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Budapest Journal, Part One

3,617 words

Part 2 here

August 28, 2018

Landed tonight at 7 PM, at the Ferenc Liszt airport. Liszt was the great Hungarian composer who I loved as a piano-playing 12-year-old, because it was so much dramatic pounding, super fortissimo. He was basically the Led Zeppelin of the classical guys. Rode the shuttle from the airport into Budapest with a bunch of middle-aged Brits, in their 50s, it looked like. The men were in cargo shorts, with big bellies and pudgy faces. It was hard to even make out their faces, they were so white and bland and veiny. The modern contemporary middle-class tourist, like a drugged bear, lumbering around, clogging up public spaces and the line at the museum. Often they seem almost unable to walk, they’re so big and unwieldy. And the wives, round balls of blubber, chattering about whatever in their chirping British uptalk. I sat quietly, with my map in my lap, watching for landmarks. Me, zonked out after nineteen hours en route, was gazing around at the distant suburbs as we got closer to the city, not knowing what to expect of Hungary — some sort of post-Communist wasteland is what I imagine . . . hopefully with a couple of cool coffee shops.

But no, it looks pretty nice. The downtown all ablaze. Crowded streets. Bustling crosswalks. Cool old buildings tastefully underlit for maximum gothic effect. When the Brits were dropped off, I tried to think of how ask the shuttle driver about Orbán, the country’s Right-wing Prime Minister. So I said what’s the word for “thank you” and he told me and I tried pronouncing it a couple times. Then I asked for the word for “please” and I tried that. Then I said how do you pronounce “Orbán” and he looked at me with an expression like, “What?” I said, “Orbán, your leader, am I saying it right?” He replied yes, that was correct. And then I asked if people liked him, and the driver looked at me as if to say, “Why are you asking me this? It’s none of your business.” But I played dumb and kept after him, and he said that in the countryside and small towns they like him, but in Budapest not so much. I said it is the same with Trump, in America.

That was all I could get out of him. I don’t know what I expected — for him to start whooping and honking his horn in celebration? Viktor Orbán is the man in Europe right now. In the world. He hasn’t let the EU flood his country with immigrants. And so while the other countries have struggled with waves of Africans and Middle Easterners, his humble country has cruised along, an effective ethnostate. What would once be the normal demographics of any European country, is now a kind of experiment inside of an experiment.

I then checked into my weird, cheap hotel which seems to be in a heavy partying area. The city looks a bit beaten down. No bullet holes, but a lot of “distress” on the building facades. Got solicited by prostitutes on a late-night walk. Not even that late, 22:30 or so. That always happens when I first land in a faraway place: I’m vibrating and all jangled up, sending out crazy electrical waves. The prostitutes pick right up on it. “Sex? You want? You want?” Yeah, no thank you. I should try that, though. Once in my life. That would be satisfying, but weird. Might also create bad vibes between you and the new place. Those are significant moments during those first few hours in a new country. You look at it, it looks at you. There’s a sizing up that takes place.

August 29, 2018

Got some groceries today. The hotel room is pretty Spartan, but fine. TV doesn’t work. The neighborhood’s a bit sketchy. Went and got a seven-day pass for the trams and the subway.

Later in the morning, I went to an English used bookshop/café near my hotel. Sat outside in the courtyard behind, bugs and bits of tree debris falling into my coffee. A weird, spindly girl sat down at my table. She’s drawing in a pad. “What are you drawing?” I ask. She seemed happy to chat. But as we talked, I could see that she had a slight moustache and actual stubble on her chin. She said she’s a dancer. She’s from Sweden. It got awkward talking to her. I was sort of hitting on her initially, but then I didn’t know if she’s a boy or a girl. On the plus side, it was my first chance to show my tolerance. Which I do. I had nothing against this poor girl. Or boy. The point was that I must show tolerance.  It would be potentially criminal not to. It’s like when I talk to feminists. Though I no longer accept feminism’s main premises, when I encounter one, I still act as if I did, lying by omission, letting them think I am an ally, so I can continue my life without undo trouble. In this spirit, I continued talking to the Swedish dancer, then let the conversation fizzle out naturally, then went on my way.

Walked around more later. Hot, humid night. Jumped on and off some trams. Figuring out where everything is. Also just staring at the people. The young men: healthy-looking, neatly groomed, most with “The Fash” haircut. They probably don’t think of it that way. That’s just the style of the summer. High and tight.

Got a Fanta and some chips and sat below a towering statue of some grim-faced hero of the past. I don’t know much about Hungarian history. A lot of violent death, I’m guessing. That’s the overall vibe I’m picking up.

August 30, 2018

This morning I went downtown to do some work online in the fashionable part of Budapest. Got an Americano coffee and sat at some outside tables, which provided excellent people-watching. I had a revelation sitting there. My initial impression was that Hungarian women looked “cheap” because of their odd clothes and their styles being so different. If you’re not used to them, all Hungarian women look like that slutty girl from high school. You’re not used to their features or their skin, which has a slightly ashen quality and a moist shine to it. But sitting there, something clicked, and I suddenly saw them on their own terms. I thought, “I’m in the land of beautiful women!” I had my laptop out, and was trying to work, but from that moment on it was impossible. It was time to just drink my delicious coffee and enjoy the show. The racial homogeneity was interesting, too. They all have the same look. So you find yourself studying them in a more detailed way.

This is what Orbán has done for them. He has kept Hungary Hungarian. The Leftist Budapesters probably don’t like it. Denying other races access to their country is not good manners. “We’re not racists like our leaders!” No, of course you’re not, but you’re still fortunate to have smarter, braver souls guarding you, protecting you like the precious thing that you are. Your leaders know how the world really works, and are saving you from your own self-satisfied delusions.

There is a famous photo of Viktor Orbán being harassed by Communist police in 1987. They have him pushed up against a car, with a truncheon against his throat. Now the European Union is doing the same thing to him, for the same reasons. But Orbán will not submit.

Go ahead, young people of Hungary, espouse your trendy multiculturalism, criticize your “authoritarian” leader as is your right, but know that Orbán is conserving that which, once it is gone, cannot be regained. Against all odds, he is doing this, and at great political and personal risk. Just like Trump, who risks his life every day resisting the Left. You Hungarians are in the presence of greatness, you are yourselves the manifestation of that greatness. History has been cruel to you, but now the wheel has turned and you are at the forefront for once. Every people gets their time to be the heroes. This is your time, Hungary. Follow your leader to your destiny.

August 31, 2018

I went on Tinder last night. I wanted to see what that looks like here. I saw some attractive people. Matched with a 37-year-old, Nadja, who works in film and animation. She went to the local art school. She was literally the cutest person on there. So that’s good. Also, matched with another woman who had an interesting face, but who appears to have a child. Messaged them both, didn’t hear back. Flake factor probably high here.

I went to an English-speaking Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at 6:30. This was kind of a big moment, because if AA sucks here I would be in bad shape for social activities. But it was great! Crazy Brits. Brits with personality. Funny Brits. An old New York guy. A vampy Hungarian woman. And this movie star-handsome Hungarian guy who is six-two and appears to be very serious about his AA. Liked the whole gang.

Afterwards, started talking to a Scottish guy, Chris, who had a bit of an ’80s skinhead vibe, so I asked him flat out: “Do you like Orbán?” He loves him. In turn he asked me, “Do you like Nigel Farage?” He’s the greatest orator of his generation, I said. So we talked about that. Weirdly unsatisfying, though. Chris has a slight problem with social cues; he doesn’t listen to you when you speak. He makes one pronouncement after another and you listen to him.

So then we talked about music. But even that was just him expressing his strongly-held beliefs. Depeche Mode sucked balls. Sting is the greatest composer of the twentieth century. The words U2 will never come out of his mouth, so abhorrent is their music. I tried to share some interesting factoids about some of his favorite bands, but he wasn’t interested.

I went to McDonald’s with him, though. Needed to make that first friend, break the ice, get back in that traveler groove of passing time with weirdos and the socially incompetent. We both had hot-fudge sundaes, which were delicious. He continued to talk while I watched the Budapest youths loiter around the premises.

Afterwards, standing outside, listening to more of Chris’s strongly-held opinions, a woman walked a bicycle past us: lovely, intelligent face, massive eye contact going on between us. I gotta go for those here. Chase her down. But Chris had me trapped with his thoughts on Blur’s Park Life and a concert of theirs he went to in 2004.

Nadja texted back. She sounded interested, but was already claiming to be too busy, “I shouldn’t even be on here,” and so on. Very cute, she’s probably getting swarmed on Tinder. I said, let’s get a coffee, but she didn’t respond. I was 95% sure I’d lost her, so the next morning I went for the Hail Mary. I wrote to her: “I’m a real writer. I am writing a book about the new and emerging Central European culture. I need to talk to as many creative people as I can. Please, let’s hang out.”

So she wrote back that I could hang out with her and her friends. She would set something up. This sounded good, but it will probably not happen, which sucks, she was SO CUTE. So whatever. We’ll see. Traveling is going to break me out of my shell, I hope.  And there’s nothing to lose in foreign lands. High energy and persistent messaging: “I really want to hang out with you.”

September 1, 2018

This morning I woke up and went straight to the subway, and took it across the river to a Starbucks I had seen wandering around late the night before. It had a good study area, and was off the beaten path. The cute barista had a touch of herpes on her lip. Chatted a little about non-coffee subjects. This was far outside the tourist zone, so I think she enjoyed my “otherness.” And also, I’m still all revved up and excited to be here. I’m bringing the positive vibes.

Got a chunk of work done. That’s my main objective on this trip, to finish my current project. Still weighing that whole situation. Do I even want to publish this? It’s still possible to pull the plug on it and spare myself potential problems down the road.

Lost Nadja, by the way. She unmatched me. But then I met a very attractive fashion student from Transylvania at the bookshop/café. “Where is Transylvania?” I asked. “Inside Romania,” she said. “Isn’t Romania, like, the worst country in the world?” I thought to myself.  I didn’t say it, though. We talked more. I told her I was a writer, and she Googled me on the spot. Yikes. But she seemed okay with whatever came up. I asked her to go have noodles with me when the café closed. She said she couldn’t. I said, “Tomorrow?” She said maybe.

Later, in my room, I watched a short YouTube interview with Austrian Martin Sellner, the 29-year-old activist who is the leader of the Austrian chapter of Generation Identity. He was one of the guys I heard about a lot, when I first started following this stuff. He gives great interviews. He’s articulate, reasonable, intelligent—and a genuinely selfless and pure-hearted person (God help him). He had disappeared for several months. But there he was, doing a new interview, answering questions with his American girlfriend Brittany Pettibone, also a long-time figure in the scene, and who had also disappeared. As it turns out, their silence was the result of multiple lawsuits they can’t talk about.

The lawsuits probably stem from Sellner and Pettibone’s adventures in Britain earlier this year. They went there together so that Sellner could give a talk at the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park (a kind of open mic for amateur politicos, but in Sellner’s case, would probably have drawn a significant crowd). Brittany was there to support him and also to interview Tommy Robinson, who I don’t know much about, but who ended up in prison himself. So Martin and Brittany arrived at London’s Luton airport, and what happens? They were stopped, detained for three days, and then denied entry and deported. It became a huge thing on the Internet. They are called “a danger to the public good of Britain.” These two kids get thrown out of Great Britain for their dangerous “identity politics.” LOL.

Except not LOL, because Britain is a police state.

Sellner and Pettibone, with their youth, charisma, and idealism, are already widely respected. Their arrest and detention now made them the coolest couple on the planet. That’s how I think about it, anyway: Sellner with his “fash cut” (shaved on sides, normal length hair on the top, parted to the side), Brittany with her goth makeup and femme fatale look. They were the Right’s Bonnie and Clyde, their Kurt and Courtney. Through their many travails, they have stayed together and support each other. Brittany would die for him; you could see it in her eyes in this video. Unfortunately, apart from that, the interview wasn’t of much interest. Neither of them can say anything. Still, Sellner remains hopeful and optimistic, and continues to assert the basic tenants of his movement: non-violence, anti-war, the peaceful preservation of European heritage and culture, and helping people understand the seriousness of the situation and why it is so important.

Sellner, of all these early spokesmen, is the one you would bet on to survive these dark years and eventually become a credible leader in the future. But that’s if he survives.

September 2, 2018

Woke up early and rode the subway again to that outlying Starbucks. The barista’s herpes is clearing up. I sat in my usual place and got another good chunk of work done. I then rode a bus up the hill to the Castle, where all the tourists go. Hung out there. Nice views. Buda Castle is even older, but most of the old buildings in this city date from the Austro-Hungarian Empire (and they do mean EMPIRE), and they all have a definite look. Muscular, bold, powerful. Heavy. Very heavy.

Then back to my AA meeting, which was good again. We went around the table, reading from the AA book. The Brits put on really stellar performances with their readings. Their deep, sonorous voices. Such inflections, such feeling! They really get into it. Drama queen Brits, though, you gotta feel bad for them: London being terrorized and overrun by immigrants while their police harass the citizenry for “thought crimes.”

After the meeting, I ran back to the bookshop/café to see if the fashion student from Transylvania was there. It was in the last hour before closing time that I met her, so it seemed possible she might be there again. She was not. And I remembered, too, that another guy had been hitting on her just before I started talking to her. The girl has options.

September 3, 2018

The concept of an ethnostate was a big thing in the early Alt Right. That was mostly before my time. But this ethnostate — presumably — was to be located in the upper American Midwest, or maybe Canada. On a map it would look like an Indian Reservation, and would have borders and guards, and possibly a fence. It would be inhabited by well-meaning, utopian weirdos of some kind. These are my own uninformed guesses; I haven’t actually read any articles about it.

The funny thing is, Hungary is already an ethnostate. It is one, right now. Walking around last night, I stumbled upon this grassy park area near the city center. Literally hundreds of teens and twenty-somethings were lounging in the grass, sitting in groups, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, chatting, meeting new people — everyone loose and at ease, with little danger of fights or anything violent; or if there was, it would be alcohol-related and handled as such. There is a very high level of trust and community here. Everyone knows what the rules are.

It reminded me of my elementary school in my 95% white hometown. We had cheesy social rituals like bake sales, haunted houses, and Sadie Hawkins dances, all of which we took very seriously since we all took part in them; they were intended for all of us. On Valentine’s Day you gave cards to all the girls in your class. In a way, you actually believed the affectionate sentiments printed inside those cards because you could have, if need be, married any of those girls and had a family, and even would have had a reasonable chance at happiness since they were all of your culture, and they would all know what to do and what was expected of them, as would you. Everyone knew how to behave because we all lived in the same culture. We all believed the same things. We all listened to the same pop songs on the radio.

Occasionally, there were one or two people who were not like us. In my class, there was a Japanese girl, but because there were not ten Japanese girls, all demanding we adjust ourselves to their Japanese ways, nobody cared what she was, and she was accepted and found her natural place in our social groups.

Several decades later, my hometown is now home to American blacks, African blacks, Pakistanis, Chinese, Muslims with their baby strollers, and Indians with their robes. The most dominant minority, the Hispanics, have taken over whole neighborhoods — not in a violent or oppressive way, but to an extent that precludes someone like me needing to ever go there, or have any business there. At my discount supermarket, white people are no longer the majority of customers. This does not create conflict per se, but it makes you withdraw slightly into yourself. Sometimes people speak different languages. Some ethnicities are pushier than others. Sometimes, stressed out people get pissy. In my town, as with the rest of America, the white people take on most of the burden of worrying about these new additions to the American populace. Are they okay? Do they feel oppressed? Be sure to be extra nice to them. Sometimes these cooperative feelings are reciprocated, sometimes they’re not. Everyone does their best to get along. But there is still a constant, low-level tension. It’s the same stress you feel when you’re staying at someone else’s house, or when you’re living with someone else’s family.

And then sometimes larger problems occur, most recently in places like Germany, Sweden, and Great Britain, the countries which are importing the greatest numbers of foreigners. Diversity on this mass scale causes a different kind of tension. Confrontation becomes inevitable. People get assaulted or killed. There are riots, and then protests, and then more riots. Cars get burned. Sexual crimes occur, especially among people who have no real understanding of Western culture, or who because of their youth or cultural upbringing feel defiant toward it.

Meanwhile, I sit here drinking coffee, on the outskirts of Budapest, watching the people walk by. The level of general cohesion, safety, and cultural ease is striking. In an American city, you might only find this comfort level in an affluent suburb, fifteen miles out of town, where the cars are German and everybody’s white. In America, you can live in such a place if you can afford it.

But in Budapest, such a culture is free and it’s everywhere. Attractive, slim, healthy, well-dressed, un-medicated, non-hysterical people. That’s all there is here. It is almost unfair that they get to live like this. Why do they get to be happy?


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  1. Jud Jackson
    Posted September 9, 2019 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    I have been living in Eger, Hungary for 8 years. The people I meet mainly from the gym where I work out every day and the language school where I teach English are very warm, friendly and polite (almost too polite). I have been a miserable failure at learning this crazy language but it is not really a problem as my wife is Hungarian speaks perfect English as well. Many of the people also speak some English and they always speak English with me. I miss the US but after almost 3 years watching Trump fail at almost everything I care about, I will probably spend the rest of my life here. Trump was our last hope and the US is finished.

    • Jud Jackson
      Posted September 10, 2019 at 4:29 am | Permalink

      I will continue to try and learn the language. But I don’t expect a miracle; I am almost 64 years old. As I tell my Hungarian English students, “Learning French is like learning that 2 + 2 = 4. Learning Hungarian is like earning a Ph.D. in Math.” I know the difference because I learned French in high school. By the time I finished my senior year in high school, I read “The Stranger” by Camus, stories by de Maupassant, etc. I could carry on semi-fluent conversations with French people.

      I don’t expect anything of Mexican border jumpers. And there is no analogy between me and them. I am not on welfare. I am a legal permanent resident and am legally married to a Hungarian woman. I pay all kinds of taxes: income tax on my teaching income, tax on interest from the Hungarian OTP bank, house tax, car tax. As the doctors are not well-paid, I also give them a generous tip every time I have to see one. This is not typical Mexican behavior.

      • Danube Blues
        Posted October 7, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        Here here, Jud. What an irresponsibly ludicrous thing for Andris to write. Not even remotely the same thing. People like him are tirelessly always equating the fight against lawlessness with xenophobia.

  2. Posted September 10, 2019 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    “… Depeche Mode sucked balls. ”

    I already like Chris the Scottish skinhead.

  3. Elenka
    Posted September 10, 2019 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    Talk to your new friends about Upper Hungary, also known as Slovakia.

  4. Arthur Konrad
    Posted September 10, 2019 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Having been so far a considerable amount of time in Hungary, I really must dissent from all these positive reports about the local state of affairs concerning demographics, and especially, policy. For me, the only thing that differentiates Hungary from any usual Western routine is the existence of a wall that keeps the worst of the worst out. And that’s it.

  5. K
    Posted September 12, 2019 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    This is how I feel about being in China. Everyone is Chinese. Everyone has a shared culture and shared ideas. Even if society is lowtrust they still have that cultural homogeneity. Something I have literally never had growing up around blacks. Then you have them talking about wanting to be “international” what that means to them I don’t know and serves no point in telling them they don’t know what they’re asking for. People take for granted how much a gift of being able to grow up in a homogenous country. It actually hurts a little.

  6. Sandor Toth
    Posted September 12, 2019 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I would like a little clarification about your comment. I have Hung cousins living there. Thanks. Sandor

  7. HungarianFashionista
    Posted October 8, 2019 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    Muscular, bold, powerful. Heavy. Very heavy.

    The first descriptions of Hungarians are from Byzantine sources, and Arab travelers who encountered our ancestors on the steppe in the territory of present day Russia and Ukraine in the 9th century. These sources describe Hungarians as a bold, masculine race, with a taste for grandiose styles.

    It’s interesting that more than a thousand years later, when the original bloodlines are barely detectable, perceptive visitors can still pick up this vibe.

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