“The day’s on fire!”

IMG_6479The title of this post comes from Theodore Roethke’s poem “In a Dark Time,” which I recommend to all. The fire in the photo (or rather, the red glare from the fire trucks) comes from the hostel where I was staying. Through some splash of intuition (and relative ease of circumstance) I decided to spend the last two nights in an inexpensive hotel instead of there; a private bed and bathroom, no matter how small, coalesced in my yearnings. When I went to the hostel to notify them of my decision and return my door card, I saw fire trucks outside. Apparently a breaker had caught fire in the basement. No one was hurt, as far as I know. Later I came back to find the electricity out and the floors  doused with water. People were given the option of staying there (without electricity, at least for  the time being) or canceling  their reservations; in either case, they were to receive refunds. I hope that everyone found a place to stay.

I have been meaning to tell about the cab driver born in Greece who extolled Socrates on our way to my storage room in Washington Heights–but I already have. He began by talking about New York City in the 1970s–how great the music was, how nothing today approaches that greatness–and then he revealed that he was from Crete and had been living in New York for nearly fifty years. We started talking about Greece; when I mentioned Socrates, his voice lit up. (I couldn’t see his face.) “Socrates!” he cried. “What strength of character! To think that he could have escaped, gone into exile, but no, he chose to drink the hemlock, because he knew that if he escaped, he would lose his reputation and his teachings. Just think of that! Who would have the courage to do that today?” At this point we were almost at my destination. He seemed delighted to have had occasion to sing the praises of the great teacher. What is happiness, if not the recognition of occasions? Well, there is something more to it, but that’s a big part.

The five weeks in the U.S. held occasion after occasion–in Texas, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut–but also something between occasions, those times of passing by, taking care of daily things, or thinking about something else, times that didn’t seem occasion-like at all. And that was the greatest part of the return to Szolnok–just getting on the bus at the airport, taking the bus to the train, catching the train minutes later, riding back to the city, taking a cab home, lugging the suitcase up the stairs, opening the door, and hearing Minnaloushe with her “where have you been?” meows and purrs. Then a conversation in Hungarian with the cat-sitter (all was well), then a bike ride to various stores for food, then dinner, then an early collapse and long sleep. No occasions, really, except for the return itself, but a return that I was to exhausted to “enjoy” but enjoyed nonetheless. Strangely, my Hungarian seems slightly improved; I was able to conduct several conversations with long sentences. I expect to improve over the next year; that, too, will reflect something unoccasional.

Which photo to end with? Well, maybe this one (also taken in NYC), since it makes an occasion of the in-between.


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