C‘mere I want to tell you a story. Once
upon a time, no wait, that is the wrong story. How about a Vietnam
veteran war story? It starts out like this … this is no shit you
guys. No that isn’t it either.
Try this one: Fond du Lac Follies
jetted to Budapest, Hungary to recite poetry. I went over there as
part of the U.S. Embassy’s Official Speakers Program.
I flew to Budapest with a short stop in
Paris. I barely had enough time to get lost in the DeGaulle airport.
It was a short two-hour hop to my destination – Budapest. I was met
at the airport by Dimitri Tarakhovsky of the U.S. Embassy who took a
taxi to take me to the plush hotel that overlooked the Danube River.
I knew it started in Germany and ran downhill to Buda and Pest.
The next morning I met with Gabor who
had earlier contacted the Embassy to see if they would bring me over.
He wanted them to help celebrate the publishing of his book called
“Nagy Kis Madar” (with a hyphen over the a) the book was about
Jim Northrup and his poetry. Monika Vali and Attila Nemeth provided
translation, transportation and photography.
I learned that poets are venerated in
Hungary. There are children, streets, schools and bridges named after
An Embassy vehicle with diplomatic
plates arrived to take me to a high school, then a couple hours later
to a museum then a university class. In between, I was interviewed by
radio stations, newspaper reporters and magazine writers. The crown
jewel of the week was a posh reception after a recitation of poetry
at a palace/museum by the U.S. Embassy.
The Charge D’Affairs, a.i-M. Andre
Goodfriend of the Embassy used a five-page speech to introduce me to
120 Hungarians who came to hear my poetry. After his fine
introduction I wanted to meet that Jim Northrup guy.
Gabor projected photos taken in Sawyer
about sugar bush, birch bark basket making, and manoominkewin. I
recited poems about Shinnob stuff then he flashed photos about being
a Marine in the ‘Nam where I recited poetry until done. Started with
“End Of The Beginning” and ended with “Shrinking Away.”
I had to use the toilet when I was done
so one of my handlers led me through the crowd, down the wide stone
stairway and around the corner, to the toilet, he then stood by the
door as if I needed guarding.
I went back upstairs to rub elbows with
the Hungarians who were acting Continental, sipping wine, talking and
laughing. I was interviewed by Hungarian radio, the BBC and others. I
was enthralled by the crowd.
I was taken back to the five star hotel
where Gabor and I talked about the day of work. We constantly
reviewed how each presentation went. When I woke up I opened the
curtains and across the Danube was a hill that contained castles. The
morning sun lit up the stone buildings.
The next couple of days were like that;
schools, universities and museums. On Thursday I went to a place 2.5
hours down the road to a town where I did the same routine except
they had a humble museum dedicated to American Indians. There is a
tribe of Hungarian Indians, they give themselves names like Reposing
Buffalo and they play dress up Indians. Just for fun I wore my
moosehide moccasins with the beadwork in the tongues. The people
would look at them then quickly look away.
After one round of appearances, I
almost seized up from a low blood sugar count, I knew the symptoms so
yelled out “Pastries Stat!” Monika dodged rush hour traffic to
get to a bakery. She returned with sweet rolls and coffee and I was
okay after consuming same.
I saw the insides of many palaces
because a lot of my events were held in such places. I wanted to ride
on a boat down the Danube but there was just no time.
The State Department got their money’s
worth out of me, I counted over a thousand people who came to my
recitations plus I don’t know how many more I reached through the
media and their numerous interviews.
I toured the Marine House where Embassy
Marines live. I toured the grounds which had a grand view of the
Danube. We went to the Embassy to meet the Marines there. I met the
Marines and told them I served with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th
Marines in ’65-’66. Those young Marines looked like they could handle
any situation that came up. I saluted the American flag outside the
It was spring in Hungary so I will see
and feel two springs this year.
The views expressed in this column
belong to the writer alone. They are not meant to represent the USA,
the State Department, the U.S. Embassy, Honorable John Kerry, Dmitri,
Monika and Attila. Comments and bingo boards can be sent to FdL
Follies, PO Box 16, Sawyer, Minnesota 55780-0016 email:
firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook.