On the Road

Balazs Gyore

Photograph by Sherman Ong

This year I did not travel to New York, Warsaw, Vienna or Strasbourg. I could have gone. I did not meet in Budapest with my first wife, who came to visit here from New York City, the city where my mother was born. But I did accidentally run into my former wife's brother, who traveled here from Berlin for his mother's 92nd birthday. We spoke at the Ice Buffet, staring out into the street. I too had been invited to the birthday celebration, but did not go.

One of my friends has visited the graves of Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde in Paris this summer. This made me glad.

Three people I know traveled to Brussels this year. This city is getting fashionable these days and is often mentioned in newscasts. These three ladies could have met in Brussels, accidentally bumping into each other on some street corner — but this meeting occurred only in my imagination. I was in Brussels in 1987. That trip signaled the end of a friendship.

 Others I know made it to Mexico City, and even to cities in Brazil.

My daughter traveled to Portugal. From Barcelona she hitchhiked to Lisbon, and from there went on to a music festival. Jack Kerouac hitched his last ride in 1960, and said that this has become the age of motels and roadside convenience stops.

One of my Hungarian friends in America traveled to Budapest from California, another from New York State, for sojourns of different durations. I sat around with them at a Café Eckermann sidewalk table, and we recalled America's greats: Thoreau, Melville, Whitman.

I have received postcards and phone messages from cities in Europe and overseas. There were folks who thought of me. There were others, who didn't. I learned that you could get lost in Amsterdam, too. And that rain falls in Brussels, as well. In Brazil, coffee is served free with your meal. And it is possible to catch a cold even in Jordan.

"Each person is a city," wrote the American poet W.C. Williams. "The various phases of one's life can embody whatever city..."

There is a restaurant by the side of Bottomless Pond in Budapest. It is named after Hemingway, who once visited our capital. But his friend F.Scott Fitzgerald did not make it here.

translated from the Hungarian by John Batki