Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

Another weekend, another long week ended.  It was a smart move putting Saturday and Sunday at the end of the week here in Europe—none of that start the week on a Sunday nonsense.  I’ve still got a few hours before I launch into the next one.

Where to start?  Well, Friday was annoying.  The network at the office went somewhat down.  I say somewhat because our main server is in San Francisco, and so our little computer data pieces have to go from our desks, into the wall, through our provider, over to the Netherlands, through a cable to New York, and then zip off to SF.  Well, the middle bit, the part just before New York with all the sharks and hurricane Floyd and that sort of thing, that stopped working.

Now this wouldn’t be so bad, but two other little things failed around the same time.  One was the power at our provider in SF, called  After this 2.5 hour outage (the generator “just didn’t turn on,” said tech support, is the more appropriate moniker.  Also, Best gets its connection from Verio, and Verio had what is known as “router trouble,” because “little demons in the wires” sounds a little too random and unprofessional.

Anyway, all the testing I wanted to get done Friday, didn’t get done, and that made my weekend fretful.

I had planned to go to the Matras again this weekend, on my own with the keys I borrow from Miklos.  But I was feeling sick on Saturday morning, and when I made a brief list of places I didn’t wanted to be with a cranky intestine, “a rural Hungarian outhouse” was third on the list, beat out narrowly by “in zero gravity” and “hiking in Hungarian forest.”

So I went into the office and played computer games for 13 hours straight.

On Sunday, I did manage to leave the apartment shortly after 10, head to the local magazine and map store, discover that on Sunday it’s just a magazine store, the map section is closed, hop on the metro to head to the bus station by, no kidding here, Nep Stadium, catch an 11:10 bus to Gyöngyös**, get off the bus at 12:20 in Gyöngyös, ask at the bus station when the next bus to Matrasantistvan was, and get a frown in reply.  The person took her time answering, because there was no hurry.  The next bus was at 16:10.  I saw the schedule; the previous bus was 12:10.

So, scratch Matras for this intrepid explorer!

** How would you pronounce Gyöngyös?  Go ahead, guess.  Write down your guess.  Think about it a bit. I’ll tell you in a minute how it’s really pronounced.

So, I walked around the small town, found a tourist bureau, where the man inside a) spoke no English, b) spoke no German, c) I didn’t ask about French, what an oversight! d) had no idea about hiking in the area, e) didn’t really work there, just sat inside on Sundays until 1.  But I got a map, and wandered around the town.  On the outskirts, I saw plenty of dogs behind fences and chickens running free, and really nice modern houses that would look at home in any semi-rural town that wasn’t seized by that L.A.-style sameness of construction.  By this I mean, different colors, different shapes, plenty with gardens, plenty with “projects” in the driveway, most streets with no sidewalks, the occasional kid on a bicycle.  I walked to Matraful-something, took this cute little passenger train, one compartment long, back to G. and caught a bus back to Nep.  Metro back home.  Total bus and train fares: about $7.  I had an ice cream cone as well—$0.60, with three flavours, though the lemon was a little odd.

So, before I go to bed, two other things about my apartment:

I get lots of cable channels, at least 20.  Some are in English, some in French, some German, some gibberish/Hungarian, by this I mean it’s gibberish now but some day it may sound like Hungarian to me.  I also get some specialty channels, such as:
* The fur jacket channel—blond superficially attractive women model fur coats to cameras at low angles for hours at a time.
* The video game channel—a bad version of Galaga (rocket ship at bottom of the screen goes back and forth shooting star shaped flying bug things).  There’s a number you can pay to call whereupon you can control the little spaceship, otherwise, you just watch this thing go back and forth, occasionally shooting, and somebody somewhere getting points for it.
* The Italian beauty contest channel—all day, every day, Italian women being interviewed in bathing suits while other Italian women try not to yawn while the camera’s on them.
* The German breast channel—I figure some German bureaucrat must have come to the U.S. to research TV.  When he flew back, they lost his luggage with all his notes, and all he could remember is some reference to the boob tube, which he implemented with a vengeance.
* Hungarian music videos—they’re surprisingly good, nice beat, some covers, some new stuff.  Beats the heck out of MTV Europe, which I also get.
* and of course, my favorite, the rollerblade wheel exercise machine channel—this ad is always always on, selling this machine that vigorously vibrates a long strap with rollerblade wheels in it that you wrap around the part of your body that offends you.  I figure, you’re spending all this money, why not buy the whole damn roller blade?

** Gyöngyös is pronounced: Dyun-dyush, with the Dy sounding a little French, not hard but somewhat a somewhat mushy indistinct sound.  There’s no G sound in the word, no Y, no “ng” and the s is “sh”.  So, that’s what I have to deal with. Now you know.

Incidentally, I went to the “The Mummy” tonight, and found it was an excellent movie—a little scary, but more of an effects movie with some comedy and enough self-reference to amuse even jaded movie-goers.  And the star, Brandon someone, I think, was really good!  He’ll be playing more action heroes, count on that.  The movie theatre was at Duna Mall, which is on, yes, Gyöngyös street.

A pensive, melancholy note to end my journal tonight.

I was leaving my apartment on Thursday morning, and the Dr. woman who lives next door was peering out her doorway.  “Szia (see-ya),” said, and she said the same.  I asked her how she was.

“Not good.  I am very sick.”

“Really?  That’s too bad.  What is wrong”

“I am very sick in my heart. My husband, he is died.”

“I’m so sorry.  When?”

“He is died, is three weeks. He is gone.”

At this point, I couldn’t think of a damn word, English or otherwise, that would be appropriate, especially as she started to cry.

“We are together, for 48 .” Here she cried some more.

“48 years?  That’s a very long time. That’s really awful.  What happened?”

“I am sorry.  I am very sad.  I am so sorry.”

“That’s OK, I am also very sorry.”

——long pause

Then I went to work.

When I was a boy, I was a Scout.  One of the fund raisers my troop did was selling fertilizer.  And I guess it runs in the family (my dad’s old company sold fertilizer equipment wholesale, among other things), because I managed to sell the most fertilizer of any kid in the Scout troop.  I would put on my uniform, with hat, scarf, sash, shorts and goofy socks, and I’d go ring doorbells in my neighborhood after school with a clip board, and I managed to sell an awful lot—I forget now, but at least $200 of fertilizer, maybe more.  For this I got a very nice engraved metal cup, which I soon lost on the scout bus we took to camps.

The point?  Well, I knocked on a lot of doors to raise a lot of money, but one of the doors I knocked on, I still remember very clearly the person who answered.  It was an older woman, light hair, dressed quite well.  She was holding Kleenex in her hand as she opened the door and her face was red and her eyes were puffy.  I quickly launched into my spiel, but she wasn’t listening.  She was just looking at me, and when, after a few seconds, she figured out my purpose, she screeched at me, “Why can’t you just leave me alone?! My husband just died!  Just leave me alone! Go away!” and she slammed the door on me.

I remember her, and I remember the emotions that swept through me, standing on her concrete doorstep.  That feeling has stayed with me for years.  I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t frightened. I was a little embarrassed.  I felt paralyzed and detached and off-balance.  But most of all, I was horribly sad for her, a sadness that came from the fact that there’s nothing I can do, nothing anyone can do, nothing to be done, when someone is ripped from your life by death.  It’s so common, it’s all around, but it’s something we try so hard to avoid discussing, to cover the traces of, to try to take the sharp pointy teeth out of the maw of death.

Fifteen years later, I’m still just as utterly baffled by death and the reactions of the living as when I was a boy.


“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?




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