My goodness, it has taken a long time to come out of this slumber. I wouldn’t call it a funk, because while there have been dark days, for the most part life is good. It is because of friends. Old and new friends.
I left China in May of 2013. Projects abandoned and new ones begun. I did not have the heart to live there full time. It is too far and I was very lonely. The only city I would have wanted to live in, Beijing, is just too polluted. One of my last images of Beijing is that of an expat mother taking her toddler out to play in the warm June sun. He was wearing a respirator, a painter’s respirator. I was shocked and angry because this child believes that in order to go out and play he must don protective gear. I can imagine the conversation in a few years.
“Johnny, don’t forget your lunch, and is your cell phone charged, and your respirator.”
“YES MOM!!! I KNOW…sheesh, and thanks for making the world suck.”
What have we done to this planet and how can we justify anything if a child cannot go out and play?
I have an old friend who had been bugging me for years to come to Hungary. His grandfather had built a beautiful villa on the Lake Balaton, the Hungarian Sea. I was in a funk, and called him asking if the offer was still good. He laughed and said always. I booked a flight and we converged at Liszt Ference Airport on 30 May 2013. My cargo upon departure: five pounds of prime Longjing green tea.
I checked out and stayed off the grid for two months. The only person I told where I was going was my son. If some one dies I will appear I said, otherwise my only contact to the outside world was him. It was a healing and refreshing time. Checking out is a great healer. We were met by Laszlo, now one of my dearest friends, and whisked away to the Lake Balaton and the Villa Ilus, named after Gustav’s grandmother. I became the AIR (Artist in Residence) and set up shop music stand and all to work on my music. The villa is full of art and energy and love. There is a pizza oven, and the lake is a mere ten minute walk away. There are no motorboats on the lake (almost no motorboats). More on that and Hungarian food and the loopholes of Hungarian politics to come.
We went into Budapest to visit, and upon arrival, crossing the Danube – or Duna, my entire body relaxed and exhaled. It had been almost five years since that happened. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. Some say it is the Paris of Middle Europe, but it has a charm all its own. At night it is spectacular. I was adopted by a family, childhood friends of Gustav’s moved into their home, a glorious place in the hills of Buda where fruit trees were laden with perfect cherries, sour cherries, apricots, apples, figs, and walnuts. My bedroom had French doors and opened onto a terrace where I could sit and watch the pink setting sun set monuments and Parliament ablaze. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed European capital cities. I started to go to open mics and gigs. My guide was Laszlo’s daughter Mimma; she opened up the city and people to me. It is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received; thank you Mimma. It is largely because of her and musician friends that I find myself in Budapest today, a year and a half later. I did go back to New York for some months and Florida to escape the Polar Vortex, and then I hightailed it back as soon as I could in May of 2014.
Péngyǒu is friend in Chinese. Chaiyǒu is a play on words; it means tea friend. There are people who get together only to drink tea and talk of tea and life. I have never met a bad tea person. If some one loves tea they are good people; it is a generalization, but it follows. I introduced people to the great green tea and because of that was guided to my newest tea friends, and life friends…the owners of the 1000tea on Vaci Utca 65, Gabor and Anasuya. I spend endless hours there working and playing and drinking tea. If you pop in say hello. We can share a pot of Puer or Oolong, or some Longjing.
I feel at home again and alive in my own skin. Forgive the monologue. Future posts will be…well…whatever they will be.
From Budapest with love.