesn’t use particularly long words, either, just mix-n-match, plug-in-anywhere kind of clinical pseudo social-scientific jargon. Not really social scientific, because this Gender Studies and Queer Theory has very little to do with real social science.

Most Queer Theory and writing on Gender nowadays is like Feminist writing, or Marxist theory. Really anyone can do it. It’s more or less a litany of catch-phrases, repeated like a mantra ad infinitum, or until it sticks. It doesn’t have to make sense or to be real (that’s why it’s theory), and people don’t have to understand it.

What Nardi’s done is to write a book claiming gay men actually invented friendship. I mean friendship could plausibly be said to be the ‘main organizing element’ of most people’s lives, couldn’t it?

4/08/2003

Christ with a crewcut

I was reading some old files I’d downloaded from the internet today. There was one about how Christ didn’t actually have long hair, and how pagans and gnostics had infiltrated early Christianity and spread lies about His do. This was something some Jesus freak had published on-line for all to see. He’d done his homework, seems like, and his argument was convincing enough, I reckon. He quotes numerous 4th century AD sources, including Epiphanius of Salamis, who wrote:

'These impostors represent the holy apostle Peter as an elderly man with hair and beard cut short; some represent holy Paul as a man with receding hair, others as being bald and bearded, and the other apostles are shown having their hair closely cropped. If then the Savior had long hair while his apostles were cropped, and since by not being cropped, He was unlike them in appearance, for what reason did the Pharisees and scribes present a fee of thirty silver pieces to Judas that he might kiss Him and show them that He was the one they looked for, when they might themselves or by means of others have determined by the virtue of His long hair Him whom they were seeking to find, and thereby without paying a fee?'

Well, I’m convinced. I mean, that was the clincher. The author of the essay had pretty good motives for setting the world straight, too, which really added to the credibility of the claims. In a section entitled ‘Why Is The Error Of The Long Haired "Jesus" Important?’ he writes:

'The first thing to understand is this. Just because certain visionaries may see various angelic creatures who may even appear with short hair, this is no criterion (of itself) that the apparitions are approved by Christ (see I John 4:1). But if a spirit appears with long hair, it is self-evident to the Bible believer that the spirit is not the Jesus of the New Testament, even if he says he is Jesus and quotes parts of the Bible to sustain his case. Paul showed that the real Jesus has short hair.... Let's be plain. IF a spirit appears to you (or anyone else) and displays a male countenance with long hair and he says he is Jesus, you can know in an instant that he is a false and lying spirit. The Bible makes it clear that Christ Jesus and the Father DO NOT have long hair!'

This is a valid concern, certainly. But his personal motivations are even more convincing:

'Since I am a member of the family of God (as are all of you too), I am getting tired of my Elder Brother being falsely portrayed as an effeminate weakling like the pagan philosophers, the heathen gods, Simon Magus or some modern day "hippie."'

Amen, brother, amen.

talking points

I have to admit I like this Iraqi Information Minister myself, as a particularly colorful player in this farce. I was watching Sky News with Jackie Saturday morning, and he held one of his increasingly bizarre press conferences. This is high comedy. His press conferences are parodies of ours. In the interest of balance and fairness the BBC presents them in full, highlighting the main points of the speeches for the viewer. Usually, the bulleted main points are listed like so:

• American troops capture airport
• light casualties reported
• water supply soon to be restored
• humanitarian aid on the way

I mean, this is generally the content of your Cookie-cutter American or British Army General Press Conference. And the BBC believes it’s doing its typical on-the-go viewer a service by outlining it conveniently on-screen. In all fairness it should do the same for the typical Iraqi viewer. But the points are slightly different:

• American mercenary dogs fleeing airport with tails between legs
• several thousand of Satan’s minions buried in dessert sand
• everything is in our favor
• we will kill all of them

Meanwhile, Jackie’s sitting next to me on her bed (the TV upstairs doesn’t have cable) reading OK! and Hello!, these British tabloids. I like them, too, especially when there’s a little beefcake, but the last couple of issues she’s brought home have been pretty lean.

Every once in a while she murmurs something like (and I quote), ‘I’d hate to be called Amanda. What kind of name is that? It doesn’t sound real.’ She said it in a dreamy voice, almost to herself. I thought it was funny.

I always ask her where the different accents you hear on Sky are from. Of course I believed her when she said, he sounds like he’s from down south, or she’s from up north, or whatever. But then there was a guy who was clearly Australian, and I said, Oh, I know that one! He’s Australian. He was so Australian it wasn’t true. She’s like, sounds Irish to me. She’s off her head.

Later she was in the kitchen, and I was in the sitting room, and we were talking about men, and she’s like, ‘hmm, yes, they say the way to a man’s stomach is through his stomach.’ That’s what I’m talking about.

Arpad’s pretty much dumped her, I guess. He left the stairway undone. He had some big plans for it, but he’ll never finish it. I told her I’d be happy to do it up for her to her specifications, but that we’d need a certain tool. I was explaining to her what I thought we needed for it. I drew her a picture. It’s a knife—like a box-cutter, like the one’s the terrorists used on those planes that crashed into the WTC. I didn’t know what it was called. She was being a bit obtuse, which is why I drew her a picture. But I wasn’t nasty about it. I did it in the interest of clarification, so that she’d know what I was talking about.

She pretended not to until we got to the green grocer. There was one sitting next to the register. It wasn’t for sale, of course. I pointed to it and said, ‘Ooh! There! That’s what I was talking about! That’s what we need to do the job.’ And she lookS at me, very British-like, and says, it’s called a Stanley Knife, Michael.

well, if she knew it why'd she let me go on about it? I got the distinct impression—and I’m sure I’m not wrong—that she was trying to say, without saying it, that I thought I was cleverer than she was, but here I don’t even know what a Stanley Knife is called. But, really. I mean, if she knew it.

4/05/2003

painting the town red

I couldn’t put it off any longer, since Jozsi's course ended Friday, and he was leaving town. Zsuzsa had suggested we go to a place called Fat Mo’s, where sometimes there’s live music. It was a little posh for our taste, though. I mean, the soldier and the unemployed teacher. We began at Ibolya, as before, and caught a buzz for cheap. Then, at around eleven, we dropped into Fat Mo’s.

Józsi treated me to a dry martini. It was not in a martini glass. It came with an olive, and he said he thought it should’ve been a sliver of lemon. He called the handsome bartender over and asked why it didn’t come with a lemon, and the bartender explained very patiently, with scathing condescension, that it was because it was a dry martini. (At the Marriott, you’ll recall, the martinis come in a champagne glass and even the dry one comes with a lemon slice, so I don’t really know where the truth lies.) Józsi paid immediately, and didn’t tip. I smiled at the bartender and he looked back like we had been in cahoots. He was very dishy, actually.

Then at Józsi’s suggestion we went to another club, a blues club, called Old Man’s Pub. His big thing was to find some girls to hook up with for a night of dancing. He had been telling me how every time he spoke to one previously, they more or less immediately blew him off. He seemed to think that having an American in tow would increase his chances of success.

There was a blues band playing when we got there, but they were just finishing what must have been their encore, after which we went downstairs and I bought us a couple of beers. The crowd was rather pedestrian. It was kind of a typical, boring Thursday night bar scene. I mean, as I would imagine it.

He surveyed the room and spied two not-too pretty girls chatting at a table near the bar, and started planning his strategy. He was all talk, though, and the fact that he’s sort of a clumsy, not-too charming guy, a soldier, and that he’s got a wife at home, and professes not to want to cheat on her, comforted me. I figured we’d drink a couple more beers, stand in a corner like umpteen other losers were already doing, and talk strategy. And then at some point I would check my watch, yawn, and lie about having a busy day ahead, and we would leave. That was my strategy.

But I had underestimated my opponent (although he saw me as an ally, or actually more like a pawn). I should have known—I mean, here he’s been in Budapest, away from his wife for six weeks, but has not had any action, not even flirtation, and this was his last night in the city. He was in a now-or-never mood. I was in a never mood, as always. But that now part of the equation is quite a powerful motivator. That’s what I failed to factor in.

After the beers, he suggested checking our coats. At the coat check he tried to chat up some girls, and was rebuffed, but they were nice about it. It was like a game. Then he saw a couple of girls sort of hesitating in the entrance, and after conferring with me went up to them, and to my shock and horror, they were desperate enough to accept an invitation for a drink.

We went downstairs, and he asked them what they wanted. The blond said she’d have a glass of port and the brunette wanted some kind of ridiculous cocktail with beer and tonic, or something. I mean, she was that type. So Józsi takes me aside, and says, listen, I’ve only got five hundred forints left. I’m gonna slip it in your pocket. Then I paid. Looking back I guess we went halfsies on it, but at the time I was a little bent out of shape at having to foot the bill, especially when I thought about the inevitable next round. I mean, if these girls were desperate enough to come with us in the first place, then I was sure we’d be saddled with them the rest of the night. And all for this fucking soldier on his last night in town.

From there it was just tedious. The blond was funny, intelligent and charming, I have to admit, and not too hard on the eyes. Sort of a long face, with a slightly serious cast, and a bit of intriguing sadness. The brunette was broad-faced and squinty with a squeaky voice. They were roommates. The blond was dressed in low-slung flares and a no-frills low-cut bright red long-sleeved tee that showed off her complete lack of cleavage. The brunette was not particularly well-endowed either, but had obviously put a little more thought into her outfit. She seemed rather desperate to come off as something of a sex kitten, and I thought it was in questionable taste. She’s a law student at ELTE, but she’s from Szekesfehervar. The blond was studying French, and was from Veszprém, and since Józsi works in Veszprém and I had lived there for several months, we had something to talk about. It seemed sort of fortuitous, this connection, but I, for one, knew it wasn’t. They could both speak English very well, too, which was also rather unfortunate. So there was plenty of reason for optimism, if you ignored the fact that Józsi was a soldier, with a wife and child at home, and I’m queer. The girls seemed to be what they were, for what that’s worth.

Józsi suggested (he was full of suggestions) that we hit the dance floor, and I excused myself, saying I had to powder my nose. I went upstairs, and found a dark corner and sat for about twenty minutes, but it was boring. There were some mixed groups and then a lot of guys hanging out together apparently hoping something would happen, and a lot of girls doing the same opposite them. But it seemed nothing was happening. And there were maybe two decent looking blokes, and the rest were all dolled up, but with nowhere to go. Heterosexuals, at least at Old Man’s Pub, were as boring, possibly more boring, than homos.

I went back downstairs, having been unable to come up with an escape plan, and found my party on the crowded dance floor. Józsi was like a kid in a candy shop, about to hyperventilate from the excitement. He danced facing me and the girls faced each other, and elsewhere on the dance floor, the lonely guys were dancing—‘dancing,’ I should say, sort of shuffling around—with each other, and looking at the girls, who were dancing with each other near by.

The girls, for their part, were giving it their all. The blond seemed to be into the music, but the brunette seemed attention-starved. Every time I looked over, she made some sort of erotic move and gave me a significant look, and I immediately turned away. I was very aloof on the dance floor. A couple of times Józsi grabbed me and drew me to his breast (the most ample of all our breasts), pressed his cheek to mine, and shouted into my ear, ‘which one do you want?’ I pulled away, rolled my eyes, and shrugged. But he was serious.

When they went off to the girls’ room, he said he was sure they were eager to offer us blow jobs, and asked me again which one. I said I liked the blond better. He did, too, but yielded her to me. Big of him. Then he went to the DJ, who was old and toothless (perhaps the ‘Old Man’ in Old Man’s Pub) and requested a slow song. Thankfully the DJ refused.

I remained aloof, which was my revised strategy, and the girls grew a bit bored, according to plan. I watched a tall boyish lad watching a busty blonde, dancing with a buddy he apparently did not realize was actually a raging queer, too, who was longingly watching him longingly watching the blond. The tall one was really the only one in the whole place I found the least little bit interesting. In a sexual way, I mean.

The blond we were with was actually charming, but I didn’t dare flirt with her. I was having violent visions of Józsi actually managing to get the brunette into a dark corner for a little make-out session, and since they were obviously using the Buddy System, I might have to do the same so that the blond didn’t feel left out.

We went upstairs finally, around half past one, by which time I think it had become obvious to the girls that they were dealing with one horny soldier and a stuck-up American, at the very least, and that this was probably less than ideal. People are funny. At the outset, when they left the flat that evening I’m sure they were thinking, well, what have we got to lose, really? Then they meet two guys, within certain acceptable parameters, though far from the secret image of perfection they hold in their heart of hearts, and they were thinking, still, well, what have we got to lose? But after that the dance of formal courtship commenced and things got a little more complicated. I mean, we had paid court to them in the beginning, and that was necessary to get the ball rolling. But what kind of girls would they be if a beer bought their favor? You have to flatter and fawn over them continually.

Józsi’s eagerness looked increasingly like rampant libido (and it was), while my aloofness must have seemed like vanity, like I expected them to court me.

In the end, we three girls grew tired of Józsi and all of us were ready to call it a night. But he tried desperately to persuade them to stay. For what, I don’t know. I mean, what did he have in mind? What did he have in his limited arsenal of charms to keep them there? Nothing, as it turned out. Me. But nothing else.

So, after some rather weak protestations from the girls (is it possible they wanted me to join Józsi in insisting that they stay?), the blond (I never learnt her name, even though Józsi had earlier told me he thought introductions were imminent and had informed me that he would use an alias) leaned over to break the news to me that they had decided it was time they got home. I said, oh, what a pity, and told her she was charming, anyway. To my surprise she returned the compliment. I had not been in the least charming. But they were in rapid retreat, and this gesture may have been meant to hasten their escape, somehow. Although I wasn’t about to make a fuss, myself.

Then she said although it might seem forward for a girl to ask a boy’s number, she wanted to ask mine, or ours. I shrugged, but she ran off to the coat check before I could give it to her. Then we were out on the street, walking through the rain, and soon we were at Blaha. I was going off one way, and Józsi had insisted on seeing them back to Orczi tér. Before parting, Józsi told me he would give them my number, and he would phone me from Veszprém the following week.

I stood in the rain and waited for the night bus. I felt calm and perfectly relaxed. Even on the bus, which was packed with people of all ages in the withering stages of drunkenness. I phoned a taxi from Széna tér, and was surprised at how perfectly fluent my Hungarian was all the sudden. So I knew that I, too, was in a state of blissful drunkenness, and decided to enjoy it. I had a lovely conversation about the weather with a perfectly charming middle-aged cabbie, and paid with the company card from the company I no longer worked for, and made sure to give him a cash tip on top.

Zsuzsa had made my bed for me. I wasn’t really in the mood to sleep all the sudden, but I did.

When I told Jackie about my night out she didn’t seem to see the significance of it. Truth is, nothing in what might in a liberal mood be called my sex-life is particularly interesting. I’m just glad I managed to avoid ending up in a dark corner groping a girl. I mean, that’s my sex-life nowadays.