Showing posts from October, 2006

Krakow Diary Day #29 (Monday, Oct. 16): The Mysterious Package Part Three

This morning I got up and decided to put an end to it. These nightmares of missing the cookies, of cookies going stale, of Katja appearing out of nowhere, saying, "But those cookies were for you!"

When I was young and a Mormon, I thought a lot about the phenomenon of temptation and resistance. A friend, another Mormon, told me a parable about a Buddhist monk. He is walking along a path in the woods with his pupil beside him when they come upon a stream. At the stream, a beautiful woman is standing. "I'm afraid I will slip and fall," she said. "Can you carry me across the stream?" Without hesitation, the older monk picked her up in his arms and carried her across the stream.

When they were alone again, the pupil, who was a little concerned, asked: "Why did you do that, master? Didn’t you vow never to touch a woman?"

"I did, Grasshopper," said the monk (I don’t think he actually said "Grasshopper"), "but I knew if I did…

Krakow Diary Day #28 (Sunday, Oct. 15): The Mysterious Package Part Two

I couldn’t sleep last night. I was tortured by nightmares of homemade cookies fading from my grasp before I could bite into them. Then I woke up – with a start. I was no longer in bed. In my sleep, I had gotten up, walked out the door and was standing before the stairs leading down to the kitchen.

No, I can’t do that. I have to stay away from that package. I forced myself to go back to bed, and was tortured by nightmares all night long.

Krakow Diary Day #27 (Saturday, Oct. 1): Who knew?

Well, I lost again. I put ten sloty on Bob Dylan winning the Nobel prize for Literature, and instead it went to some guy named Pahmuk. Who knew?

Last night we all got together – those of us remaining in the house – and decided that we would defy fate and do what true literary-minded souls would do in this situation, which is bet on who would win the Nobel Prize for Literature. We were all there except for one – the elusive, mysterious Laryssa. We discussed the ins and outs of the situation over a bottle of vodka. Then we all threw 10 sloty into the pot and wrote down our bets:

Mirek – (first Updike, then Androkovich, then…) DeLillo
Danuta – Roth
Ambrosi – Kapuszinsky
Kobus – Pynchon
Erica – Pahmuk
Eric – Dylan

But when I went down to the breakfast room this morning, only about an hour before the announcement, a new name had been added to the list:

Laryssa – Pahmuk.

The elusive, mysterious Laryssa had been watching us, somehow, all this time.

When Erica saw the new name, she realized that …

Broadway Has a New Star!

You have to read her blog posting on the experience of the first night: click here!

News from New York

It's 7pm in Krakow and about 1pm in New York. Just recieved an e-mail from Diana. She is at this very moment heading over to the theater. With a barf bag in her purse.

Big Night in New York!

Tonight's the night, folks!

Mimi le Duck, the new musical by my very own Big Sister Diana, is going onstage tonight in New York City just off broadway at the New World Stages. It's the story of a Mormon housewife (we ex-Mormons certainly are a traumatized lot, aren't we?) in Idaho who breaks out of her life, travels to Paris and wants to... do everything different. There, she meets Eatha Kitt (yes, Eartha Kitt really is in the show).

If you're in New York, run out and buy a ticket. Watch for reviews tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed tonight. Wish her luck. Visit her Mimi le Duck website (click here). Visit her Mimi le Duck blog (click here), which is updated to the last minute and will be the first source of new on how the premiere went.

Good luck, Diana! All you ex-Mormon (and still-Mormon) brothers and sisters are cheering for you.

Krakow Diary Day #24 (Wednesday, Oct. 11): The Mysterious Package

A package has been sitting around in the kitchen for some time now. If there is indeed someone still in the house with me, no has claimed it. I keep thinking about it. I can’t get it out of my mind. It haunts my dreams. It's the kind of package that looks like it might contain cookies. Homemade cookies. The name on the return address label is a motherly kind of name – the kind of name that would bake cookies and send them.

It is addressed to Katja, but Katja is gone. I don’t think she's ever coming back. I'm no longer sure she was ever here. That can only mean the package is meant for someone else. Someone who is smart enough to figure it out. I am beginning to think maybe the package is meant for me.

But still, something holds me back. This Katja person… maybe she does exist. Maybe she will return. But how can I know before the cookies go stale?


Here's another little tidbit about Germans: The love atomic war. That is to say, they are scared to death of atomic war and stoke their fear every chance they get.

I remember when the US marched into Afghanistan, a friend of mine was practically white as a ghost: "This could mean atomic war!" he said. It was a puzzling statement. Where was the Taliban going to get atomic weapons? Not to mention allies. The fear is triggered automatically in Germans. Maybe it comes from living for decades with nuclear warheads on their territory pointed at nuclear warheads in East German territory (they're still here, by the way). Or maybe they're just so disappointed that all the dire predictions about the end of the world that the German 68-generation made during the Cold War didn't come materialize, they're hoping the end will come some other way so at least one of their many well-articulated fears will be vindicated.

I took a look at Spiegel Online today, the daily ver…

Krakow Diary Day #23 (Tuesday, Oct. 10): Choice of Weapons

Kobus' flyswatter of choice (see comment one post below).

Danuta's flyswatter of choice.

My flyswatter of choice.

Krakow Diary Day #22 (Monday, Oct.9): Two Flies

They come in pairs. You get one, the other one keeps quiet for a few minutes, out of sight, until you think it's gone. Then it starts up again. Buzzing. Whishing.

They act like the own the place. They like alight on my computer screen as if to tell me: "We're not afraid of you. Got ahead, do something about it."

They never buzz off in a corner somewhere by themselves. They always have to be where I am. They have a way of buzzing around the fringes of my attention. They alight on my arm somewhere or hand or cheek, lightly, almost lightly enough to ignore, but not quite. Just to alert me to their presence. To whisper to me: "We're here. We're here. We're here."

When it's dark, I try doing the "come into the light" trick. I turn off the lights in the room and open all the windows and wait a while, hoping they will get bored by the dark room and go off to investigate the street lamp outside. And when I close the windows in the dark and…

Krakow Diary Day #20 (Saturday, Oct. 7): It's Not My Imagination

I woke up this morning, went down to the breakfast room and discovered that Katja is gone now, too.

Krakow Diary Day #19 (Friday, Oct. 6): Ten Little Intellectuals

Life at the Guesthouse of Villa Decius is getting mysteriouser and mysteriouser. I'm beginning to think I've arrived in a situation that may end up being threatening to my life.

It's slowly becoming clearer and clearer that there is more to the mysterious Laryssa than meets the eye. Every time I try to corner her, panic invades her eyes and she slips past me and behind locked doors, avoiding my questions. The proto-Austro-Feminist-Communist Erica is clearly hiding something in her past. There's a strange nervousness to her laugh when I innocently mention the never-resolved crimes of the elusive group of militant feminist terrorists who called themselves "Maenner her jetzt!" Erica would have been in her twenties when they were active. I believe now she's in some kind of witness protection program.

Then there are the post-Hegelians. When I arrived, there wasn't a single post-Hegelian in sight. Now, they're everywhere. Did you see that comment a few …

The Novel Commandments #3

Here's a third law of novels: It has to be OVER THE TOP.

The reason I think that novels don’t surprise me anymore is that they come so evenly measured out, so finely calculated, each sentence carefully weighed, each sentiment simply… correct. And predictable. I pick up some of these books, read three sentences and I want to run into traffic.

In TV, of course, it's different. Growing up in the 70's wasteland of Starsky and Hutch, I never thought I would say this, but the most daring fiction being written today is in TV. The standards for "over the top" fiction have been set by The Shield (shoots his partner in the first episode!), 24 (who was it that once said, "If you show an atom bomb hanging on the wall in the first chapter, it has to come down off the wall before the story is over"?), and in comedy South Park, The Simpsons, Seinfeld and of course The Office.

You can do that in television, you can’t do that in novels.

That's Commandment #3: If I&#…

Krakow Diary Day #17 (Wednesday Oct. 4): Novel vs. Non-Novel

We had another knock-out-drag-out fight last night – Katja, Erica, Nicolai and I – about the difference between fiction and non-fiction. (This was before we went to a horrible all-out-self-gratifying-middle-class-we- listen-to-jazz-mushy-New-Age-Wagnerian-concept-jazz-funk concert – see photo). Anyway, during this discussion, I claimed – rightly so – that non-fiction is superior to fiction because it shows the world as it is (give or take a little for perception and honesty of the writer), whereas fiction can say whatever the hell the writer feels like saying, and the more I know about writers, the less I feel like trusting what they have to say.

There was some disagreement. Erica said, "Yes, but fiction depicts what is inside us." She hasn’t heard yet that Freud has fallen into disfavor. (Erica is conflicted on this issue – she is writing the story of her family and is waffling between writing it as fiction and non-fiction. As a novel, she could more easily play with the ch…

So Sorry

I always try to look at the positive side of things. I try to put a little distance between my fears and what I see. The Neo-Nazis make it into three regional parliaments in Germany and while everyone else sees visions of the Fourth Reich, I try to put a little perspective on it. And I can manage to keep it up with something like that. Hell, there's even a kind of humor in the situation.

Then some guy walks into an Amish school room, ties up a dozen teenage girls, puts them against the wall and starts shooting. These girls had probably known very little of evil in their lives – hell, they hadn’t hardly known anything of life. And they stood there and saw it coming. They knew what this guy was going to do as they stood there completely helpless.

What am I supposed to think about that? Is there some theological argument that sounds good even now? Is there something cynical I can say that will make it go away? If any society deserves to be called innocent in some way, it is surely th…

Krakow Diary Day #15 (Monday Oct. 2): The Villa Decius Guest House is Quiet

Quiet has settled over the Villa Decius Guest House. I don’t see anyone anymore in the breakfast room. Or in the halls. Or in the laundry room. I don’t hear noises, the slamming of doors. No one is sunning themselves on the back lawn or drinking tea and gabbing out by the front fountain. Maybe the others all have important places to be and exciting things to do. Maybe they are all hidden away in the house and I don't know it – perhaps they have partied too much on the weekend, seen too many friends, explored the city too much, and are now retiring to the stillness of their cubby-hole rooms.

Is the house empty but for me? I sit here alone in my well-lit room, surrounded by books to read and notes to take, in the quietness, and think about how far away I am from the ones I love until a satisfying melancholy comes over me. Strange, because it is satisfying at the same time, like the exhaustiuon after a day of hard but successful work.

Most likely, everyone else is doing the same.

Faust #3

THE HISTORIA OF FAUSTUS III.How the Spirit Explained unto FaustusThe Hierarchy of the Empire of Helland Why No Mortal Can Command over its EmperorDoctor Faustus returned to his living quarters pale as ash and shaking, and sat by the window while the other guests and servants slept and watched the run rise. But when his shaking had subsided and his hands were calm, he locked himself in his study and with chalk drew the circles of power on the floor and once more commanded the spirit to appear. And again the spirit did so, this time unaccompanied by fire and trumpeting, simply stepping into the air beside Faust's circle, dressed again as a gray friar, and softly asked, "What is it you desire of me?" Of all the astonishing things that happened in the history of Doktor Faust, the most astonishing of all is the bare fact that the Lord God would withdraw his hand so that a demon can speak directly to man to deceive him and lead him down the path to hell, when the opposite is …

Krakow Diary Day #14 (Saturday Sep. 30): All Geeks Are The Same All Over The World

Image witnessed by this photo taken of the nerds hanging around Ye Olde Lord of the Rings Shoppe in the top floor of the Galeria Kazimierz.