Mid-1990s. Going to see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home on St. Margaret Island in Budapest. Outdoors in the summer. In those days at that place, going to films was less a passive experience than in the US. You arrived early and purchased a few slices of bread generously covered in rendered pork fat and punctuated by purple onion slices (lila hagyma) and paprika. The most romantic of dates. Real life. You ordered up some half-liters of Dreher beer from a faded yellow concrete concession built 30 years ago according to a specific fiveyear plan, and then a bottle of wine for her…and more where that came from, haver. You found your seat near the screen and braced for the inevitable mosquitoes at that time of year. Plotting attack from under the seat, those little bastards. I always took my pipe with me, partly for the excuse to smoke and partly for the practical (even if exaggerated) benefit of blowing smoke all around and under our seats to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Like a kind of secular priest in parallel to the real padres shaking incense across the altar to keep the devil at bay. High Mass. Alas my money for efficacy is definitely tipped in favor of the actual priest. The devil would not dare approach the High Altar. But alas, those little flying devils were not so discouraged as the sulfuric one, of that I am certain. But it was a decent ruse to throw up to my partner in crime (but not in smoke). St. Margaret Island was the resting place of the beautiful and venerable 13th century Hungarian saint, but also a restless place for the youth when the sun hit full force. Saintly it was not, let's just leave it at that. But the spirit of the great Saint was still hovering over her island. Her ruined castle and her desolate tomb, ravaged by time but condemned to obscurity and who knows maybe a few rounds of mis-managed attempts at "restoration." Somehow even deep into the 1990s the island had a heavy dollop of late communism infused into the soil. Not as suicidally depressing as a tour of Csepel in the same era, but somehow more insulated from the so-called winds of change than the terra firma surrounding it. There were secret places north on the island where you could find obscure Italian rifle club lapel pins. Near the bridgehead if you maneuvered around the barriers. But no one went there, I think. Except maybe me, slouching in a lonely way through a window-in-time that sometimes emerges in the desolate places. The forgotten places. Secret places. Go there alone and go there in silence and go there with all of your eyes open and you might just see something. Handmaid of depression and knowledge of decline and decay. Insignificance. One thousand years. Every step numbered and counted. Yet it seems you can still find one or two unaccounted for. And bend down for an Italian rifle club pin. But whatever the case, in those days you could enjoy a film under the warm embrace of the Budapest summer night sky and some cold half-liters of Dreher and a good long pipe. Normally I would tag my old friend Lucy Mallows in a post like this but she has died. Damn it.
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These moments are beautiful. Ones we desprately wish to go back to and stay in forever. But ours is to live on knowing it will never be the same. We are too different now.